Residents of Knox County's Carter community are celebrating the beginning of the end of a decades long fight.
Officials broke ground on a new elementary school on Wednesday.
"The fact that we are about to break ground on a new Carter Elementary School is proof that citizen involvement matters; elected officials do listen; and we all can work together," Mayor Tim Burchett told the crowd of more than one hundred community members. "This school was promised long ago, and this community continued to hold out hope that the promise would be fulfilled. Their perseverance has paid off."
The 89,000 square foot building will hold up to 800 students, and feature more than 30 classrooms.
Wednesday's ceremony marks the end of a 10 year ordeal that has seen a number of votes. The majority of the debate has been over building a new school versus renovating.
The first mention of a new facility at Carter came in 2001, when the Board of Education 's capital plan included a feasibility study for the elementary and 14 other schools.
Over the following years Carter was added and removed from the capital plan through 2009, when the board approved a renovation project for the elementary school.
In 2010, a $5 million design plan was developed, but some county commissioners wanted to see a new school and held up that part of the system's budget.
Later in the year Burchett proposed a new approach to build a brand new facility. It initially called for a developer to build, then lease the school to the county. Ultimately that plan was scrapped in favor of selling county assets to pay for the school in cash.
In August 2011 the Board of Education reluctantly approved that plan, with commission signing off shortly after. Later that month though, the original developers pulled out of the project.
Partners Development, the second place bidders, stepped up, and earned the board's approval in october.
All told, Carter Elementary will cost just over $13.8 million. The school system will contribute $2.5 million. Knox County is on the hook for the rest.
So far, they've collected $3.4 million from early repayment on the 9-11 center and another $2 million from selling the Solway mulch facility.
Repayment on the Young Williams Animal Center ($943,819) bond refinancing ($511,685) the first four parcels of the Marble Alley project on State Street ($771,000) and some other odds and ends add another $2.5 million.
Burchett has identified several other funding sources and is confident his administration will come up with the remaining $2.8 million needed.
"We're very close, and I'm not worried about that. We've got an excellent finance team and they understand what I want to do and they're going to do it," Burchett said. "They're going to do it in a fiscally responsible manor, and we'll have the money to pay cash for this building."
The school is scheduled to be open for the first day of classes in 2013.