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Gentry Stadium bids higher than expected

This rendering by Tony Street with BLS Thompson & Litton shows the proposed upgrades to Gentry Stadium that the Unicoi County Board of Education hopes will begin at the conclusion of the 2019 high school football season. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County Board of Education moved one step closer to beginning renovations at Gentry Stadium last week.

Board members were joined by BLS Thompson and Litton Senior Project Manager Tony Street on Tuesday, Oct. 15, to discuss the bids for construction at the home of the Unicoi County High School football team. Gentry Stadium is a part of a long list of projects that require some work for the school board.

During the April 22 Unicoi County Commission meeting, the panel voted to approve a resolution for capital projects for the school system in an amount up to $5 million.

During a Unicoi County Budget and Finance Committee meeting on April 10, Stephens Inc. Senior Vice President of Public Finance Ashley McAnulty laid out a number of scenarios for the capital improvements plan, which included work at Gentry Stadium and the UCHS track. According to McAnulty’s report, the county could spend roughly $5 million without a property tax increase. Repayment would be funded through sales tax and would be paid back in 20 years. Other projects that will be addressed in future phases include installing tennis courts at UCHS, an HVAC replacement and electrical and plumbing updates to Rock Creek Elementary.

According to English’s presentation to the commission on April 22, Gentry Stadium needs to have the current press box and seating demolished and rebuilt. The new stadium seating would include steps, handrails and would be handicap accessible. The stadium also needs paving and LED lighting. The proposed cost for these renovations was $2.4 million at that time.

During last week’s meeting, the board was presented with sketches of what the renovated stadium would look like. Along with the additions mentioned above, also in the plans are new irrigation for the field, upgrades to the field house, a walkway from the field house to the practice field, roughly 80-100 stadium seat back reserved seats on the 50-yard line that could be purchased by spectators on a season-by-season basis, and an upgraded fencing and parking area.

Street opened and read the three bids that were submitted to the board. Burwil Construction gave a bid of $3.4 million, J.E. Green Company gave a bid of $3.5 million and Preston Construction gave a bid of $3.3 million.

According to Unicoi County Director of Schools John English, the bids were more expensive than the board was hoping for.

“It’s a little disappointing. We are going to have to reevaluate a few things,” English said. “It was a very tight bidding process, so we know that the cost is what it is.”

English asked Street to go back and get an itemized list of projects from Preston Construction, since they were the lowest bid, and see if there is anything that could be moved to bring the price down.

According to Street, the board could look at value engineering.

“We could request a schedule of values from the lowest bidder,” Street said. “They will have a schedule of projects within the total list, with numbers for each item.”

The Unicoi County Board of Education is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. at the Central Office, located at 100 Nolichucky Ave. in Erwin, to vote on the bid.

According to English, the board is still looking at getting the project started quickly after the end of the 2019 football season.