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Second opinion: Mostly same as the first?

SoVaNow.com / August 01, 2019
Halifax County school officials say they still haven’t seen the Halifax County Board of Supervisors’ architectural study of Halifax County High School and $73.3 million renovation plan, but based on what they know thus far, the “second opinion” study doesn’t change their understanding of the challenges surrounding HCHS.

“In general, it validates what the School Board has been trying to say and do,” said trustees chairman Joe Gasperini of the second opinion study, conducted by OWPR Architects and Engineers of Blackburg. “They bring out most of the same points.”

Gasperini was referring to the School Board’s 2018 conceptual study, done by Richmond-based Moseley Architects, that identified numerous flaws with the 41-year-old HCHS building. The Board of Supervisors hired OWPR to review Moseley’s findings and suggest alternatives for modernizing HCHS in light of a School Board vote to build a new school facility rather than renovate the existing one.

The OWPR second opinion study cost $75,000, less than the $96,000 that supervisors set as a cap for the work, according to County Administrator Scott Simpson.

Board Chairman Dennis Witt had indicated in mid-July that supervisors would not disclose the contents of the OWPR study until Aug. 5, when the board holds its next meeting. However, the 46-page study was obtained by the News & Record through a Freedom of Information Act request to county administration.

School officials say they haven’t been provided copies, but are generally aware of OWPR’s findings based on the reported information. They expressed satisfaction that the Blacksburg firm was even-handed in its approach

“It was a fair report, to me,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg.

Lineburg and Gasperini each took note of a passage in the OWPR study advising that “generally, when building renovation costs approach 75 percent of the new building replacement costs, that replacement should be considered.”

OWPR adjudged that a new high school building would cost $92.7 million while renovation would take $73.3 million to complete — pushing the renovation cost to nearly 80 percent of the price tag for a new building.

“The School Board has indicated from the beginning that it wants a new school … When it gets that close, you’re better off to get something new,” said Gasperini.

Supervisors are preparing to vote Monday night on the wording of a referendum that would be placed on the November ballot to authorize a 1 percent local sales tax — the mechanism that supervisors and trustees have sought to pay for improvements to HCHS. It will be up to voters to approve the tax before it can go into effect.

While both boards agree that a sales tax would lessen the need to rely on property taxes to pay for school capital improvements, they have yet to reach a consensus on what the improvement plan should consist of — new construction or renovation.

That tension is reflected in the proposed wording of the November referendum, which provides that “the revenue from the sales tax shall be used solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools in Halifax County.”

Supervisors must approve a resolution to present to Circuit Court, which in turn must issue a writ to place the referendum question on the Nov. 5 ballot. The deadline for certification is Aug. 16.

Contacted for comment on the contents of the OWPR study, both Witt and Finance Committee chairman J.T. Davis, ED-1, declined to speak.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the board on this,” Davis said.

Lineburg said that based on what he knows, he doubts there’s much actual difference between the cost assessments of OWPR and Moseley, the two architectural firms that have studied the condition of HCHS. Moseley has estimated that renovation of the high school could be carried out for $88.4 million; based on the same project parameters, OWPR suggested the cost would be $82.6 million.

“There’s always going to be some variation [in cost],” said Lineburg. He said it was matter of “$300 or $310 per square foot” that made the reports different.

Gasperini said he was satisfied that both the OWPR and Moseley studies offer a fair assessment of HCHS — “they [OWPR] know what they’re doing. Moseley knows what they are doing” — but he voiced skepticism toward one idea advanced by OWPR: replacing the spalled and stained white brick exterior of the high school with aluminum siding, which he said “looks horrible.”

Gasperini also said the higher cost of a new school — pegged at $99 million by Moseley, $92 million by OWPR — would be balanced out by ending up with a superior facility.

“A lot of people talk about the 99 million … it included a lot of things that the second study [by OWPR] didn’t,” Gasperini said.

While the School Board is responsible for the operation of county schools, Gasperini acknowledged that the wording of the sales tax referendum — and whether to leave open exactly how the revenue will be used — will be decided by the Board of Supervisors.

“The language of the resolution is determined by the Board of Supervisors, not the School Board,” said Gasperini. “Whatever the Board of Supervisors feels is the language they want, then that is what it is.”


Sales tax initiative: the language

Proposed wording of the November sales tax referendum:

“Should Halifax County be authorized to levy a general retail sales tax as a rate not to exceed one percent (1%), provided the revenue from the sales tax shall be used solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools in Halifax County and that the sales tax shall expire by September 30, 2051?”

[ ] Yes

[ ] No

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Comments

Vote no! No new school!

Comments

Is it odd that both the courthouse was required to stay in the same limited space instead of moving to the old factory dwon from 911 center and now that the High school is needing to be rebuilt that it too must stay in it's present location despite not having adequate space for middle and high school athletics??
why does this county get stuck on stoopid so quickly to preserve loser choices??


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