Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Augusta to spent $15 million to renovate Wilson Elementary?

Monday's 3 1/2-hour Augusta County Board of Supervisors work session saw school superintendent Chuck Bishop briefing the board on a proposed expansion of Wilson Elementary School at a renovation/new construction cost of $15 million with the prospect of closing Ladd Elementary.

Today's Waynesboro News-Virginian has a story by reporter Bob Stuart outlining the proposal to be presented at tonight's supervisor meeting at 7 pm at the Government Center.

The News Virginian also editorialized on the school proposal, suggesting the project may have merit but is moving ahead very fast in these economic hard times when finding another $15 million in the budget with all the other issues at hand may be a difficult thing to do. I couldn't find the editorial online but it was on page A-4 of my hard copy edition. In part the editorial agreed with the notion put forth but added:
... we're a little put off by the speed of the move, the size of the renovation and the uncertainties over aspects of the plan that might justify it, such as the closing of Ladd.

The renovation would more than double Wilson's capacity, though it's just 17 percent over capacity now. Overall enrollment in Augusta is down, though it has increased at Wilson Elementary.

It's only been 18 days at this writing since The News Virginian broke the story of renovation plans. It might well be the right move, but it merits closer consideration. The economic times are tight now and figure to grow tighter next year. Before taking a $15-million plunge, Augusta officials would do well to pause and get a closer look at the justification."
Augusta County has other pricey issues on its plate including the fire department controversy at Preston Yancey in Fishersville with the recent revelation that the ISO rating was the lowest possible, a 10 on a scale of 0 (being the best) to 10 (being the worst). Homeowner premiums on local houses have gone up as a result, and citizens have expressed concern about the issue of fire safety in their neighborhoods.

Augusta County also recently lost a court case concerning real estate assessments and open meetings with a ruling that the Board of Equalization had not held open public meetings as required nor kept adequate records. They improperly voted to allow an increase in Thomas and Teresa Cline's property value but, after the judge's ruling, the Clines will save $400 a year in taxes.

The school issue will be brought up at tonight's meeting at 7 pm at the Government Center in Verona.

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