By Focus Staff

Knox County Board of Education Chair Susan Horn, along with 5th District Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker and Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, hosted a community meeting Tuesday, November 19 in the Farragut High School Commons. The meeting was attended by 65 concerned parents and citizens. The meeting was held to have a discussion on Knox County Schools and west Knox County road projects. There was information on new road projects in West Knoxville, discussion of the new vaping policy of Knox County Schools, and a cost breakdown of moving the Knox County Schools from the Andrew Johnson building to the east TVA Tower.

The meeting began with Commissioner Schoonmaker talking about road projects in the Farragut and far west Knox County area. Schoonmaker announced two new road projects; the improvement of two miles of Canton Hollow Road for a cost of $7 million dollars and a turn lane for the Cove on Northshore Drive. Construction on Canton Hollow Road will begin in June 2020. There were no details on the cost or construction date of the turn lane on Northshore Drive.

School policy was next as Chair Horn explained the new vaping policy of the school board. Any underage student caught vaping would receive a $117 citation from the Knox County Sheriff. There was some concern this was too strict and could affect college entrance. There was a lengthy give and take with questions from the audience about school overcrowding and the rate of growth in the Town of Farragut. Horn and Farragut Vice Mayor Povlin explained how the school system and town had plans to accommodate this future growth.

Commissioner Schoonmaker then began a discussion about the proposed move of the Knox County school system to the TVA Tower. Schoonmaker told the audience that the TVA Towers are not two buildings. They are one building in the shape of a U with the bottom part of the U underground which houses TVA data centers. TVA is a federal building and, since TVA controls nuclear power plants and electrical distribution, it cannot sell or lease the empty tower to a commercial business. It will only lease the tower to a government entity.

Schoonmaker then explained the $13 million dollar cost to move the school system was not a moving cost at all. It is a replacement cost. School employees would move their personal possessions like pictures, files and plants. The desks, furniture, chairs and fixtures would remain at the Andrew Johnson Building. It was not discussed if their computers, copiers, scanners and phone system would remain also. Many people have asked why it required $13 million dollars to move eight blocks down Gay Street. Now the answer is known. This is the cost to replace most everything the school system has. Schoonmaker went over the total cost of the move and then asked for people to raise their hands if they wanted the school system to remain in Andrew Johnson Building. All 65 people attending raised their hands. Then Schoonmaker asked how many people wanted the school system to move to the TVA Tower. No one raised their hand.

After the main topics were discussed a question and answer session began. Mike Mitchell of Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development asked Farragut Vice Mayor Povlin if the Town of Farragut would wait to close Virtue Road for a year for road construction until the Concord Road project was completed. Povlin responded that was not possible. Mitchell then asked if the straightening of the S-turns could be done in phases during the summer when school is out. Povlin responded no. She said the S-turns were dangerous, people had been hurt, and she couldn’t sleep if something happened there because the work was put off. Povlin said closing Virtue Road was budgeted and they had the funds and they would proceed.

Virtue Road handles the traffic for Inverness, Brixworth, Sailview, Easton Place, Briarstone, Bridgewater, Sheffield, West Kingsgate, Pryse Farms, Vista, and much of the Choto basin like Montgomery Cove, Mallard Bay, and many others. It is the main detour while road construction is ongoing on Concord Road. The Concord Road project will not be completed until fall 2021. South Farragut will have three simultaneous road projects at Canton Hollow Road, Concord Road and Northshore Drive. Mitchell explained that closing Virtue Road for a year would be the fourth road project and would create chaos for drivers.