BOE hunting land for construction of new Watertown High
According to the RFP, the board is looking for land that is at least 60 acres in size, with a preferred minimum width and depth of 1,000 feet each and with availability to three phase power, existing sewer and water lines and with an existing road system to accommodate buses and heavy traffic.
“We are not buying land, we are not asking you to spend any money tonight,” Davis said, pointing out that this motion only serves to approve the receiving of proposals.
Potential sellers have until 2 p.m., Monday, Nov. 15, to submit their proposals for consideration by the board. After the deadline, the board will evaluate the RFPs and have engineers look at the land to help decide which proposal is best.
Zone 3 board member Don Weathers expressed concerns about the simplicity of the filing process and forms that land owners would have to fill out to submit an RFP.
“I want this to be simplified to the point that we don’t disqualify a good candidate because he doesn’t have an ‘i’ dotted or a ‘t’ crossed,” Weathers said.
Davis said the process was very simple and Mickey Hall, county schools finance director, said that anyone with questions can submit them in writing and the board can answer them. Also, he said some questions can be answered simply by calling the city’s planning office.
Finances made up a large portion of the discussion at the meeting, in terms of what the board has spent on the new Lebanon High School, proposals for building sports facilities at West Wilson Middle School and tennis courts at Mt. Juliet and Wilson Central High Schools.
Weathers asked for a monthly progress report on how much money the board is spending on the new LHS and asked the board if they could see expenditures before they are actually made.
“I’d like to see checks before they are written,” Weathers said, and the board agreed with him.
Bill Robinson, board member from Zone 2, asked to hold a work session to bring him up to speed on financial issues, considering he’s been a board member for only several weeks. Robinson said he wasn’t familiar with all the details of the $50 million bond issue that is paying for the new LHS and would like to review those details before he agrees to spend money.
“I’d like someone to show me in black and white before I spend hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Robinson said.
Davis said he has written a letter to Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead asking the city to waive or put off the fees the board has to pay in regards to the new LHS. Davis said the total amount of fees is around $133,000 at this point.
The board passed recommended changes to the policies regarding personnel, specifically dismissing employees. The new changes involve bringing in impartial hearing officers, which allow teachers to request a hearing when charges for dismissal are brought against them.
The changes are a result of special legislation passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives and State Senate in January.
“This brings our policy into line with state statutes,” Davis said, pointing out that if the board didn’t pass the proposed changes they would not be in compliance with state law.
Weathers objected to the state’s decision in passing the legislation because the costs of paying impartial hearing officers and their travel expenses is put on the school board, not the state. Davis said they have no “wiggle room” on passing the changes.
“We don’t need our legislators to give us an unfunded mandate without giving them a little kick in the shin,” Weathers said.
He proposed drafting a resolution to be sent to the state legislature from the board asking that the state pay the cost of supporting the impartial hearing officers, but not to rescind the law altogether.
The motion to approve the changes was passed 5-0, and the board agrees unanimously on the sending the resolution.
“I can have a resolution drafted by the next meeting,” Davis said.
A major cause of disagreement among the board was the proposed spending of $250,000 to construct sports facilities at West Wilson Middle School, which Principal Wendell Marlowe said is the only middle school in the county without basic sports facilities.
Robinson did not approve spending the money for West Wilson without looking at other schools in the county that do not have their own sports facilities. He cited Southside Elementary School as an example, which plays its games at Wilson Central facilities. WWMS now uses Mt. Juliet High School for their sports.
“There are only two true middle schools in the county, Mt. Juliet Middle and West Wilson,” Davis said, pointing out that Mt. Juliet Middle inherited its sports facilities when it inherited the building from MJHS. “We can’t afford to duplicate the facilities at Mt. Juliet Middle School,” Davis added.
Marlowe said the bid was $250,000 to get most of the work done for a football field and other fields, but the cost would be more to include field houses, bleachers and other projects. He also said they have community help in decreasing the cost of that initial $250,000 estimate.
Because of the uncertainty about how they would provide money to finish the facilities, Zone 1 board member Vikki Adkins proposed having a work session to figure out all the details. The board passed the motion 3-2 with Weathers and Robinson voting in opposition.
“We need to know how we’re going to spend our money,” Weathers added.
The board agreed to schedule the work session to discuss financial issues and expenditures at 8 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 26 at the Central Office. Also, the board made the motion to move the start time of regular board meetings to “no earlier than 5 p.m.” as opposed to starting at 6 p.m.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.