School Board Balks on $500K Landscaping Pitch

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 Progress

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.


  1. John Q. Public says:

    It’d be interesting to hear how the chair defines “properly landscaped.” There are ways to obtain community support for landscaping, without siphoning critical funds from critical areas such as new and decent furnishings, equipment, books, etc. Let’s not get the cart in front of the horse.

  2. Landscaping? $300-$500k? Are we talking exotic gardens on all four sides of the school here? Landscaping should not be a priority. And realize, whatever you plant has to be maintained which means additional long term costs. Sure, bushes and trees are nice but this is school not a resort. Make sure the kids have decent equipment and furniture on the inside first.

  3. Ludicrous $300K-$500K landscaping. Utilize the money to build a gym at the new school. Sounds as if the school board “Robina” is smoking something and it isn’t a peace pipe.

  4. The information provided by CDN is not quite accurate.

    What I was asking for was a $10,000 expenditure for a landscape architect to design and specify drought resistent and easy-maintenance trees and shrubbery laid out over the site, in order to be able to reserve the necessary areas during construction.

    The indication of $300,000 – $500,000 was given by our engineer as what is currently being spent by Loudoun county on the landscaping for their new schools sites when being constructed. That amount was NOT, repeat NOT being voted on by the board, and is a rough estimate only.

    When the time comes (in 2012) to do landscaping, the funding available for it can be found either in the construction budget fund if any contingency funds are left over, also by community fund-raising (I had the example of the LFCC Warrenton campus where individuals and families each bought one tree which was planted and had their family’s bronze plaque at the base of the tree) or other appropriate fund-raising.

    The non-profit foundation Casey Trees is also willing to work with us and the entire community to plant appropriate species of trees and shrubberies over a multi-year program, where they fund the trees and students/community volunteers help to plant them – considered by Casey Trees to be an educational program for their non-profit foundation.

    How the landscaping would ultimately be paid for will depend upon funding two years from now, fundraising efforts and Casey Trees willingness to work with us.


    • Debacle Watcher says:

      CDN was perfectly clear that the $10,000 expenditure for a landscape plan was the proposal being voted on. Why do you find it necessary to state they reported inaccurately?

      Awfully defensive Madam Chairperson. Hiding something again?

  5. Bag of grass seed – $40

    Bale of straw – $5

    Typical 10′ maple or oak tree – $100

    Keeping it simple – Priceless

    • I’m with you, Sarge

      • As much as I agree with Sarge’s keeping it simple request, we’re gonna need about 3,500 pounds of grass seed, if not more, at least 40 bales of straw, and probably about 10-15 trees as well as some shrubs to start with. I think the $10,000 figure is a good one. I also think that tasking the horticulture club/classes with the landscaping design and implementation would be a FANTASTIC idea. Nothing like real-world experience!

  6. While I understand and agree landscaping is needed for the new school site, I have a difficult time supporting such a robust plan. Granted, the figures mentioned reflect the costs of our neighboring county, it is important to take into consideration the population size and economic differences.

    With the obvious lack of support, an alternative/in-addition to funding the landscape project, our board may want to consider a student led competition to design, fund raise, and implement the school’s new landscape.

  7. Dmaxnjackson says:

    Typical talking out of both sides of the mouth Robina. Cannot wait for elections…
    We are not talking about some Hilton Resort here. from what I can tell, this “new” high school will not even have any ballfields, we will still have to use the existing ones? hhmm. But that is proably for keeping the good ole boy’s names on the press boxes. Off topic I know, but this is really just a renovated school.

  8. Concerned says:

    I hope everyone thinks seriously before any landscaping is done. Practice areas for athletes should be taken into consideration as should future athletic fields. It would be ridiculous to landscape a spot which would be torn up for a field in a few years. I am quite amused that when fundraising was brought up to help with the greenhouse it was ridiculed by the very person who suggests it for landscaping. Really, what is the matter with beautiful green grass??? Over the years landscaping using perennials etc would be a wonderful for the horticulture department to learn and save money.

  9. Dmaxnjackson says:

    There are no new ball fields on thhis site. They are going to use the old decrepited fields we have now. So when all the visiting teams and their parents come to play at the “new” high school, they will say “wow this looks like the old fields, thought they were getting a new school”. And our parents can reply, “yes we did, it is over there” And we will once again be the butt of all our neighbors jokes. Sad but true.

    • Not sure how much money was spent on athletic fields when the last school was built??? But I can remember Singhas did the leg work for the Baseball Field…..Grubbs for the Softball Field….And Mr. Feltner made a generous contribution for the football field….So with that being said…I’d probably say that the funding won’t be there this time around…Just sayin!