Plans for the new Jack T. Farrar Elementary School have taken more steps in its timeline.

Following financial approval from both the Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education and the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen of a $15 million bond for the construction, the school board has named the firm it will be working with for design and engineering services for the project.

The school board unanimously approved a professional service proposal from OLG to the tune of $600,000. The price is based on the overall project budget of $15 million, according to Business Director Jason Ray. He said at the November meeting, where the board considered the proposal, that the fees would adjust based on the total cost of construction.

Included in the cost are “all elements of professional design with civil architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, sprinkler intent, food service and interior consultants,” Ray said at the meeting. The fee proposal did not include any reimbursable services, as is typical with those proposals, according to Ray.

No board member had any discussion on the item following Ray’s presentation of the agreement, and the board unanimously approved the professional service proposal for the engineering and design of Farrar, pending negotiation of an acceptable contract between OLG and TCS legal counsel. 

Bonds approved by city board 

The city board approved companion resolutions allowing for the issuance of the bonds that will finance the construction of the new school building back in its early October meeting. At that time, Alderman Daniel Berry briefly floated the idea of moving the bonds issue to a public referendum, as allowed by state statute.

“I would like to ask the board to voluntarily elect to have a referendum on this matter,” he said at the meeting.

Alderman Jenna Amacher suggested having that referendum at the next primary election, but City Attorney stated if the issue was to go to referendum; it would have to be postponed until the next general election, as primaries are held by political parties. That would force the issue to be on hold until next August, when a general election is scheduled to take place.

Alderman Rupa Blackwell reminded the board that the city’s financial advisor Ashley McAnulty, with Stephens Inc., said the city was best poised to take advantage of the low interest rate market for governmental bonds in 2021 rather than wait and potential receive a higher interest rate. She also said the city’s sinking fund was put in place by voters through a referendum, and the sinking fund was established by the voters for the purpose of handling school debt service, to Berry’s point about the voters having a voice in the decision.

Berry countered, saying he would still rather the voters have a more direct say in the “big-ticket item” that was $15 million in bonds.

“These are the kind of items that residents should have the opportunity to vote on themselves,” he said.

Blackwell said waiting on the decision was not the “fiscally-responsible thing to do.”

Berry then moved to postpone the decision until all board members could be present to vote on the issue—Alderman Robin Dunn and Mayor Pro Tem Jimmy Blanks were absent at that meeting—which failed in a 3-2 vote. Berry and Amacher voted to postpone.

The board then approved the two resolutions 4-1 and 3-2. Resolution No. 1886, which was the initial resolution to authorize the issuance of the bonds “not to exceed” $15 million, passed with only Amacher opposed. Resolution No. 1887, which formally issued the bonds and provided the framework for how the bonds will be issued passed with both Berry and Amacher opposed.

Managing Editor

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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