One owner indicated that he and some others are very much willing to sell their property but were never contacted by Bristol-based Interstate Realty, the buyer’s agent for the Sullivan County school system. The school board is in a school facilities study quest for a site for the proposed 1,700-student, $60 million high school to take the place of Sullivan North and South high schools and much of Sullivan Central’s population. About 250 students from the Central zone would be moved to Sullivan East, the rest would go to the new school.
During a work session of the Sullivan County Board of Education Nov. 22, Interstate agent Bill Ward said that owners of properties were contacted but unwilling to even talk about selling, adding that in some cases their ancestors had owned the land going back to the Civil War or in some cases the Revolutionary War. Those, he said, did not make the list of eight potential high school sites presented to the board.
“My family owns one of the properties listed in your article as being unwilling to sell. Our property is located at 398 Pitt Road, Kingsport, TN 37660. We have nearly 100 acres,” Louise Bailey Dickson of Kingsport said in an email Sunday. “I contacted my family members this morning and none of us were contacted regarding the sale of our property for the new school.”
Interstate officials, in a statement that came through Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski, indicated Monday that some of the 15 properties listed on the “Sites Identified” list supplied to the school board, aside from having unwilling sellers had issues that kept them off the list of potential high school sites. Likewise, some of the seven “Sites Identified” but not on the potential site list for a proposed $20 million middle school in the Sullivan East High School zone were taken out of contention for reasons other than unwilling sellers.
“This (Pitt Road) site was removed in early discussions and owner(s) were not contacted. The statement should have mentioned that some of the sites were identified but eliminated earlier and prior to presentation of sites. Primary reasons were due to location, improvement ability and accessibility needed, among others,” the Interstate statement that came via Rafalowski said. “This should take care of your questions.”
The County Commission’s three standing committees this week are to consider a “letter of intent” to fund $140 in school facilities project for the county’s proposed two new schools, as well as facilities for Kingsport, and Bristol, Tenn. The Administrative Committee met 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Executive Committee will meet 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and the Budget Committee 7 p.m. Thursday. All were or will be in the large courtroom of the old County Courthouse in downtown Blountville.
If the commission approves the letter, the school board likely will hear from architects before narrowing its focus to a smaller number of finalist sites. Then, price negotiations would begin.
Allen Cross, who is an owner of some property less than a mile from Tri-Cities Regional Airport, contacted the Times-News Monday about three parcels on the list. He said the parcels at 2796 Highway 75, 2816 Highway 75 and 2862 BFB Road, owned by his family, the Barnes family and the Berry family, would be available for sale. All told, he said more than 50 acres is available. and that about 20 acres his family owns has 1,000 to 1,500 feet of road frontage on state Route 75.
A Piney Flats site proposed for the middle by Chad Baker in February, before the board hired Interstate, didn’t make any Interstate list. Rafalowski said some sites for both schools were simply too far to travel for some students. Tennessee law limits bus travel time to 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon, as outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-2105. She and board Chairman Michael Hughes said the Baker site is too far from Holston Valley Middle School and its student base. Closer Bluff City and Mary Hughes middle school students also would feed into the proposed new middle school.