The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Workshop meeting on Thursday, June 3, 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 Robert R. Adkins
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
Honorable Robert E. Robbins, members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
David L. Cox – Financial Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – Legal Administrator
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary
Shannon Scott led in prayer.
All led in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
IN RE: AGENDA ADDITIONS
Supervisor Kilgore asked that the Debt Management Policy be added to New Business before School Funding for discussion.
Supervisor Robbins introduced the following three (3) resolutions to be added to New Business before Debt Management Policy for discussion.
Resolution –Independent Review of Expenses and Revenues of Wise County
Resolution – Independent Evaluation of Renovation of Six High Schools
Resolution – Regarding School Consolidation
ROAD AND HIGHWAYS
Chairman Rivers noted that the Board has been advised to channel all requests for VDOT review through County Administrator Shannon Scott. VDOT will also accept emails and phone calls.
Supervisor Robbins suggested leaving Roads and Highways on the agenda for requests to be given to Administrator Scott.
IN RE: PUBLIC EXPRESSION
The following individuals voiced their support for the three on one site plan for school consolidation:
Bill Bevins, Wise
Danny Stallard, Wise
Gary Stratton, Wise
Donald Purdie, Wise
Dave Dorsey, Wise
Nicholas Perry, Coeburn
The following individuals spoke out against consolidation:
Doris Ball, Big Stone Gap
Harold Greear, Pound
Greg Baily, St. Paul
Connor McCoy, Pound
Angela Honeycutt, Andover
Jess Powers, Coeburn
Bob Leonard- Ok for three schools but not on one site
Walter Crouse said three on one site will not work. In his opinion, the County should go regional.
Public expression was closed at 7:00 p.m.
IN RE: RESOLUTION – PPTRA
Chairman Rivers asked Finance Administrator Cox to provide a projection as to what this change in the PPTRA will have on the County’s revenue prior to next week’s meeting.
Mr. Cox stated that this will have a minimal affect on the revenues.
IN RE: LANDFILL COMMITTEE
Chairman Rivers noted that anyone wanting to serve on the Landfill Committee should contact Administrator Scott or the Chairman. Bob Adkins stated that he and Supervisor Luntsford would ask to be reappointed to that Committee since they have previously served in the capacity. Chairman Rivers said he would also like to serve.
Attorney Mullins noted that two or more Board members can be on this committee but the press will need to be notified of any meetings.
IN RE: PUBLIC EXPRESSION AT RECESSED OR SPECIAL CALLED MEETINGS
There was a discussion on whether or not public expression should be held during a Recessed meeting or a Special Called meeting.
Several Board members were of the opinion that public expression could be allowed on new items being discussed that were not on the agenda previously.
Attorney Mullins stated that the Board could change/modify its present Rules of Procedure. The question is whether or not the Board wants to comply with the Roberts Rule of Order or set its own policy of procedure for public expression.
Supervisor Kilgore suggested addressing this item at its Organizational meeting in January.
Supervisor Luntsford noted that the Board has the authority to make this call at any meeting if it deems necessary to do so.
IN RE: CHANNEL 19 PROGRAM POLICY
Supervisor Luntsford questioned whether or not the filming for Channel 19 could be improved upon and perhaps the Board possibly needs to look at having this particular part of what the County does placed under someone else’s guidance or leadership such as the Tourism Department.
Administrator Scott stated that tourism is a part of the County’s development. The Board has divided the Administration into three parts, and he was placed in charge of development, which Channel 19 is a part of all development within Wise County. Over the past several months, changes have been made to make improvements and changes in the programs that Channel 19 produces. Due to physical challenges, many of Wise County citizens are unable to go to local events which will be placed on Channel 19 as well as cultural assets that Wise County has to offer.
Supervisor Meador stated that this seems to be micro-managing and the Board doesn’t need to be involved. This is a function of the government administration.
Chairman Rivers stated that he concurs with Ms. Meador that the Board does not need to micro-manage. That is the reason the County has a contract with Mr. Still. As a Manager and as an employee, that should be handled at that level. Regarding providing a TV schedule for the Board, it would be as well thefor Board to see it on TV as other citizens do.
Supervisor Kilgore concurred with Chairman Rivers. She mentioned that since some people don’t have the local cable that the schedule be placed on the County website.
IN RE: EMERGENCY WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN
Attorney Mullins noted that she had spoken to Greg Cross today and he had received a modified contract, which complies with all the requirements as noted in the EWP Plan. This will be placed before the Board at its next meeting for approval.
IN RE: SCHOOL FUNDING
Supervisor Adkins asked Dr. Perry to reiterate, for the benefit of those citizens that have not been informed, on the proposal to build three schools on one site for approximately $72M and what is the plan if the schools cannot be built.
