Funding Denied For New Jefferson Elementary School

Jefferson County Commission Meeting, March 22, 2021
Photo by Jeff Depew

The Jefferson County Commission turned down a motion to fund a nearly $20 million dollar request from the Jefferson County Department of Education. Last week the Commission heard a proposal that would fund a new school to house Jefferson Elementary at the projected cost of $19,950,000. The projection included $16,927,495 for construction, a contingency of $592,462 and other project costs of $2,430,043.

A motion was offered by Commissioner Solomon and 2nd by Commissioner Langley to fund new construction of Jefferson Elementary School at an amount not to exceed $20,000,000. Discussion of the motion highlighted concerns from some commissioners regarding the timing of the request (noting unsure economic future), the current high cost of building materials and the inability to accurately predict material cost, as well as the potential for significant need in other schools.

The building site for a proposed new Jefferson Elementary School would be the Jefferson County Fair Grounds. The grounds are owned by the Jefferson County Department of Education and leased by the Jefferson County Fair. While the location would eliminate the cost of land purchase, some citizens and commissioners have expressed a wish to keep the grounds available for the annual fair. Another concern from some commissioners regarding building a new school for Jefferson Elementary School is a downward trend in student enrollment county wide.

Most commissioners offering statements about the request acknowledged the need for maintenance attention to the school but a renovation option was not part of the meeting call and could not be addressed.

Following discussion, the motion to fund presented by Solomon/Langley failed 12-7-1 ( Phagan abstaining). Voting against the motion were Commissioners Kesterson, Douglas, Patterson, Lowe, Snodgrass, Byrd, Blevins, Coleman, Dockery, Carmichael, Walker and Reed. Absent from Roll Call was Commissioner Eslinger.

There was interest among commissioners in comprehensive renovation numbers. Commissioner Carmichael made a motion to postpone renovation discussions until the July meeting, noting that at that time it may be more clear how building materials will be priced and the accessibility of those materials. Commissioner Scarlett offered a successful amendment to the motion to place the item on the April work session and voting meeting.

Following meeting adjournment, the County Commission went into executive session.

Source: K. Depew, News Director