published Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Hamilton County Schools in no hurry on land swap deal

IF YOU GO

What: Hamilton County Board of Education monthly meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Hamilton County Board of Education, 3074 Hickory Valley Road

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The Hamilton County Board of Education will consider changes to the school lunch program, funding two school resource officers and budget amendments today.

But a controversial land swap proposal doesn't appear to be up for discussion yet.

The school board has yet to discuss a proposed deal to swap the current East Brainerd Elementary School site for the former Poss Homes site near Howard School of Academics and Technology. School leaders have eyed that land for years as a possible site for a replacement of Howard's aging football stadium and track.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority, which owns the Poss site, and the city of Chattanooga, which would have gotten part of the East Brainerd site in a proposed three-way swap with the school system, settled on a two-way trade that gives Poss Homes to the city while CHA receives Dogwood Manor Apartments in the Westside community. But city officials say they're hopeful school leaders are still interested in a trade of the East Brainerd site and Poss Homes.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said he's in no hurry to get the issue on an agenda. He might propose a work session on the matter, he said, possibly after the August school board election. The election will replace two current board members and possibly a third.

"I don't see that we're in a dire sense of urgency to do anything," Evatt said.

Because the issue caught the attention of several governing bodies and made many rounds in local media, school board member Greg Martin said he'd like to see the board bring resolution to the matter.

"I'm looking forward to getting that done in a timely manner," he said. "You don't put a stick in a beehive, stir them up and walk away and say, 'Oh, we'll come back to it in a couple months.'"

Board member George Ricks, who represents the district that contains Howard and is eager to see a new stadium there, said he's hopeful the issue can make an appearance on the agenda sometime this summer, possibly even next month.

In today's agenda, the board will consider:

• Moving to a third-party collection agency to recoup charges for student meals. School nutrition leaders say staff members spend many man-hours sending out letters and making weekly phone calls to parents who owe money.

• Assigning $4.7 million in payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to the school system's general fund for fiscal year 2013 budget. The Hamilton County Commission released control of the school-designated funds in February after holding onto the cash for more than a year. The agreements, known as PILOTs, often are given to new businesses such as Volkswagen to lure them to the area. Under the agreements, businesses don't have to pay full property taxes for a certain number of years, but they must pay the share of property tax that goes to schools.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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