Council suggests Holland site for school

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

Suffolk City Council on Wednesday voted 5-3 to recommend a site in the Holland village for a new elementary school to serve the southern end of the city.

Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer and Councilmen Joe Barlow and Leroy Bennett voted against the measure.

City planning director Scott Mills brought the location before council. It represented the consensus of a number of city staff members who began a site search after directed to do so by City Council, he said.

The location, located near the ball fields and the site of the old Holland High School, would fit within the city’s 2026 Comprehensive Plan, Mills said. It also has adequate acreage, could function as an anchor of the community, and could accommodate an attached recreation center, he added. An adjacent parcel already is owned by the city.

The search for a site to replace Southwestern and Robertson elementary schools, which serve the Holland and Whaleyville communities, respectively, has been going on for years. Both buildings are aging and in need of repair.

A motion to forward the recommendation to the School Board was made by Councilman Jeffrey Gardy, who represents the Holland area.

“This has been dragging on since ’96,” he said.

The city’s involvement in the process began at the June 16 council meeting, when Gardy made a motion to instruct the city manager and city planners to find a suitable site for the school. Milteer voted in favor of that motion, but then voted against this week’s move to recommend the Holland site.

“I have serious problems with how this process has gotten to this point,” said Milteer, who represents the Whaleyville area. “We are making recommendations to School Board without any input from the School Board.”

Councilman Bennett feared council was “fast-tracking” a particular site.

“I have some concerns that we are not giving the School Board the respect they deserve,” he said.

Gardy countered that the site proposal was only a suggestion, and the School Board could accept or reject it and offer a site of its own.

“The more sites we find, the better site we might end up with,” he said.

Councilman Charles Brown said he would vote for putting a school in Holland because growth in the southern part of the city is trending toward the U.S. Route 58 corridor.

“My vote is going to go towards 58 as long as I have this seat,” Brown said.

A number of planned developments along Holland Road, including the giant CenterPoint intermodal center, have been approved in recent years.

Councilman Robert Barclay agreed with Brown’s reasoning.

“I’d say that Holland is far more likely to experience growth than Whaleyville,” he said.

Councilman Charles Parr also supported the motion.

“We need to get off dead center,” he said. “I think we have a right to recommend, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The School Board was expected to have a capital improvements plan discussion at its Thursday meeting.