Council spars over joint meeting

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, September 2, 2010

Suffolk City Council members disagreed on Wednesday over whether it is necessary to schedule a joint meeting with the School Board to discuss a new school site.

The debate on where, when and how to replace Southwestern and Robertson elementary schools has been going on for years. The two deteriorating schools serve the Holland and Whaleyville areas, respectively.

Both bodies have been working independently to find a new site for a single, combined school.

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Councilman Charles Brown insisted his vote will be to place a school along the U.S. Route 58 corridor, and he did not seem to be in favor of a joint meeting.

“My vote is to go on Route 58,” he said. “I don’t need to meet with the School Board to tell them that again. I don’t see what a meeting [is] going to do.”

Other council members said they are open to a meeting, but need to have more information on sites under consideration before it begins.

“I’m not going to go into a meeting and be blindsided by either side,” Councilman Charles Parr said. “I think it all needs to be out on the table.”

Some of the council members had received some information from the School Board, passed along by City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn. However, others said they had not had a chance to look at the information yet.

Parr was one of those who had seen the correspondence. He said the School Board had referred to certain sites by number, instead of by any identifying information, such as address.

“I have no earthly idea what those sites are,” Parr said.

Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer, who represents the Whaleyville area, suggested council members “come with an open mind” after getting all the information.

“I have not made up my mind about where it should be,” he said.

Councilman Joe Barlow was in favor of a meeting.

“I do think we need to meet with them,” he said. “It’s best to have everyone there.”

The School Board had requested a summit before its next scheduled meeting on Sept. 9. However, council members said the timing would not work for them because of impending bad weather, the holiday weekend and other meetings.

“I think we’re at a point in time where we need to move forward,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “This is something we need to do.”