Dr. Perry explained that the 3-on-1 plan has been set for $72M. Core drilling will proceed after funding has become available, which will cost between $50,000 to $80,000 to do the core drilling needed to determine the appropriateness of the site. If this is in excess of the estimated cost, the Board of Education will be made aware that those figures will need to be revised. If this can’t be done for this particular amount, this plan cannot go forward. The Board of Education would need to have another plan for consolidation.
Supervisor Adkins asked if this site proves not worthy of investing money for the schools is there another plan.
Dr. Perry said there are other options to explore, which some are more feasible than others, and would have to be centrally located in the County. Officially, there have not been any particular sites explored nor other options laid out for the School Board to review.
Supervisor Adkins asked Dr. Perry to once again explain the plans for the schools if the Board of Supervisors does not provide funding for the 3-on-1 plan as presented and further put to rest, as some would say, the “threat” of putting the three smaller schools into the three larger schools.
Chairman Rivers asked where the funding would come from for the “crisis management program.”
Dr. Perry explained that at this particular point in time, it has been discussed on several occasions that the debate on this particular issue is over. The School Board has decided that there are two plans. Any attempt by any Board member to resolve any other plans or to come forward with any other plans, the School Board will not be involved in that conversation any more. Any plan other than the two plans that the School Board has presented, is a deception to this County and it is an illusion to get people to believe that this Board cannot fund and the School Board will not support. This has been talked about over a number of years. The School Board wants to make it very clear that they are not entertaining the situation about keeping any six schools open after the conclusion of the upcoming school year. It has been determined that the ability of the curriculum is not a feasible piece; the ability to functionally operate six high schools with the current student enrollment is neither a ligament nor feasible option. There has been some discussion with a Board of Supervisor member who is against this particular plan who has said the reason they did not necessarily like the two schools on one site and the one school with Powell Valley and Appalachia would be too small and that would create an inequitable in the curriculum. If all six schools are kept open there is an inequity in curriculum, and there are some problems associated in terms with staffing which has already been experienced. It is clear that the School Board is focused on two plans. The one plan will be to build the three schools on the one site or three smaller schools into the three larger high schools. The reason why the Board and the communities are being told this is because consolidating into three larger schools is not an easy process. It is a time consuming process and there are many steps that must be taken to ensure that they are adequately able to provide for the instruction and the financial resources of the staffing associated with this process. The School Board has made its decision that if this Board of Supervisors do not provide funding for the current plan the only other option that the School Board is entertaining is to go ahead and close the three smaller schools, Appalachia, St. Paul and Pound High Schools and move into Powell Valley High School, J. J. Kelly, and Coeburn.
Regarding the funding piece that Chairman Rivers asked about, the School Board has approximately $2M in Capital Outlay with which all the safety issues will be addressed with the movement of those students and provide as much as possible for the quality of instruction. They will not be able to make changes to mascots, etc. Once again he emphasized that this is not a threat. To make a decision, the Board needs to be informed of what the School Board is going to do. The things that Dr. Perry has heard from this County and its citizens since he came back is to be honest, be transparent, tell the people what is happening, and don’t meet behind the door to make plans that the people don’t know about. If the School Board does not have a resolution from the Board of Supervisors by the time the School Board meets in July, the Board of Education will direct the superintendent to start the process of renovating the three larger high schools. This will begin this summer. The funds dedicated for the gym at Appalachia Elementary School will be used for safety issues at the high schools. All future athletic contracts will be stopped and all competitors will be notified that there will no longer be six schools competing but three. All school accounts will be frozen, and there will be no purchase of uniform or equipment replacement. The Commonwealth of Virginia will be notified of the plans to consolidate the schools for accreditation purposes. All bus routes will be restructured to ensure adequate transportation to the new high schools configuration. All staff members will be notified to initiate a staff management program that would lead to the consolidation of these particular schools and then eliminate any redundant staff members that would be determined unnecessary in the new schools. They are also conducting an instructional programming and curriculum audit to determine what classes would need to be added, dropped or supported. There is also the situation about insuring that they consolidate all things so that the class ranking, GPA, Valedictorians, and Salutatorians must be notified in advance of these changes. Waiting until January or February of next year will not allow enough time to serve the communities. The decision will be made in July. Dickenson County is in the process of consolidation and has benefited greatly by cooperation. They have saved a great deal of money because they made some decisions quickly and moved forward. As a debate continues on a topic that has been talked about for years, and as it continues to be a struggle to make a decision and possibly looking at unrealistic options, we too are going to lose some of these benefits that Dickenson County and school districts are going to benefit from with some of the programs that are out there.
Dr. Perry asked that the Board focus on the two plans that have been presented to them by the School Board because the option of a 3rd or 4th plan is not really an option.
