published Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Future on the table for Blue Springs school gymnasium

Jimmy Smoch, left, and Daniel Mullet speak in a mostly empty classroom 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, Tenn. The school was heavily damaged in the tornadoes of April 2011. Salvageable materials are being removed from the site before the complex is completely demolished.
Jimmy Smoch, left, and Daniel Mullet speak in a mostly empty classroom 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, Tenn. The school was heavily damaged in the tornadoes of April 2011. Salvageable materials are being removed from the site before the complex is completely demolished.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Should the Blue Springs gym be demolished?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Even as storm-ravaged Blue Springs Elementary School approaches the final steps of demolition, county officials are deciding what to do with the campus' damaged gymnasium.

On Monday, Bradley County commissioners met with Parks and Recreation Director Paul Wyrick to discuss the resources needed to restore the gym so the Blue Springs community can use it.

If the county decides to keep the gymnasium instead of letting it be demolished with the school's other structures, it will cost $15,000 to repair guttering and tiles and to set up gas and septic tank service, said Wyrick.

The key issue, he said, is whether the county will allocate funding to maintain and operate the gymnasium.

"There's a lot of potential, but we've got to have the resources to do this thing to make it come to life, if that's what you so choose," said Wyrick.

According to preliminary calculations, it will cost about $30,000 a year to staff the gymnasium with a part-time worker, provide programming and pay for utilities, said Wyrick.

"The biggest benefit of a facility like this is it kind of gives your community a sense of identity, a place where things can happen," said Wyrick.

Nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club might make a better fit in the gym than the county, said Commissioners Mel Griffith and Adam Lowe.

"I want to approach them and give them an opportunity to set up their nest down there and do what they do best, rather than us continuing to duplicate services that take place in the nonprofit community," said Lowe.

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Regardless of whether the county decides to give the gym to Parks and Recreation or allows another organization to operate it, the structure has "two good options," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber.

While the gym remains untouched by demolition crews at this time, salvage operations and roof removal continue this week on the main school building, according to contractor Kelvin Hampton.

Knockdown procedures may begin by Thursday.

During the recent salvage operations, the contractor said he has received numerous requests for school bricks and other mementos.

One man, whose son Hampton believed had passed away after attending Blue Springs Elementary, asked for a brick that bore the child's name.

When the demolition process is complete, Hampton said he would like to put out a pile of 500 bricks for people to take as keepsakes.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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