Central High School track proposal revisited, slated for new Hamilton County Commission vote

Central High School track proposal revisited, slated for new Hamilton County Commission vote

January 12th, 2017 by David Cobb in Local Regional News

Greg Beck

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Tim Boyd

Tim Boyd

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

The Hamilton County Commission is poised to reconsider next week a resolution to raise $500,000 in bond funds to replace the track at Central High School.

The move comes after a debate at Wednesday's agenda session over how one-time school projects are selected.

The commission backed away from the proposal after last week's meeting when four commissioners voted in favor of the track project with five abstentions.

Central High School is located in District 9, which Commission Chairman Chester Bankston represents. Some commissioners expressed concern Wednesday over whether similar funding would be available for other school projects in their districts if the track replacement is approved.

"Will $500,000 be available to me next year?" District 5 Commissioner Greg Beck asked. "I'll vote for this if someone can guarantee that I'll have money to fix the tracks in my district next year."

District 3 Commissioner and former school board member Greg Martin suggested that funds from the looming sale of the old East Brainerd School could free up more than $4 million in "big-picture" school project planning.

But county attorney Rheubin Taylor and District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Turner-Smedley deduced that, since the old school building is owned by the Board of Education, the board's members would have to be willing to work with the commission to possibly split the money from the building's sale nine ways for county commissioners to divvy up in their districts.

District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd likened the situation to puppies pulling on a towel.

"Give me my end," he said. "Give me my end."

Beck eventually said that he would support the Central High School track resolution next week if the commission will create a clearly defined process for future school funding issues.

Boyd suggested the school board make a capital project plan for five to 10 years down the road that could give the commission "something to aim at," and school board chairman Steve Highlander agreed at the meeting that formulating a school project priority list is on the board's to-do list this year.

Central High School athletic director and former track coach Steve Lewis explained how the track's poor condition has caused injuries to athletes and said the facility is regularly used by community members.

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The commission also spent more than an hour hearing both sides of a controversial firing range proposal that it is likely to vote on next week.

Commissioners said they have received hundreds of emails from residents favoring and opposing the proposal, which received a "deny" recommendation from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency last month.

Dead Zero Shooting is proposing a $2.4 million state-of-the-art range with firing lines up to 600 yards along Retro Hughes Road on rural Bakewell Mountain.

Adjacent landowners contest the range, saying it would bring undue hardship by creating noise, traffic and safety concerns.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.


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