Ashton Marra Published

State BOE Approves Purchase of Land at Four Times Appraisal Value


The way a county handles the actual maintenance of existing and building of new schools is one of the major areas the state considers before taking over a county school system.

In June of 2011, the state decided Gilmer County wasn’t doing a good job handling not just their facilities, but also personnel, finances and curriculum, among others. The board declared a state of emergency in Gilmer County and voted to intervene.

Since, the county has been progressing, including taking part in the first inter-county school in the state. Facilities have been a major focus and it was in that area the state board voted to move a new project forward.

Gilmer County is looking to consolidate three elementary schools into a more centrally located, brand new Cedar Creek Elementary. Current County Superintendent Ron Blakenship and a planning committee visited 15 sites in the county and chose an 8,5acre tract of land at cost of more than $446,000.

At about $5,400 an acre, some members of Gilmer County’s Board of Education weren’t happy with the choice and shared those concerns with the state board at their monthly meeing Wednesday.

 “When land is appraised at $1,400 per acre and we’re offering $5,400 for hillside land that raises a lot of questions,” county board member William Simmons said.

Aside from the fact that the county is paying nearly four times more than what the land is worth and that most of the land is on a hillside, Simmons and Gilmer County board member-elect Norma Hurley shared concerns over the lack of information shared with the county board and the public about the decision.

“We live under a dictatorship,” Hurley said. “Our people are told nothing. I don’t think anyone here intended that, but that has been the result.”

Blankenship, however, defended the decision before the state board saying this land was truly the best option.

Of the 15 sites visited, this site was the most centrally located helping to limit the amount of time children will spend on the bus. Another site located nearby, Blankenship said, would have also been a good option, but would’ve cost an additional $1 million to connect it to water and electric systems.

In the end, the board unanimously approved the proposal and the site.

Blankenship expects the school to be completed for the 2016 school year.