County signs option on middle school site

Rick Wagner • Updated Jan 6, 2017 at 10:46 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school system has a signed option-to-purchase agreement and $100 binder to buy a new middle school site near Sullivan East High School on Weaver Pike, although one school board member still wants consideration for another site before the purchase goes through.

Officials also said the system is nearing such an agreement and binder on a new high school site on Lynn Road off Exit 63 of Interstate 81, and Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said those two things are likely to be in place within the next two weeks.


The Board of Education, during a work session Thursday evening in Blountville, got an update on property acquisition from Mike Nidiffer, co-owner of Interstate Realty of Bristol, Tenn., and Interstate agent Bill Ward. Interstate, as the buyer’s agent for the school system, is handling details of the land purchases, and Rafalowski told the board that the purchase prices are confidential until the deals go through. Negotiations continue with the attorney for the owners of the Lynn Road site, Rafalowski and Nidiffer said.

“We’re close on Lynn Road,” Nidiffer told the BOE.

 In a called meeting Dec. 10, the board chose the Lynn Road site from among three finalist sites for the 1,700-student high school and the Weaver Pike/Harrington Hollow Road site from among three finalists for the 800-student middle school.

Then, on Dec. 12, the County Commission voted 14-9 with one seat vacant to issue $140 million in bonds to fund the county projects plus projects in Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn. The projects would require an estimated nine-cent property tax rate increase when coupled with more than $4 million in bond debt that is paid off this year.

The estimated $60 million high school will take the place of Sullivan South and North high schools and most of Sullivan Central High, with some Central students shifted to East High; North will be sold to Kingsport City Schools to be used as a city middle school; and South and Central will become county middle schools. The estimated $20 million East zone middle school will take students from Bluff City and Holston Valley middle schools and the middle school students from Mary Hughes School, a K-8 facility in Piney Flats.

They will be the first new county schools built since 1980.


BOE member Jane Thomas, who represents the Bluff City and Bristol areas, said she is still unsettled that the vote on the top three finalists for the middle school were not weighted and the whole issue got what she called insufficient discussion. Thomas favored a site near U.S. Highway 11E, although other board members said that would be too far for students from Holston Valley Middle.

“Our schools have got to be where our children are, where our families are,” said Thomas, who lives and used to teach school in the area near East. However, she said it has not had a major subdivision development since the late 1970s, compared to a booming Piney Flats.

“It’s not growing. It has not for 40 years,” Thomas said. “We need to think this through.”