Sullivan Co. school board chair: ‘I don’t have any intentions to slow down the project’

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- One day after the Sullivan County Commission voted in favor of asking school leaders to halt construction at West Ridge High School, the school board chair said they have no intentions of doing so. 

Sullivan County school board chairman, Michael Hughes, told News Channel 11’s Kristen Gallant on Friday that there’s a lot of information circulating about the funding of the project that’s “just not true.” 

Commissioners say that the school board is nine million dollars over their budget and that they want to see timely and accurate receipts. 
Hughes says, 
“We have money in the budget to pay for everything that we have contracted for. I don’t know what they mean by the receipts. I mean it’s not like we’re buying groceries. We’ve provided them with every document they’ve asked for”
Hughes says that the commission approved a 140 million dollar bond back in 2016 and that they haven’t asked for any more money than that. 

The county commission voted 16-6 Thursday night on that resolution to ask school leaders to pause construction however, Hughes said Friday construction at the site of the new High School is about to ramp up.

“I think some of them are new in the process, and really just don’t know…they are having a vote on something really that they have no authority to do, so I don’t know what part of that we need to be participating in,” Hughes said.

Mayor Richard Venable said there’s a lack of communication between the two boards. 
“There’s not been good communication and what communications that’s come out of the school board have not been pleasant,” said Venable.
No school board members attended the commission meeting Thursday but a work session did take place days before the meeting.
Hughes says that halting construction would only hurt the school system.
“We have signed contracts and people on the site. There will be large penalties and law suits if we did stop it.”
Another question that was asked at Thursday’s meeting was if the roads to the school were safe. Commissioners want a transportation study to take place. 
Michael Hughes says most of the roads to the schools are county roads and that the state wont do a study on county roads. He says this will not stop them from opening the school system. 

West Ridge High School is set to open in the Fall of 2021. 

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