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Deadline looming, it’s crunch time for HCHS

South Boston News / July 18, 2019
Halifax County supervisors have received their “second opinion” architectural study on the high school, but members who were reached this week for comment on the report said they will wait until the Aug. 5 board meeting to discuss its findings — and what to do next with the dilapidated HCHS facility.

Less that two weeks after that meeting, supervisors must approve a voter referendum to move forward with a high school upgrade.

In May, the Board of Supervisors agreed to hire Blacksburg-based OWPR, Inc. to conduct an architectural assessment of HCHS.

Supervisors described the work as a “second opinion” study to evaluate the recommendations of Moseley Architects to build a new high school for $99 million or renovate the existing facility for $88 million. Moseley, which was retained by the School Board to provide a broad overview of county school facilities, has stressed that its cost estimates are strictly preliminary.

Nevertheless, supervisors opted to pay OWPR up to $96,000 to review Moseley’s work product and offer its own recommendations. The OWPR study has been completed and turned in, said Supervisors Chairman Dennis Witt, but he said he would not discuss the report’s specifics until the full board convenes Aug. 5 for its regular monthly meeting.

“We’re going to present it to everybody at the same time,” said Witt. “Really, I think you’ve got to stop, digest it, compare it to the Moseley study and see how it works out.

“I have no idea what the end result will be,” Witt added, “but we’ll try to get on the same page” with the School Board, which has moved forward with soliciting proposals to build a new high school facility.

Any agreement between the two boards — supervisors and trustees — would have to come together quickly: Aug. 16 is the deadline for adding a voter referendum to the November ballot for approval of a 1-cent county sales tax to finance school capital improvements.

County Registrar Heather Harding said the Board of Supervisors must approve a resolution to send to Circuit Court, where a judge would then issue the order to have the question placed on the ballot.

“Aug. 16 is the deadline for the judge to have done the writ,” she said.

Unique among Virginia localities, Halifax County has been granted the option to levy a voter-approved sales tax to pay for the HCHS upgrade. The local option sales tax was championed during the legislative session by Del. James Edmunds and later signed by the governor into law.

Since then, supervisors and trustees have struggled to reach consensus on whether to build a new high school or pursue a less costly approach. Two members, Stanley Brandon and William Bryant Claiborne, have suggested that a specific plan for the high school’s future can wait, and county leaders should instead make the case to voters that the sales tax is needed to finance a high school plan that can be fleshed out at a later date.

Garland Ricketts, ED-7 supervisor, said he received the OWPR study earlier this month but, like Witt, he is not ready to talk about it. “My personal opinion is not particularly relevant,” said Ricketts, who said the decision on what to do about the high school will belong to the full board: “Whatever the consensus is, I guess that’s where I will be."
However, Ricketts said he was skeptical of any plans to rebuild HCHS at a cost approaching what Moseley Architects has suggested. “My opinion is that we cannot afford the full blown wants of the School Board,” he said.

Asked if he would rule out a new school in favor of renovation only, Ricketts replied, “One of the things you could point to is less grandiose new construction.”

Efforts to obtain comment from other board members were unsuccessful.

Witt said an OWPR Architects representative will appear at the Aug. 5 board meeting to present the report’s findings to supervisors and “hopefully shed some light and help us get some clarity on where we go from here.”

Acknowledging “unresolved directions” among the Board of Supervisors and School Board, Witt said the public — and trustees — would hear the second opinion findings at the August meeting: “We’re not showing the study to anybody prior to the meeting. We’re going to release it and let everybody know all at the same time.”

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if you wanted someone to help you not sell something Halifax is the best one for that. This county never heard of the meaning of maintenance. such as a pressure washer could be used for the exterior cleaning since its not been cleaned since it was built. second any bricks can be replaced. any reasonable person would conduct repair to what we got before determining to spend $150 million of the taxpayers funds. just like the courthouse they always deflate initial costs and allow contractors to submit cost "overruns". has the county BOARD ever delivered a project before completion date and under budget??? you get who you vote for. keep an eye on BOS and see who is going on frequent vacations and getting new vehicles, toys, etc.
Consultants dream of places like Halifax.


By deplorable-your insinuation is BOS members are using taxpayers funds for new cars, vacations, toys, etc! I challenge you to prove your charges!!! These are serious charges and if I were a BOS member I would consult counsel on suing you for slander, defamation, etc!!!


The building is not delapated! Also citizens can air concerns about the government. Thanks to the first admin.


The logic of some people in positions of power is almost non existent. Don't you understand that images of any 40 year old building in such a state of disrepair is a reflection of either your poor building maintenance management or your budget management skills or the fact you're broke. What fool bank would lend you a dime? You all seem to be using these images as a justification when in reality it is an implication. If images like the ones seen on the local news are a clue for what the taxpayers can expect their $100 million investment to look like in 40 years why in the world would they ever agree to it?


Pressure washing and replacing some bricks is just a few pennies of the issues. Those that say the school is fine and just needs cosmetics, my question to you is when were you last inside the building? Faulty eletric! Plumbing issues! Mold issues! HVAC issues! Security issues! Those alone on a structure of that size is easily upwards $20-30 mil and that only scratches surface. I'm sure asbestos removal would also have to be factored in. While that is going on you're looking at millions spent on tempory, RENTED, mobile units for classrooms. What home owner hasn't had to due upgrades in the last 40 yrs. Do you still have original plumbing? No electric updates? Original roof? Still on 1st heat/cooling unit? Original floors? Take a real tour and don't just go off media pics.


Allpolitical2-You are correct people can express their concerns concerning government/officials!! However, freedom of speech is not freedom to make false accusations/innuendos about officials or anyone else!! I hope you know the difference-if not you are in the same boat as Bydeplorable!!’


I agree with deplorable. Previous sheriff was embezzeling funds. Consultants hired left and right tearing through grant funds with no positive results. Courthouse cost overruns so freuent now its giing to 15 mil more. End cost $30mil. See the pattern....
You think local BoS are exempt from greed or corruption? Most corruption occurs through cash payments mde to elect family members or cash payments. Deplorable didnt specifically single anyone out but former sheriff which is true. Saying keep eyes out for sudden wealth seems like good advice.


Slushie Deplorable's intent was clear. Previous sheriff case has nothing to do with false accusations/innuendoes!! You and deplorable are making a huge jump to make accusations based on past case. Shame on you!!!!


If you want more of the same with a school, just look at the added $9 MILLION price tag they slapped on us with the courthouse. Look at the historical value that we saved. Wonder where all of the antique floors and stairs and beams ran off to. Oh thats right, we're just trying to save the historical value for the citizens. Boy, what a bunch of loosers, no leadership or knowledge of business practices at all. A kindergaren class of kids could make better decisions than this bunch of idiots. YET, thay could not afford a little over 200K for the farmers and land owners of this pathetic ..ithole of a county. BUT, they could afford to drop $9 MILLION on that moneypit of a courthouse.

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