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Split board backs new Stafford High

BY KATIE THISDELL

An eleventh-hour attempt to revise plans for a new Stafford High School failed, meaning the project will continue on its current path.

Late Tuesday night, the county’s Board of Supervisors debated the merits of rebuilding versus renovating the school.

Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde criticized demolishing a building valued at $36 million, saying it’s not fiscally conservative to replace it with one that’ll cost $66 million.

He originally suggested putting the project to a public referendum, but then asked to at least reconsider possibilities.

“There’s so many good options out there, and I know some of them weren’t discussed,” Milde said.

A majority of the board voted to stand by the rebuild as planned, ending the debate that surfaced in the past few months.

The 4–3 vote reaffirmed a decision made by the School Board more than a year ago. Plans call for a 275,000-square-foot school, which is about 10,000 square feet smaller than the current school.

Supervisors Bob Thomas, Susan Stimpson, Gary Snellings and Ty Schieber said they wanted the matter put to rest, despite concerns from parents and students about the project’s cost, the loss of the high school’s automotive program and the disruption of athletic programs during construction.

Meanwhile, Milde, Jack Cavalier and Cord Sterling worried that the project wasn’t fully thought out and set a bad precedent.

“We’re putting all our eggs in one basket in regards to the schools,” said Cavalier, returning for his first meeting since being struck by a tractor–trailer on Interstate 95. “There’s always one [project] that’s going to be a little less than the others but it can be remedied, but does it take $66 million to remedy it at the expense of others?”

At a joint meeting Monday night between some supervisors and School Board members, Thomas had suggested that a portion of the building be kept for career and technical education programs. It was unclear Wednesday what will happen to that proposal.

Also Tuesday, supervisors killed discussion of creating an at-large chairperson seat. A majority voted against asking the General Assembly for special legislation to put the question to a public referendum.

After a public hearing, the board deferred a decision on the rezoning for George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm. A heritage interpretation zoning designation would allow the George Washington Foundation to add a reconstruction of the historic home at the site off State Route 3. Supervisors are waiting for confirmation from the foundation’s board of trustees that they would place the end of the Belmont–Ferry Farm Trail at the site.

The board will publicize a public hearing on transportation impact fees for new residential development. The fees could be between $2,999 and $5,046 with possible exemptions for projects at certain stages. Supervisors are recommending a one-year delay on collecting fees.

Fees for tent inspections and lot consolidation were reduced. Residents who want to temporarily place large tents in yards, such as for weddings, no longer have to pay $200. And those who want to remove property lines between neighboring lots will be charged $150, a significant reduction.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

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