In his first Grainger Board of Education meeting as director of schools, Dr. James Atkins was thrown into the fray concerning installation of FieldTurf at Grainger High School.

While wanting turf, Atkins, the former technology director of the school system, said there are other projects he feels that need to be addressed before putting turf on a football field.

“I didn’t plan on expressing my opinion unless I was asked,” Atkins said. “The turf is something that I would like to achieve at Grainger High School. However, it is not something that I am advocating today. I think we have some projects we need to be completed prior to installing turf. One of those is a substantial pay raise across the board for all employees of Grainger County Schools. I’m not talking just teachers, I’m talking all employees. I think it should be substantial (around) 4 to 6 percent, not a 1 percent pay raise.”

Atkins said a raise would cost $200,000 for each 1 percent.

“A five percent pay raise would cost a million dollars right now per year,” Atkins said.

Another project he wants to see completed is making sure the brick problem is fixed at Grainger High.

“The brick issue is not a safety issue,” Atkins said. “(However,) there are certain locations where the bricks are coming loose at the mortar joints. There are no cracks in the block.

“We don’t know what is causing it,” he said.

Atkins said that he did not know how much brick replacement will cost.

“We don’t know how much the school system will be responsible. It is speculated by attorneys that we’re looking at, best case scenario, of us being out half of that cost. It could be more. It looks like it could be between $300,000 and $600,000,” he said.

Along with the brick at Grainger, the school roof also needs to be replaced. Atkins said that the roof installed was a 10-year roof, as opposed to a 20-to-30 year roof. Cost of a new roof is estimated to be $1.2 million.

“We actually need a new roof at Grainger High now,” Atkins said. “We would like to have the brick problem resolved before the roof is done.

“Again, do I want the turf? I do want the turf. But, do I think these other items should be taken care of first? I do. You asked me for my opinion and I shoot straight. I give you my honest opinion. And I don’t beat around the bush,” Atkins said.

BarberMcMurry Architects submitted a proposal for installation of FieldTurf on the football field. Cost of installation is $800,000. If installation is held off for a year or longer, the price would increase by $40,000 to $50,000.

BarberMcMurry performed the installation of FieldTurf on fields in Sevier County, first installing turf at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, then following with Seymour, Northwood Academy and Sevier County high schools. Other regional counties who have FieldTurf surfaces include Knox, Jefferson and Union. Claiborne and Hawkins counties do not have turf fields.

Atkins said that he would like the turf installation to include high quality turf so that the GHS soccer team and other sports may use the field. Lifespan of FieldTurf is 10 to 12 years.

Atkins talked to Anderson County about the grooming process on Anderson County High School’s field.

A grooming machine for the turf costs $10,000 to $15,000. Sevier County contracts its service to another company for $3,500 per field two times a year.

The proposal was tabled on a 10-0 vote. The board will take up the matter at a future meeting.

Bids for computers and computer related equipment were opened last week and the board opted to go with the low bids from PCS and Central Knox, Inc. of Knoxville.

“Central Knox was the low bidder on most of the items,” Atkins said. “PCS was the low bid on a couple (of items). We recommend the low bid on all of these because we have not only a good working relationship, but good service from both companies.”

Atkins said that the county bid out on single items and also for 10 plus items for better pricing.

A middle school Career Technical Education start-up was approved for Rutledge Middle and Washburn Middle schools. They system was awarded a $20,000 grant. A new CTE counselor’s position at Rutledge Middle School has been funded for $12,000 of the grant. Major clarity software was obtained for $2,000, with the remaining funds used for instructional supplies.

The board gave authority to Atkins and Supervisor of Instruction Staci Gray to make changes to the current year’s school calendar as needed.