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Monroe County Board of Education approved two construction related projects at its meeting Sept. 8. The first one on the table was the K.B. Sutton Elementary Driveway Safety Project. 

Since the school first opened in ’09, faculty have gotten complaints from parents about the exit off Highway 83. Cars turning right into K.B. Sutton block the line-of-sight of vehicles trying to leave. When attempting to make a left-hand turn back to Forsyth or even a righthand turn, it’s nearly impossible to see oncoming traffic.

The highway has a speed limit of 55 mph and it’s not easy to reduce the speed limit of a state highway. K.B. Sutton Principal Becky Brown said her office is regularly flooded with emails and calls from concerned parents asking how the school plans to address the problem. 

Assistant Superintendent Jackson Daniel said since 2018 there have been six accidents at the intersection that resulted in injury. Two of accidents involved faculty members. Of the six accidents, two occurred in the morning and four in the afternoon, all during the busy pickup and drop-off times. 

“We’ve had some employees that’ve been hurt. And I’m sure there have been a lot of close calls that we aren’t even aware of.” Daniel says that the school system has had many conversations with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Transportation. The school first suggested getting a traffic patrolman on Highway 83 to direct cars going in and out. 

 “Sheriff Freeman basically said he wouldn’t risk an officer’s life by putting him on that highway.” The Sheriff’s Office has tried placing blue lights near the exit to slow traffic but that’s had limited success. The plan is to move the highway deceleration lane 12-13 feet off the road to offer a better line of sight for exiting cars. 

“Is this going to slow people down, no. But hopefully it will give exiting drivers a better view of the highway.” Daniel says they will keep pursuing a school-zone speed reduction, but in the meantime this will have to do. The motion passed unanimously. 

The other construction project is the Middle School Classroom Additions that have been in the works for several months now. The project will expand classrooms and extend part of the school’s cafeteria. The motion on the table was to make Parrish Construction Group the project’s official construction manager. Parrish would then begin hiring subcontractors from the area. According to Daniel, 80 percent of subcontractors brought onto the project will be from Monroe County. The project should bring a lot of construction work to the community. Kurt Eklund & Jay Graham, two local subcontractors whose wives teach at TG Scott, attended the meeting and conveyed support for the project.

“I just wanted to express my appreciation to Monroe County for giving us the opportunity to build a fine facility and addition to the middle school.” The guaranteed maximum price for the project is currently set at $3.8 million; close to $1 million of that will be covered by the State Capital Outlay fund. Daniel said the main reason for selecting Parrish was their plan, which accounted for students on site. 

“From a safety standpoint, they have a lot of experience in this area. They already had a plan laid out for how they we’re going to bring things in, work around bus traffic and car traffic. All those things were considered in their plan. It just reinforces that we made the right choice.”

Board member Nolan Howard offered his approval of the plan. “I don’t think anyone else had anything close to Parrish’s plan as far as considering safety. I think what y’all did is right admirable and darn sure important.” Superintendent Mike Hickman also voiced his consent. 

“We’ve got to keep having school. Can’t stop having school on account of construction. Parrish was the only company that seemed to make student safety a top priority.” The motion passed unanimously. The current plan is to start construction on Jan. 1 and continue work till the end of summer.