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Board, Huntfield ink school land deal

May 07, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Schools and Charles Town city officials announced Tuesday night that an agreement has been reached for the donation of 57 acres by the developers of the Huntfield community for a second high school in Jefferson County.

The announcement came despite the fact school officials said in April that land negotiations had deteriorated and they feared the deal was dead.

Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton and City Manager Jane Arnett outlined for the Jefferson County Board of Education the agreement, which was reached last week between the city, Huntfield developers and the school board.

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It was the piece of land the school board had wanted all along: A prime building spot off U.S. 340 near the entrance to Huntfield, a 3,800-home development being built a mile south of Charles Town.

Under the agreement, Huntfield developers will conduct the necessary grading of the site, conduct soil tests and reimburse the school board for appraisals it conducted on the property, said Hilton and Arnett.

The appraisal work cost less than $3,000, they said.

School Board President Lori Stilley said she was satisfied all issues have been resolved, including those that were brought up during a public forum on the land deal.

"I think people will be pleased that this is a win-win," Stilley said.

Stilley praised Hilton for his efforts. "We might need your help with the SBA," Stilley said, joking.

Stilley was referring to the state School Building Authority, which recently turned down a funding request from the board for construction of the second high school.

School officials had been negotiating with Huntfield developers about the possible donation of land at the development for a second high school.

In March, however, school officials feared the plan was dead and were considering other options.

Stilley said Huntfield developers wanted several clauses in an agreement, making the proposal unworkable.

In one negotiation meeting with Huntfield officials, Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said school officials were met with "hostility and stubbornness."

At the time, Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest L.C., the Vienna, Va. firm developing Huntfield, declined to comment on the criticism.

Duszynski said if the two sides could not reach an agreement on the 57-acre site, there are other sites at Huntfield he could offer for a school site.

Hilton, who does dispute resolution for the office of human resources for Montgomery County, Md., later said he would try to bring the sides together and reach an agreement.

After Tuesday night's school board meeting, Hilton and Arnett declined to go into detail about how an agreement was reached. They said only that the city, Huntfield officials and school board officials reached an agreement through "quiet, effective" means.

Duszynski did not attend Tuesday's meeting and could not be reached by telephone.

School board members did not mention what the next step would be in the construction of the second high school.

The School Building Authority recently turned down Jefferson County school officials for a $15 million funding request, $10 million of which would have been used for construction of the second high school.

Stilley said the school board is planning to go to voters to ask for their approval of a bond in May 2004.

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