The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Special Called meeting on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 6:00 PM in the Board of Supervisors meeting room located in the Wise County Courthouse. The following members were present:
Honorable Dana G. Kilgore – Chair
Honorable Robert R. Adkins – Vice-Chair
Honorable Virginia Meador
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Robert E. Robbins
Honorable Fred Luntsford
Honorable J. H. Rivers, members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
David L. Cox – Finance Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – County Attorney
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary
Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
SPECIAL CALLED MEETING
Chairperson Kilgore stated that two members of the Board, Supervisor Rivers and Supervisor Luntsford, have requested a Special Called Meeting for the purpose of presenting and discussing funding for a compromise plan for the Wise County high schools.
IN RE: WISE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLS COMPROMISE PLAN
Supervisor Luntsford stated that the reason for this meeting is to answer to the challenge issued by our school superintendent to provide a reasonable, affordable, sustainable plan for the school issue at hand. This is an effort on our part to try and bring resolve to what has been a very volatile issue that has adversely affected first and foremost the student population of our county and teachers as well.
Mr. Luntsford spoke briefly on City of Norton’s comments regarding their participation in the County’s school consolidation plan.
He asked that the Board accept this compromise in concept and not necessarily the numbers.
This plan, he says, allows the communities to keep their schools and with the application of a bench mark with regard to population in a school, and not be pushed or crammed into an impossible situation.
Mr. Luntsford spoke briefly on the City of Norton and whether or not they intend to participate in a propose consolidation plan.
Supervisor Rivers stated that based on the action the School Board takes Wednesday night, which he believes will be to approve the cram plan, the 2-on-one plan will be dead. These schools, he said, are in no condition to receive an additional load. He felt that the City of Norton is an important key and talks should be continued to ascertain their intentions as being a part of the school plan.
Supervisor Rivers presented a power point presentation on a compromise plan for the Wise County high schools. This plan would utilize the existing high schools, except for Kelly. This plan would include building a new school in the Wise/Norton area for Wise and Norton students build a gym at Appalachia Elementary School, convert St. Paul (K-12), new furniture, fixtures and equipment for all schools for a total cost of $56M. This total would include 7% for architectural & engineering. The Board would authorize the issuance of bonds from all sources including QSCB, Literary and conventional school construction bonds for a total of $56M.
With the consolidation of Norton and Wise, this would bring a number of mutual benefits such as freezing of a lower composite index, greater operating efficiencies, and additional revenue from the added student enrollment. The existing J. I. Burton High School could be converted to a county-wide facility for advanced placement and other programs to be operated jointly with UVA-Wise and MECC. Mr. Rivers emphasized that this facility would not be used as a facility to house any consolidated schools such as Appalachia or Pound. Several items of concern and consideration with the consolidation of Norton and Wise is that the Board must be involved with negotiations on handling of Norton’s existing debt, land acquisition and pro-ration of local funds above required SOL levels.
Regarding the PPEA procedure, he said to abandon the use of the PPEA procedure and revert to the conventional methods of procurement, including independent selection of A&E firms for design and inspection, and sealed construction bids, which he felt would save millions of dollars. Also, terminate contract with M.B. Khan.
He voiced his recommendation on new curriculum enhancements for all high schools and the adoption of enrollment benchmarks for the future for the remaining community schools five (5) years after all construction and/or renovation is completed.
He reviewed the financials for the $56M.
The proposed plan was discussed by Board members with comments being made that this plan was telling the School Board what to do regarding the schools and the Board of Supervisors not having the authority to do that.
Comments were made that this plan only recommends a plan that could be utilized and keep the six (6) schools open and also save the County money.
Supervisor Bates explained that keeping six (6) high schools open is no compromise. The Superintendent has stated many times that the County can no longer afford to operate six (6) high schools with the cuts from the state, the upkeep of all other schools as well as other County buildings, and money for occasional raises for employees and teachers. With the decline in school enrollment, Mr. Bates stated that eventually there will only be a need for two (2) high schools. The future of our children is not being addressed. Fixing up the six high schools is a temporary fix.
Supervisor Rivers said he was discouraged at the Board because they felt that there was nothing positive in his presentation that the other side is willing to talk about. He wanted to go on record to say that he has received calls in the last few days asking if he would be calling for a vote at this meeting. He noted that he would not because no one from the other side was willing to talk or participate in a good, healthy discussion. Mr. Rivers went on to say that this proposal was based on a compromise plan presented by the County’s financial director and the cost has been reduced from what he says is sustainable and affordable. If there would be a majority vote of this Board tonight, he feels the School Board would take this compromise/recommendation seriously and could prevent a vote tomorrow night on the cram plan.
Chairperson Kilgore stated that money for the schools should be given to the School Board and let them decide what is best for the children.
Supervisor Robbins voiced his concern for the communities losing their schools. He felt that consolidation is not the answer.
Upon a motion by Steve Bates, seconded by Bob Adkins, the meeting adjourned at 7:05 PM. The motion was unanimously approved.
ATTEST: WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk Dana G. Kilgore, Chair