Cleveland, Tenn., school board seeks more data on Hardwick school sites

Cleveland, Tenn., school board seeks more data on Hardwick school sites

January 31st, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

Cleveland Municipal Airport Manager David Harmon, right, completes fueling a Cessna aircraft for aerial survey photographer Fred Davis, of Atlanta, Monday afternoon at Hardwick Field.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Map of Hardwick Field and Hardwick Farm in Cleveland, Tennessee

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Cleveland city school board and council members met over lunch Monday to decide on a new school location: Hardwick Field or Hardwick Farm.

They also discussed the growing urgency of building another elementary school and where the money to do so will come from.

Since the beginning of the 2010 school year, the city system has added 338 students, schools director Dr. Martin Ringstaff said in opening the meeting.

"You can see how quickly this could escalate out of our control without planning now for a new school," he said. "We are blessed with so many great people wanting to move to Cleveland."

Hardwick Field is the current city airport, but a new airport will be ready by the end of the year. The Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority plans to sell the site and use the revenue as matching funds for federal grants that are funding the new airport.

Hardwick Farm is open pastureland on the opposite side of North Lee Highway. But the family that owns it has plans with a developer to build a new community there, including commercial space, apartments, homes and some large estates. The school board and the family are negotiating a price for 15 acres for a school, too.

Council members noted the airport property may be cheaper per acre and wondered if a school "footprint" would fit on the site.

"Is the airport out of the question?" Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland asked.

Hardwick Field sits behind an existing neighborhood with no visibility from the highway. It has been an airport for 60 years, raising environmental questions, and the property has an odd shape for a school site, board members said.

The next school needs accessibility and visibility, board member Dr. Murl Dirksen said.

Board member Peggy Pesterfield said the Hardwick Farm development plan could bring as many as 2,500 people to the North Cleveland site.

Funding is another question before both the board and the council.

The County Commission is considering a referendum in August on a wheel tax to pay for city and county school needs.

Councilman Richard Banks said that if a referendum is held and fails, no backup plan has been discussed for schools that must be built anyway.

The meeting ended with city school staff being asked for details about costs as well as building and site studies. Rowland suggested they meet again in 30 to 45 days and invite the Bradley County Commission and county school board. City school board members also want to hear more details about Hardwick Field from the Cleveland Airport Authority.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.