City takes school money for road

Published 11:44 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Suffolk City Council took up to $3 million from a proposed replacement elementary school, the Kings Highway Bridge project and the widening of Holland Road to make Nansemond Parkway wider, instead.

Depending on how much the project winds up costing, some of the money could return to its intended project. With construction costs at risk of rising and other projects stalemated, City Council wanted to get a project done.

Councilman Charles Parr made the motion Wednesday to “go out for bid so we can get the project moving forward.”

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About $15.5 million is currently allocated to the project. Roughly $2.3 million more was needed to make it a reality.

“We’re going to have to do it while we can,” Councilman Charles Brown said.

The Nansemond Parkway project eventually will make the road a wider, divided highway from its intersection with Commonwealth Railway on the west and Interstate 664 on the east.

About $1.44 million will come from the proposed replacement school. The money was set aside for early expenses associated with the school, such as site acquisition and design.

“We don’t have a location,” City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said of the school. The proposed elementary school would provide someplace new for students from Southwestern Elementary in Holland and Robertson Elementary in Whaleyville to go. Both school buildings are aging and in need of replacement or major repairs.

City Council and School Board have tossed around the issue of a location for the school for several months, with no apparent resolution in sight.

A site on Copeland Road proposed by the School Board was denied by the City Council in April because it does not fit within the city’s comprehensive plan. A South Quay Road location suggested by City Council was shot down by the School Board in August. Last week, School Board members failed to act on the issue, effectively putting off further action on their part until at least October.

About $1 million is set to come from the King’s Highway Bridge project. The bridge closed about six years ago without a replacement, leaving residents of Chuckatuck and Driver without a connecting route between the two communities. The money was allocated to the project to show initiative in hopes of getting federal funding. It didn’t work, leaving the city millions of dollars short of the mark to build a replacement bridge.

Finally, $600,000 will come from a Holland Road improvement project. More money still is left in that pot, budget director Anne Seward said.

Any money that is unneeded for the Nansemond Parkway project will be given back to its original project, Public Works director Eric Nielsen said.