The James City County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve financing documents for the fourth middle school April 12, a decision that could allow the Williamsburg-James City County School Board to award a demolition contract for the former James Blair Middle School later this month.
The vote was projected to occur in May, but the date was moved up to April 12 because the School Board is scheduled to vote on the demolition contract April 19, said Sue Mellen, the county’s director of financial and management services.
Mellen said the vote next Tuesday would “ratify” an authorization the Board of Supervisors gave in March to issue bonds as the way the county would pay for its share of the fourth middle school.
Approval of the financing documents will allow the county to secure an up-to-date bond rating and go out to market to sell bonds, Mellen said.
County Administrator Bryan Hill said the demolition of James Blair cannot occur without “the money in place.”
Both votes will take place before the Board of Supervisors, the School Board and the Williamsburg City Council convene for their annual joint meeting April 22.
During a meeting with members of the School Board, Supervisor Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) said he wanted to discuss the proposed school in more detail during the joint meeting.
Onizuk said he will need to review the financing documents before he decides how to vote, but said his concerns about the project would influence his decision.
“At this point I would not be supportive of moving forward until my questions have been answered and I’m comfortable moving forward,” Onizuk said.
He said the land at James Blair is too small for a middle school and he believes the school division is “moving too quickly” to build the school.
He suggested expansions at the three middle schools as a cost-effective alternative that would address capacity issues and allow more time to investigate a sustainable solution for growing enrollment.
“If we step back and plan for expansions at all levels, I think that makes a lot more fiscal sense over the long term,” Onizuk said. “I am still of the opinion that this needs more investigation. We need to make sure we’ve explored all options and, ideally, finished our strategic planning process.”
Onizuk and Supervisor Sue Sadler (Stonehouse) voted against the lease financing plan in March after failing to postpone the vote. Onizuk said he can see himself calling for a vote on an alternative to the middle school plans after April 22.
“Once that meeting is completed, we need to make decisions and move forward, whether it’s the fourth middle school as a proposed or an alternative,” Onizuk said.
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