“We are 100 percent in support of this project,” Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander said of the proposal to build an extension to T.A. Dugger Jr. High School to provide additional science and technology classrooms, additional sets of boys and girls bathrooms and make the two-story school compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Gardenhour said one of the main reasons for holding the joint session was to get a statement from the City Council on whether or not it still backed the T.A. Dugger project.
Gardenhour reminded the council that the T.A. Dugger project was one of three capital projects that had been proposed several years ago. The other two were a new football stadium to be built on the campus of Elizabethton High School and a new music room for the high school.
He said a bond issue provided only enough funds for two of the three projects, so the football stadium and the music room were built with that bond issue.
Funding for the school system’s capital projects come from a half-cent of the local option sales tax that was approved in a city referendum in 2008. The half-cent sales tax brings in around $800,000 per year.
Alexander said the city has usually committed about $750,000 of that amount to repay bonds for school projects. That left about $50,000 for emergency expenditures.
Alexander said he did not expect the proceeds from sales tax to grow, even as the economy improves. He said two factors that are preventing local growth is the Pinnacle shopping center and online shopping.
Alexander said $3.9 million is a realistic price for the T.A. Dugger project.
Gardenhour said he realized the current volatility in the financial markets means that this is not the right time to consider a bond issue, but he said that uncertainty will end and the markets will become stable.
Gardenhour had three other projects to discuss with the City Council.
One was a second entrance to Harold McCormick Elementary School by way of an extension from the intersection of State Line Road and Johnson Avenue. He said the entrance will relieve pressure on Cedar Avenue.
Gardenhour also discussed the heavy recreational use provided by the property that was formerly the site of the Carter County Memorial Hospital and is now city property.
City Councilman Richard Tester said he lives near the location and said the amount of athletic activity may be the best usage for the city-owned property, which he said has been vacant for two decades.
Gardenhour’s final point was to urge the City Council to consider including a Elizabethton High School student as a non-voting member of the council. A student already sits on the city school board and Board Chairwoman Rita Booher told the council that it has been a good experience.