Director of Schools John English discusses renovations at Gentry Stadium during a meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 29. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

During a special called meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24, the Unicoi County Board of Education continued to evaluate items that could be cut from the estimated $3.3 million bid for renovations to Gentry Stadium.

At the end of the meeting, the board decided to table the low bid by Preston Construction Company, based out of Johnson City, until a Tony Street of BLS Thompson and Litton could present the board with an updated bid after the board agreed on a few changes to the original plan. The updated bid would be what Street called “value engineering.”

According to Unicoi County Schools Director John English, some items had to be altered to bring the bid down to meet Unicoi County Schools’ original proposed budget of $2.4 million. 

“The low bid was Preston Construction and on the day the bids were opened we asked Mr. Street to get with Preston to get an itemized statement,” English said. “I do feel, based on the numbers, we had an accurate and a good tight bid, but it was over what we projected and budgeted for this project.”

According to Street, among the items that could be cut from the original plan are a perimeter fence that surrounds the stadium, which could save the board $62,000. Another cut is a reduction in the proposed amount of paving at the stadium that could potentially save the board $190,000. Another is a reduction in landscaping items that could save the board $23,000. Also up for cutting is a pathway that leads from the field house to the practice field and the removal of a retaining wall along the stadium’s embankment near the press box. 

The board also is considering cutting back on: a new crown for the center for the football field that could save $90,000; a new stove and hood in the concession stand that could potentially save $10,000; and a possible reduction in the number of seat back seats that are being planned to be installed in the new stands, at the 50-yard line.

Street opposed making any cuts to repavement of the circle around the football field, and updates to the fieldhouse that include a new commercial washer and dryer and two water heaters. Street acknowledged that one washer and dryer would be sufficient. 

“This is the same type of washer and dryer that Science Hill has and they are very pleased with it,” Street said. 

Unicoi County School Board member Tammy Tipton was concerned that one washer was not enough.

 “As someone who helps with the football team’s laundry, it does concern me, Tipton said.

Street also recommended that the board keep the new LED lighting that is planned to ensure that they are up to TSSAA code and Street recommended that the board consider keeping the updated football field, complete with a new crown and irrigation system. 

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The Unicoi County Board of Education met again on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and wasted no time in accepting an updated bid for construction to be done at Gentry Stadium following this football season. The updated bid from Preston Construction now totals $3,154,100 and was unanimously approved by the board on Tuesday.

The motion to approve the updated bid was made by Unicoi County Board member Steve Willis and seconded by member Glenn Fisher.

On Tuesday, BLS Thompson and Litton Senior Project Manager Tony Street presented the board with a new set of numbers and options for the renovations. The board was able to cut $170,900 from the original bid of $3,325,000.

Some of the items that were cut from the original bid were: landscaping projects around the stadium at a savings of $13,870; a walkway from the field house to the practice field at a savings of $25,000; one retaining wall with a savings of $2,850; a new stove and hood for concession stand at a savings of $10,300; a partial deduction of $5,200 for roofing pavers for the press box; and a reduction in seat back seats from 300 down to 180 seats at a cost deduction of $1,520. The board also agreed to not alter the football field at a savings of $98,480.

Renovations to Gentry Stadium are set to begin following the Blue Devils’ 2019 football season.

“I’m proud that we got this done with no new taxes for these projects,” Fisher said.

For the full story of the Oct. 29 meeting, pick up a copy of the Nov. 6 issue of The Erwin Record.