April 21, 2014 - 03:04
Boards discuss roofs
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School Board and County Commission members got together last Thursday and the first official step has been taken toward replacement and repair of roofs at Benton Elementary, Copper Basin Elementary, and Chilhowee Middle School.

School Board and County Commission members got together last Thursday and the first official step has been taken toward replacement and repair of roofs at Benton Elementary, Copper Basin Elementary, and Chilhowee Middle School. While there is no way currently to know the exact price tag of the work, the project total looks to be over $3 million.  

The extent of damage and repair needed will not be certain until the bidding process is underway. Repair work for the roof system will average $12-18 per square foot; replacement will average $35-50 per square foot.  Some sections will need to be completely replaced down to the decking, and in other sections, the decking is fine.

School Board member Gary Silvers, who has been working with an architectural engineer, said the price will vary depending upon how much damage is above the panels and cannot currently be seen. The roof system includes iron bar joists, a decking of lightweight concrete, and roofing material on top. Deck damage is not readily visible, and some of the newer sections have a metal decking instead of concrete.

Silvers said the structural engineer mentioned four areas of immediate concern at Benton Elementary, but Copper Basin Elementary had not been inspected and was in worse condition. He compared the two schools to heart attack victims, remarking, “Benton Elementary might be having pains in their arm, but Copper Basin is already on the way to the hospital.”

Director of Schools James Jones presented the commission’s building committee with a letter explaining the fire marshal’s office had contacted Tommy Frazier on December 30th and a “plan of action must be submitted to the immediately.” The letter said failure to submit a plan could result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of shutting down one or both of the schools.

David Hemelright, with KBJM Architects, Inc., said there were seven roofing specialists in the state of Tennessee, and one of the worked for their company. He said he has worked with the fire marshal on projects before, and as long as they saw that progress was being made, there would be no problems.

Silvers said the county could not afford to wait. School Board member Mark Williams said the project would be a bidding nightmare because they don’t know exactly how much damage there is. Hemelright said the cost at Copper Basin would probably average about $35/sq. ft. A large air conditioning unit on top of Copper Basin Elementary was also discussed, with agreement that it would be best if it could be taken off the roof and put on the ground due to its weight.

Commissioner John Pippenger asked if the school system had any money in their budget to put toward the work. Silvers said they did not have a fund balance. Jones said the state had cut capital outlay from their budget years ago.

Pippenger mentioned there would also be a need to purchase 10 buses next year. Silvers said the State School Board was pushing to go back to using inspections on school buses instead of going by number of years. Waters said those buses are generally used for years with as many as 10 trips a day on the river once they are forced to retire them from the school system. Silvers said if everyone would push our local Senator Mike Bell and Representative Eric Watson, and the bill to change the regulations went through, it would mean 10 buses would not have to be parked on the last day of school.

According to Senator Mike Bell, who was contacted after the meeting, a bill was introduced by Senator Mark Green to lengthen the number of miles a bus can be used to 250,000.

A handful of parents were at the meeting, and asked about whether or not the children were safe, if they would be removed if they were not safe, what kind of timeline the project was looking at, and whether or not the money could be better spent of building new schools.

Silvers said there was no way to give a timeline right now, and that the fire marshal would step in and close the schools if they students were unsafe. County Executive Hoyt Firestone asked about having someone do consultation and design a plan for bids; Hemelright said they could do it for about $50,000. Silvers said he would present commissioners with an exact cost for that at the next commission meeting on January 17th.

Firestone said it was not feasible to build new schools. He said it would take at least $12 million to build Benton Elementary alone. Silvers pointed out that if a roof was leaking at a house, “you don’t just go out and build a new house.”

Pippenger asked who would bid the project. Waters said he would like bids to be done separately for each school. All those on hand agreed bids should be done both separate and together, and that the two boards would get together to go over the bids and make the decision together.

Board Chairman Wendall (Buster) Lewis pointed out that if people had helped them pass a sales tax increase that was to be dedicated for the school system, the county would already have some money and it wouldn’t be such a burden on the people to pay for it.



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