published Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Demolition begins at Blue Springs Elementary School

James Richesin shovels more debris into the shovel of a track hoe at Blue Springs Elementary School. Workers with Hampton Backhoe Service, based in Athens, Tenn., continued the demolition of Blue Springs Elementary School in Bradley County. The school was heavily damaged by a tornado April 27, 2011.
James Richesin shovels more debris into the shovel of a track hoe at Blue Springs Elementary School. Workers with Hampton Backhoe Service, based in Athens, Tenn., continued the demolition of Blue Springs Elementary School in Bradley County. The school was heavily damaged by a tornado April 27, 2011.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Demolition operations have begun at Blue Springs Elementary School, which was closed after sustaining severe damage in last year's April 27 storms.

This week, Hampton Backhoe began salvage work on the interior of the main campus building, according to company owner Kelvin Hampton.

Memento collectors have not hesitated to approach the contractor.

"People are already asking for items," said Hampton.

One man said his son had attended Blue Springs and asked Hampton to save a cafeteria wall brick that bore the son's name.

The contractor said he understands the sentimental attachment local residents have to the community school, but it is not easy to comply with requests to save certain materials during the demolition process.

Hampton said he expects to start tearing down the actual structures shortly after Easter and hopes to wrap up the demolition project within 30 days.

Bradley County Schools' contract with Hampton Backhoe has an option to demolish the school's gymnasium, which also was damaged by the April 27 storms. Officials are trying to decide what to do with the gym and the campus grounds.

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The school system has made a formal offer to give the property to the county, including the damaged gymnasium. The County Commission's Building and Land Committee has recommended that the county accept the property, according to committee Chairman Jeff Yarber. If the county accepts the gymnasium, it will require about $20,000 in repairs according to estimates provided by the school system, he said.

Officials also have mentioned the possibility that the facility could be used to complement a future park or support community sporting events.

The future of the property has been a recurring discussion point in school board and commission meetings for a few months. Several officials have proposed that the campus land be turned into a park, complete with a memorial to Blue Springs community members who lost their lives in the April 27 storm.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis previously expressed concerns about the county taking responsibility for the gym.

"I don't want another building that is just given to us with no budget to address," he said in a prior County Commission meeting.

The mayor cited experiences with McDonald and Waterville Elementary Schools, in which the county received buildings but did not receive funding to maintain or operate them.

"I assume that is what will happen a third time because the history is that it's happened twice," he said.

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