East Middle projected to open on time despite sewer project change

Rick Wagner • Mar 11, 2019 at 6:01 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school officials and an architect say a county commission-approved change in a sewer line project to serve the new Sullivan East Middle School shouldn’t delay the projected opening of that facility next January.

During a school board work session Thursday, architect Dineen West of Cash Rash West and Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski told the board that the sewer line project changes should have minimal impact on the new middle school project, which Jane Thomas, who attended a commission meeting addressing the matter, and other board members said they understood was the case.

Sewage treatment costs for the new middle school were $750,000 for a new package treatment plant but have grown to $1.025 million for a sewer hookup after Tennessee environmental officials nixed the idea of a treatment plant.

The entire amount is coming from a restricted school system fund balance that originally came from the general purpose fund balance. In a marathon meeting Feb. 21, the Sullivan County Commission passed two resolutions to address the sewer funding and scope.

In a nutshell, the commission and Bristol, Tenn., are agreeing that the sewer project will go forward but with an enlarged scope, with the $1.025 million from the school system helping pay for it and the rest of the funding yet to be determined. The project will be upgraded from 4-inch to 6-inch and 8-inch sewer lines along Weaver Pike to serve both the new middle school and existing Sullivan East High School about a mile away.

The commission had been at odds with the school board over funding of the project, which Bristol, Tenn., officials have agreed to run through the 1996 City-County Sewer Agreement by replacing older planned projects that were never done with new Weaver Pike phases, starting with the one to serve the two schools and areas immediately around them.

Rafalowski and West said the existing project contract, already awarded, can remain but a change order will be entered. In addition, state approval of the project won’t be affected by the installation of larger lines, they said. West said Bristol officials have pledged to work to keep the project on a timeline that would not delay the projected January 2020 opening of the school.

The new sewer project would serve the high school, which uses a package plant, and would provide capacity for additional sewer customers along Weaver Pike near the two schools and the old Weaver Elementary property, which has been closed and sold to four buyers. The main building might be used for a sourdough bread bakery. Two adjoining residential property owners and a cemetery also bought parcels.