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Board votes to buy Studsvik building for school offices

The Unicoi County Board of Education voted Thursday evening to enter into a contract with Studsvik Inc. to buy the company’s property at 101 Nolichucky Avenue in Erwin, with plans to move the school system’s central office there.
Board members Renea Rogers, Judy Webb, Bo Shadden, Rick Butler and Bubba Evely voted in favor of the $750,000 purchase. Board member Victor Price was the lone dissenting vote.
Director of Schools Denise Brown said during the meeting that the current central office building, which was constructed in 1922, is in need of “several hundred thousand dollars of updates.” Brown said two “major” roof leaks occurred during the summer at the central office and that the roof will soon need to be repaired or replaced.
Structural repairs are currently needed, as well, as walls and ceilings have cracks or plaster missing. Shifting of interior walls has occurred. Employee safety is a concern, Brown also said.
Evely said when the system’s Master Facility Plan was developed in 2005, architects recommended replacing the roof of the current central office building, which would cost approximately $100,000. Evely said architects also recommended upgrading the building’s heating and cooling system, which would cost approximately $250,000.
“I took a two-year average of the utility costs of the building we are looking at and the two-year average cost of utilities for this building and we should save almost $10,500 per year just in utility costs,” Evely said before Thursday’s vote. “I also took a two-year average of the general maintenance we have paid out on this (current) facility. We have spent over $32,000 just to do maintenance and upkeep on this building. The new building we are looking at has recently been remodeled and everything is in good shape.”
Evely said when taking into consideration the costs of replacing the current building’s roof, upgrading the heating and cooling system and the money saved in utility costs by moving to the building on Nolichucky Avenue, purchasing the new building “will pay for itself in 15 years.”
Brown said the system plans to use capital outlay monies, Forest Service money, impact aid and TVA in lieu of taxes to buy the 10,150-square foot building. These funds, she said, can be used for capital outlay projects.
The board will not ask the county to help fund this purchase, Evely said.
“Each year we have been able to operate in the black so we have had a little money left over … That is where reserve funds come from,” Evely said. “We have been able to accumulate enough money to take care of this purchase.”
With approval from the board to purchase the building, Brown said the contract would be sent by the school system’s attorney to Studsvik Inc. for review. Once both parties have signed the contract, Brown said the purchase will close after 60 days.
Moving into the offices on Nolichucky Avenue would occur around the end of 2011, Brown said.
“The board has looked at this option for two and a half years,” Brown said. “I think it’s a necessity for safety issues for our employees.”
Before housing the system’s central office, the building housed Elm Street School. Since 1970, the town of Erwin has leased the building to the Board of Education for use as a central office.
Brown said the system considered renovating the existing central office building. The cost of renovating the building was estimated to be $1.3-$1.5 million – a price tag that did not include any structural improvements that might be required as part of the renovations. Because of the estimated price tag and the unknown costs associated with renovating the Elm Avenue building, Brown said this option was deemed “cost-prohibitive.”
Building a new office was also considered; however, Brown said that building a new 15,000-square-foot office space was estimated to cost $2 million, plus the cost of purchasing land. This option was also dismissed.
Also during the meeting, Coordinated School Health director Sherry Whitson updated the board on the upcoming Community Day of Action, which will be held on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 2 p.m.-5:30 p.m. at the Unicoi Walmart. Partnering with the Erwin Kiwanis Club and the Unicoi County United Way, Whitson said the school system plans to help several hundred students purchase clothing or school supplies. Also, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, the school system plans to provide 202 students with food backpacks during this school year.
Whitson said the school system is still seeking donations to help with purchasing clothes and school supplies during the Community Day of Action and to provide the food backpacks. Volunteers are also being sought to assist students while they shop. For more information about the Community Day of Action, call the school system at 743-1600.
The board also elected officers during the meeting. Rogers was re-elected chairman, Shadden was elected vice chairman, Evely was elected as the board’s representative on the system’s athletic council and to the Tennesee Legislative Network.
The board recognized one former and two current Unicoi County High School students for representing the school in national career and technical education competitions. Brittany Hampton and Derrick Peterson, both students of Gail Clarke, attended a national culinary arts competition in California this summer. Hampton won a gold medal in the applied technology division for creating a pasta paddle. Peterson won a bronze medal in the food innovations division for creating a nutritious recipe for busy families.
“They both worked very hard and did a fabulous job,” Clarke said.
Former UCHS student Kelsey McAvoy was recognized for finishing in 14th place out of 44 competitors in a national drafting competition in Kansas City. McAvoy advanced to nationals after winning the state compeition.
McAvoy is currently a student at East Tennessee State University.
Teacher Kim Berry led a group of students who gave a presentation entitled, “16 and Distracted,” which they plan to present at an upcoming trauma conference at the Johnson City Medical Center. Individuals representing all facets of the medical profession, including trauma surgeons, nurses and paramedics will attend the conference. The presentation focuses on the numerous ways teenage drivers can become distracted while driving and the sometimes deadly consequences of accidents caused by distracted drivers.
The board also:
n approved the ESEA federal programs as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, fiscal year 2012 consolidated plan and final budget;
n approved Amendment No. 1 for County Commission to original budget 2011-2012;
n approved Amendment No. 2 to federal budgets 2011-2012;
n approved a contract with Appalachian Behavior Support Services LLC and Unicoi County Special Education to provide functional behavior assessment and support for special needs students; and
n approved a memorandum of understanding between Unicoi County Schools and Frontier Health.