Franklin County Annex Building photo (copy)

Franklin County’s two new middle schools are expected to be completed under budget, and the County Commission will consider at its Monday meeting whether to use some of the money to upgrade the track at Franklin County High School and provide an air-conditioning system for Huntland’s auxiliary gym.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. in the Franklin County Annex Building.

The middle school projects budget totals $47.976 million with $46.721 million obligated toward the construction, leaving $1.254 million with only punch-list items remaining to be completed.

The unappropriated funds toward the project total $2.05 million, including about $800,000 in interest earned while the project’s bond money was invested as the project progressed.

The Finance Committee discussed the issue at its Oct. 6 meeting with Commissioner Barbara Finney saying she’s received numerous phone calls about how the commission should deny the request and use the leftover middle school money to pay down the nearly $48 million debt.

County Mayor David Alexander said the subject needs to be thoroughly discussed by the commission on Oct. 19.

The commission viewed a resolution brought from the floor at its Sept. 21 meeting. However, a majority of those present did not support suspending commission rules to consider the issue for a vote.

Commissioner David Eldridge previously voted against the issue as a member of the Finance Committee.

If approved later by the commission, the appropriation would include between $400,000 and $500,000 for the track and about $200,000 for the air-conditioning project, plus architect fees.

Eldridge questioned whether the money could be used to pay back part of the bond issue and said it should be earmarked for that purpose.

Director of Schools Stanley Bean said that when the current Franklin County High School was built, the administration at the time decided to go with an asphalt track surface which was less expensive than a synthetic rubber surface.

However, it was later deemed to not meet Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association standards because asphalt is a more rigid material.

Synthetic tracks are significantly more forgiving on muscles and joints.

Bean said that because of the asphalt surface, FCHS has been prohibited from hosting competitive track meets.