Building a school, an economy

Coulter Grove groundbreaking touted as example of Recovery Act at work

Breaking ground on the new Coulter Grove Intermediate School are, from left, U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary Dan Tangherlini, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Tennessee Department of Education field service director Ron Blaylock, State Sen. Doug Overbey, State Rep. Joe McCord, State Rep. Bob Ramsey, Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor, Maryville City Manager Greg McClain, Maryville City School Board Chair Christi Sayles and Maryville City Schools director Stephanie Thompson.

Photo by Rachel Stafford

Breaking ground on the new Coulter Grove Intermediate School are, from left, U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary Dan Tangherlini, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Tennessee Department of Education field service director Ron Blaylock, State Sen. Doug Overbey, State Rep. Joe McCord, State Rep. Bob Ramsey, Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor, Maryville City Manager Greg McClain, Maryville City School Board Chair Christi Sayles and Maryville City Schools director Stephanie Thompson.

The feds showed up at the groundbreaking of Coulter Grove Intermediate School on Friday. And everyone was in the mood to celebrate.

The groundbreaking celebrated a new school for Blount County and the Obama administration’s efforts to grow the economy by making investments for sustainable growth. Assistant United States Treasury Secretary Dan Tangherlini came to assist with the ground breaking and celebrate the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery Act.

Coulter Grove school, which was halted because of the sour economy, is back on track thanks to almost $19 million in American Recovery and Relief Act funds. Tangherlini said creating jobs wasn’t the only goal of the Recovery Act. “We have to do it in such a way that the economy grows in a sustainable way,” he said.

Tangherlini said the school was a good example of federal stimulus funds at work. “It’s real reminder to me that the road to recovery comes though communities like Maryville,” he said.

Tangherlini told those gathered at the groundbreaking that the American Recovery Act signed into law a year ago had three priorities – giving small businesses tax breaks; giving emergency assistance to states by helping keep public service workers on the job, extending additional unemployment benefits to states and making health insurance cheaper for individuals; and giving additional support for green energy initiatives, upgrading infrastructure and supporting education.

“We’re building a new economy,” he said. “Our nation has come a long way, and we have to keep working. Each Recovery Act dollar is getting us a step closer.”

Stephanie Thompson said the school was first conceived in 2002. After several years of planning, property was purchased and ground was broken on the school property just off Sevierville Road near Burchfield Street. Soon afterwards, in November of 2008, the project was suspended because of a downturn in the economy.

When American Recovery Act dollars became available in the form of low or no interest loans to systems throughout the state, Maryville city council members gave school system officials permission to apply for the funds through the Tennessee School Bond Authority.

When Maryville received the funds, it put the project back on track. Thompson praised the teachers and administrators who helped plan the school and its curriculum. The facility will be environmentally friendly, and the curriculum will be targeted to help students achieve the more stringent educational standards adopted by the state.

“This model will allow for a seamless transition of students to achieve at all levels,” she said. Thompson said the funding of this project was a good example of teamwork. “When leadership, creativity and team spirit collide, great things are possible,” she said.

State Rep. Joe McCord echoed her thoughts and thanked those individuals on a state level who helped ensure that the city got the funds. “This was truly a team effort. I want to thank the administration and constitutional officers,” he said of members of the Tennessee School Bond Authority officials who approved the bond.

Because the City of Maryville supports its system so well, often the state has chosen to let the system “go it alone” without state support, but that wasn’t the case this time, McCord said. “They looked at every project and based their decision on the merits of the project,” McCord said.

State Sen. Doug Overbey praised everyone involved in getting the funding for the school. “This school is a great example of the cooperation between local, state and federal government,” he said. “This is a great example of what can be done when all three levels of government work together.”

State Rep. Bob Ramsey echoed McCord’s praise of state officials who chose which schools got the low interest bonds. “They were on top of the process,” he said. “This is a great celebration for our children and teachers. We’re so blessed and proud of this system.”

Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor told federal, state and local officials the city had drawn the largest chunk of federal stimulus money in the state.

“This is the largest single appropriation of American Recovery Act funds in the state,” Taylor said of the $19 million low-interest bond the city received.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett praised lawmakers for passing legislation that allowed state officials to set up the Qualified School Construction Bonds program that flowed federal dollars to school systems throughout the state. There are $177 million in federal stimulus funds being sent to school systems in Tennessee through the Qualified School Construction Bond program, he said.

“Quite often government does not respond as quickly as they should,” he said. “This is how we should be working together.”

Hargett, along with comptroller Justin Wilson and State Treasurer David Lillard, were a part of the Tennessee School Bond Authority that authorized the bonds. The city got the $19 million bond at 1.5 percent interest. “It will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Hargett said.

Maryville City School Board Chair Christi Sayles said the groundbreaking was a great day for the school system. “I’m really excited. We started the project before the recession started. The need was there then as it is now,” she said.

Sayles thanked the city council for giving the system permission to apply for the bonds in a tough economy when the recession had forced the city to stop the project. “It shows their continued commitment to the school system,” she said.

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