By MARINA WATERS
Washington County is about to hit the road on the Fall Branch Elementary School paving project — and possibly, very soon.
The Washington County Health, Education and Welfare Committee unanimously voted to fund the school system’s repaving project at the elementary school, which is a project that has been a part of the system’s capital projects plan throughout the past few years.
“It’s been a long time since that place has been repaved,” Washington County Department of Education Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said while presenting the request. “In the last six or seven years, we’ve put a new roof on this building, we’ve added a geothermal heating and cooling system and we are actually up here at the ballfields putting some renovations on it and putting some new fence up. We’re trying to give that community something they can be proud of, something they can use.”
Patrick said the project is estimated to cost $110,000. He also said he’s hoping the project, which includes repaving the driveway, gravel areas and parking lot at the school, will be underway this summer while students are on summer break. But the paving project isn’t the only maintenance that’s been conducted at the school within the last few years, nor is maintenance the only topic that’s been discussed regarding the school.
Last year, when county officials discussed conducting a “master plan” for the school system regarding it’s buildings and declining student enrollment, local communities voiced concerns for possible consolidations for smaller schools such as Fall Branch.
At the HEW Committee meeting, Commissioner Suzy Williams said she felt as if the general consensus regarding the elementary school within the Fall Branch community was one that resisted the idea of a potential consolidation. And in response to that, Patrick said the school system has certainly invested in Fall Branch throughout the past few years.
“We’ve just invested in it,” Patrick said.”We invested in a HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system that was a couple million dollars, I’m sure. We recently put a new roof on it and that will last another 10 or 15 years. So we’re there for a while.”
The paving plan is part of the county school system’s capital projects plan, which lists the school district’s upcoming maintenance and facility needs. But the plan has made its way back into discussion following the ongoing Jonesborough School project debacle, which has prompted BOE members to reexamine the school system’s plan and the district’s maintenance supervisor and frequented architect, Tony Street, to update those price tags according to today’s costs.
In light of the Jonesborough School project plan that remains in limbo and the suggestion for the school system to conduct a master plan, which failed on the commission floor last year, Krieger said he hopes the BOE is still considering a plan following a facilities study that was conducted back in 2012 or reassessing the plan from here on.
“A lot of things have changed since then,” Krieger said. “I just encourage (the BOE) to talk about, ‘Are we going to have a new plan and what is it?’ It’s difficult for any of us when we try to nickel and dime all the money away and then it gets time to do something and we don’t have anything left.”
Patrick reminded the committee that, unlike many split BOE decisions as of late, the school board unanimously voted for the Fall Branch paving project.
“This is a full board’s consensus on this paving,” Patrick said. “And I’m sure you all are aware that a capital projects plan is sort of a living document. Mr. Street and myself went over these numbers because it’s been three or four years since we put these numbers together. I think there’s a board retreat where they will look and reevaluate this.”
Commissioner Joe Grandy reminded the committee that a plan to reroof South Central Elementary School for $560,000 is included in the county’s upcoming budget. Meanwhile, Patrick said the school system has approved the plan to replace the brick at Gray Elementary School and will be an upcoming project as well.