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BOE delays new WHS design until approved by commission

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By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post

Plans to begin designing a new Watertown High School were put on hold Monday night as the Wilson County Board of Education deferred contracts with the Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris, Inc., architectural firm until the project could be approved by the Wilson County Commission later this month.

In one vote the board deferred three measures on the agenda that would have entered into contracts with the architectural firm to design a new WHS as well as additions to West Elementary School, West Wilson Middle School and a new elementary school in the Providence/Rutland area.

Im not comfortable committing money for drawings and designs until we get this building project approved, said Zone 4 board member Ron Britt.

The board must send a request to the commission, asking it to fund the capital projects for the new high school, elementary school and additions to West Elementary and West Wilson Middle.

District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford, chair of the commissions Education Committee, was present during the meeting and explained the request had to pass the Education and Budget Committees before going to the full commission.

We could have it by the end of February if all goes well, Stafford said, pointing out the full commission only had to pass the request on one reading.

Included was a contract with CivilSite Deign Group, Engineering Services Group and American GEO Technical for a geological survey of the new WHS property. The board indicated the total cost for designs would be no more than $583,000 and that money would be drawn from unallocated funds within the $50 million bond issue for the new Lebanon High School.

This gets us to the bid phase, said Director of Schools Mike Davis, referring to the contract agreements with the engineers and architects. After designs are completed, the board can then begin the bid process for construction.

There were concerns from the board about using money from the LHS bond issue and the possibility that those funds would be needed to complete the school currently under construction.

There could be something that comes up in the construction process that requires us to spend these funds, said board Chairman Don Weathers.

Stafford told The Wilson Post that money has been set aside for all foreseeable expenditures including furnishing the interior of the school with desks, computers and other supplies. She said the $583,000 is money left over after those necessary allocations.

The board unanimously passed the measure to send the funding request to the commission, which will meet on Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. Davis said they could hold a special meeting to approve the contract agreements if necessary before the boards next regular meeting on March 5.

Also during the meeting, the board voted to move forward with contract negotiations between the Wilson County Schools and Cumberland University that could allow Cumberland to manage and use Nokes-Lasater Field at the old LHS for its own sport events.

Before you work out the legal language, we should vote on if we even want to do this, Zone 1 board member Vikki Adkins told County Attorney Mike Jennings, adding, I dont feel good about moving forward.

Jennings said he doesnt have enough information or knowledge of the subject to personally handle the negotiations, but said when Davis or the board talks with Dr. Harvill Eaton, president of Cumberland University, he can write a contract for any agreements reached.

Weathers said he wanted the county school system to be protected from liability, and Britt noted the agreement couldnt cost the county schools any funds. Zone 5 board member Greg Lasater did not approve of the agreement and felt it was not a good idea to let Cumberland manage the facility.

I think when Cumberland University has it, our kids arent going to have a place to play, he said, referring to Junior Pro football and junior high schools that use the field.

We would have access to it on the nights we need it, Weather said, pointing out Cumberland has indicated the schools and youth programs could use the field when they need it.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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