published Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Baptist church interested in Blue Springs Elementary grounds

Construction crews work on site to tear down Blue Springs Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn. The school was badly damaged in the April 27, 2011, storms.
Construction crews work on site to tear down Blue Springs Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn. The school was badly damaged in the April 27, 2011, storms.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Blues Springs Baptist Church has said it would like to relocate to the storm-ravaged campus of Blue Springs Elementary School, which is undergoing demolition operations.

On Monday, Bradley County commissioners discussed the issue with the church's pastor, Richard Snyder, who had sent a letter to county leaders regarding plans for the property.

"The greatest thing we envision is where families and children once came and made memories at school, they can make in the future at church," said Snyder.

Beyond relocating the church to the old school property, Snyder said the church plans to repair the school's gymnasium, which was also damaged in the April 27 storms last year.

Once established on the grounds, the church would like to offer day-care services to the community, host Upwards Basketball and Volleyball, and provide a polling station for elections, said Snyder.

"I think the proposal has exceptional merit," said Commissioner Ed Elkins, whose comments were echoed by several commissioners.

Bradley County officials have previously discussed possible futures for the school grounds and the gymnasium, which is under option to be demolished according to an agreement with the county school board.

Commission and education officials have suggested that the area could be turned into a community park, complete with a memorial to local victims of the April 27, 2011, storms.

The county could repair the gymnasium for $20,000 and provide maintenance and programming staff for $30,000 a year, according to preliminary calculations previously presented to the commission by Parks and Recreation Director Paul Wyrick.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis urged commissioners to consider the Blue Springs Baptist Church offer, stating that the county would be hard-pressed to properly fund new park operations at the location.

Several commissioners have also expressed that they would prefer a community service organization to launch operations at Blue Springs instead of having the county duplicate those kinds of efforts.

The county will not be able to sell the property directly to the church, said Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg, but could sell it as surplus property through the public bidding process.

Commissioner Ed Elkins said he would like to see if it would be possible to contractually enforce any bidders to offer community services and programming on the property.

The Bradley County Building and Lands Committee will meet at county courthouse at 4:30 p.m. today to review the issue further.

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