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Town hears McFee school views


Supporters and dissenters of the McFee Road school proposal gathered at Town Hall April 3 to voice their concerns to the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Alderman Thomas Rosseel began the night with a recap of his proposal: donating land off McFee Road to Knox County as an incentive to build an elementary school on the site.

All Board members, except Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III, also spoke: Vice-Mayor J. Michael Haynes in opposition and Alderman John Williams in support. Alderwoman Dot LaMarche merely thanked citizens for coming.

Town attorney Tom Hale explained that the action would be legal: in Tennessee Code Annotated, a government entity may make a donation of land to another government group if the land is used for a public purpose.

More than 20 people came out against the proposal, many residents of McFee Manor subdivision. Many of these residents were concerned about noise pollution, traffic or a possible reduction in property value.

Phillip Hukill, secretary of the McFee Manor Homeowner’s Association, noted that according to the Town Charter and Leisure Services Master Plan, the Town was “not in the business of schools.”

Hukill also denied recent reports that the association had secured former Farragut Mayor Bob Leonard on legal retainer. According to Hukill, Leonard was ill. He encouraged citizens to send him well-wishes.

Mary Taylor, a retired teacher at Farragut Primary, said, “we are not wanting this land for a toxic waste site, but for little kids,” adding that Farragut students were currently meeting in portable classrooms and storage rooms.

Ralph Dimmick, who owns land situated between McFee Park and the site for the proposed school, claimed that the land was not in the correct place for a school because most area growth was in Choto.

He also stated that the site had sinkholes and a steep grade that would make it unsuitable for a school site.

Both Ralph Dimmick and Jennifer Morris quoted conversations with Doug Dillingham, supervisor of Facilities and New Construction Department of Knox County schools.

Dimmick claimed Dillingham told him that the County hoped to build another school in the Northshore/Choto area.

However, Morris claimed Dillingham said “it would be hard to pass up” if Farragut provided land for a school and told her the McFee Road location was a feasible site.

Morris also said, “We are blessed with having money out here and we need to somehow return that to the community. We need to get in the school business.”

Realtor John Griess, former Farragut alderman and 5th District Knox County Commissioner, noted that the land appraisal value Rosseel quoted [more than $77,000 per acre] was significantly higher than other land along McFee Road.

“We should pay fair market value and no more,” he said, adding that the Town should consider assigning the contract to the School Board.

Some Farragut citizens seemed more worried about what would happen to the land were it not used for a school.

Linda Wolverton, a resident of McFee Manor, suggested Rosseel was pushing this plan to get the rejection from the County “and then in five years … the property will revert back to the Town when you can build what you really want: a community center and ball fields.”

Wolverton also requested that the Board buy an annuity for the residents of McFee Manor to reimburse them for a decrease in property value if the school is built.

Later, April Johnson responded to this: “Maybe you should buy insurance and give it to the Town if your property value increases.”

Susan Dimmick said a YMCA would be a better investment for the youth of the Town than a community center and extension of the park.

A common observation by speakers at the meeting was that the average resident of McFee Manor was at retirement age.

“I agree that there is a need for the schools, but I don’t think it’s in our neighborhood. Most of us bought in to that area because we are retired,” said Colleen Boyer, a Manor resident.

“I just wanted to point out that I think the comments and the proportion of comments one way or another in this room tonight probably does not represent the Town as a whole,” Deborah Dickerson said.

She added that many supporters of the proposal were not able to attend the meeting because of prior engagements with their children, such as scout meetings or ball games.

Parents “are the ones who see how desperate the needs are, yet we’re the ones spending our afternoons and evenings leading scout troops. I know numerous people who wanted to be here tonight and could not be,” Dickerson said.

Several residents commented on the lack of understanding between the supporters and opposition of the plan.

“I have to say I am extremely discouraged. I really thought the town of Farragut had a greater community spirit,” Pamela Treacy said.

 

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