published Friday, January 13th, 2012

Bradley County to pursue federal funds for school construction projects

By Paul Leach/Correspondent
Principal Robert Brittingham talks about work that is taking place at Michigan Avenue Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn. The school was damaged by a tornado in April.
Principal Robert Brittingham talks about work that is taking place at Michigan Avenue Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn. The school was damaged by a tornado in April.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County Schools may receive a boost to several major construction projects thanks to grants made available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Thursday evening the school board voted 7-0 to pursue hazard mitigation grant funding through FEMA, which board member David Kelley described as "a no-brainer."

The FEMA grant could result in as much as $5 million for storm-resistant building expenses connected to three capital projects the board already has targeted as priority needs, according to David Brown, an architect with KBMJ Architects.

If the expected grant funding is received, it would significantly affect the estimated $25.5 million the county schools system has requested for renovations to Lake Forest Middle School, an eight-room classroom pod for Walker Valley High School and a new elementary school in southern Bradley County.

County commissioners are reviewing a proposed $32 wheel tax -- assessed each time a vehicle is registered in the county -- to meet those funding requests.

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"This would be a big step forward in helping the commission find the funds requested," said Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel.

Reducing the amount the county needs to raise for county school projects also reduces the amount it needs to raise for Cleveland City Schools. Bradley County must raise $1 for city schools for every $2 it raises for county schools, based on student populations. To raise $25.5 million for the county schools, the county must raise an additional $12 million for city schools.

"This is like double the money," said board member Christy Critchfield in regards to reducing the county's matching funds to the city school system.

The board also reviewed a couple of other storm-related projects: the reconstruction of the Michigan Avenue Elementary School's gymnasium and the abatement of Blue Springs Elementary School, both damaged by the April 27 tornadoes.

Contact Paul Leach at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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