The bank building and 8 acres of property were first offered to the city Oct. 23 by Cleveland businessman Forrest Preston on behalf of Cleveland Development Enterprises II LLC.
First Tennessee Bank is moving its offices (next year) to the old Oliver’s restaurant building on Keith Street.
With the Cleveland City Council’s vote Monday to accept the offered gift of the bank building on Raider Drive, officials of the city school system continue to be optimistic.
Cleveland City Schools has a need for administrative space, especially for central office staff.
The school system has only 13,000 square feet of administrative space. This includes offices at the central office in the Ross-Yates schools complex and at the Star Center on North Lee Highway. Closet and storage space are being utilized for work areas at the central office.
Despite the extreme need, Ringstaff said Tuesday that his administrators and Board of Education members do not want to be presumptive.
“We don’t want to assume anything, but we would welcome an invitation (from the City Council) to visit and talk about tentative plans and how we could utilized some of the space,” Ringstaff said.
Ringstaff said everyone is trying to stay calm concerning these possibilities, while school officials and teachers are also being challenged by the approach of the end of the 2011 portion of this school year Dec. 16. Students and faculty members will be taking their holiday break on that day.
The school board has one board meeting remaining this calendar year, that scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at the central office.
The director of schools emphasized that school officers and the board are excited about the possibilities offered by the bank building, but they remain respectful of the responsibilities of the Council and the person making the generous offer.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said Tuesday anything involving the school system and its needs should be placed on the back burner at this time.
He said the eventual utilization of space in the building will be determined following an “official” agreement between Preston and the city.
“When that is completed, the Council will probably sit down for another vote (on acceptance and usage of the 48,000- square-foot building),” Rowland said.
“We want to determine if there will be any restrictions on the use of the building, for other branches of city government, in keeping with the spirit of the gift,” the mayor emphasized.
Rowland pointed out there have been other gifts to the city where there were some restrictions, such as property for Fletcher Park and Johnston Park downtown. “Those issues must be worked out prior to making any follow-up decisions,” he said.
Cleveland Councilman Richard Banks suggested recently that the city school board tour the bank building to form opinions of how the space might be utilized for central office needs, or other needs.
The school board visited the bank prior to attending the Tennessee School Boards Association convention in Nashville, and board members were excited by the prospects.
Longtime board member Dawn Robinson expressed her feelings on the potential use of some of the building’s space in the future, “We could never dream this big (on taxpayers’ money),” she said.
It appears the dreams of school board members and school administrators will remain vivid, but it will probably be awhile until the dreams reach fruition.
The Council will now move ahead with discussions on the gift offer to smooth out an agreement satisfactory to the giver and the city. At the conclusion of such an agreement, Council members will have other decisions to make.