Supervisor Kilgore asked if there would be an actual savings with the 3-on-1 that could be moved from operational to debt service.
Dr. Perry advised the Board that on the School Board’s next agenda there is listed as an action item an MOU between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. In that MOU, it is being recommended that the School Board go ahead and approve, at least in concept, that the School Board is willing to give up a certain amount of money that is allocated to the School Board by the Board of Supervisors, be switched from operational expenses to debt service. The School Board is willing to make a number of compromises to make this work because this topic has consumed this County’s time for decades. A decision needs to be made and move forward. The Board is being asked to make a decision on the plan before them, so things can move forward.
There was some discussion on site locations. Dr. Perry stated that they are not looking to change this site. The only thing that would change the site is after doing some of the core drilling they find out that some of the underground stuff is a problem.
There was discussion on previous plans for three schools on three different sites. Three schools on three sites would be in excess of $90M. After reviewing the Davenport Study, it was concluded that $72M would be a realistic amount for the Board to fund especially if the School Board were to dedicate some of their operational savings to that amount.
There was some discussion on the difference that would be made if Norton chooses to be part of the consolidation process. Dr. Perry stated that until the School Board can determine the presence or absence of Norton, no plans can be made in that regard.
There was some discussion on whether or not the larger schools would be code ready to handle the influx of more students and if safety issues have been addressed.
Dr. Perry stated that there is not a plan for this at this time. The reason being is because the Board of Education is going to require the Superintendent to begin working on this particular plan in July.
Dr. Perry noted that the gym for the Appalachia Elementary School is on the School Board agenda as an action item at its next meeting. If the funding for this project if forthcoming, they are prepared to move forward on this project. In the event that the 3-on-1 does not pass, the School Board has stated that they will use the money that has been set aside in capital outlay for the construction of the Appalachia Elementary Gym to make any repairs that are necessary at the high schools.
Regarding the schools that still have the 8th graders that are still in the high schools; they will be moved back into the K thru 8 configuration, which is part of the overall plan.
Chairman Rivers stated that assuming the Board of Supervisors approves funding for the 3-on-1 Plan, he asked how much money would the $2M cover and what is needed to be done this coming year? He also asked if the School Board was currently under contract with Branch & Associates and where is the School Board in the PPTRA process with actually having a contract to build the 3-on-1 school?
Dr. Perry stated that they cannot enter into a comprehensive agreement until the Board of Supervisors provides funding. At this time, they have a “Letter to Proceed” that basically states that if the Board of Supervisors were to provide funding then they would be going with this particular company. But it no way obligates them to any thing that’s happening up to this particular point. That’s why they have held off on some of the core drillings and some of the expensive parts of this plan until they get approval for funding. As of right now, the School Board has no contractual agreement with Branch or any other group to proceed with any work until funding becomes available. There is a mutual understanding that the work that they are currently doing, if the Board were to provide funding, would not be switched to another company.
Regarding the $2M, basically what would be done in the comprehensive agreement is that a payout schedule would be set out as to when certain payments would be made throughout the year on the entire construction process. This would be discussed with Finance Administrator Cox. Basically, what the Board of Supervisors would do is sell bonds.
Supervisors Rivers asked if any provisions have been made to take care of the six empty school buildings and is there any cost projected in the $72M for that cost.
Dr. Perry explained that they have not estimated those costs nor have those costs been projected in that $72M. There are certain pieces of property that could be used for economic development, and for municipal buildings as well as for other economic opportunities. He said he would be willing to work with the County Administrator and his staff to look at some particular scenarios.
Supervisor Shortt asked how long would it be if the students are placed in the three older schools before the School Board came back to the Board of Supervisors for more money to build three new schools on three sites.
Dr. Perry stated that they will only make minimal type of changes to these particular schools. They are barely adequate now, and certainly not adequate to provide a 21st century education or to attract businesses into this area. What will happen is that money will constantly be put into the old schools that at some point in time will be forced to make a decision to build new schools somewhere and all that money would have been wasted. The decision that is made will impact all schools in the division, not only the high schools.
Dr. Perry stated that the School Board has requested the Board of Supervisors to make a decision this month. The School Board is going to take a course of action based on the Board’s decision.
IN RE: OTHER ITEMS REVIEWED
Audit Contract for FY 2010 – 2012
Future sewer transfers to PSA
Resolution approving Wise County Public Schools FY 2010/11 budget (Set for Recessed meeting)
Resolution approving Wise County budget for FY 2010/11 (Set for Recessed meeting)
Extension of Investigators Lease
Closed Session (Investing of public funds)
There were brief comments from Board members.
There being no further business to come before the Board, the meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
ATTEST: WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk J. H. Rivers, Chairman