Potential site found for new Stoney Creek school
A potential site for a new junior high school in the Stoney Creek community was the major topic of discussion at a meeting of the Carter County Commission’s Education Committee on Thursday.
“We have found a piece of property and the property is located in Stoney Creek,” said Director of Carter County Schools Dr. Kevin Ward, adding that the site is located next to the Shaffer property on Highway 91. “The property is big enough where you can build the school and have room for growth.
The property offers sewer and natural gas access and has a six-inch water line accessible to the property. Core soil samples will be collected on the property next week, Ward said, and that will give the school system a better idea of whether or not the property will be suitable for constructing a school.
Tony Street, of the architectural firm Beeson, Lusk and Street, also spoke to the Committee and showed a drawing of how construction on the site could look.
“If this building were ready to occupy today it would have approximately 440 students,” Street said, adding that the design being discussed was for approximately 600 students. “It has about 150 to 160 growth built into it.”
Street told the Committee that with the property already having access to a sewer line, natural gas and a six-inch water line it would decrease the costs of site preparation by approximately $700,000. He said that the presence of the six-inch water line was a special added bonus to the property.
“You can’t build a school without a six-inch waterline because you won’t have fire protection,” he said.
Street said that the design being discussed with his firm by the school system is for a “very durable, low maintenance facility,” and added that the design would also be energy efficient.
When questioned by committee members regarding the cost of building the new junior high school facility in this location with the plans currently under discussion Street said that until the core sample reports come in he could not estimate site preparation costs but that the estimated cost for the building as designed would be approximately $16 million.
Ward stated that the price to purchase the land is $200,000 and that if the core sample reports came back favorable then the funds to purchase the property would come from referendum money. He also said that the school system currently has an option to buy the property.
“We have a 90 day contract on the property,” Ward said, adding that it was his hope that the purchase could move along quickly before the property “slips through our hands.”
Ward stated that the funding to construct the new school could come from the 14 cents already in the tax rate which is currently being used to pay the debt bond which was taken on by the county for the construction of Cloudland Elementary. That bond is scheduled to come off the county’s books this month after the final payment on the bond.
“We would like to ask that the 14 cents remain for the school system so we can use it for these projects,” Ward said. “Otherwise we will have to come back to the Commission to ask for this money and a tax increase.”
Ward stated that the construction of the new junior high school in Stoney Creek would eliminate 23 of the 48 modular units currently in use by the school system. The new junior high school would hold grades 5 through 8 and would be fed with students from Unaka Elementary, Hunter Elementary and Keenburg Elementary.
Also discussed during the committee meeting were budget shortfalls experienced by the school system due to a decrease in the collection of sales tax revenues. Ward reported that the shortfall for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year would amount to more than $98,000.
“We have been able to absorb those shortfalls due to prior year savings,” Ward said. “This year we can absorb the shortfalls, but we cannot do it every year.”
Ward stated that he will be presenting the school system’s budget requests in full at a budget workshop for the county next week.
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