Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times Macon County Board of Education chair Jeff Harper addresses members of the Macon County Commission at the board's meeting held July 25, advocating for regular meetings between the two organizations to address issues facing the county.

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

Macon County Board of Education chair Jeff Harper addresses members of the Macon County Commission at the board's meeting held July 25, advocating for regular meetings between the two organizations to address issues facing the county.

The Macon County Board of Education discussed a site design proposal from TTL, Inc., the engineering firm partnering with the board to build a new elementary school, at its work session held last Thursday evening.

Estimated costs for the site design are approximately $196,000, a number taking into account optional services the board discussed striking from the plan if approved. The cost estimate for the school itself is expected to arrive in October.

"(One) item is to do a traffic study of existing and proposed traffic at the intersection on Days Road at Highway 52," Don Collins of TTL said. "Since you've got three schools and are putting probably about 3,500 students on Days Road in the morning and afternoon, we want to make sure intersections are operating at a safe level. I'm expecting the intersection ... is going to fail, and have a level of service below what is accepted."

Collins said that there are opportunties to ask the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for safety improvement funding, a request typically handled at the municipality level.

"We've had this traffic study last year," board chair Jeff Harper, who also serves as Lafayette's public works director, said. "When they came up here, it was through the middle of the summer when school wasn't in, and this, that and the other. The reason they give us for doing that is that you have a high traffic volume at a certain time in the morning and a certain time in the evening."

Harper said that at the time, TDOT determined there was no need for a traffic light or other safety measure at that intersection, and expressed concern that spending money for another study would have the same result.

The board also discussed progress on additions to Macon County High School, Macon County Junior High School and Red Boiling Springs School, which make up its next set of priorities after the new building.

Total payments for the additions have been estimated at $10 million (MCHS), $9.1 million (MCJHS) and $2.9 million (RBS), meaning payments for the new elementary school could postpone the projects.

"We got the results from (geotechnical) scanning at Red Boiling Springs back on (July 23)," Collins said. "That proved very beneficial to us. We were able to confirm some assumptions that we made and found some things we didn't know, like a sewer force main that went through the footprint where the proposed (addition) will go."

According to Collins, the adjustments to the RBS plans based on the scan will make up the amount spent on the service.

"That investment now will pay off in the construction and bid price," Collins said. "If we have to deal with those utilities during construction, it would be quite expensive, especially with the quick turnaround."

Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles said that the design plans for the RBS addition have been reviewed by the fire marshall and that the school system should be able to bid the project out by October.

"If you give four weeks for the bid process, that will put the bid coming back in right about the first of November for our November work session," Boles said. "(On the quickest timetable), we could start demolition and construction in January ... which would take 10-12 months. That project's moving right along."

Harper affirmed his support for proceeding with the RBS additions but recommended putting the other two projects on hold and collaborating with the Macon County Commission on how to take on other projects.

"We can fund (RBS) right now," Harper said. "We wouldn't have to ask the county to do anything. We've got the money sitting there."

The board also addressed members of the Macon County Commission in attendance, since the county's budget was on the agenda for Monday's commission meeting (with the board having previously asked the commission to direct additional funding toward the new school to allow it to focus on the additions).

"Every dollar we allocate toward ... any construction project from our budget is taking away from the children directly," board member Rebekah Tuttle said. "That might be one less teacher, one less textbook, one less Chromebook in a child's hands, and that is what keeps me awake at night. I had someone tell me a few months ago about all these construction projects ... 'I wish somebody talked about what we really needed to educate our children, not the buildings they sat in.' "

The board discussed the following items during its work session:

Proposal for site design from TTL (new elementary school)School fees for the 2019-20 school yearSchool fundraiser requests for the 2019-20 school yearSchool budgets for the 2019-20 school yearOven for Macon County Junior High SchoolFreezer monitoring systemDiscussed school building projectsRevised Macon County Board of Education policies: Nos. 4.700 (Testing), 2.601 (Fundraising Activities), 3.202 (Emergency Preparedness Plan), 3.203 (Crisis Management)Student Disciplinary Hearing Committee