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Officials: Huntfield school land deal may fall through

March 27, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Schools officials said negotiations with Huntfield developers about donating a piece of land at the subdivision for a second high school have steadily deteriorated and there is a fear the plan will fall through.

"This deal is dead," said R. Steven Nichols, Jefferson County superintendent of schools.

Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said there are several clauses Huntfield developers wanted in an agreement that made the proposal unworkable.

One of the stipulations the developers wanted was the right to give final approval to a plan to provide grading at the site, Stilley said.

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Huntfield developers would provide the grading, but Stilley said the way the stipulation was written, she feared Huntfield officials could back out of some of the work if they determined it was too involved. The school system then could be left with the cost of doing the work, Stilley said.

In one of the proposed agreements, Huntfield developers agreed to fill in two sinkholes on the property and remove a top layer of soil from the site.

The Huntfield property used to be an orchard and there were concerns about whether there is pesticide residue at the site.

School board members wanted to add language to the contract that said the sinkhole work and soil removal would have to be approved by engineers working on the new high school, Stilley said.

Stilley said it was important to have project engineers sign off on the work to help guarantee state funding for the construction of the high school.

Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest L.C., the Vienna, Va., firm building Huntfield, said he offered to provide a state Department of Environmental Protection certificate for the work, which he said would be enough to guarantee state funding.

Stilley, Nichols, Duszynski, Board of Education attorney David Layva and an attorney for Greenvest met in Layva's office Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to work out an agreement, Stilley said.

Nichols said school officials were met with "hostility" and "stubbornness" during the meeting. He said it is discouraging that negotiations for the school site have been ongoing since 1999 with no resolution.

Duszynski declined to comment on the criticism.

Duszynski said if the two sides cannot reach an agreement on the 57-acre site, there are other sites in the 1,000-acre development that he can offer for a school.

Duszynski said it is important for the school system to move ahead with property for a new school so it can catch up with student population growth.

"This is not a time to fight or argue," Duszynski said.

Greenvest is required to give land for a school under an agreement the firm signed with the city of Charles Town, Nichols said.

The disagreements follow comments from Duszynski last week in which he said the agreement to donate the 57 acres was dead because the board had made significant, last-minute changes to a proposed deal.

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