Archived Story

Council delays school decision

Published 9:39pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited from its original format to include the last paragraph.

Telling the school superintendent that he didn’t do his homework, Councilman Curtis Milteer joined the winning side of a 5-3 vote to delay a decision on a Holland school site for 30 days.

Suffolk Public Schools had applied for a conditional use permit for the site at the intersection of Pioneer and Holland roads. Three people — Superintendent Deran Whitney and two School Board members — spoke in favor of the site during a public hearing on Wednesday.

Only two nearby residents spoke against it, expressing concerns about traffic and site drainage and complaining that no community input had gone into choosing the site.

“This site was never discussed with any of the residents in the area,” said Roxanne Francis, who also told City Council they could “see the ruts where the tractors have been stuck” because of poor drainage.

She also warned that Holland Road will become increasingly congested with development in coming years.

“There’s a truck accident with trucks falling all over 58 almost once a week,” she said.

But some City Council members had a different concern — the fact there is no contract in place with the owners of the land, Marion and Lydia Harrell, who use it as farmland.

“I’m not going to pass anything until it’s locked down in some type of form,” Councilman Charles Parr said after making a motion to delay the decision.

Whitney said the school system did not want to appear presumptuous.

“We didn’t want to send the message we were assuming this site would be approved,” he said.

But after decades of discussing where to put a new school to serve the southwestern portion of the city, some City Council members were ready to act on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve waited a long, long time,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “I’m willing to put my faith in what’s been done. I’d like to see this school built this century.”

Whitney said any delay would interfere with the “aggressive” timetable that would allow the school to open in September 2014. But the council members in favor of delaying the decision pointed out that the decision already has been delayed for years.

“A child has not missed a day out of school because it wasn’t built,” Milteer said.

Councilmen Robert Barclay and Jeff Gardy joined Johnson in voting against tabling the decision. Barclay had the construction of a different school in mind.

“If this project gets significantly delayed, that affects the timing of the new middle school for northern Suffolk,” he said.

Whitney said the school division would work toward getting a contract with the owners in place during the next month. The issue will be taken up again April 18.

Later in the night, Councilman Leroy Bennett presented a motion to reconsider the vote, saying he had intended to vote against tabling the decision but hit the wrong button. However, the motion died on a tied vote with Barclay, Mike Duman and Johnson also supporting a re-vote. Tied votes on the eight-member council mean that the motion fails, so the original 5-3 vote stood.

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  • lilyrose

    Travelinjack, you are so right. I wish I had some land where they want to build the new school. I would certainly raise the price. That’s like posting your bank account number on a billboard. I can’t think about the Tahoes because when I do , I feel sick.

    Suggest Removal

  • dollyb12

    I am looking forward to Election Day. Why doesn’t Suffolk want to do the right thing? Stop building any more schools in northern Suffolk on these lousy 2-lane roads. From the looks of it, Nansemond Pkwy and future Portsmouth Blvd road work is going to congest that route for the next 10 years, if it doesn’t turn into one big pothole before then.

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  • So What

    Whitney said the school system did not want to appear presumptuous.

    Since when did this change?

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  • happyGoLucky

    The city could just take the land…been done before right?…but seriously, why is this school needed anyway? Milteer confirmed that “A child has not missed a day out of school because it wasn’t built”….. I’m sure the money could be better utilized for other purposes.

    Suggest Removal

    • dollyb12

      But then some of the council members would not get their Magic Kingdom!

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  • TravelinJack

    This is what I do not understand; Why would you (the SPS/City) publicize your intentions and location of the proposed site before you had a purchase agreement in place with the property owner? The price to purchase from every land owner in that part of town, who has better-draining soil, just increased.

    In a nutshell, I’m not impressed with the way the City, i.e. the Council, has handled “events” lately. Those events would include this subject, Tahoes, the cross-dressing issue, recycling fees, redistricting, and new-found surplus money that mysteriously appears out of nowhere just to name a few.

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    • KNRMCO

      CONVIENENTLY appears out of nowhere….UUMMM. Imagine that.

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  • am

    Let me see if I understand this: IF SPS gets a contract in place with the landowners, then the CC will approve the site and allow the building of this school to go forward? REALLY????? Did I miss something here?

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