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Dandridge, Tennessee

March 21, 2011 www.jeffersoncountypost.com

Timing Is Everything
Thursday, March 10, 2011, the Jefferson County School Board voted 6-1 (Bradley) to purchase the Buddie Ruth Franklin property on East Dumplin Valley Rd. The Franklin property is adjacent to the Blackburn property – land previously purchased by the School Board for a central elementary school.
In a special called meeting on Feb 21, 2011, the School board accepted the proposal from Dr. Edmonds (Director of Schools) to purchase the Blackburn’s property (15 acres at $14,500.00 per acre). Dr. Edmonds had negotiated the emergency purchase on behalf of the Board. The Board felt that time was of the greatest importance to meet stipulations of a $10.7 million dollar bond. This purchase, plus other preparatory costs, would meet the bond requirements according to Dr. Edmonds. He did mention that 8 additional acres were available, however no action was taken to begin the negotiation process with the Franklins.
Ms. Buddie Ruth Franklin stated that she was contacted in late February by a representative of the School board about the possible purchase of property on East Dumplin Valley Rd.
Ms. Franklin was not initially interested in selling the property. However, according to Ms. Franklin, her son, an educator in Jefferson County, was approached by School Board members requesting the purchase of the

Time Line of Purchase

  • 2/21/11 – Emergency purchase of Blackburn property (15 acres at $14,500.00) to meet bond stipulation.
  • Late February – Franklin contacted – directly and via son – offer of $14,500.00 per acre for 7.9 acres. (No Real Estate Agent).
  • 3/3/2011 – County Attorney / Jefferson Title Attorney informs Jefferson Title Company to contact Dept. of Education Central Office for closing date on Franklin and Blackburn property.
  • 3/7/2011 – Franklins are informed of the closing date of 3/11/2011.
  • 3/10/2011 – Franklin property comes before school board for vote for the 1st time.
  • 3/11/2011 – Franklin property closes.
additional land. Ms. Franklin stated that she made the decision to sell because the children needed new schools and she was told the purchase of her property was necessary.
She was offered and accepted $14,500 per acre for a 7.9 acre tract of land.  According to the land holder, the county bypassed the traditional path of contact through a real estate agent.
County Attorney Churchwell conducted the title search for both properties, according to Sherry Renfro at Jefferson Title Company. Jefferson Title was the closing company for the Franklin property. Renfro stated that she was contacted by Churchwell, who is also Jefferson Title’s attorney, and told to get in touch with the Department of Education’s Central Office to set a closing date on the Franklin and Blackburn properties.
On March 3rd, Jefferson Title and Jefferson County Schools set a closing date of Friday, March 11, 2011, for both properties.
Ms. Franklin stated she was informed of the closing date on Monday, March 7, 2011. Thursday, March 10, 2011, the Jefferson County School Board met for their regular March Meeting. Approximately half way through a long meeting, the School Board voted to purchase the Franklin property. The recommendation to purchase was made by Dr. Edmonds. Though not mentioned in the meeting, the Franklin property closed Friday morning.
The Blackburn property did not close Friday due to logistical difficulties on the part of the seller. Jefferson County Post contacted Chairman of the School Board Anne Marie Potts for comment on the timeline of the purchase of the Franklin property and on whose directive it was negotiated.
Via telephone conversation, Chairman Potts stated that she believed they had granted Edmonds authority to negotiate for the Franklin property during the Feb 21, 2011, board meeting. At the request of the Jefferson County Post, she checked the minutes of the meeting (not yet posted online) and emailed the section in question to the Jefferson County Post.  No directive to negotiate was mentioned in the portion of the minutes contained in the email.
The Jefferson County Post also contacted Mayor Alan Palmieri about the process used to purchase the Franklin property, including the County Attorney’s relationship with the closing company.
Mayor Palmieri stated “I have no knowledge of the operations of the School Board or their agents in reference to the recent purchase of property for new schools”.
County Commissioner Robert Tucker stated “I believe this to be another ill planned action by the School Board – Not only financially reckless but ignoring common sense. In my opinion, they have side stepped protocol and process, breeching their fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Jefferson County who deserve elected officials who are good stewards of the tax payer’s money”.

Spring Has Sprung
Spring has descended upon Jefferson County. The start of Spring marks the Vernal Equinox. The Vernal Equinox is the day when day and night are equal. During this time, the Sun is aligned with the Earth’s equator creating 12 hours of day and night.
This year’s Vernal Equinox was preceded by a Perigree Moon. This was the closest “Super Moon” we have seen since 1993 and it will not return for another 20 or so years.
Spring officially arrived yesterday at 7:21 PM. 
Jefferson County Commission held a work session Monday, March 16, 2011, at the Jefferson County Court House.
During the work session, County Commission questioned Dr. Charles Edmonds, Director of Schools, regarding the School Board’s decision to purchase land for a 700 student high school and purchase of additional 7.9 acres of land for future expansion of a new central elementary school. 
The County Commission had previously voted to wait until Edmonds returned with total renovation costs for Jefferson County High School, before altering the usage of the $16 million dollar Build America Bond. The Bond was initially earmarked for new high school construction. Renovation costs for JCHS will be available later in the Spring, however there is not currently any funding mechanism in place to cover the cost. The County Commission questioned Edmonds, Bill Nolan (Facilities & Maintenance) and School Board member Annette Loy extensively about the recent decisions and how they can address the needs of the current school facilities.
Loy was the only School Board member present at the Work Session.

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