Lake Forest Middle School work funding under study

Lake Forest Middle School work funding under study

March 11th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Bradley County Commissioner Adam Lowe

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County is set to explore funding possibilities for $14 million in proposed renovations to Lake Forest Middle School and to review possible changes to voting machinery.

On Wednesday, the Bradley County Finance Committee agreed on the need for more specific budgeting numbers from Bradley education officials in regard to the requested makeover for Lake Forest Middle. Commissioner Adam Lowe, chairman of the Education Committee, provided some preliminary budgeting factors for committee members to consider in the meantime.

Lowe mentioned possibly funding the Lake Forest project through a partnership of county and school money.

"I've said this before and I'll say it again: If we can rub one of our nickels together with one of their nickels and we've got some savings somewhere in there, I think we can construct a school," he said.

The Bradley County Board of Education has placed the Lake Forest project -- which includes a new academic building that will replace many of the classroom pods on the school's 75-acre campus and renovations to remaining buildings -- at the top of its priority funding list. Education officials repeatedly have said the school's problems with leaking roofs, concrete walls and covered walkways are beyond the scope of normal maintenance.

Key funding factors include projected sales tax revenue and property tax increases, amounting to an additional $600,000 in the Bradley schools annual budget in coming years, Lowe said.

Improved energy efficiency at a renovated Lake Forest could free up funding in future budgets, too, according to Lowe.

A reconstructed Lake Forest could realize as much as $108,000 in annual energy savings if it attains the efficiencies of Park View Elementary, which was built only three years ago. Lake Forest now costs $1.51 per square foot in utility expenses; Park View costs 89 cents per square foot, officials said.

"It's becoming a little more realistic that we can actually do this within our current revenue stream, but we've got to make some difficult decisions in the process," Lowe said.

"It's timely, and I'm optimistic that we'll have some pretty good discussions as part of the upcoming budget discussions over how we rub those two nickels together to generate 15 cents," said Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the Finance Committee.

In other business, county election officials advised the Finance Committee of their desire to include county leaders in the decision process on possible changes in voting machinery.

The election commission soon will need to decide whether to upgrade its Microvote machines, leave them as they are or buy new optical scan machines, election Commissioner Stephen Crump said.

While state and federal funds will take care of expenses related to either an upgrade on current machines or the purchase of new ones, the county will be responsible for back-end costs such as supplies and maintenance, Crump said.

Committee members requested a cost analysis and recommendation from the election commission and asked it to make a presentation at an upcoming County Commission meeting.