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County Commissioners Make Their Opinions Known About School Construction Plan

November 22, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps updated the County Commission Tuesday night on the Board of Education’s latest move toward replacing Smithville Elementary.

In October, the Board voted unanimously to pursue a plan to build a new 98,000 square foot elementary school for up to 800 students in pre-kindergarten to 2nd grade to be built on the campus of Northside Elementary School. An estimated cost of $20 million without the purchase of additional property.

During an all-committees meeting of the county commission Tuesday night, Cripps explained that the board of education voted unanimously at its regular monthly meeting on November 8 to hire Upland Design Group to proceed with a schematic design (site study) for this proposed new school. The cost of the design project is $40,000 to be funded from the board of education’s budget.

Cripps said the board will be able to provide more details of the project and be in a better position to answer questions of the county commission by bringing in Upland Design to do this study.

“At the last board meeting we went into contract with the Upland Group to do a schematic design for a future building project. They will come in and we will start developing an educational plan with them. We will design how large we want the classrooms to be and how many we need. They will also bring in engineers to test the site over by Northside to determine the feasibility as to whether a school will even fit over there and whether the ground will hold up over there for another school.  The Tennessee Department of Transportation will also be brought in because there is a concern about space and getting traffic off the road.  We may also look at land around that property in case we need to purchase more. I know you  (county commissioners) were looking for answers at your last meeting but we had to hire somebody (architect)  to help find out these answers. We have been meeting for a little over a year to try and come up with a concept (building plan). We feel like the pre-k to 2 concept is the most financially responsible  at this time. It meets a need for our community,” said Director Cripps.

Although the county commissioners seem supportive of a construction plan, several questioned why the school board chose this one (pre-k to 2nd grade).

Fifth district County Commissioner Jerry Adcock called it a band aid approach and said it made more sense to build two pre-k to 8th grade schools and convert Northside Elementary to a pre- k to 8th grade school on the Northside campus.  This he said would address both the elementary and middle school issues and create more space at the high school by making use of the existing middle school campus.

Director Cripps said such a project would be much more expensive to build and costly to maintain with that many more buildings and it could potentially tie up funds which could be used for other needs like raising teacher pay.

“Financially for the school district and county I don’t think you realize the millions of dollars that would cost. We all know we need schools and we have a plan to continually replace buildings but we can’t do it all at once because there are other needs to be met as well. Our employee pay is below state average. We lost 10% of our staff this year because of teachers leaving for better pay and benefits elsewhere and we will never keep up with communities around us in pay and benefits with the tax dollars we have right now if we sink everything into buildings.  That’s why I am very tight with our budget and try to be as fiscally responsible as I can,” said Director Cripps.

Still some commissioners are concerned that a new pre-k to 2nd grade school doesn’t serve the greatest immediate need.

“I am just trying to be responsible to the taxpayers and get the most bang for the buck. I have had people from my area say a pre-k to 2 is not feasible, tax raise or no tax raise. It is not what they want. I am speaking for my district. They would much rather go with two schools and get some relief for the high school and have a tax increase. That is coming from my people under the hill,” said First district Commissioner Julie Young.

“I represent that same district and my people that I talk to are not in agreement with what she (Young) is saying. I know you guys (director and school board) have worked on this thing for a long time and I have to respect your decision. You are a whole lot smarter on that stuff than I am,” said First district Commissioner Dennis Slager.

“There are some people up here that have gotten in touch with me that feel the same way she (Young) does. They are out there. It’s not just one way. There are people and I am starting to get phone calls from them. I have said to them you need to go to your school board meetings to voice your opinions because while we are the funding body they are the ones that come up with those things (construction plans). There are some out there who are going to pay for an increase on their property tax, possibly a wheel tax, and feel like we could have done another school. They are willing to pay more to have more. There are more people that want that than you think. They look at a pre-k to 2 and think if you are going to raise taxes then build another one,” said Third district Commissioner Jenny Trapp.

Fourth district Commissioner Janice Fish-Stewart said she wants to know what the school board’s long range plans are for addressing school construction.

“What is the timeline to progress forward? I  have had a number of calls about schools from people in my district and they are sick and tired of the county putting band aids on things. We need to know what is our plan. What is our five and ten year plan?. How are we going to get where we are going?. Smithville Elementary is in bad shape but go over to the middle school and see how those kids are having to learn in that open classroom environment. What are we going to try and accomplish?  I also agree that our teachers are underpaid. Our kids are the most important thing to us and we have got to do the right things for our kids because they are the future of our county and if we can’t see that then we are all blind. We have to fix this problem,” said Commissioner  Fish-Stewart.

