By Kim Walter
The Warren County School Board has agreed, by consensus and by the superintendent's recommendation, to deny a request from the town to provide funding for half the materials necessary to install a bridge at Sycamore Lane.
During a meeting earlier this year, the School Board received the request in the form of a letter from Town Manager Steve Burke.
According to the letter, the town has been investigating options toward improved access to the electric facilities serving both Warren County High School and Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School. In doing so, the town has worked with a local structural engineer to develop plans to construct a bridge from Sycamore Lane to the school property across Leach Run.
The letter, dated Feb. 11, states that the town plans to construct the bridge using town crews and "estimates the material cost to be approximately $16,500."
Additionally, "as the electrical facilities serve only the two schools, the Town would propose to split the material cost for this bridge with the Warren County Public School System."
Since receiving the letter, Superintendent Pamela McInnis, Director of Finance Rob Ballentine and Director of Maintenance Mike Riley have met with town representatives to discuss the issue, per the School Board's request.
During its May 23 meeting, the School Board was presented with findings from research and the meetings.
After learning the location of the planned bridge, Ballentine said the message was "brought home" as to what decision should be made.
"The bridge would connect town right-of-way to town property," he said during the meeting.
Right now, the town can access transformers, which are located on school property. However, the nearby power lines are creating a problem for the town, McInnis said.
"They need this bridge to maintain the power lines, which, the town says, only serve those two schools," she said. "They also said that if they aren't able to get to those power lines, then the schools could be without power for up to two weeks."
Before Warren County High School's new stadium was put in, the town could access the power lines.
McInnis told School Board members that Riley believes there is another way to get to the power lines with large utility trucks.
"Mike [Riley] thinks there is a pathway to get to those lines without damaging anything or having the bridge," she said. "He said he'd be happy to work with town crews on figuring all that out."
Because neither the access point nor power lines are actually on school property, board members had a difficult time agreeing to the request.
Board member Kimberly Athey said if the board was to agree to pay for half the materials, it "would only be out of good will."
"We wouldn't be doing it because it's a responsibility of ours," she said.
Other members agreed, and board member Joanne Cherefko said it should be enough for the time being to offer an alternative solution that wouldn't cost the town any money.
Board chairman Chatherine Bower was weary of spending extra money that the division doesn't currently have. Plus, she said the division pays a good amount in electric bills.
Ballentine said the school system "has got to be [the town's] largest electric user."
"And we've told them that we appreciate the reliable power and that we have some of the best rates around," he said. "They know that we know those things are very important."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org