Sullivan County Board of Education tables vote on hiring company to build school

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — The Sullivan County Board of Education tabled a vote Thursday on hiring a company to build West Ridge High School.

The board voted 4-3 with members Mark Ireson, Matthew Spivey, Dan Wells and Jane Thomas voting in favor of the motion. Ireson made the motion to table the vote because he said the board was given 80 pages of new information at the beginning of the meeting that he believes they should have time to review.

A called meeting to vote on hiring J.A. Street & Associates will be held on Aug. 1, with the exact time to be determined.

The J.A. Street bid was the lowest of three construction bids that were submitted. Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski recommended that the board hire the company for $59,281,500 to build the school, a football stadium and baseball fields. She recommended paying a portion of the cost with $4.8 million of the school system’s fund balance, earmarked for construction, in addition to the bond money allocated for West Ridge High and the new Sullivan East Middle School.

Since the board does not allow public comment at called meetings, Ireson made a motion at the beginning of the meeting to temporarily lift the rule, which was approved 4-3.

Twelve of the nearly 60 people who attended the meeting spoke, and all of them were opposed to some aspect of the new school. Most disagreed with the chosen location, and some said they didn’t want the school built at all, regardless of location. Most also said the project has been poorly planned.

In other business, the board approved the school system’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget — except for the $4.8 million construction budget from the fund balance, since a vote wasn’t taken on hiring a company to build West Ridge High.

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