Architects for East Brainerd school need final OK

photo Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith and County Mayor Jim Coppinger selected TWH Architects for the new East Brainerd Elementary School last week, and now they're asking the County Commission and school board to approve their selection.

Seven commissioners voted in June to halt the architect selection process until the schools disclosed plans for the current East Brainerd Elementary site. The schools are pushing to have the school designed, built and open in the fall of 2014.

Since then, a list of 13 applicants was narrowed to three finalists, and Smith and Coppinger chose TWH Architects.

"It was the consensus of the people that listened to all the interviews and presentations," Coppinger said Monday. He said TWH's local reputation weighed into the decision.

"They've done some outstanding work in the past," he said.

With continued growth in East Hamilton County, Smith said it's increasingly urgent to get to work on the new school. He said today's release of school-by-school first-day enrollment figures will show that crowding continues at East Brainerd Elementary.

"That will again indicate the importance of us getting busy in the eastern part of the county," he said.

The selection was added as a late item to the County Commission agenda for Wednesday.

Tim Boyd, the commissioner who made the motion to stop the architect selection, said he still wants an answer about the current school site.

"I don't mind using the architect," said Boyd, who served on a committee that chose the three finalists. "I will be asking the question again: what, if any, plans do you have for the sale of the current East Brainerd property?. I'll be asking [assistant superintendent for facilities] Gary Waters and Rick Smith that again. I want them on public record to tell us what their answer is."

The approval is on the school board's agenda for Thursday night.

School Board Chairman Mike Evatt said he doesn't expect much resistance from his members, and time is of the essence.

"We're just kind of burning daylight," he said.

The school board is also scheduled to vote Thursday on the county's purchase of land near Ganns Middle Valley Elementary for a future elementary school. Commissioners approved that purchase at their last regular meeting.

Board members also will decide whether to accept W.C. Helton's decision to forgo a condition in his contract to purchase the 21st Century School for $110,000.

Evatt said the board already had approved Helton's bid contingent on rezoning,

Now, he said, Helton has opted to "forgo rezoning and just go ahead and buy it outright."

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at [email protected] or 423-757-6481. Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at [email protected] or 423-757-6249.