published Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Erlanger committee OKs land deal for school


by Chris Carroll

Red Bank is another step closer to a new middle school.

Erlanger Health System’s budget and finance committee approved a plan Monday that will give the Hamilton County Department of Education a small parcel of land it needs to break ground near Red Bank High School.

The vote nearly completes a deal that will give about 17 acres to the school system, which intends to have middle school facilities ready for students by fall 2013.

Erlanger’s full board is expected to approve the transaction Thursday evening.

The three unoccupied acres being given to the school system are next to Erlanger North on Morrison Springs Road but are “not accessible to Erlanger North due to the extreme elevation changes,” an Erlanger business plan states.

The school system will pay the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority — Erlanger’s governing body — $1 for the property.

Both Erlanger and the school system are nonprofit government agencies that don’t pay taxes, so the hospital will not receive a tax credit for what amounts to a donation, according to Mike Baker, Erlanger’s senior director of facilities.

In March, a land swap was approved in which Red Bank would get 14 acres behind Red Bank High School now used as four youth softball fields. In return, the softball league is expected to get at least two fields at White Oak Park, officials have said.

The Red Bank Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to go forward with the land swap.

The school system is expected to modify athletic fields and build modern academic facilities on all 17 acres. Officials will begin accepting construction bids on June 9.

Currently on Dayton Boulevard, Red Bank Middle School has been standing — and deteriorating — since 1937. City officials have attempted to build a new school for decades, newspaper archives show.

Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey called Erlanger’s vote “the final piece of the puzzle” to get the $30 million project rolling, and a top education official billed it “the last legal hurdle to jump through.”

“We may have to sort through the fine print, but that’s all,” said Gary Waters, Hamilton County Schools assistant superintendent of auxiliary services.

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