The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Workshop meeting on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting room located in the Wise County Courthouse. The following were present:
Honorable J. H. Rivers – Chairman
Honorable Dana Kilgore – Vice-Chair
Honorable Virginia Meador
Honorable Fred Luntsford
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Robert R. Adkins
Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
Honorable Robert E. Robbins, Jr., - members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
David L. Cox – Financial Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – County Attorney
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary
David Gilbert led in prayer.
All led in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
IN RE: ROADS AND HIGHWAYS
Jackie Christian, representing VDOT, gave the Board an update on the construction being done on the bridge located on Rt. 810. He also reported on the removal of debris on highway R-O-W related to the recent storm, which has been contracted out and clean up should begin shortly.
There was a discussion on the safety aspect on Rt. 23 near Powell Valley Road. A letter of concern from a citizen that travels that road was reviewed with other comments on the “near miss” of accidents in that one particular area. Mr. Christian was asked to view that area to ascertain what action can be taken to make that road safer for travel.
Mr. Christian explained the re-organization plan for VDOT and how it would affect Wise County. He asked that all requests for VDOT be channeled thru County Administrator Scott and then forwarded to him for response. He also noted that VDOT will not be attending future Board meetings, which has been in practice over the years. If special needs arise, a representative from the Bristol Office will come before the Board to be of assistance.
The following resolutions were reviewed:
Board members provided needs in their districts for VDOT review and response.
IN RE: PUBLIC HEARING – TAX EXEMPT STATUS-APPALACHIA CULTURAL ARTS COUNCIL
A public hearing was duly advertised for this date to receive citizens’ comments regarding a request for the Appalachia Cultural Arts Council for a tax exempt status.
Board member Luntsford voiced his support for this request. He noted several activities that are provided for recreation and entertainment for the public.
Larry Jackson, Secretary and Treasurer for ACAC, provided the Board with a brief history of the Appalachia Cultural Arts and activities that are carried out through the year.
There being no further comments, the public hearing was closed.
IN RE: PUBLIC HEARING – E-911 ROAD NAME
A public hearing was duly advertised for this date to receive citizens’ comments regarding a proposed E-911 road name addition (Farmer’s Road) located in the Stephens area of Wise County.
There being no one to speak, the public hearing was closed.
IN RE: PUBLIC EXPRESSION
Larry Hamilton, Principal of the Career Technical Center, spoke on the Nursing Program that is being considered for deletion by the School Board, he asked for financial assistance to keep the program going for next year. He explained the nursing shortage and the critical need for that program to continue.
Lena Whisenhunt, Director of the School of Nursing Program, explained the benefits of the nursing program that equip individuals for a career in the medical field that supports the economy by paying taxes. Due to the existing nursing shortage, the loss of this program will only add to this crisis that now exists in our hospitals. This program is vital for jobs that are badly needed in today’s economy.
The following individuals voiced their concern/opposition on school consolidation and the three (3) school scenario:
Elizabeth Jones, Big Stone Gap
Harold Greear, Pound
Walter Crouse, Hurricane—for renovation not consolidation
Faye Schoolcraft, Big Stone Gap
Angela Honeycutt, Andover
Debbie Baca, St. Paul
Ann Gregory, St. Paul
The following individuals voice their support for consolidation:
Bill Bevins, Hurricane
Dan Fast, Pound
There being no further comments, the public expression period was closed at 7:40 p.m.
IN RE: EMERGENCY WATERSHED PROTECTION UPDATE
This presentation was re-scheduled for Thursday, May 13, 2010.
IN RE: WISE COUNTY FOOD BANK UPDATE
Lann Malesky and Rev. Tony Palubicki addressed the Board with an overview of the Food Bank of Wise County and the service it provides for the citizens of Wise County. The Food Bank has been in operation for over 25 years and has locations in Big Stone Gap and Esserville.
Donations of food and finances are critical to the operation of the Food Bank. There has been an increase in demand for service and also in the costs for utilities. The demand is out stripping the support and cuts are already being made in the number of items being provided to each family.
Workers for the Food Bank are volunteers, and all donations go to purchase of food or pay necessary overhead costs such as utility bills. Volunteers and donations are welcome.
Mr. Malesky noted that energy saving measures is being considered to cut utility costs. He invited all Board members to visit their facility and see the service that is being provided
The Board took a recess at 8:00 p.m.
The meeting reconvened at 8:15 p.m.