“Our plan at this time is to build a pre-k to 2 and pay it off as quickly as we can maybe within 10 years and then we would like to take on the high school and go from there. We would like to purchase the land behind Northside and put a high school there and after the high school start working toward the middle school replacing that. I would like to see schools all on one campus so buses are coming to one area if there is enough land there but just with a high school you need 50 acres for everything including sports fields, etc,” said Director Cripps.

Second District Commissioner Myron Rhody asked if the school board had considered using the existing middle school campus for new construction which he said would save money by not having to build new athletic facilities.

“I was thinking the same way. Clear out the middle school and have a building pre-k to whatever grade . That would free up the middle school for high school use or you could destruct. You already have the property and $10 million worth of ballfields. Build the high school back there (middle school campus). Has that been discussed” asked Commissioner Rhody.

“Yes that has been talked about. Maybe if when we did build a high school take half of that (existing) property and build a new middle school there and you have your sports facilities already there for the middle school,” replied Director Cripps.

“I am just trying to save $10 million worth of ballfields” added Commissioner Rhody.

Fourth district Commissioner Scott Little said the county ‘s building program for schools will benefit over time as current debt for previous projects are paid off.

“If you raise the revenues to pay off the $20 million school in 10 years and with other debt service rolling off over the next 10 years we would have the funds to build the high school after 10 years without revenue enhancements,” said Commissioner Little.

Seventh district Commissioner Bruce Malone said while he has reservations about the school board’s proposal he commends them for their effort to get something done.

“The school board has made its decision and we need to go with that. We are the funding body and they are the experts on what is needed for the kids. I think at this point we need to let it go to the budget committee and try to figure out a way to fund it. I do commend you guys for taking the bull by the horns and spending your own money (for the schematic design study by the architect). I have a different opinion but I respect what the school board came up with,” said Commissioner Malone.

The schematic design by Upland is expected to be completed within 60 days.

McMinnville Crash Claims Local Man

November 21, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

A 55 year old man with local ties lost his life in a McMinnville crash Tuesday afternoon.

Dead is Edward Lee Judkins, Sr. of McMinnville.

According to Lieutenant Mark Mara of the McMinnville Police Department, Judkins was driving south on Upper Faulkner Springs Road in a 1995 Ford F-150 when he lost control, went off the road, and struck an embankment. The truck flipped over and Judkins, who was wearing his seatbelt, died at the scene.

An open container of alcohol was found in the truck and investigators are awaiting results of blood tests to determine if alcohol was a factor in the crash. The wreck remains under investigation.

WJLE’s Fearless Forecasters Show Airs Today (Wednesday)

November 21, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

WJLE Fearless Forecaster Dewain Hendrixson maintains his lead going into the final week of the regular college football season.

Hendrixson has an overall record of 116-62.

Darrell Gill is in second place at 111-67, five games back followed by Scott Brown and Grant James of the James Gang each at 107-71, nine games out. Will Graham is ten games back at 106-72. Chad Kirby and Ricky Atnip are each eleven games out of first place at 105-73. John Pryor is fourteen games back at 102-76 and the guests are eighteen games back at 98-80.

Meanwhile Ricky Atnip had the best record for the week at 9-5 followed by Grant James of the James Gang, Will Graham, Chad Kirby, and Dewain Hendrixson each at 8-6. John Pryor and Scott Brown each went 7-7 while Darrell Gill and the guest DCHS Tiger Football Coach Steve Trapp each went 6-8.

Two forecasters hit their underdog picks last week. Will Graham picked Wisconsin to upset Purdue and got 4 points. Our guest Coach Steve Trapp picked Oklahoma State to beat West Virginia and got 4.5 points.

Overall Will Graham is back in the lead with the most underdog points at 45. Scott Brown is next with 41 followed by Grant James of the James Gang with 38 points, Ricky Atnip and the guests have 24.5, John Pryor 21.5, Darrell Gill 14, Dewain Hendrixson 11, and Chad Kirby 5.

Today (Wednesday) the Forecasters will be picking winners in the following games:

Michigan at Ohio State, Washington at Washington State, Oklahoma at West Virginia, Utah State at Boise State, Pittsburgh at Miami, Nebraska at Iowa, Florida at Florida State, Baylor at Texas Tech, Arizona State at Arizona, UAB at MTSU, LSU at Texas A&M, Syracuse at Boston College, Marshall at FIU, Tennessee at Vanderbilt, and in the NFL the Tennessee Titans at Houston.

Today’s special guest is DeKalb Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley.

Catch the Fearless Forecasters on WJLE today (Wednesday) at 4:30 p.m. on AM 1480/FM 101.7 and LIVE streaming at

The program is sponsored by the Charles D. Atnip Realty and Auction Company, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, Liberty State Bank, DeKalb County Insurance, Gill Automotive, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, and DeKalb County Ace Hardware.

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