New Page site selected for county transportation facility
After months of deliberation and hearing the pros and cons of each site, the Gloucester School Board voted 4-2 Tuesday night to choose the new Page Middle School site over the former school site as the future location for the county and schools’ combined transportation facility.
The vote was just a preliminary step and leadership of both entities will work together over the coming months to finalize details of the facility and agreements of its use.
The decision took place during a joint meeting of the two boards Tuesday night in the T.C. Walker Education Center’s auditorium after hearing new scaled-back options for the facility called the “value engineering” approach.
After hearing the presentation and some discussion, school board member Jarret Lee made the motion to put the transportation site on the new Page Middle School property. “This has been drug down the road plenty, and it’s time to make a decision,” Lee said.
School board member Troy Andersen agreed, adding, “This is a multi-step process with tonight being the first step in choosing the site. I still think there’s work to do to provide direction to allow the county administrator and superintendent to work out details and follow up things for the bus garage. Those details could then be brought back to the school board to discuss further.”
School board member Randy Burak, who along with fellow member Carla Hook, voted against the motion, said, “I hope the school board considers this closely.” He said the reason the school board purchased the acreage the new Page sits on over a decade ago was for long-term education needs. School board member Anita Parker was out of town and did not attend the meeting.
Hook said choosing the new Page site for the facility, “saves money in the short term,” but added, “in the long term, we’re selling the school system short.” She said it won’t take much growth before there are too many elementary school students in too few classes, causing the need for a new elementary school.
School board chairman Charles Records said when the property was purchased, it was to put three school sites on it. However, when looking at the map of the site’s location to other existing schools such as Gloucester High School and the T.C. Walker Education Center, there is only about a 1.5-mile radius as the crow flies. He said it would take a lot of density to justify the need for a new school on the site. “We’re looking at 50 years or more to even see a need, if ever,” Records said.
According to Garrey Curry, Gloucester’s deputy county administrator, the value engineering approach would remove the public utilities office from the equation as well as one maintenance bay, and would refine the building envelope, which would be tweaked during the design process. Also, Curry said the value engineering approach would reduce the pavement area at the new Page site as well as curb and guttering, earthworks, etc. It would also reduce the number of parking spots for buses from 160 to 120 and would provide one entrance into the facility instead of two.