Sullivan opens bids on Bluff City Middle property

Rick Wagner • Apr 29, 2020 at 2:53 PM

BLOUNTVILLE  — The high bidder for the surplus Bluff City Middle School has offered to pay almost $200,000 for the campus of what was once Bluff City High School, compared to the only other bid of $13,000.

Plans previously presented by the high bidder were to make the building a hub of not-for-profit operations in Sullivan County’s smallest municipality. And two local governing bodies are set to make a decision on the sales of two separately owned parcels May 7.

At the 2 p.m. Tuesday bid opening for the building and more than five acres of land, Purchasing Agent Kris Davis said the combined high bid was $190,000 on the two parcels from Piney Flats-based Business Information Systems, owned by Chris Laisure.

The bid was $170,000 on parcel 1 — the school building and most of the land deeded in the name of the school system; and $20,000 on parcel 2 — a smaller section of land deeded to the county.

The other bid, from George and Gayla Duncan of Meadville, Missouri, was $11,100 on parcel 1 and $2,000 on parcel 2 for a total of $13,000.

Bluff City Middle, which at its core is the 1935 Bluff City High, is the first of a series of former Sullivan County school buildings to be sold after the system declared them surplus. A third potential bidder never made an offer.

The other properties are the old Holston Institute ball fields, the Holston Institute itself and the former Holston Valley Middle School, like Bluff City Middle a former high school. Bluff City and Holston Valley Middle, along with the middle school portion of Mary Hughes School, a K-8, closed and merged into the new Sullivan East Middle School that opened in January. The old Holston Institute property last operated as a school in 1980 as Holston Middle.

At the March 5 school board meeting, the last one before the meetings went virtual because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Laisure presented a plan for up to six nonprofits to use the property he proposes to buy.

The school board and commission are under no obligation to accept the low bid or any bid. School board Chairman Michael Hughes said he hopes awarding the bid on parcel 1 will be done at the May 7 board meeting. Likewise, County Mayor Richard Venable said the County Commission is to consider the bids on parcel 2 at a called meeting May 7, likely partly in person and partly electronic. Both would start at 6 p.m. 

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