With school construction progress slightly ahead of schedule the Clarke County School board tabled the notion of spending funds to upgrade the existing landscaping plan for the new school. Area residents can expect another month of periodic blasting to remove rock near the east end of the new school site, however, dirt and mud generation from the site will diminish in November as new parking lots near completion.
Board Rejects Additional Landscaping Costs for Now
At Monday night’s Special School Board Meeting chairperson Robina Bouffault (White Post) unveiled her vision for upgrading the landscaping plan for the new school. However, there was little support for what Bouffault characterized as a $300-500K price tag. Bouffault’s plan was eventually tabled for future consideration.
Bouffault began her landscaping presentation by recounting a discussion with Urban Engineering’s Jon Erikson. Erikson, Bouffault said, commented that Clarke County’s new high school site was going to be very barren in terms of trees and plants. Although there is some landscaping included in the current site plan, Erickson suggested that Urban’s landscape architect could develop a more comprehensive landscape plan for $10K.
Bouffault then told the other school board members that she believes the school site will require $300 – $500K in additional funds in order to be properly landscaped. Bouffault said that the $10K Urban landscaping plan was the first step in improving the landscaping for the site.
Bouffault urged the school board to act now on the landscaping plan because future soil work during construction could make it difficult to plant trees later.
Bouffault forwarded the notion that much of the physical planting work, and at least some of the tree stock, would be available from the Casey Trees Community Planting Program. Bouffault said that Casey Trees was dedicated to doing community tree planting projects with volunteers and was receptive to assisting Clarke County Public Schools in a multi-year effort to implement a landscaping plan using community and student volunteers.
When asked where the funding for the project might come from Bouffault mentioned a community fund raising effort but also suggested using a portion of a $1.5 million construction contingency fund.
School Board members Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) and Janet Alger (Russell) expressed concerns about Bouffault’s priorities in earmarking landscaping funds now given the uncertainties in other areas.
Welliver asked Bouffault if her $300K – $500K landscaping estimate would take a priority over projects like the conversion of Berryville Primary School. Alger followed by expressing concern about whether current FFE funding (furniture, fixtures and equipment) allocations were adequate.
“I want to have a nice looking school but these are hard choices” Alger said.
“I don’t want to spend $10K for a landscaping plan before we’ve decided to spend the $300K” Welliver said.
As it became clear that there was little support for taking immediate action on either earmarking the contingency fund for landscaping or going forward with additional spending for a landscaping plan, School Board member Alger attempted to offer a compromise position by suggesting that the board “table the proposal and reconsider it in a few months”.
Bouffault responded “It’s going to be too late by then” and then added “OK, I give up guys. Let’s just table it.”
Construction Ahead of Schedule, Blasting Continues
Shockey & Sons project manager Mike Castelli reported Monday that a stretch of good weather during September and October has allowed construction crews to make excellent progress at the school site. Castelli said that the building’s cement footers should be completed by the end of October. Once the footers are in place masons can begin laying cement block walls that will soon be visible above grade.
However, area residents frustrated and concerned about the impact of blasting in the area will have to endure at least another month of periodic blasts according to Castelli. Dynamite charges are still being used to clear rock near Jackson Street to accommodate a sewer line and to enlarge the storm water retention pond.
Castelli said that although the blasting subcontractor Judy Construction has been following all safety guidelines, Shockey is still doing its best to communicate with area residents in advance of explosions. Castelli said that Judy Construction is attempting to consistently schedule the explosions between noon and 2:00pm.
“Last evening [Monday], a Shockey representative called to advise that dynamiting would take place at the drainage pond close to the neighbors on Jackson. Be prepared for a blast to occur at noon or shortly thereafter” said Berryville Estates Community Association President Sharon Strickland in an electronic mail message widely distributed to town residents today. “If you have valuables, protect them. That includes all your human or pet valuables too.”
At Monday’s meeting School Board chairperson Robina Bouffault confirmed that she had received calls complaining about the blasts.
Today’s scheduled blast was postponed due to Monday evening’s rain according to an area resident whose house borders the construction site. The resident reported speaking directly with the explosives technician for the project and was informally told that today’s blasting has been rescheduled for Wednesday, weather permitting.
Parking areas for the new school are on-track to receive a tack-coat surface sometime in November Castelli told the school board. While the hard parking surface may not be the most visible sign of progress during the construction process, it will provide a measure of relief to area residents battling dirt and dust generated from the work.
Castelli said that once the parking areas have been surfaced, wind-borne dust and mud will be significantly reduced.