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County Commission throws suppoirt behind school bond

March 19, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday approved a proclamation in support of a proposed $19 million school bond issue, but not before some debate.

The proclamation was developed by Citizens Supporting Education, a citizen action committee formed to support passage of the bond, which will be presented to county voters in the May 11 primary.

Joe Coakley, spokesman for Citizens Supporting Education, said it is important that the bond be passed because a lot is at stake.

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County voters will be asked to approve the bond to help pay for a $47 million project that includes construction of a second high school and renovation of Jefferson High School.

The state School Building Authority has set aside $19 million for the project, the state Economic Development Grant Committee has awarded $6 million and the developers of the 3,800-home Huntfield development have donated 57 acres at their property south of Charles Town as the site for the second high school.

The Huntfield land is valued at about $3 million.

If the bond does not pass, the money awarded by the state School Building Authority and the Economic Development Grant Committee will have to be returned to those agencies and the 57 acres would have to be returned to Huntfield, Coakley said.

"So the passage of the school bond is very critical," Coakley said.

Commissioner Greg Corliss said he cannot think of anything more important than an enhanced school system and said he does not want to think about the "fiscal disaster" that could occur if the bond does not pass.

Commission President Al Hooper said a lot of things in the county depend on its education system and said he will push for the bond issue "anyway I can."

Commissioner James G. Knode questioned whether the commissioners had any business backing the proclamation. Knode said each of the commissioners is free to support the bond, but he questioned whether the commission should be "dictating to people how they should vote."

Commissioner Rusty Morgan said he did not understand Knode's reasoning.

"I see it as leadership," Morgan said.

"Then do it individually," Knode said.

Corliss also said he thinks supporting the proclamation shows leadership.

"I take pride in providing that wherever we can," Corliss said.

Coakley said he believes the commissioners are responsible for maintaining the welfare of the county.

Knode was the only commissioner to vote against the proclamation.

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