Gloucester board expresses support for fully funding fire and rescue

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Mar 13, 2019 - 02:01 PM

The Gloucester County Board of Supervisors delved into the roots of the county administrator’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget for the first time Tuesday night. During a budget work session in the colonial courthouse, the board pledged to do its best to fully fund fire and rescue and also began discussing some options for funding renovations at Gloucester High School.

“It’s a lot of money we’re talking about here,” said Abingdon district supervisor Robert “JJ” Orth about the GHS renovations. “We need to ask, ‘Can we do it more efficiently, more effectively?’” 

Orth suggested trying to get bids on the things that are in critical failure within the school’s infrastructure, which mainly include HVAC systems and portions of the roof. He added, “We may see some significant savings doing what really needs to be done.”

Some preliminary estimates have the costs coming in at up to $28 million for the HVAC and roof projects. “We built a new middle school for $27 million,” York district supervisor Phillip Bazzani said, referencing the construction of the new Page Middle School, expressing disbelief that it could cost more for HVAC and roof replacements at GHS.

There was also a discussion about seeking bids for certain areas of construction. “There’s no scope of the work,” Bazzani said, adding that the county can’t seek bids without determining what actually has to be done at the school. 

“As we have this conversation, we need to decide what will be amenable to everyone,” said at-large supervisor Ashley Chriscoe. “I’d like for the school board to tell us, ‘This is what we want done and how to do it.’”

Chriscoe added it’s pertinent to discuss this at the joint meeting of the board of supervisors and school board that is scheduled for Tuesday night. “This is all a part of the big picture—how much money we have to spend,” he said. 

Speaking of the estimated cost of a new high school altogether, Chriscoe said, “The $110 million is not going to happen.”

Chriscoe added that he hopes next week’s joint meeting will help decide a firm scope of what has to be done at the school and how to proceed with funding it. He also said he hopes the discussion will remain respectful in regards to the differing opinions on the issue. “The board will have to decide a path forward,” he said.

As for fully funding Gloucester and Abingdon Volunteer Fire and Rescue squads, county administrator Brent Fedors said, “I think we can get almost all of the way there, if not all of the way there.”

Bazzani added he hopes any savings to be found in the budget process go to fully funding the fire and rescue departments’ requests. “As I get older, I’d like to be able to get transported to the hospital,” he said.

Aside from Tuesday’s joint meeting with the school board that will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the T.C. Walker Education Center’s auditorium, the board of supervisors is expected to continue its budget deliberations on April 2 and possibly April 3.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for March 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the T.C. Walker Education Center auditorium.