Oak Ridge Schools may make cuts to cover sinkhole bill

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It started as a small sinkhole in the middle of Oak Ridge High School's soccer field in early April and grew to almost 15 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

"You could have lost a student right down in that hole very easily. Anyone that walked on it and didn't see it could break their leg if they were running in this area. This was right at the center circle of the soccer field," said Allen Thacker, supervisor of maintenance for Oak Ridge Schools.

Contractors fixed the problem weeks later and now you can hardly tell there was ever a sinkhole there.

"We had an excavation company come excavate out wide enough to cover the whole expanse of the hole, and they inserted a reverse rock filter and we reapplied sod to the top once all that work was done," said Thacker.

The school system asked Oak Ridge City Council to pay the nearly $36,000 bill, but council members voted no. Now it's up to Oak Ridge Schools to find the money in an already tight budget. The superintendent said he might have to find the cash through cuts.

"Well, it would probably not be personnel because obviously they're employed through the end of the school year. So it would have to come out of possibly equipment or expenditures for projects," said Dr. Robert Smallridge, interim superintendent for Oak Ridge Schools.

Some students are concerned:

"If the school has to end up paying for it, then we won't have the funds and we'll just end up being another run-of-the-mill school instead of the prestigious school that we've become," said Christopher Gillenwaters, who just graduated from Oak Ridge High School.

"The school should pay because it's their property and the city doesn't really have anything to do with it," said Tyler Johnson, a senior at Oak Ridge High School.

In any case, Oak Ridge Schools will have to pay up. If they don't make cuts, Dr. Smallridge said they might have to dip into the emergency fund.

Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said the only place the money could have from was the city's red light camera fund. He said that money is supposed to be used for traffic safety projects, which is one of the main reasons the school's request was voted down.

Dr. Smallridge said he'll know in about two weeks if he has to make cuts.

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