By Ashley Rader
Elizabethton Board of Education members found the system’s capital plans on the table again – if not on the agenda – Thursday, with one board member expressed displeasure with the board attorney’s letter to the city of Elizabethton.
Board member Catherine Armstrong told the board she was not happy with a letter the system’s executive board had the school’s attorney send to the city of Elizabethton’s attorney about delayed access to the capital plan’s bond funding.
At their the December meeting, council members deferred a vote to allow the system access to the $5 million in bond funding that would provide a new athletic complex, music rooms and classrooms at Elizabethton High School. The second phase of the project includes new classrooms, restrooms and accessibility improvements at T.A. Dugger Junior High School.
Council members were concerned the system would not complete the TAD projects, and some felt the classrooms needed to be done first. Council members wanted to hold another workshop to discuss the funding before they would vote to approve the system’s access to the money.
Council did not address the funding issue during its January meeting, but heard citizen comments for almost an hour from supporters of the capital plans.
Armstrong said she did not approve of the letter because she thought it was “threatening,” “negative” and “intimidating,” because the attorney said the school system would take additional steps if necessary to access the funding. She was concerned the language sounded as though the school system would pursue a lawsuit to gain the funding and did not want to see the system go through another legal battle.
“I have sat through lawsuits in the past, and that is a bad place to be,” Armstrong said. “I don’t want any more letters. I didn’t agree with lots of it.”
Board chair Rita Booher said the executive board authorized a letter from the attorney after the December City Council meeting. She said system administrators had believed a vote would be held during that council meeting, but when it wasn’t, the school system attorney was authorized to contact the city. Board members were emailed a copy when it was sent to the city attorney.
Booher said the executive board held the letter for two weeks while trying to contact the city attorney to discuss the funding situation. She said multiple attempts to contact the city’s legal counsel went unanswered and that was when the letter was sent.
“I am sorry you are not happy,” Booher said.
The school board and city council will host a joint workshop on Friday, Jan. 31, at the school offices to discuss the capital plan.
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