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Mecklenburg County supervisors back $50 million loan for school / July 12, 2017
The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors Monday voted unanimously to borrow up to $50 million from the Virginia Public School Authority pool program to set aside for new school construction.

Supervisors chairman Glenn Barbour called the vote a “gigantic step forward” in the county’s bid to build a new consolidated high school/middle school complex.

With the county evidently nearing the end of its search for a suitable site for the school complex, Davenport financial advisor Ted Cole suggested to supervisors that they should “hedge against a potential rise in interest rates” by borrowing half of the amount for construction now.

The current interest rate on a 30-year fixed loan from VPSA is 3.293 percent. Cole said even a 0.1 percent increase in interest rates could raise the total payback over the life of the loan by approximately $1 million.

Cole, a senior financial advisor with Davenport, called the VPSA pool a “great state level borrowing conduit.” He promised to work with the supervisors and the school board — who must also approve the borrowing — to prepare the loan request.

Cole said the only caveat to borrowing at this time is that Mecklenburg County must have a reasonable expectation of spending the money within three years of taking out the loan.

The deadline for the county to confirm participation in the fall round of borrowing is Oct. 3. County Administrator Wayne Carter said if supervisors and school board can agree on a site for the new complex by September, Mecklenburg will move forward with plans to borrow the full $50 million.

“If they can’t agree, then we’ll reduce borrowing to $30 million,” Carter said. This is the amount supervisors say they would need to fully upgrade the county’s four elementary schools.

Supervisor David Brankley, who sits on the joint education committee comprised of supervisors and trustees, shared his expectation moving forward: “In the next five years, we’ll be spending $130 million on schools. I hope to get together on a site [for the consolidated school complex] without a stumbling block. I hope we can move forward.”

Claudia Lundy, who chairs the joint education committee, said the group recently met with consulting engineers in closed session to discuss four potential sites for the consolidated school complex. The consulting group was asked to conduct a comprehensive study of each site and report its findings back to the joint committee no later than Sept. 1.

In other business at Monday’s regular monthly board meeting, supervisors also agreed to lend $1,331,562 to the county school division to complete its energy performance contract. Under the contract, Trane will upgrade lighting and ventilation systems at the four elementary schools. The loan amount from the county to school division will carry a two percent interest rate over 15 years.

While the county will pay up front the cost of the repairs, supervisors anticipate getting the money back in the form of energy savings.

Elementary schools in La Crosse, Clarksville and Chase City will receive lighting, water, and building envelope upgrades (sealing against leaks). The lighting upgrades involve installation of new LED lights in the buildings. Schools will also receive new controls that will enable maintenance director Brian Dalton to remotely control the climate in the buildings for optimal comfort of the students and staff.

Clarksville will also get new insulation for its hot water pipes.

South Hill, the newest of the four schools, will also receive lighting, water and building envelope upgrades. While the school already has a computer-controlled environment regulator, that, too, will be upgraded.

Supervisors were advised that the school division has received four bids for the new parking lot for South Hill Elementary School. The low bid of $95,905 was submitted by Grey Walker Construction of Buffalo Junction. Monies for this project were previously requested by the school division as part of its FY18 capital budget. No further monies were being requested. The plan is to have construction completed later this fall.

A supplemental appropriation of $325,000 was approved to the school division Food Services category for FY2017. This is due to additional revenues being received from state and federal sources. And a supplemental appropriation of $2,833.63 was approved for the Sheriff’s office for vehicle repair.

A special exception permit was approved for property located at 28382 Highway 58 near the intersection with Camp Road. The owners will be selling used cars from the site. Camp Road is located just west of Big Fork on U.S. 58.

Carter informed board members that the county did not receive money through this round of VDOT funding for repairs to Old Cox Road. There were nearly $8 million in requests but only $1 million in available funds, he said. The county will again apply for funding in the next round.

Frances Clark and Jan Hundley were reappointed to Southside Community Services Board and David Brankley and Dan Tanner were reappointed to the Lake Country Development Corporation Board.

Gregg Gordon said work on a new convenience center for the west end of Mecklenburg County is ongoing. He also asked Carter to speak with the various cell phone companies to try to determine why service in the area has deteriorated so much in the last several months.

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