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Friday, February 20, 2009

Douglass-V.O. Dobbins Renovations Begin

The long-awaited, long-anticipated reconstruction of the Douglass High School building has begun.

Only days after "The Last Great Program" in the historic Douglass Auditorium, and literally hours after the city of Kingsport approved an eight-million dollar bond issue for the renovation, the removal of asbestos began in the auditorium, and the room that once housed the renown Douglass High School Band is torn completely down.

"The old one-story band room had to be the first to go," says architect Dineen West, "because all of the building's underground utilities converge there.. water, gas, electricity.. everything comes into the building right there. That service has to remain in place until we get the new service in, so that existing tenants in the building will have electricity. The new utility hookups will come through that same area."

"As soon as the new service is put in," she continued, "the old lines to the auditorium and on to the rest of the building will be severed, and then that part of the school building will come down to make way for the new non-profit tower to be built."

The removal of asbestos in the auditorium is an extensive process. The entire room was sealed off with plastic from top to bottom, from wall to wall, and the asbestos is being removed first by wetting it to weigh it down, and then using anti-dust emission controls.

"The consultant we hired, S-N-M-E, has tested certain areas of the building, and has found that the amount of the material varies in several degrees all throughout the building," says Mrs. West, "but the severest concentration is in the auditorium. They testing the ceiling, the walls, the caulking around windows, the flooring, and whereever they find it, we have to use certain methods to remove it, using certain breathing protections and precautions."

The general contractor for the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins renovations is C.N.T. Construction Company of Johnson City, and the demolition contractor is E. Luke Green, also located in Johnson City.

"Right now, we are very weather-dependent," says Mrs. West. "While the asbestos removal is going on, the rest of the work right now is underground.. any rain or cold weather will delay the outside work we have to do. If the weather cooperates, we're estimating about a month or so, to get on the underground utility work completed. We have a construction meeting every two weeks, and the contractors update us on any problems or setbacks."

"It is an emotional time, and it's also exciting at the same time," Mrs. West says. "We've been talking about a complete makeover for Douglass/V.O. Dobbins for some time now, and we're finally starting to make some progress."