New Boones Creek School one vote away from breaking ground

Zach Vance • Updated Jun 21, 2017 at 11:20 PM

After years of meticulous debate, the selection of an appropriate site and detailed planning, just one more vote separates workers from breaking ground on the new Boones Creek K-8 school.

On Wednesday, Washington County’s Budget Committee unanimously voted to authorize a contract with BurWil Construction to build the school at a guaranteed maximum price of $25.3 million, leaving Monday’s County Commission meeting as the project’s final hurdle.

“We’re one vote away,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said. 

“This is the culmination of many years of effort and a lot of patience from the community,” he said. “The good thing is this school at $25.3 million is within the budget, and quite frankly, I’m really proud we were able to get what the school system needed. We were able to get that designed, bid and built within the budget.”

Less than 24 hours earlier, the Washington County Board of Education approved a similar motion following a recommendation from project manager Tommy Burleson and architect Tony Street to move forward with BurWil Construction’s low bid, which was revealed late last week.

The bid to construct the school came in lower than the $25.3 million maximum, leaving about $371,000 to go into a contingency fund, Burleson told the committee on Monday.

“It’s within the budget that was set aside. We got good contractors, a lot of local contractor and subcontractor participation in the project,” Burleson said. “We’re pleased with the response we got.”

BurWil Construction’s project résumé includes Fairview Elementary, East Tennessee State University’s football stadium, the Washington County Detention Center and the Bristol Train Station.

To begin funding the project, the mayor initiated a $35 million bond sale on Monday, with Morgan Stanley submitting the lowest interest bid of 2.7 percent.

“The total bond sale was about $35 million. About $16.5 million of it had to do with construction of the Boones Creek School, and $8.5 million of the $16.5 million will actually go toward the building of that school. The other $8 million is the share going to Johnson City,” Eldridge said.

Two other motions related to the Boones Creek school were approved, in addition to some final shuffling of dollars to balance the current year’s budget.

One of the motions included authorizing $3.42 million of the debt issuance to begin grading the 20 acres for the school site and remaining 37 acres for the adjacent athletic facility and park.

While the school project and athletic facility projects will be completed separately, the grading of both sites will be completed simultaneously.

Commissioners voted to transfer $112,800 from this year’s capital projects fund to begin the design and engineering phase of widening Highland Church Road, which is where the 142,000 square-foot elementary school will be built.

Eldridge estimated the road project would begin sometime next spring.

“A lot of planning and strategy went into this. I know it was a frustrating process for the school board. But at the end of the day, we got the project within budget, we’re giving the school system exactly what they wanted and the taxpayers are the ones who will ultimately benefit,” Eldridge said. “That was our goal and our responsibility, and more than anything else, that’s what I’m pleased about.”

Burleson projected work on the school would begin during the week of July 10.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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