CCHS – Easements and Entrances

CCHS-busesIn an effort to maintain the pace of progress on the Clarke County High School, the Town Council met Tuesday night to discuss details of final submittals. The project has already gone out to bid, but some details are still being refined regarding the Special Use Permit, in particular, utility easements and issues pertaining to the temporary entrance for the school. As details fall into place the remaining issues become easier to identify and the task of ironing them out appears to be relatively clear when dealing with easements. Town Manager Keith Dalton said, “Easement language has been sent back to both sides attorneys for refinement.” Dalton outlined a timeline for revisions and review that would put the final draft before the School Board at their next meeting June 7th and the Town Council at their next meeting June 8th.

The issue of the temporary entrance has become a focal point as the nebulous solution has finally been addressed by VDOT. Superintendent Mike Murphy spoke briefly before the council and said he was, “Shocked by the exhaustive comments the School Board had received from VDOT.”

The list of comments and recommendations threatens to drive the cost of the temporary entrance from previous estimates of $300,000 to a new price tag of $500,000. Superintendent Murphy stated, “It almost seems VDOT has changed their mind over the past nine months since we’ve had these conversations because what started as a very simple paved over gravel driveway, has now turned back into the half million dollar entrance.”

VDOT has been reeling from budget cuts and office closures and most recently has come under scrutiny from Governor McDonnell with sweeping audits of the organization. Because VDOT has been unable to fully fund the contentious extension to Mosby Boulevard, the school has been forced to develop a strategy that encompasses a temporary entrance as a way to “wait and see” if VDOT can fund the road. However Murphy seemed confident that Mosby would be “a go” stating that, “From all of our practical indications we feel confident that VDOT now has funds to build out Mosby.”

Murphy explained that the school would like to have a phased temporary entrance that would allow them to spend only what is necessary on the entrance as the situation with VDOT unfolds.

Keith Dalton raised the possibility of “Revenue Sharing.” In the context of road construction Revenue Sharing means that VDOT will allow interested parties to contribute to the cost of road construction in order to meet shortfalls. This idea was broached earlier in the year and was abandoned by the School Board because it takes money from the budget of the new building for a road that the Town has mandated. However, when it was discussed last night the issue seemed to have some support. Murphy responded to Dalton’s suggestion stating that if the situation continued to be a problem, “That would be an excellent conversation to have with other elected officials in Clarke County.”

The School Board meets on June 7th to continue working on the issues.


  1. Lonnie Bishop says:

    If the road is so dang important, then the Town and the County should just pony up the cash and get it done; the county alone has enough in its undesignated fund balance to cover these costs. Stop nickel-and-diming the school project! Every dollar siphoned off of that budget diminishes the quality of the building that will ultimately be built and equipped. Please…let us not repeat the mistakes of 25 years ago:

    1.) Foundation footers that were reduced in size, and thus negated the ability to
    expand that school vertically.
    2.) Old kitchen equipment scavenged from J-WMS, forcing J-WMS to go 16 years
    without a working kitchen – and now seeing the aged equipment @ CCHS beginning
    to fail beyond the point of even MacGyver’s ability to make them work.
    3.) Bathrooms and other rooms reduced in size to the point that they’re not really
    adequate for high-school-sized students.

    The school that results from this project will reflect on the entire community (county & town), and its commitment to its children and their education. We’re not talking about a “Mercedes Benz” school here, but we sure don’t want another Yugo, either.

  2. Debacle Watcher says:

    I’ve seen money spent for roads that go to nowhere. We are currently spending money to build a school with no roads to get there. I’ll never understand why we plunked down $2.4 million for a piece of land with no purchase contingincies for obtaining permits, giving away 5+ acres for a road that no one wants to pay for, and upgrading the Town’s water supply. We could have negotiated concessions with the seller had we done that. It’s a normal and prudent practice.

  3. I agree with both comments, and to add, why does the school look similar to the High School we have now? Why can’t it be more modernized like the one in Jefferson County?? We are definitely pinching pennies and you’ll pay for it in the end.

    • Right Winger says:

      Blame the BOS for forcing the SB to do the same thing they did last time, although they did have their good buddy Robina on the Board to make sure it’s built on the cheap….again.

