Mold, new school finances 101: School board gets update

Rick Wagner • Mar 3, 2019 at 7:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school system will spend about $50,000 on mold, moisture and humidity testing and black mold remediation at two facilities, officials told the Board of Education at a Thursday work session.

In other financial news, an architect told the BOE that contingency-funded cost overruns at the new West Ridge High School of more than $300,000 will be all but offset by cost savings from “value engineering” changes for the project off Exit 63 of Interstate 81.


Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski and Maintenance and Facilities Supervisor Charles Hubbard said the total payments to Westfield Environmental Inc. and SERVPRO of Kingsport/Bristol would run about $50,000. Westfield performed airborne mold spore testing at Indian Springs Elementary in late January and Sullivan North High/Middle School in February, while SERVPRO did moisture and humidity testing at those two facilities. 

In addition, after nine “black mold” (Stachybotrys chartarum) spores were found among four rooms at North, SERVPRO did remediation work and Wingfield did followup testing that found no mold issues.

Former North career technical education teacher Michael Upchurch has filed a $21 million lawsuit alleging mold at North sickened him, while Juanita Larkins Housewright has said her daughter died in 2017 because of exposure to toxins from black mold when she was a student at Indian Springs.


Dineen West, of Kingsport-based Cain Rash West Architects, said contractors are watching the “drop outs” in various parts of the high school site, including ones along a temporary road that have been filled and some new ones about the size of 5-gallon buckets. She said the biggest challenge has been the wet weather impeding construction at both the high school and middle school sites.

She said a change order for the high school site, to be approved by the school board at its March 5 meeting, requires an additional $319,095 in rock work from mass grading contractor East Tennessee Turf and Lawn but will result in a credit from J.E. Street & Associates for $313,543 in “value engineering” on the construction contract.


Budget Director Ingrid DeLoach and Rafalowski also presented a financial rundown on the new schools.

The school system received $87.19 million from a bond issue approved by the County Commission, almost $1.13 million less than originally expected.

The West Ridge original budget was $65 million, but so far the actual cost to date amounts to almost $69.18 million. The East Middle original budget was $19 million but the cost to date is $23.1 million. 

To make up for all that, $4.8 million for outdoor athletic facilities at West Ridge came from the general purpose fund balance and $1.025 million for a sewer line to serve East Middle came from a restricted reserve.

All told, the undesignated fund balance has fallen from almost $11.06 million to $6.25 million after the $4.8 million for outdoor athletic facilities was moved. After other items are taken from the renovation fund’s undesignated balance, including open purchase orders, DeLoach said it will fall to slightly less than $2.2 million.