BARBOURVILLE — After speaking with coaches and parents, the Knox County Board of Education voted to update its project bringing tennis courts to the school district.

Originally, the board’s plan was to have four tennis courts with lights built at Lay Elementary School in downtown Barbourville.

Knox County Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles said that at that time the board was unsure of the final cost of the project and the board added several alternative plans to the project.

“The reason we did that was so the board could kind of pick and choose between those to make sure that the final cost fit within what our budget would allow,” Sprinkles told the Times-Tribune.

After speaking with the district’s coaches and parents, it was determined that six tennis courts should be built without lights, instead of four courts with lights.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that later on as funds become available that we couldn’t add additional lighting, but we felt like it would be most beneficial to go with the six courts to be able to host larger tournaments and things like that,” Sprinkles said.

The plan would also see that the two tennis courts at Lynn Camp High School would be resurfaced. Sprinkles said this would help the school as far as practices and it would also have access to the tennis courts being built for competitions and tournaments.

In total, the plan would cost approximately $564,000.

Before voting on the updated plan, Knox Board of Education member Charles Merida raised some concern. Merida felt the board should table the discussion until the next board meeting so that a work session could be called.

“We’re looking at over half a million dollars,” Merida mentioned before asking the board to consider putting the courts on Knox Central’s campus.

“I drove through Knox Central High School. We have 84 empty spots at Knox Central High School, parking spots. I’m not sure that we [don’t have] ample room next to the football field, if we took the teacher’s parking area, divided it with students and moved the first two grades of the high school parking to the field house.”

Sprinkles explained that originally the architect was asked to scout three separate locations to place the tennis courts: Knox Central High School, Knox County Middle School, and Lay Elementary School. Because of the square footage needed for the tennis courts, the architect picked Lay school as the best location to build the tennis courts.

Sprinkles admitted ideally the tennis courts would be built on Knox Central’s campus, but that the Lay location could provide some positives as well, including having Union College’s tennis courts so close to the future vicinity of the school district’s new courts.

“We could host quite a few, not just KHSAA tournaments, but we could also host other types of tournaments that we could have a lot of people onsite and have easier access for students and families to go from court to court,” Sprinkles said.

Another issue with placing the courts on the high school’s property was brought up by Board of Education member Kevin Hinkle, when he mentioned how full the school’s parking lots get when hosting football and basketball games.

Merida then brought up the future of Knox County’s elementary schools and their declining enrollment. Merida raised concern of the hypothetical situation in which Lay would be forced to close with the district’s tennis courts being on the property.

“First of all, the state’s not going to come and tell you to close the school unless there’s an extreme decrease in enrollment or there’s facility issues,” replied Sprinkles.

In fact, Sprinkles mentioned that Lay is the only elementary school in the district with an increase in enrollment over that past year.

“The reason I’m speaking is, I’ve got two schools right now on the border line. They’re gonna have to consolidate at sometime,” Merida said. “I hate to be the one to do it, but if that’s what it comes to, that’s what it comes to. But I don’t want half a million dollar piece of property sitting here. You couldn’t sell it for $.50.”

“The board can do whatever they want to. Guys, I’m just telling you,” Merida said motioning towards the audience. “I’ve voiced my opinion, there are three other votes up here, I hope you understand where I’m coming from. I’ll vote 'no.' I would rather have a complex where everything is right there. I don’t want it scattered all over the county.”

The board approved moving forward with the new project 3-1. Dr. Tom Ashburn wasn’t present to submit his vote.

In other school board business, board members:

- approved action on FRYSC Continuation Grants for 2020-2022;

- approved receiving $31,649 from the Schools Facility Construction Commission;

- approved action on tentative SBDM Allocations for 2020-2021;

- approved Superintendent Sprinkles to negotiate a cost with the district’s current auditor for auditing services for 2019-2020. Sprinkles said that if there is a significant increase in the cost of the audit or any other concerns, he would discuss them with the board before moving forward;

- approved negotiating the district’s banking services with Forcht Bank for 2020-2021;

- approved the renewal of the Pitney Bowes Postage Machine Lease for the district’s central office.

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