September 12, 2016

Brentwood Home Page
by Zack Harmuth

The Williamson County Commission unanimously passed two resolutions Monday night that approve more than $50 million for land and construction on two new schools.

The first resolution asked the county to approve up to $15 million for the “design, development and land purchase” of a K-8 school in the northern part of the county. The second, which will fund the continued construction of a Thompson’s Station elementary-middle school, released $38.7 million.

The money, according to both resolutions, will be repaid to the county by itself with tax exempt bond issues.

There was no discussion during the Commission meeting on the resolutions by commissioners, and the county’s Education Committee and Budget Committee both unanimously passed the resolutions.

However, they were certainly scrutinized in the committee process.

“I want to understand the ultimate cost per student, what they are targeting and what is their goal. Are they trying to build it efficiently?” Todd Kaestner, county commissioner for District Nine and Education Committee member, said.

Kaestner said the cost per student for building the new Nolensville schools came in a bit higher than the previous schools, which had been about $25,000. He also said at first look the numbers the school board asked for seem high.

At its August meeting, the Williamson County School Board unanimously approved the requests and sent them over to the county for approval.

“Due to growth in the northern part of the county, there is a need to design a new K-8 facility, purchase land and begin construction as soon as possible to meet the demand of our growing student population,” read the resolution concerning the land purchase.

It also said the district plans for a 2018 opening and will use designs from previous construction of K-8 facilities. It will be modified to meet the site characteristics.

The price for the land, which is in Brentwood, has not yet been finalized.

We’ve been negotiating with the owner,” Superintendent Mike Looney said at the school board meeting on Aug. 15. “We can’t publicly discuss the details. We remain a pretty good ways apart on the price point. This is necessary because all of the elementary schools in Brentwood proper are over capacity. It’s going to continue to put a strain on the process.”

Right now, Edmondson, Kenrose, Lipscomb and Scales elementary schools are near or over capacity.

The Thompson’s Station elementary school project is already under way on Clayton Arnold Road south of Critz Lane, with the total cost for construction coming to $38.7 million. According to the resolution, the project has been bid and engineered.

If construction proceeds on schedule, the school will open in August 2018.

Concerned about future cost of funding schools, the county is continuing the process of implementing an Educational Impact Fee. A public meeting on the proposed fee is scheduled for Wednesday.

According to the Williamson County Schools five-year capital projects report for 2015-2020, the district still needs just shy of $200 million for new school construction over the next four years for five schools.

In addition to the two projects addressed in the two resolutions presented to the commission, the district outlay plan includes plans for three more schools.

They include an early childhood development facility to be constructed in 2016-2017 for a total of an estimated $5 million; a middle and high school complex in the northwest portion of the county with construction in 2019-2020 for $90 million; and an elementary and middle school to be constructed in 2019-2020 for $42 million in the south central part of the county.

The county scheduled public hearings on the potential Education Impact Fee, which would add a one-time fee to all new houses built in the county, in the coming days.

The first meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Independence High School auditorium. The second will be at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Williamson County Administrative Complex auditorium and the third and final meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 in the Nolensville High School auditorium.