IN RE: SCHOOL BOARD – CONSOLIDATION PLAN
Dr. Jeff Perry, Superintendent of Public Schools, presented a power point presentation on the proposed school consolidation plan that is being proposed by the Wise County School Board. Realizing that the County cannot fund a plan in excess of $90M, the School Board has another plan consisting of three (3) separate schools on one (1) site for a cost of $72M. The site is located behind the Magic Mart in Norton and consists of approximately 70 – 75 acres, which would require annexation by the County from the City of Norton. If the three (3) schools were on separate sites, the cost would be in excess of $90M. By bringing the schools together on one site there would be a cost savings of $18,000,000. The shared elements will be an auditorium, a kitchen, facility dinning/meeting center, and mechanical and technology, which will allow some construction savings. If enrollment were to decline, this site could be reduced down to two (2) schools with the third school being used as another resource along with savings associated with the infrastructure of water, sewer, parking lots and roads.
The advantage of the shared schools and the financial advantage were discussed. He noted that a portion of the consolidated cost savings could be used to reduce the construction debt.
The entire site would be equipped with the latest surveillance equipment to ensure the safety and well being of the students.
Dr. Perry stated that as things begin to settle down and as state funding at the state level begins to come back, the school will be able to provide $2 M- $3M toward this debt service amount. He thinks that the School Board will be able to provide a substantial part toward the debt service and would sign a memorandum of understanding with the County stating that the School Board is willing to allocate those funds.
The Quality School Construction bonds were reviewed & discussed.
Dr. Perry pointed out that a plan is being floated around which says that the School Board can take the $42M plus the $9M and divide it equally among existing the schools. The School Board will not accept this plan. The School Board has already voted that they will renovate Powell Valley High School, J. J. Kelly High School, and Coeburn High School if this plan before the Board fails. That decision will be made by the School Board in July of this year. He urged the community members and Board of Supervisor members not to become fooled by plans that cannot happen. The school budget coming before the Board of Supervisors next week is $10.8M less than what it was last year. He explained the budget short fall. The school budget was $3.2M short of making its budget last year on level funding. Seventy-eight per cent of the operating budget is personnel, and most of that $3.2M will have to come from salaries. This will have a tremendous impact on the high schools and the high school students would not be prepared for post secondary education for life after high school. It is not possible to keep six high schools open.
Again, Dr. Perry noted that his Board has already stated that they will renovate three old larger high schools and the three smaller schools will be moved into those three schools if this plan fails. The process of consolidation will begin next year. A public hearing will be held on May 24 on the concept three schools on one site and after that hearing the School Board will vote on whether or not to proceed with the plan of consolidation. He asked the Board to take this item up at its June Board meeting to vote yes or no on funding.
Dr. Perry stated that if this Board was comfortable in making a decision on the $42M and with the amount of money the school district is willing to put in from the consolidation savings of $3M then with that particular amount the school should be ok.
There was some discussion between Chairman Rivers and Dr. Perry regarding the legally separate roles of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. This being that the Board of Supervisors is the funding source for the schools and they can not tell the School Board how to spend its money.
Supervisor Luntsford asked once again about the plans for the Appalachia gym. Dr. Perry stated, as before, that this project is in the capital improvements fund and will be constructed with the consolidation of schools as soon as the Board of Supervisors commits to move forward.
There was a lengthy discussion on financing of the site preparation for the three (3) schools, removal of power lines on the proposed site, and cost for renovation of the schools.
Dr. Perry’s presentation was concluded at 10:45 p.m.
Chairman Rivers asked that school funding be placed on next week’s agenda for consideration by the Board.
IN RE: VIDEOING OF SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS
Supervisor Bates asked that videoing of School Board meetings be removed from the agenda because the School Board voted in January to not have outside individuals to video their Board meetings. He explained that this would be unethical on the part of the Board of Supervisors to over rule another Board on a decision that they made. Regarding Channel 19 programming, he felt that one person should not be allowed to set the programming but should have consent of the full Board.
There was a lengthy discussion on public meetings being publicized to keep the public informed and having respect for decisions that are made by other boards.
Supervisor Kilgore suggested having a policy regarding the Channel 19 Programming.
Chairman Rivers stated that he was the one that asked Ernie Benko if he would be available to video the School Board meeting. He felt that the meetings would reach more of the citizens if shown on channel 19.
Chairman Rivers asked Administrator Scott to meet with Dr. Perry to discuss the policy of filming and programming to be placed on Channel 19.
APPALACHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT
Supervisor Luntsford provided each Board member with an information packet on the Appalachia Fire Department showing the areas their department serves and the services they provide for Wise County. He noted that the fire chief will be present at the next Board meeting to update the Board on their services.
Chairman Rivers stated that it would be best to place that item under Presentations to allow comments or questions from Board members.
There being no further comments the meeting adjourned at 11:15 p.m.
ATTEST: WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk J. H. Rivers, Chairman