Sooooo . . . a new Carter Elementary isn't exactly as slam dunk right now. According to some commissioners I've talked to the past couple of days.
Of course it's only Wednesday and the folks who sit on the Deathstar dais won't make a decision until Monday, and by then this post will probably be moot.
But, in the meantime, more than a few county officials say they're not quite so sure that a majority of the commission will sign off on the mayor's plan (the same plan the school board surprisingly passed) to build East Knox County a new elementary school.
Personally, I don't buy it, but stranger things have happened. I suppose.
Anyhoo, a few commissioners not named Tony Norman, Amy Broyles, Sam McKenzie or Richard Briggs say the vote should be close.
There's some thought – based on their comments during Monday's work session – that the aforementioned foursome will vote to instead renovate the school. (Yeah, that tired argument again.)
There's also talk that, perhaps, Mike Brown could join them. I also spoke to another commissioner – one who didn't care that I write down his thoughts, but didn't want his named used – who is on the fence right now. In fact, he said it would have been nice if the school board had voted down the mayor's proposal.
I also, talked to the big dog on the board – Chairman Mike Hammond – and he's hearing the same thing.
“I think it's real iffy right now,” he told me. “Frankly, I was surprised at some of the comments from the other commissioners. I didn't expect to hear them. It leads me to believe that Carter is a toss up right now. It could go either way, but if I was reading the tea leaves, I'd say it's a toss up.”
Hammond, by the way, says he'll vote in favor of the plan to build the new school.
This morning it was a toss-up. This afternoon - not so much.
If Burchette says the project is now defunct because the Devon Group has withdrawn their participation, who was the project for in the beginning, the Devon Group or the children zoned for Carter Elementary School?
If the project is real, why no resolicit the bid program and get another developer/contractor in place to build the elementary school.
If the project was just for the benefit of giving the developers something to do on the taxpayer's dime, then Burchette and his administration should be run out of town today before they have the opportunity to do any more damage to the community .
In Devon's letter they said they would give all their budget work and release the architectural work to the county to use as they see fit. So, why not get a good construction manager on board and keep it rolling? Of course somebody would have to pay McCarty to finish the architectural/engineering drawings before anything gets going.
Maybe the governor has an ownership interest/loan guaranty in the Devon Group, LLC and after getting called on the carpet over the guaranty to the other developer, he realized he hadn't fully disclosed any ownership interest in this entity which was going to contract with the county and receive public money.
There has to be a political/perception motive for the Devon Group to bail at the 11th hour, don't think for a minute it had any thing to do with a presentation to County Commission on Tuesday.
Amy Broyles might have gone to far this time. Heard on the radio this morning that Broyles ran the Devon Group off so her close personal friend Jon Lawler could get the school construction job. Lawler's firm is Johnson Gaylon. Johnson Gaylon bidded but did not win the bid for the Carter School.
That is a big conflict of interest violation. The Law Director should cite Broyles.
I say we take the plans that the Devon group donated to the County and hire Sandy Loy as CM and build this school. I bet Sandy could build it cheaper than even the 13.8 million. Amy just needs to keep her mouth shut unless she brings facts to backup the slanderous statements she makes. Jon Lawler just needs to go on, he has got rich off the citizens of Knoxville and Knox County for far to long.
Also I believe Mrs. Broyles should be brought up on Ethic charges, but then if she wins we will have to pay for her attorney fees, so we the citizens get rammed again.
Regardless of how you feel about Broyles there's no way she, by herself, killed this plan. And with all due respect to the commissioner, people are not exactly scared of her. Nor should they be.
I do, however, find it laughable that the Devon group cited political reasons for bailing. If I'm not mistaken, a few of the Devon folks have been political donors to various candidates over the years.
Also, I'm not sure Loy could build the school for cheaper. That's no disrespect to him, but the school system has these so-called "standards" that are costly. Loy had a chance to bid. He didn't.
Mike you are a good writer and enjoy reading your stuff. All Ms. Broyles does is spew off things she seen on the blog Knoxviews that her friends post. She never states facts on anything she states what someone has told her.
Sandy Loy did not submit a bid, because he told the school board he wouldn't because he was pushing to build not renovate and did not want to appear like he did the push just to get a job.
"Regardless of how you feel about Broyles there's no way she, by herself, killed this plan."
Briggs and McKenzie were against it too but Broyles was the one who made strong allegations of near fraud on the Sentinel Towers. What Broyles said was very different from the others. She is he reason this died. The Devon Group had had enough. After the Haslam thing, it was counterproductive via a PR standpoint to do the Carter School.
And under the new conflict of interest section of the charter Amy had to disclose her close personal relationship with Jon Lawler. This isn't the first time she has ignored the new rules.
What you don't know because you weren't here Mike, is that Amy Broyles was one of the chief supporters of the recent Charter Amendment that included the new conflict of interest policy.
If there is a rebid on this project, should Johnson Gaylon be allowed to bid after what Broyles did?
In all candor, in my opinion, there really isn't much to Bob Talbott or Raja Jurbran without the cash from Jimmy Haslam to prop them up and give substance to their businesses, particularly in these most challenging of economic environments. Talbott's legal issues with his lenders are well document and the loans from Jimmy Haslam are public records should you chose to look. You should do a UCC search on this Strategic limited liability company (which purports to hold the Governor's guaranty for the Cullom project) and you'll find loans to Holrob related entities and other projects. The Strategic business and HTJ Fund show a business address at Denark but most people know that the dollars come from elsewhere. Broyles was about to shine the light on some of these inner workings and where the ultimate dollars were going to go and the Haslam family, including the governor, don't need that kinds of inquiry right now.
For credibility purposes, you'll find a million dollar loan from Big Jim Haslam to Ann Furrow on the Nantucket property if you know how to search Nantucket County. Massachusetts property records (Talbott sold his home up there earlier this year) and it does provide some insight into business connections and business dealing which are not so readily apparent at the county commission level.
We can surmise and suggest that this project was nothing more than a deal to clear existing obligations owed to others, but if the project was really designed to work for somebody other than the Devon Group, rebid it, keep selling county assets, and let's get this school built for those kids zoned for the Carter Elementary School.
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