Sullivan school system prepares to fund West Ridge traffic impact study

Rick Wagner • Jan 10, 2020 at 11:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school officials plan to pay for a traffic impact study for the new West Ridge High School, which is to open on Kingsport’s Lynn Road near Tri-Cities Airport in August, 2021.

During a work session before Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Director of Schools David Cox told the board it will be asked to fund a traffic impact study for West Ridge after that is bid out by county Purchasing Agent Kris Davis. The study is required by Kingsport since the school’s driveway’s entrance will be off Lynn Road inside Kingsport city limits, although the school is outside the city limits.

It is off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 near the former Sam’s Wholesale Club, now a food bank. The main access to the school via a windy two-lane road has been a complaint of opponents of the school, and access, and who will pay for improved access, has been a bone of contention about road access between the school board and the County Commission

School system business manager Ingrid DeLoach said school system officials had hoped to use a bid for such a study in the request for qualifications a former county highway commission unsuccessfully sought the County Commission to approve. But, she said an attorney told school officials piggy backing would not be allowed and a separate bid would have to be made. DeLoach said the bid should be ready to be published early next week and be opened about two weeks after that.

The school system on Tuesday opened Sullivan East Middle School near Sullivan East High on Weaver Pike in eastern Sullivan County. The schools are the first new county school buildings since 1980. East Middle replaced Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and the grades 6-8 portion of the K-8 Mary Hughes School in Piney Flats. West Ridge will replace Sullivan North and South high schools and part of Central High, with the rest of Central to be rezoned to East High.


Director of Schools David Cox said he appreciated the Sheriff’s Office for allowing the school system to use temporary lighting in the parking lots until the permanent lighting is installed there, and he and school board Chairman Michael Hughes thanking former Director Evelyn Rafalowski for her work on the middle school as a paid consultant. She also is helping with West Ridge.

“Evelyn Rafalowski was out there counting each chair in each room,” Hughes said. “It wouldn’t have got done if she wasn’t there.” Cox lauded Rafalowski, a paid consultant for the middle school and West Ridge High School, for overseeing distribution of furnishings throughout the building.

“Nobody will ever know the hours she put in,” Hughes said.

Athletic field lights will be done later. Both projects will be rebid after the initial bid resulted in two proposals that could not be compared with each other in a meaningful way, DeLoach said.


During the meeting, the board voted 6-0 with Mark Ireson absent to approve a $7,800 change order for the two sewer pump stations serving East Middle to put a wider paved driveway instead of a narrower gravel one to the pump stations, and a gate. Bristol, Tennessee, engineers had approved the project, paid for by $1,025,200 in school system funds as approved by the County Commission, but Bristol sewer system operation officials wanted the wider and paved access with a gate to the sewer pumps after the initial contract bids were done.

The new bottom line is $1,033,000, with the additional money coming from operational funds and not requiring County Commission approval, the board voted.

Michael Hubbard, maintenance and custodial supervisor, said the two pump stations, which each run two pumps half the time so there always is a backup, were finished up Monday and began working Tuesday. Before that, the Sheriff’s Office hauled a load of sewage from the site, he said. Randy Beckner, engineer and a principal with Mattern & Craig Engineers and Surveyors, said an odor prevention system will be in use soon but would be essential only during school breaks and the summer when the sewage flow was reduced.