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Rusted bleachers and chipped stairs cast shadows in the stands of the Howard High School stadium.

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ERHS cell tower agreement reached

Last week, the Hamilton County Commission approved a 25-year lease agreement between the Board of Education and Tower Assets Newco IX LLC that will allow for the erection of a cell tower on the campus of East Ridge High School. In return for allowing the tower to be placed on the school’s campus, the cell tower company will give a $10,000 donation to ERHS. The company will also pay $1,500 a month in leasing fees and 35 percent of the gross revenues collected by the tower company from cellular services that use the structure, and this money will be split between the school system’s technology fund and ERHS.

Howard School alumni are upset that the Hamilton County Board of Education included their alma mater on a list of schools to get new bleachers when the group has been asking for a new stadium.

The alumni have requested a stadium for decades because the school is in a flood plain that leaves its current stadium soaked after hard rains, said Kenneth "Super T" Simpson, president of the Howard High School Alumni Association.

"We are in support of a new stadium because of contamination and safety concerns for our children," Simpson said. "We have major concerns because of flooding. We have been at games on Friday and raw sewage comes up out of the toilet in the women's restroom. That's unsanitary."

Also, the bricks underneath the home side of the stadium are decaying, and the track is so deteriorated that Howard track athletes go to another field to practice.

Commissioner Greg Beck said a new stadium for the school isn't out of the picture.

He said a stadium won't happen by September, so having new bleachers will enable games on the field this fall while commissioners and other officials discuss plans for a new Howard athletic facility.

The bleachers for Howard are temporary, Beck said. They can be transferred to another school if a stadium is built.

"We're still hoping to make some progress with the idea of building a new stadium at Howard," said Beck. "I'm hopeful that within the next six months we can make some kind of announcement."

Howard stands among seven schools scheduled for $913,600 worth of stadium repairs.

The debate about crumbling stadiums began last fall when East Ridge High School's stadium was condemned. Soon after, it was announced that Tyner Academy and The Howard School also had bleachers needing to be razed, and four other high school stadiums required more minor repairs.

The Hamilton County Board of Education unanimously decided last month to use a part of its fund balance to pay for new bleachers at those three schools, and also repair stadiums at Hixson, Ooltewah, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and Lookout Valley high schools.

Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who was present at the meeting when the vote was taken, said afterward he is thankful for the school board's decision.

"I trust this action by the school board will help demonstrate to the commission [that] the school board is serious about maintaining our school facilities and this will open up further discussions with the commission concerning the physical needs of our schools," he said.

The commission previously criticized the board for not spending money out of the fund balance.

Other county commissioners commended the school board for agreeing to allocate the funds.

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