Supervisors hear details of pact between county, Charterhouse
By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors was presented with copies of the draft lease agreement between the county and Charterhouse School, Inc., the group that would take over educational services for autistic and emotionally disturbed students at the renovated Edinburg School.
Terms of the agreement had been discussed at the board's Sept. 6 work session, when representatives of Charterhouse and United Methodist Family Services, the umbrella organization, and Superintendent B. Keith Rowland were present.
County Administrator Doug Walker said the document was "fairly straight forward," and noted that a public hearing on the final draft would be held during the board's regular meeting on Oct. 9.
He said the school board's only role in the lease agreement would be as a signatory.
"The document doesn't delve into the services provided by Charterhouse, except as an exhibit to the lease," Walker said. The school board would help make sure that the renovated building would serve the "proper purpose for Charterhouse to lease the property," he added.
Supervisor David Ferguson brought up a concern with the document as presented Tuesday night.
Ferguson said, as he understood, that it was decided during the work session that Charterhouse could not terminate the contract with 365 days notice.
"That's why we came up with the minimum of 20 students to make it a doable project," he said. "I'm concerned. Not over Charterhouse not reaching that student level, but because it sounds like they can just up and walk out. It makes the 30-year contract meaningless."
Representatives of Charterhouse were not at Tuesday's meeting, but Walker said they would be present at the board's Oct. 4 work session. Board members will have until then to continue reviewing the document, and bring any other concerns and questions to Walker and the county attorney so they might be resolved ahead of time.
Davenport and Company gave a financial plan update for the project as well. It was reported that a bank request for proposal will be sent out later this week, which should be returned just before the board's meeting on Oct. 23.
The board will need to decide whether the project should be financed through a bank or the Virginia Resource Authority at that meeting, because the VRA finalizes its fall pool a few days later.
During the public comments section toward the end of the meeting, several citizens spoke both in favor and In opposition of the project.
Those speaking against the project said they thought the building would be unsafe for students, and that it would cost the county more than if they chose the recently closed Community Christian School, also in the county.
"The purchase of this student-ready school would not only be a secure place for our special needs children, but would help those community members who personally financed the Community Christian School building," said Cindy Bailey of Woodstock.
Three county residents, all in direct relation with citizens labeled as special needs, applauded the county's efforts and encouraged the board to continue with the project.