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Watertown school build begins
Sep 20, 2012 5:20 pm
The phrase of the day was "long time coming" Wednesday as a crowd dressed in purple watched Wilson County officials break ground on the new Watertown High School.
The event had the feel of a family reunion as generations of past and future WHS graduates converged on the empty field on Neal Road where the new school will be constructed. The building, which will be built by contractor R.G. Anderson Co., will be a 227,458-square-foot facility and is scheduled to be completed June 2014. The cost is estimated at $39.9 million.
"This is an outstanding day," said state Rep. Mark Pody, who said two of his daughters graduated from WHS. "For them to see this, it's so awesome."
Waiting for the ceremony to begin, Wilson County Commissioner Sara Patton was happily contemplating the beginning of the end of the project that has been of prime importance to Watertown residents for years as they watched new schools being built in other parts of the county.
"My brothers and sisters and my kids all went to WHS," she said. "I've got sweat equity in this. "There's a lot of people who've been behind this for a lot of years to see it through."
Many in the crowd said they had been patiently waiting for the day.
"It's about time we got something on this end of the county," said Watertown resident Eddie Ricketts.
He said the county has built three new high schools in recent years with a new WHS last on the list.
Wilson County Schools Director Mike Davis said the new school represents the future of Watertown.
"It's a tremendous investment for Watertown, the largest in recent memory," he said. "It'll pay dividends for future generations."
Davis said the new WHS will complete the modernization of all the county's high schools. He praised the school board, the county commission and the taxpayers for having the foresight to understand that an investment in education is an investment in the future.
"We've really got to thank the taxpayers for underwriting the cost," Davis added. "This is the largest crowd we've had at the four ground breaking events in the last few days."
Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings changed from his traditional Big Orange to a purple shirt and tie for the occasion, a move remarked upon with humor by the crowd.
"I was purple before I was orange," he said. "It's been a long time coming. It's a great day for us because this school will open doors for our kids."
Jennings also said when the land was bought, he told the Watertown City Council that the new school site wasn't inside the city.
"We fixed that in two readings," he told the laughing crowd.
Principal Jeff Luttrell appeared pleased with his school getting a new, state-of-the-art facility.
"This process has taken a long time and a lot of work from a lot of different people," he said, noting that Davis and the school board deserve a lot of credit. "They worked behind the scenes for years to make this a reality and the county commission really stepped up. This is a great day to be a Purple Tiger."
The new building is another milestone for historic WHS, which celebrated its 100th anniversary of its founding in May.
The school has had three incarnations since the first building was erected in 1911, including the current school. Town leaders raised money to build the original school, so no county funds were used. The cornerstone from the original school was used in the ensuing Watertown High Schools including the current school. That cornerstone will also be making the trip to the fourth WHS as construction nears completion.
"There are successful WHS graduates next door, throughout the county and all over the United States," Jennings said. "We want something better for our children. Our commitment to be the best will not change."
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at email@example.com.
WHS groundbreaking Photo: Mary E. Hinds
Turning the first shovels of dirt to mark the start of construction on the new Watertown High School are (from left) WHS Principal Jeff Luttrell, Wilson County School Board Chairman Don Weathers and board member Wayne McNeese.