Previously the Commission had asked for the committee to come back with a recommendation by the first work session in May with an option to ask for an extension.
The committee approved recommending that the Commission approve the project with funding becoming available in the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
The motion recommended by the committee would allow for up to $14 million to be financed for the project. This plan would use some growth money in years leading up to 2015. Then payment in lieu of taxes from industry would provide the revenue needed to borrow the funding.
The project would build a new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School and repair the cafeteria, gymnasium and current administration building.
At a session of the ad hoc committee Tuesday, Bradley County School finance director Rick Smith asked when in the fiscal year the money would be available to the school system.
“If we have that money July of ’15, we may be able to be in that building August of ’16,” Smith said. “If we don’t get that money until January of ’16, we are not going to be able to get that thing constructed (that year).”
Committee member J. Adam Lowe said based on revenue projects that money would be able to be borrowed in July. He said the money could possibly be borrowed in September 2015.
A motion to approve the project and approving the Bradley County Board of Education to bid the project with construction beginning approximately in 2016 was originally made by commission chairman Louie Alford.
Lowe presented a substitute motion to provide more clarity.
Funding the project any sooner was also discussed. Most options available would have involved a property tax increase.
“Anyway we cut it I don’t think we’ll be able to fund it (before 2016),” Alford said.
Another option would have put all growth money toward the project cutting into the county’s general fund reserve and not funding any other projects.
This was presented in a motion by Lowe that did not pass.
During the meeting, Bradley County Schools director Johnny McDaniel presented plans for the new academic building. Part of the building would be two stories. The lower floor would consist of three wings: a sixth-grade wing, a seventh-grade wing and a technology/arts wing. The upper floor would be the eighth-grade wing.
McDaniel said the room on the cafeteria would need to be replaced. The administrative offices would be moved from the current location to the new building. The old administration offices would then be converted into special education classrooms.
Committee member Ed Elkins said a few of the pod buildings still seem to be in good condition. He asked if the buildings could be retained to save on construction.
“With all these buildings we have tried to keep them in the greatest shape that we can … hopefully one day we would replace all of this,” McDaniel said. “What we have proposed is step one, step two. ... We would come with an academic replacement on the out pods and the second thing would be to replace the other buildings.”
Alford said he would be in favor of retaining some of the current classrooms to provide extra space for growth. Committee Chairman Chris Turner said he would not be in favor of letting the student population get much bigger at the school.
In the past, McDaniel has spoken in favor of smaller middle schools, commenting that Bradley County has some of the largest in the state.
Safety concerns about the number of paths and doors with the pod-style layout of Lake Forest have contributed to the Commission discussion of supporting the academic building. The new academic building would provide Lake Forest with a secure entrance.