School board discusses tennis court options

HC*EXCELL presented a $10,000 check to the Hamblen County Department of Education Tuesday night during its school board meeting in appreciation for teachers who continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From left to right, Stan Harville, executive director of HC*EXCEL, Dr. Joe Gibson, chairman of the Hamblen County school board, and Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, presented a list of options to the Hamblen County school board Tuesday night about possibilities of where the school system could build tennis courts if needed.

But, those options are limited and not good, he said.

“All we’re doing is looking at options,” Perry said.

The school system is looking at the options due to a planned road change on Thompson Creek Road that sits adjacent to the tennis courts at Frank Lorino Park. A large development is being built in the area and the city plans to change Thompson Creek Road to straighten it out and be able to handle the projected traffic increase in the area.

City administrators have said there could be a possibility of it affecting the tennis courts, but have also stated if it did they would build new tennis courts at another location or somewhere within the park.

The city has said they are speaking to several other stakeholders about building new tennis courts and some council members have proposed even looking at building a tennis complex within the city.

The current courts at Frank Lorino Park are the only tennis courts within Hamblen County that are large enough for Morristown-Hamblen High School East and West to hold competitive matches or tournaments.

Perry acknowledged the city currently is working on its own plans and any plans the school system conducts may not matter.

“It may be a moot point,” he said.

But, he went over available properties that the school system did have where tennis courts could be built. Those plans included property near West High School, property at East High School and property nest to Fairview-Marguerite Elementary School.

Perry said that several of the properties are not centrally located and would be hard for both schools to have accessibility. In the case of East High School, he said if a tennis court were built it would mean giving up proposed parking.

“We don’t know if there’s any place on this campus,” he said.

Perry also said he has had discussions with Walters State Community College about if they would want to repair their old tennis courts. He said there seemed to be not much interest and the college planned on looking at making the courts into parking.

He said more discussions would take place later.

Perry also told the board that a plan to possibly hire more school resource officers could also be more costly than expected.

“We grossly underestimated the cost of an officer,” he said.

He said he spoke to the Morristown Police Department and found that the cost of an officer would be around $100,000 each. He said that would include salary, benefits, equipment and patrol cars.

There are currently two school resource officers allotted for the school’s four middle schools. The school system has talked about hiring two more to have SRO’s at every middle school.

Perry told the school board that he would discuss with the city of Morristown and Hamblen County any possibilities of helping with funding.

Perry also told the board that currently there is a problem with recruitment for SRO’s as well. He said one SRO left almost a year ago and the school system has not yet replaced him.

The school board also voted 5-2 in extending Perry’s contract for one more year. School board members Janice Haun and Roger Greene voted no, instead making a motion that Perry’s contract run until state school testing numbers come back in the fall. That motion failed 5-2.