The new school in southwest Cookeville may cost Putnam County more than $46 million.
Architects presented a $46.9 million cost estimate during a meeting Monday between the Putnam County Commission and Board of Education.
Superintendent of Schools Jerry Boyd said the county commission will need to make a funding decision by the end of this year.
“There’s a lot of unknowns, but August 2023 we need to have a building constructed,” Boyd said. “That’s not a conservative approach. We’ve got to get moving, so the next few months we’re going to have continued conversation with the commission. On that timeline, they would more than likely have to make a decision about funding early next fall.”
Boyd said he will seek guidance from the board of education to determine what design concept to move forward with. Preliminary designs show a 187,000 square foot K-8 facility, but Boyd said the board could decide to build a smaller K-4 school.
“That reduces the square footage significantly,” Boyd said. “But I know that the Pre-K through 8 concept is a very positive idea for a lot of people, and it’s probably the right idea.”
The cost figure provided Monday did not include price estimates for furniture and electronic equipment.
The price tag came as a surprise to Putnam County Commission Chairman Ben Rodgers. He said the new school and looming jail expansion could mean $100 million in new debt for the county.
“We’ve done well to reduce our debt $100,000,000 in a little under six years, but now we’re about to add that back, depending on what the commission decides,” Rodgers said. “I thought it (school) was a little high, but it’s a good design and it’s efficient. The schools are going to talk and come back with a definite proposal. We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do.”
The county will build the school on 45-acres of property on Lee Seminary Road.