published Monday, December 16th, 2013

City leaders want plan for old Jasper Elementary School building

Jasper city leaders are growing impatient with the dilapidated condition of the former Jasper Elementary and would like to acquire the site for redevelopment.
Jasper city leaders are growing impatient with the dilapidated condition of the former Jasper Elementary and would like to acquire the site for redevelopment.

JASPER, Tenn. — City leaders want a plan for the old Jasper Elementary School building along Betsy Pack Drive, but the town doesn't own the property.

Mayor Paul Evans said the city has been making a push in recent months to force residents to clean up their properties, but he said many of those people respond by pointing out the poor condition of the old school and asking why it's not being cleaned up, too.

"To me, it's becoming an eyesore the longer it sits there," he said.

City Attorney Mark Raines, who is also the attorney for the Marion County Board of Education, said the property where the school sits is considered county land.

There is a plan to demolish the building eventually, he said.

"Of course, that's contingent on funding," Raines said.

"I'd like to see it torn down," Alderman Steve Looney said. "The main thing is getting it torn down. It shouldn't be that great of an expense to tear that thing down."

There are some other issues to consider besides just demolishing the building, Raines said. Part of the school still houses the county's adult education and information technology services.

Evans said if the building is razed, the land might be declared surplus and the city could purchase it.

The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen are expected to set up a work session soon with the school board's executive committee to discuss the matter.

Alderman Leon Rash said the board wants a "congenial" meeting to discuss the five to seven acres of land.

"There won't be anything built there until it is torn down," Looney said. "We need to get the county on this and get them headed in that direction."

Raines said the city doesn't have any authority to tell the county how to handle the land.

"If there's a problem, I'm sure the school board is going to want to address it," he said. "As far as actually compelling them to do anything, we don't have the authority to compel them to do anything."

Raines said the school board might be interested in working out a "property exchange" beneficial to both sides.

Officials said the school system might be interested in acquiring several acres of city-owned land in front of the current elementary school across from Jasper Park, officials said.

"I think we could definitely entertain some sort of property exchange," Evans said.

The site along Betsy Pack Road might be suitable for an assisted living center, he said, considering its proximity to other local services.

"Both entities have a lot to offer each other," Raines said. "There has been good relationship there over the years."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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