TOP PHOTO: School Board member, Johnny Byrge (left) and Josh James (right) at Tuesday’s School Board meeting. James pushed to get funds allocated to CCHS for a new weight room/sports complex and upgrades to the field house at Jellico High school.

By Charlotte Underwood 

JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – After much discussion and one failed vote, the Campbell County Board of Education voted to allocate $1,700,000 to Campbell County High School for a new weight room/multi-use sports complex. They also approved the allocation of $300,000 for Jellico High School for field house renovations and upgrades. According to school board officials, the funds for “said projects are within current budget and Undesignated Fund Balance will not be utilized.”

The $1.7 million will build a new weight room/sports facility to replace the current building which is partially “deemed unsafe.”

Funds allocated to Jellico would allow them to upgrade and have a scoreboard, a sound system and a changing area for visitors. 

The first time the motion was made it failed with five board members voting yes and four board members voting no. Crystal Creekmore, Lisa Fields, Ronnie Lasley and Jeffrey Miller voted in opposition of allocating the funds the first time it was put to a vote.

After the motion failed, board member Johnny Byrge asked what the “plan of action” was since CCHS had “been without a weight room since last January.”

Board member Josh James pushed for the fund allocations to go through, saying they had been” talking about this project long enough” and that something needed done due to the current condition of the high school’s weight room. 

Miller made a motion to suspend the rules so he could then make a motion to spend $450,000 to “fix the building”, meaning the weight room at CCHS.

According to Miller, the school district had a previous cost estimate of $450,000 from MBI Architects to fix the building.

James equated that with “putting a band-aid” on the building. 

Byrge agreed.

“I don’t have enough information to go tear into a building that’s fell in to commit $500,000 with a rock quarry right behind it. That’s my concern,” said Byrge.

The motion to suspend the rules failed and board members discussed the issue again at length.

Miller told James $1.7 million would not cover the cost of how large of a project had been proposed; that it would cost closer to $3.2 million. 

James said he understood it would not build a giant building and said those details had been discussed at the athletic committee meeting. 

(Left to right) Crystal Creekmore, Jeffrey Miller, Ronnie Lasley, Randy Heatherly, Sharon Ridenour and Jennifer Fields.

“It’s not going to build a giant building, and we explained that last night. They asked for $3.2 million and we said we can’t give you $3.2 million. Jellico asked for $125,000 and we said hey, we’re going to give you $300,000,” James said, adding that they can build what they can for $1.7 million.

“We have $2 million dollars set aside for capital outlay projects, not academics… if we’re going to spend money on something, I want to do it right,” James said.

Third District Commissioner Dewayne Baird briefly addressed school board members, telling them the “school system is losing students.”

“I’m just going to address the elephant in the room. We’re losing kids to other schools and it’s not because of academics. Our academic department is great. We’re losing kids for the same reason when you were younger; it’s because our system wasn’t putting money into sports and those kids went elsewhere and look what happened. Now if you want to put in $500,000 to try to fix that when they already told you it was going to cost $500,000 to tear it down and $500,000 to build back what you got, then you go right ahead; but I’m going to tell you right now, the school down the road is building a brand new sports complex.

So if you want to continue to lose kids to somewhere else, then you go ahead and put the $500,000 into it and see what happens. When you lose kids, you lose funding and you all know that. And when you lose the funding, schools have to close and we already have schools that are losing money and those will be the first ones to go in my opinion and you need to think about that,” Baird said.

School board member Randy Heatherly said he felt MBI or whichever architects they hire would be able to take the $1.7 million and design a building that they could afford. 

“I don’t think putting a band-aid on it is the right thing to do. I feel like moving foward and doing something is not only good for the football program, but good for all the sporting programs at the high school. I think it’s a no brainer; that’s my opinion,” Heatherly said.

Board member Crystal Creekmore asked if the architects could show what could be provided for $1.7 million.

Ronnie Lasley agreed and asked “What are we going to get for that $1.7?”

Director Jennifer Fields spoke to board members, saying she felt the entire purpose of the recent athletic committee meeting was to “prevent this from being an issue.”

“I will say we have been to the field house multiple times. We’ve been with the insurance company. We had MBI draw up drawings for a major sports complex and we agreed we wouldn’t go that large, we would scale it down.

We had Brad Collette, the athletic director and assistant principal at Campbell County, discuss last night what he did when he oversaw the building of the sports complex when he was assistant principal and athletic director at Clinton High School. 

We came in here tonight with the assumption we were moving forward with that, not to exceed a budget,  but to work within a budget of what our budget would allow, to be able to meet the needs of multiple sports programs at Campbell County High School in a structure that is not at risk of structural damage because it was built up there on the clay dirt and near the rock quarry. I thought all this was discussed last night and we were ready to move forward because the fact remains that we have a weight room that is non-existent and our students are having to work in a small roped off area of a building that one end has been condemned and deemed unsafe and we don’t know whether to move that to the JROTC building and put up a weight room in a portion of that which will cause problems with the program that is in there; so it’s causing a lot of problems school wide and we’re not meeting the needs of our students. I urge the board to take action,” Director Fields said.

Byrge pointed out over 400 athletes use that space.

“We need a weight room if we’re going to have a football program and if you have a football program you got to fund it,” Byrge said.

James pointed out Tuesday’s vote was “just for the allocation of funds.”

“You’re not passing a building. For us to have a building passed, we have to obviously vote on what we want in that building,” James said.

He told fellow board members that the high school had already raised $150,000 for extras to go into the new building.

Miller asked to clarify that the funds allocated would not go over $1.7 million.

“If its $1.7 million and not $3.2 million that’s different,” Miller said.

“That’s why we took it to $1.7 million; to stay within our budget,” James said.

Miller then made a new motion to suspend the rules so the issue could be voted on again. This passed.

Heatherly then made a clarified motion noting that the fund allocations would not exceed $1.7 million to CCHS and not exceed $300,000 to Jellico High School. 

This new motion passed unanimously. 

In other business, the BOE approved a CCHS Band trip to Gatlinburg to attend ETSBOA All-East (The East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association).

Multiple dilapidated items were approved for surplus at Tuesday’s meeting and four budget amendments were approved as well.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/10/2024-6AM)