BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — The Sullivan County Board of Education has chosen BurWil Construction to build the county’s new middle school for $18.3 million.

At a called meeting Thursday, the board unanimously approved Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski’s recommendation to hire the Bristol company. Blountville-based J.A. Street & Associates also submitted a bid, but BurWil’s was lower.

The board budgeted $20 million of its $87.2 million for the first phase of its three-phase plan to renovate or close schools. The plan is the board’s solution to outdated school buildings with excess space due to declining enrollment. A 1,700-student high school will also be built during the first phase.

BurWil submitted alternate bids along with its base bid. That gives the board the option to spend an additional $57,000 for extras, including polished concrete floors throughout the school, an operable panel partition, HVAC controls and key locks. The board will decide how much to spend on the school’s sewer system after cost estimates are provided.

The 800-student Sullivan East Middle School is slated to open next fall. Grading of the 69-acre property off Weaver Pike and Harrington Hollow Road in Bluff City is underway. Dineen West, with Cain Rash West Architects, the firm hired by the board to design the schools in collaboration with LS3P Associates, updated the board on grading progress during a work session before the called meeting Thursday. She said old barns are being torn down, trees cut, top soil stripped and rocks excavated.

West said she expects a contract with BurWil to be finalized by the end of June.

A contract has been signed for grading work at the high school site, and construction bids for the high school will be requested in April or May. Residents will help choose the name, mascot and colors for the high school in an online survey soon.

The board also unanimously approved requesting bids to sell the former Weaver Elementary School property. The 10.5-acre property will be bid on as a whole and split into four parcels. Whether to bid on the whole property or on individual parcels will be up to the interested parties. The only stipulation the board has for the buyer or buyers of the property is that it can never be used for a school.

The school closed in May at the recommendation of structural engineer Steve Wilson, who said in a report to the board last February that the school wouldn’t be safe for occupancy past the 2016-17 school year because of damaged support infrastructure in its roof and walls.

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