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BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission voted Thursday to offer the county’s school system $637,500 for any and all ownership the Sullivan County Board of Education has of the former Blountville Elementary and Blountville Middle School property.
Potential benefits of the purchase include: resolves disagreement on ownership of more than 12 acres the school system and county government each claim; the middle school can be used to store and maintain all county records in one location; more space to alleviate crowding at the historic courthouse; baseball fields could be used by the Little League programs now using Bernie Webb field; if baseball is moved, land adjacent to Webb Field could be used for a much-needed new recycling facility; the football field and track could remain available for local residents to enjoy; if needed the front of the property could someday be a site for a proposed archives building; and Sullivan County EMS and EMA offices could move into the school buildings, and their present location sold to offset the purchase price of the schools property.
The schools, situated on a joint campus, closed at the end of the 2020-2021 school year and the BOE declared them surplus property.
Surplus properties are usually sold. In November, the school board voted to hold off on putting the school property out to bid until at least Jan. 1 to give the county commission time to decide if it would pay $1 million for the property.
The Sullivan County Commission authorized County Mayor Richard Venable to negotiate on a price with Sullivan County Board of Education President Randall Jones.
Commissioner Joyce Crosswhite sponsored the resolution to offer the BOE $637,500. Crosswhite and co-sponsors Tony Leonard and Michael Cole have worked together for over a year seeking to preserve community use of the school property.
Surrounding residents were upset at an early remark by Commissioner Dwight King that the school facilities could perhaps be used as a site for the county’s new jail.
Crosswhite, Leonard and Cole met with the residents and attended rallies at the school seeking to keep the property from being sold to developers or used as a jail.
The jail idea died quickly.
The BOE also voted to put a restriction on future buyers, prohibiting use of the property for K-12 education.
According to discussions by the BOE, the property was appraised at $1.157 million for 26.7 acres, although about 1 or 1.5 acres would remain with the county library. Of the land, 12.25 acres of football field is deeded to the county (not the school system) via eminent domain, while 10.68 acres and 1.49 acres are deeded to the school system and 5.1 acres has no known deed.
Venable, however, has said the property is appraised at $1.1 million and it would cost an estimated $500,000 to demolish and remove buildings — of concern to anyone thinking of redeveloping the parcel for another use.
Venable said the 12.5 acres occupied by athletic fields and facilities, including a track and ball fields, was purchased by the county for the school system’s use, but no deed transfer ever occurred to convey ownership from the county to the school system.
A certified general real estate appraiser valued the property at $1.15 million in September 2021, according to the resolution, with that value including the disputed 12.25 acres, according to he resolution approved Thursday by the commission.