Council to vote on funding assessment

Published 10:37 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to spend nearly $400,000 to pay for a company to perform a school facilities assessment and master plan.

The money for the study, to be done by RRMM Architects of Chesapeake, will come from available money left over from the completed Col. Fred Cherry Middle School project and the Department of Planning and Community Development professional services line item in the current general operating fund budget.

During a joint meeting of the council and School Board last July, City Manager Patrick Roberts said the result of the study would be “a long-term comprehensive plan that prioritizes school facility needs,” and, according to the request for proposal for the study, would need to take into consideration population growth, long-term attendance zones, maintenance, modernizing existing facilities and making efficient use of existing facilities.

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The council and School Board will hold another joint meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday during the council’s work session, in which city staff and RRMM Architects are expected to present a plan for conducting the assessment and develop a master plan.

The school division has 24 buildings and facilities, and serves more than 14,000 students in grades K-12 while employing about 2,000 teachers, administrators and support personnel.

The study calls for all of the division’s facilities to be assessed for current and future needs. The study also is expected to review the division’s attendance zone plan to evaluate how to make best use of its facilities without sharp increases in building costs.

It is also supposed to take into account potential cost increases in staffing or transportation, as well as propose possible joint uses of school facilities.

The city and school division want a 10-year master plan for facility use that parallels the city’s Capital Improvements Program and Plan, and the study should also recommend whether, and how, the school division should go about rezoning, according to the proposal request.

Council is also expected to vote on an ordinance that would allow for the transfer of nearly $600,000 in capital project money from the Florence Bowser Elementary School and Col. Fred Cherry Middle School projects to use for heating, ventilation and cooling upgrades, and other major system repair and replacement needs.

Another item council will consider is whether to appropriate about $1.2 million from the general fund unassigned fund balance for one-time expenses and to transfer money to the capital projects fund.

More than $500,000 would go toward police department operating equipment, while $300,000 would go toward fire department exhaust system upgrades and safety equipment, and $200,000 for a fire tanker truck.

All three items will be on the council’s consent agenda during its regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday and takes place at City Hall. A work session, to include the joint meeting by council and the School Board, and a presentation on the proposed fiscal year 2021-2030 Capital Improvements Program and Plan, starts at 4 p.m.