published Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Hardwick Field site raises questions for Cleveland Board of Education

Hardwick Field, the airport in Cleveland, Tenn.
Hardwick Field, the airport in Cleveland, Tenn.

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Members of the Cleveland Board of Education have several concerns about using Hardwick Field, the current city airport, as a future elementary school location.

Martin Ringstaff, city schools director, brought those issues Monday to the Cleveland City Council, where some had suggested the airport site.

"I just don't see it as being as conducive [to serving as a school site] as the other two properties we looked at," Ringstaff said. But the school board will do the due diligence needed, he said.

The board's preferred site faces U.S. Highway 11 on Hardwick Farm and has the 15 acres needed for a school with no environmental or traffic hurdles. The second site is on Georgetown Road near the intersection with Paul Huff Parkway.

The school board's questions about the airport site include:

* Who would buy the rest of the airport's 52 acres that the school would not need?

* Who would remove the hangars and existing structures?

* Are there any easements that would have to be bought?

* Would the city pay for removing buried fuel tanks and cleaning up any contaminants?

The school board also would need more property to build access streets to the property to handle traffic and buses, board members said.

Ringstaff said the property would not become available until 2013, after the city's new airport is ready, which is expected in late 2012. That would mean a two-year delay in buying the land, getting it ready for construction, then building the school, which could push completion back by as much as five years, he said. The city cannot wait that long, he said.

The $20,000-an-acre price suggested for the airport site also could escalate quickly, Ringstaff said. And because Hardwick Field must be sold at public auction, he said, there is no guarantee the school board would acquire it.

Verill Norwood, a member of the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority, suggested Hardwick Field for a school.

"I've had a number of people ask if we were going to use the old airport for a school site," Norwood said, so he brought the questions to City Councilman Richard Banks.

Meanwhile, the city school board and the Bradley County Commission's Education Committee meet together today at 5 p.m. to talk about funding for their construction projects.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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