GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — Sumner County’s director of schools has laid out more details about his plan to replace condemned bleachers at several district sports complexes and upgrade some stadiums and sports facilities after Beech High School’s bleachers collapsed just days before the football season’s opening game in August.
Dr. Scott Langford, director of Sumner County Schools, wants to use more than $15 million from the district’s reserve funds to pay for the projects, but when he asked the Sumner County Commission’s Education Committee for permission, commissioners said they didn’t have enough information on how the money would be spent to make a vote.
Time is of the essence, because Langford told school board members earlier this month he wants to have the bleachers replaced in time for the next football season.
“I am not exaggerating and trying to create an emergency,” Langford said. “We’re on a tight, tight timeline to get bleachers prepared for next year.”
After Beech High’s bleachers collapsed, an inspection found portions of bleachers at Hendersonville High, Portland High, and White House High also needed to be replaced.
In addition to the bleacher replacements, Langford wants to make upgrades to eight Sumner County high schools’ sports complexes, including new lighting, dressing rooms, restrooms, trainer rooms and stadium entrances. Langford said bundling the projects together would save the district a lot of money in the long run.
Langford told school board members an architect estimated it will cost around $450 per seat to replace the bleachers.
However, the Sumner County Commission’s Education Committee said that estimate was too vague and didn’t include the other capital projects, raising questions about how exactly the school board plans to spend the $15.8 million requested from the reserve funds.
Sumner County Commissioner Don Schmit told News 2 he is 100% behind the schools for requesting the funds to make the improvements, but commissioners need a line-item report that details where exactly the taxpayers’ money would go.
“Taxpayers and my constituents are coming up to me saying, ‘We don’t know how much of this money is going toward the bleachers; the other capital projects listed,'” Schmit said. “They’re just worried. They don’t like uncertainty. They want to know where their money is going and how much things are going to cost before we approve it.”
Since the vote at the recent education committee meeting failed, some commissioners, school board members, and community members have engaged in a back-and-forth battle on social media making allegations and posting insults.
Schmit advised the public to ignore the negativity and ensured Sumner County residents commissioners want to work with the school board and Langford.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of accusations — mudslinging, as you call it. The truth of the matter is, I have not spoken to anybody on the commission that is against doing this,” Schmit said. “My fellow commissioners that I sit with on the education committee, they agree it needs to be done, but we just need to see some numbers and some information so we can go back to the constituents and share with them what’s going on.”
Schmit said he hopes for a resolution during the education committee’s special meeting called for later this week, where commissioners will reconsider allowing the school board to use the reserve funds to pay for the projects.
The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20 in room 112 of the Sumner County Administration Building.