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School officials await settlement signatures

October 04, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The head of Jefferson County's school system said Sunday he is hopeful that the settlement of a lawsuit over school impact fees will allow the school system to proceed with the sale of bonds for a new high school.

But Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols emphasized that final papers for settlement of the case have not been signed.

The school system's attorney told school officials that the papers must be signed before the school system can move forward with the sale of the bonds, said Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley.

Last month, school officials said funding for a new high school and a renovation of Jefferson High School were threatened because they were included in a lawsuit over the collection of school impact fees in the county.

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The suit, filed by the Jefferson County Commission, alleged the City of Charles Town was issuing building permits without collecting school impact fees as an ordinance requires.

The commissioners were asking in the suit that the city abide by its impact fee law.

During a special meeting Friday, the commissioners agreed to accept an offer from the city to settle the dispute.

Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton said the city objected to the rule that required it to withhold issuing a building permit until the impact fee was paid. The settlement requires the city to withhold building permits until fees are paid.

Nichols said the delay in selling bonds because of the lawsuit will not affect any timetables for construction of the new high school.

"While they have been messing around," school officials have continued to work on the high school project, Nichols said.

Last month, Nichols expressed aggravation over the delays in the county's school impact fee system and said "enough is enough."

Besides the $19 million bond issue approved by voters, the litigation also affects the school system's ability to secure other funding for the school-improvement project, which will cost about $48 million, board of education members said.

The school system cannot receive $6 million from the state Economic Development Grant Committee until the bonds are sold, Stilley said.

And the board of education must use $19 million it was awarded by the state School Building Authority within two years or risk losing it, Stilley has said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss said Sunday he did not know how long it will take to sign the final paperwork on the lawsuit settlement. But Corliss said the settlement "should clear the track" for the sale of bonds.

School impact fees, which county officials started collecting Jan. 26, are designed to help fund school construction projects demanded by population growth.

Developers have to pay $7,122 for every new single-family home and mobile home they put up; $5,562 for every townhouse or duplex; and $4,040 for every multi-family dwelling.

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