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Dandridge, Tennessee

April 11, 2011

Jefferson County High School Renovations

A First Look

The long anticipated proposal for renovations at Jefferson County High School has made its first appearance at the School Board Meeting on April 7, 2011. Granted, it is the first time that the public has had a look at anything on paper, and changes are likely to be made, however the “first look” plans appear to address the concerns that have plagued the school.  In addition to ridding the school for the need of the portables, which are in disrepair, the plan allows the school to maintain its current departmental pod approach.  Five pods will house classrooms, as well as shared lab facilities and teacher work space. 
Esthetically, the planned renovations look to be pleasing to the eye, as well as functional.  The most glaring change is a new auditorium that is planned to front the school on the right side. It will be accompanied by classrooms for the “arts”. The Band room, Chorus, Drama and Art department will be housed in this area.
The space that is vacated by the band and chorus will be renovated into a ROTC, drivers education and health area.  This would allow these classes-which all require outdoor access- an easy exit from the building.
In an effort to address safety concerns, the main office will be moved out front, and a secure vestibule will be just inside the main doors.  Access to the school would require traveling through the vestibule-which will remain locked during the school day- and through the main office.  The guidance office will be housed where the main office now sits and the school store will be of the other side of the commons area.
The proposed addition will naturally take up some of the parking that is now available.  However, plans include an additional parking area where the portables now sit.
Plans to renovate the vocational building are still in the works.  Future class offerings will greatly dictate the direction and needs in that part of the school.  As with any large project, the renovation plans are a work in progress.  Dr. Charles Edmonds, Director of Schools, stated that the plans must still be tweaked, but he is feels good about this stage in the process.
Chairman Potts said that a lot of thought has gone into what is needed academically and input from teachers has been important.  She says she hopes to give Jefferson County students a place to grow and thrive educationally.
Michael Phagan, School Board Member, said that he was glad to be moving in a direction and that, after years of fighting for space, the plans look good. 
The finances for renovations are still undecided and figures are not yet being discussed.  The “first look” is indeed a work in progress, but it allows the possibility that JCHS is not beyond repair.

New Public Service Committee Meets
 ... and the Public was there!
The newly formed Jefferson County Public Service Committee held its first meeting on Monday, April 4, 2011, at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse.  The committee meeting was opened by Mayor Palmieri, who asked for nominations for chairman.  Robert Tucker was voted in as chairman of the committee.

Chairman Tucker informed the committee that they had been charged by the full county commission to gather information and present a cost/benefit analysis to the commission regarding the proposed Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility.  He asked that the committee decide the method that they would use to gather information from stakeholders in the project.  The committee requested that Mayor Palmieri and Jefferson County Chamber Director Don Cason- both of who were present- provide contact names of officials in the project. 

Many concerned citizens were present for the meeting and expressed disappointment that the committee did not have information available Monday evening.  Chairman Tucker explained that this was the first meeting of this committee, and therefore, there was not time to ask for any information from any party.  The groups requested to make a presentation in opposition of the proposed intermodal facility.  The request was denied on the basis of time.  A budget committee meeting was scheduled to follow the public service committee meeting.  Chairman Tucker stated that the committee was aware that the wheels of government turn slow, however the committee must follow a process in the gathering of information.  He said that this meeting was never intended to present information to the public, as the committee had never met before, and therefore could not have requested information from the appropriate parties.  Chairman Tucker reminded the public that information must be from official sources and, though the committee is interested in hearing from the public, Norfolk Southern, TDOT and any studies produced by stakeholders are necessary to have official information.  Tucker cautioned the crowd that, although the committee is sensitive to their plight, shouting and speaking out loud during meetings is not appropriate.  The committee offered to host a Public Forum on May 3, 2011 at 5p.m. at the courthouse, so citizens can express their views.  More than one citizen group was in attendance at the meeting , therefore the spokesperson for citizens was Commissioner Anna Barreiro.

Mayor Palmieri told the committee that he is very willing to share information and contact numbers.  He stated that to his knowledge Norfolk Southern has no intention of invoking eminent domain in the case of land owners who do not wish to sell their property.  Palmieri said that was one of the first questions he asked when presented with the project.  He also stated that officials on the state level were interested in the project being located in Tennessee.  He emphasized that he was told that funding would not come from the county.

Don Cason, of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, told the committee that he was willing to share his information as well.  Cason and Palmieri both said that Norfolk Southern has not committed to the project at this time, however they have begun the process of acquiring land. Commissioner Barreiro said that many land owner feel threatened by eminent domain and are letting their land be optioned.

The animosity between the opposing crowd and Don Cason was clear and undeniable on both parts.  Chairman Tucker reiterated that any and all committee meetings will follow protocol and have a civil tone.

The next regular meeting of the Public Service Committee will be May 9, 2011, at 5p.m. at the courthouse. 

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