      Shoulda cleaned the whole house last time around instead of just the SB.

      • Doug Landry says:

        The BoS has, lately, been more willing to put up the extra money to get this project built. What’s sad is that a set of plans was purchased without due diligence or research into how those plans would fit the current CCHS programs and classes, so the incumbent change orders, modifications, and tweaking necessary to atually hold our high school program has forced this to morph from the original school design. Combine with the shrinking in size necessary to keep costs within the budget, and it’ll be a miracle if it actually turns out as good as initially promised.

        • Right Winger says:

          Hah! They’ve only been willing with Robina on the SB. While she whittles away the actual building costs with all the baloney that keeps “popping up”, the nice school we all want is going by the wayside to give the BOS the POS they want to keep folks out.

        • Fact Checker says:

          Here’s a question: Which would cost more in architect fees?
          A. A set of school plans that are, maybe, 80% there or,

          B. A clean sheet of paper?

          Just wonderin.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            If the architects presented a set of plans that better initially fit the current CCHS academic & vocational program, then the cost would be minimal. 4 years ago, Doug Westmoreland’s proposal was a “clean sheet of paper” proposal, and it was slated to cost the exact same as this thing is – hopefully – going to cost if it ever gets built.

            What we might have saved in buying a set of plans has evaporated as the initial design has been tweaked, added to in some areas, modified to correct silly oversights (hello…no faculty restrooms initially? No teacher workroom initially? Really?!?), and the like.

          • Fact Checker says:

            So, your point is that something that cost X in 2006 and costing “the exact same” (your term) in 2010 is a bad thing? Sorry, but Engineering Economy 101 says that is a good thing. However this design gets to it’s end point, reusing architectual design services will be a benefit.

            I can’t think of anything, other than Chinese Rolex watches, that costs the same as it did four years ago.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            No, FC, you’re missing the larger point: 6 years ago, a larger plan, designed around the current CCHS program of studies and with input from the community, would have cost in the $37-$39 million range, once land acquisition costs were factored in. That amount was decried as too expensive by the BoS; one member went so far as to sketch out her ideas for merely expanding the current facility without any regard to what sort of classrooms would go there, etc.

            Yet, here we are 4 years later, and we have a smaller (and shrinking) plan that will cost in the same ballpark as the initial plan proposed back then. My point is that it is ironic that those who criticized the earlier plan are now fine with the budget now, albeit for an inferior plan. IF the end product is inferior, then same cost is irrelevant.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      It’s the same reason the upper floor of the J-WWMS expansion is narrower than the lower floor – shorter steel beams equal less cost, regardless if it doesn’t fit with the existing structure’s look. It’s why, despite concerns over noise issues and crowd concerns, the gym and auditorium in the proposed school are set side-by-side. Finally, it’s because that’s what Middletown Middle School in Pennsylvania looks like, and that’s the set of plans the SB purchased 2 years ago – but have since tightened up (read: reduced in size) as monies have to be obligated for Mosby Blvd., replace the town’s water line, etc.

      You tighten up the design, it costs less to build…which is why the current high school was shrunk to really be no more than a glorified elementary school when the BoS cut $2 million out of an $8 million budget 25 years ago. You get what you pay for.

    • Jim Gibson says:

      Charles Washington HS in Jefferson County, WV, and the renovations to Jefferson HS cost that division $45-$55 million 3 years ago…and CWHS was built for about 1,100 students. That School Board had a different vision than this one, and selected an architectural firm – and a set of plans – to give them the high school they wanted. This one seemed more motivated by cost, and purchased plans for a middle school (that doesn’t offer the classes and programs our high school offers), so they have since had to modify those plans to shoehorn a high school program into it on an ever-tightening budget. Will it be larger than the current one? I sure hope so. But…your final assessment is spot on.

  4. HERE WE GO AGAIN says:

    By the time they get the school built it will be too small just as it was 25 years ago. My son who graduated in 2008 was told he would be in the new school. My daughter who is getting ready to go into the 10th grade probably will not see the new school either. One way or the other, the county has become an embarrassment when it comes to building a school. Other counties around us have built schools and talking about building others and we can’t get one built.