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Mecklenburg County supervisors criticize trustees on school facilities request

SoVaNow.com / July 16, 2014
Mecklenburg County Supervisors dedicated much of their monthly meeting to a discussion of school facilities, which was prompted by a request from school superintendent James Thornton for $115,000 to purchase and install a new chiller in South Hill Elementary School and boilers in both Bluestone High School and Park View Middle School.

Claudia Lundy, who co-chairs the joint education committee, said she and the other two supervisors who serve on the committee, Glanzy Spain and David Brankley, were recommending that supervisors appropriate the funds as soon as possible so the work on the HVAC systems could be completed before the start of the upcoming school year.

Lundy added that the monies for these repairs should come from the school facilities fund — monies the supervisors set aside each year for school repairs or a new school.

Although the supervisors agreed the repairs were necessary, what followed was a discussion of how to pay for the repairs and why the school board, who according Lundy knew that the schools needed the chiller and boilers for at least a year, did not request the monies for these items as part of their recent budget request.

Supervisor Jim Jennings called the school board “very irresponsible” for waiting; and chairman Glenn Barbour said, “It is a little disturbing that we are already dealing with a supplemental request and we have just cracked the budget year.”

Vice chairman Gregg Gordon was the only member of the board who wanted the supervisors to appropriate the monies for the repairs from the supervisors’ capital outlay fund, which has $9 million according to Gordon.

He was opposed to penalizing the schools by forcing the school board to spend facilities monies on maintenance items.

“Unless you are trying to penalize the school, and not build up money for a new high school, it should come out of capital outlay,” he said.

Brankley, who expressed the view supported by a majority of the board members, disagreed, saying, “If we use our capital funds to pay for these items, then we have assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the schools since they are not funding their maintenance budget.”

When the vote was taken on the appropriation, it was agreed that $115,000 would be appropriated from the school facilities line item to pay for the chiller and boilers. Lundy reported on several other school items and recommendations that she, Brankley, and Spain were asking supervisors to support, and which she would discuss with the membership of the joint education committee.

Lundy said that she would reaffirm that supervisors would only support what she called “the original plan to build a high school complex, with the condition of 30 percent down before the project begins.”

The supervisors, and in particular Dan Tanner, wanted the school roofs to be looked at, “as these are 20-years-old and are leaking, according to the reports that the board members have received.”

County Administrator Wayne Carter reminded supervisors that a fund exists to pay for new roofs and suggested the supervisors recommend the school install replacement metal roofs on any school building that does not currently have metal.

Other items Lundy asked supervisors to agree to fund included new bleachers at Park View l and Bluestone middle schools, hallway security cameras, bard units, windows, and master clocks at Chase City , Clarksville and La Crosse elementary schools, and new kitchen drains at Chase City and La Crosse elementary schools.

Lundy said her committee could not support paying for kitchen upgrades, walkways to gyms, parking lot paving or replacing ceiling tiles and painting hallways without additional information. In all, the cost of the repairs Lundy said supervisors should approve was $1.7 million or $2 million if they agreed to the kitchen upgrades.

Before moving on to other subjects, Gordon noted that if the county continues to stay financially “healthy,” supervisors could use money from the capital account for a down payment toward a new school. Three years ago, supervisors said they wanted the schools to have a 30 percent down payment. However, Barbour urged caution saying, “I can’t get on board until we know what it will cost to operate this consolidated high school.”

In other business, supervisors granted Ralph Lyons Sr. a special exception permit to store equipment on his property at 620 Enon Rd., Chase City.

Supervisors learned that VDOT would not approve its request to reduce the speed limit on the road in front of Chase City Elementary School to 35 mph. The county has the option of installing flashing signs near the school zone at a cost of $25,000, according to VDOT’s local residency administrator Billy Smith.

Lundy was critical of VDOT’s lack of effort to clear trash from the side of the road. Noting in particular that Highway 660 was strewn with litter and that VDOT trucks regularly drive along the street, but never remove the litter.

Supervisors approved a resolution to support Virginia’s Growth Alliance — a consortium of communities working to promote economic development in Mecklenburg County — in its push to expand cellular, broadband and Wi Fi services, and access to national cellular providers throughout Southside Virginia.

They also approved a resolution to support “the construction of any and all natural gas pipelines” in the area “in order that residents and businesses in the Virginia’s Growth Alliance region may access natural gas transmission lines.”

Carter announced that the county needed to purchase a new garbage truck to replace the 4-year-old truck that “burned to a crisp” last week. He added that the new garbage convenience center on Jonbil Road in Chase City was open. Its hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m. The convenience center is a drop off point for furniture, recycling and other items that are not to be left at the existing roadside convenience centers.

During the public comment session, Fred Gailor, owner of Adam and Eve Tree Service in Chase City questioned why supervisors do not take steps to stop unlicensed and uninsured operators of tree services from doing business in the county. He claimed that he has been vandalized by these unlicensed operators and has had his life threatened — all of which he said has been reported to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff and Chase City police. He further claimed that since November, he has “been stalked,” by an unlicensed tree service operator, yet the police refuse to help him.

Glenn Barbour said that he would have the legislative committee look into whether the county can or should take any action regarding his concerns.

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