September 26th , 2012 9:14 am Leave a comment

TVA money from ash spill funds school construction

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KINGSTON (AP) — A rural East Tennessee school system has wrapped up an ambitious school construction program, paid for by TVA after a disastrous coal ash spill.

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel , the Roane County Schools’ plan was on the drawing board, but unfunded when an ash lagoon breached at the Kingston Fossil Plant in December 2008. The schools got most of a $43 million payout to the county by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The centerpiece project is a new grade school, Dyllis Springs Elementary, built for $13.5 million.

Speaking to the Roane County Economic Development Foundation Monday, construction project manager Lee Maines said the new building has geothermal heating and cooling, high efficiency windows and a solar energy array that produces electricity that the school then sells back to TVA.

The money also funded expansion and renovation of existing schools and the closing of two others. Rockwood High in combination with Rockwood Middle, Cherokee Middle in Kingston and Bowers Elementary in Harriman each received more than $3 million in expansions and renovations.

There are no portable classrooms in use for the first time in years, Maines said.

“I think we’ve made the environment for learning in Roane County better and safer in all cases,” he told foundation members.

Foundation Chairman Troy Beets put to rest a perception that the group was going to ask the schools to return about $1.7 million that was not spent.

“It was never the intention that the foundation would take money back from the schools,” Beets said.

TVA is still cleaning up after 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash burst from the rupture. The restoration is expected to cost more than $1 billion and last until 2014.

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Tom Varlan held TVA liable in the spill. His ruling sets up litigation to determine damages plaintiffs sustained. Plaintiffs’ lawyers want to mediate the damages, but TVA intends to go to trial in the lawsuit.

The government-owned utility supplies electricity in seven Southeastern states.

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