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Land concerns delay decision on Jefferson school bonds

February 03, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Board of Education Thursday night decided to hold off on deciding an election date for a proposed bond issue, partly after hearing concerns from the public about a site that is being considered for a new high school.

A number of people expressed concerns about the site off U.S. 340 south of Charles Town, including possible pesticide residue on the land that would be used for a second high school.

A firm known as Hunt Field offered the Board of Education 75 acres for public schools, according to Jefferson County Schools spokeswoman Liz Thompson.

In return, Hunt Field wants a letter from the Board of Education supporting its proposed subdivison, which would eventually contain 3,000 homes, according to Thompson.

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The board will not consider writing the letter until it learns more about the property, Thompson said. Any land the board buys will require environmental tests to make sure it is safe, she said.

Board member Pete Dougherty has said he wants to move as quickly as possible on the bond issue, possibly including it on the May 9 primary ballot.

But after the comments from residents, Dougherty said it may not be a good idea to put it before the public that quickly.

"There are too many other concerns that have been brought out tonight," said board member Paul Manzuk.

Georgia DuBose, who used to rent a house on the property, said she used to find cannisters of pesticides on the land. The cannisters held about five gallons of pesticides, said DuBose, who told the board she would be concerned about kids going to school there.

One man called the deal a "bribe."

"Personally, I don't want to see this much development happen in the county, period," said Karin Stine.

Despite the offer by Hunt Field, no plans for the subdivision have been filed in the Jefferson County Planning Commission office.

The board of education is considering using 50 acres of the donated land for a new high school and using the remaining 25 acres for another school, Thompson said.

Superintendent of Schools David Markoe said the board was looking at a couple of other sites for a new high school when Hunt Field came forward and made its proposal. Board members said they would like the school system to keep considering the initial sites.

The board is considering between a $31 million and a $36 million bond issue that would pay for a new high school, a renovation to Jefferson High School and upgrades to the county's three junior high schools. It may include the development of the county's own career technical school depending on how large the bond is.

No one from Hunt Field spoke at the meeting, which took place after business hours.

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