Nobody is buying the idea that Bob Talbott and Raja Jubran have run screaming from a construction project just because County Commissioner Amy Broyles asked some tough questions.
The Devon Group, with Talbott and Jubran as principals, had begun work on designing a new Carter Elementary School for Knox County. But they pulled out last week, citing political uncertainty and questions about the project. Broyles had asked questions about the selection process during a Commission workshop, shortly before they bailed.
The best guess is that the real reason for the Devon Group’s skittishness is the difficulty of getting a $13 million construction loan while County Mayor Tim Burchett is selling off county property to raise the money to pay for the school. There is also speculation that there is a public official who is a silent investor in some Devon Group projects, and his participation could become public and cause quite a stir.
The project would have to go back to the school board, which appears to be a dead end—the board had voted repeatedly to renovate the current Carter school rather than build a new one, before reluctantly agreeing to Burchett’s novel financing scheme earlier this month. There is little likelihood the board would approve Burchett’s proposal a second time. One school board member has changed her mind about voting for it again. The original vote was 5-4 in support and one member changed after the fact to make it 6-3, but it is assumed the next time it would be 5-4 against.