Rutherford school board postpones Franklin Road land purchase for middle, high school

Story courtesy of Scott Broden, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

A split Rutherford County Board of Education deferred a vote Monday to buy Franklin Road land for a middle school and high school from Murfreesboro.

"I don’t feel we have given notice to our constituents," board member Tammy Sharp of La Vergne said in calling for the vote to be postponed until Jan. 30. "They have no knowledge we are buying this property tonight."

Board members Lisa Moore, Tiffany Johnson and Jeff Jordan agreed to defer the vote, but Terry Hodge, Coy Young and Chairman Jim Estes opposed after the land proposal had been added to the agenda for a special-called meeting about rezoning.

Murfreesboro officials had planned to use the 154 acres to build a park with ball fields. The city council paid nearly $2.9 million for the land at an average of about $25,000 per acre, Murfreesboro spokesman Mike Browning said.

In addition to paying for the land, the board would reimburse the city for preliminary environmental and engineering tests on the property. It would also pay to extend sewer lines for only school property use about 1.2 miles west of the city boundary at Veterans Parkway, said Trey Lee, assistant superintendent of engineering and construction for the district.

1,900-home subdivision plan near land

The property would relieve existing or potential overcrowding at Rockvale, Blackman and Stewarts Creek middle schools and high schools, board officials said.

"We have looked at three other pieces of property that haven't worked," chairman Estes said.

The fast-growing district seeks land after adding nearly 1,100 students to reach a recent K-12 enrollment count of 47,467 students at 49 schools. The county also serves 619 pre-K children, and 348 adult education students pursuing a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate.

The district also depends on 153 portable classrooms at 23 campuses.

The 154 acres are on the north side of the two-lane Franklin Road, which according to long-term state plans will be widened to five lanes.

The proposed school land also is across the road from where a 1,900-home subdivision has been proposed on most of a 580-acre farm owned by former Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess and his wife, Peggy.

The couple plans to hold onto 60 acres to remain as their home, the former mayor said.

After entering into an initial agreement to buy the 154 acres, the school board would have at least 90 days to conduct additional testing of the land before agreeing to close on the property, board attorney Jeff Reed said.

The land testing period could be extended 60 days, Reed said.

The property in question also includes about 30 acres that may be considered a wetland, so district officials will ask the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to examine property, Lee said.

The meeting also had an electric power disruption, and that prevented the discussion about the land from being televised or recorded for video, Sharp said.

"We’ve had no public input on this," Sharp said.

The board will get the chance to discuss the proposed land purchase during a Jan. 29 work session to prepare for the Jan. 30 meeting, officials said.

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