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East Middle outdoor lighting contracts delayed, but school still to open on time

Rick Wagner • Dec 13, 2019 at 6:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Have you heard about the called school board meeting over the new Sullivan County middle school that lasted a few minutes because two of three contracts, both on lighting, were postponed and one was strictly housekeeping? 

In addition, a planned ribbon cutting and open house originally set for next week at Sullivan East Middle School have been delayed until after it opens in January.

WHAT WILL LIGHTING CONTRACTS COVER?

The board’s Thursday agenda had been to approve outdoor lighting contracts for the parking lots and athletic fields of the new school, about a mile along Weaver Pike from Sullivan East High. Bristol Tennessee Essential Services put in a 25-year bid to install and maintain the lighting, while Knight Electric put in a bid simply selling the school system the equipment.

In both cases, the electric bill to power the lights is not part of the contracts, but School Board Chairman Michael Hughes and Business Manager Ingrid DeLoach said it is unclear how to compare the two bids on the outdoor lighting received Wednesday afternoon. 

IS SCHOOL STILL OPENING NEXT MONTH?

The new Sullivan East Middle School will open to students as planned Jan. 8, school officials said, adding that the new West Ridge High School near Tri-Cities Airport likewise is on track to open in August 2021. But they said East Middle outside lighting contracts, supposed to be up for consideration at the called Board of Education meeting, are being delayed to allow time to figure out an apples-to-apples comparison of two differing types of bids on them.

“We’ve got to get more information so we can compare apples to apples,” DeLoach said.

As for the morning ribbon cutting and afternoon open house originally set for next week, Hughes said the gym floor may not be ready for for either event, plus teachers and students wanted to be involved with the ribbon cutting, so both events will be held after the school opens to students Jan. 8. On Jan. 7, when students are set to return to all other county schools, East Middle will have a teacher work day.

“The school’s still going to open,” Hughes said after the meeting. “We’re just going to have to have some temporary lighting” in the parking lots. The board will consider the lighting contracts at its regular January meeting, Hughes said. DeLoach said the temporary parking lot lights likely will be used and powered by gas or diesel generators until the contracts are approved, while athletic field lights won’t be needed in the early winter.

The copier contract for the new 700-student school, approved 6-0 with one absent, was a simpler and mundane matter. DeLoach said that contract, to go before the County Commission for a vote at its December meeting, simply combines the contracts for the existing Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools. Students from those schools, along with middle schoolers from the K-8 Mary Hughes School, will attend East Middle. DeLoach said Mary Hughes is keeping its copier contract because it will remain open as an elementary school.