Newport News School Board threatens to withhold bus facility property if needs aren't met

Theresa Clift
Contact Reportertclift@dailypress.com
Board chairman says new bus facility being planned is too small

The School Board believes city officials are designing a new school bus facility that will not meet its requirements and may refuse to deed the property if that proves to be the case, School Board Chairman Jeff Stodghill told the Daily Press.

In September, the School Board passed a resolution endorsing the city moving its school bus facility to make room for the Tech Center Research Park and potential Jefferson Lab expansion, but only if the new facility meets a list of the schools' requirements.

The city never formally agreed to that list.

"(The School Board resolution) was what they wanted," City Manager Jim Bourey said. "It wasn't an agreement. But I'm not saying we don't agree."

Stodghill fears that, without something in writing, the terms will not be met.

"We have no agreement they're going to meet our needs," Stodghill said. "The city needs to get an agreement with the School Board that clearly lays out they're going to meet our requirements."

Bourey said that type of an agreement is not planned, but the School Board will have to sign off on the project in some way before the facility can be moved.

"The School Board will approve the general program and maybe even the layout," Bourey said. "I don't know what exact level of detail the school district will sign off on."

The board's September resolution stated: "In all instances where the relocation and replacement of SCOT (Service Center for Operations and Transportation) facilities are planned, the school division will review and comment on the schematic design and design development."

The first item on the schools' list was that the new facility must be at least 133,000 square feet. Stodghill fears that won't be met.

"The city manager is trying to give us a smaller site and a smaller facility than we need," he said. "They're not talking about the same square footage we put in our resolution."

Bourey did not guarantee that square footage would be granted, but said it would be close.

"I have been told that they intended (the square footage) as a guideline," Bourey said. "We will most certainly be in the ballpark."

Bourey said he was unaware of the School Board's concerns, but said they would be addressed.

"If they have concerns, then those concerns will have to be addressed because they will have to approve it," Bourey said.

The School Board must also agree to transfer the land where the bus facility now sits to the city or its Economic Development Authority for the research park, Bourey said.

If the schools don't get what they want, they won't approve the transfer, Stodghill said.

"The School Board is well aware that the deed is only going to be transferred if we get an adequate facility and (the funding) is not taken out of our capital plan," he said.

The city's five-year capital improvement plan for 2017-2021 includes $42.4 million for the schools division. The School Board had asked for $80.5 million.

The city plans to spend $36.65 million by 2021 to accommodate the Tech Center Research Park — mostly to relocate the bus facility.

Stodghill pointed out the similarity in those numbers.

"Who's paying for the new SCOT Center? We are paying for it by not getting funding for roofs and HVACs," Stodghill said. "That's not right."

Bourey declined comment on that observation.

School officials say they have not been getting enough capital funding from the city in recent years to fund critical repairs to leaky roofs and HVAC systems, or to rebuild Huntington Middle School, which was built in 1936 as a high school.

In February, the city selected Tech Center developer W.M. Jordan out of three applicants to move the bus facility under the state's Public Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act.

The city plans to move the 33-acre facility, which sits just east of the Tech Center Marketplace near the corner of Oyster Point Road and Jefferson Avenue, to an area near the airport bounded by Jefferson Avenue and Turnberry, McManus and Bland boulevards. That land is owned by the city, its Industrial Development Authority and W.M. Jordan.

City staff have been negotiating a contract with W.M. Jordan, which will go to the council for approval sometime after July 1, Bourey said.

Clift can be reached by phone at 757-247-7870.

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