Cleveland Board of Education members have apparently not changed priorities on their selection of a site for a new elementary school. The group voted several weeks ago for a 15-acre site to the east of North Lee Highway, across the road from the Tennessee Christian School.
That decision has not wavered, even after a visit Monday to the city airport (Hardwick Field) property.
Some members of the City Council favor the Hardwick Field location for a new school, on property the Cleveland Airport Authority is attempting to sell. This 62-acre tract will be discarded with the new Cleveland Jetport being constructed in the Tasso community.
There are more than 100 acres at the site, but more than 40 of them are tied up in leases.
The school board met with Airport Authority secretary-treasurer Verrill Norwood at Hardwick Field Monday afternoon for a brief visit. Norwood explained the process of selling the property, under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration. He said it was not a simple process, because of FAA rules. “You make an offer, and they have to approve it,” he said.
Norwood pointed out the location of two fuel tanks which were discarded and filled with sand in the late 1980s. These tanks, located underneath the pavement in front of the terminal building, would probably have to be removed with the placement of a school on the property.
School board member Richard Shaw asked Norwood about the thickness of the runway and he replied that he thought it was 6 inches. Removal of the pavement is another huge concern for school members, as well as the removal of more than 20 hangars.
There are also concerns with visibility of the proposed new school. The airport location is about one-third of a mile from Highway 11 (North Lee), while the site to the east would be right on the roadway.
The educators asked about surrounding residential property and how many airplanes are housed (currently) at the facility. Norwood said the airplane number will vary with the start of de-activation of the facility.
A major point in the property debate is the anticipated cost of preliminary work ... at the site to the east of North Lee Highway or the airport.
Cleveland administrators Jonathan Joe and Tommy Dyers are believed to be putting together numbers for the joint meeting March 14 of the Council, Bradley County Commission and both school boards. These numbers will probably include ballpark figures for the preliminary work.
School board members continue to mull the decision, but no one stepped up Monday with an approval of the airport site. That yes-or-no decision will probably be determined after additional discussion.