SNOW HILL — Without comments or questions, the Worcester County Commission unanimously agreed Wednesday to support the Board of Education’s Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which includes a timeline for the construction of a new Snow Hill High School (SHHS).
While the commissioners generated some animosity in the county last year when they decided to delay planned renovations of SHHS due to financial concerns, so far this year the project is quietly moving forward.
“Right now, everything is on schedule…right now, I’m optimistic,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.
Shockley, who represents a portion of the Snow Hill area, has been the loudest voice on the commission asking for progress with renovations. He recalled this week that a new SHHS was one of his original three campaign promises when he was first elected in 1998. Funding for the project not being included in the county’s most recent budget was the only reason Shockley voted against it.
However, even without funding for SHHS being specifically listed in the budget, by all appearances the commission is looking to move forward with renovations this year. The county’s support of the BoE CIP will mean a letter of support from the commissioners to the State Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC). The letter will mention both the SHHS renovation as well as an energy efficiency project at Snow Hill Middle School (SHMS) and initial approval for plans to work on a complete renovation or replacement of Showell Elementary School (SES) in the next few years.
With the commission lending its support to the CIP, a state review of the project is next on the timeline. Worcester expects to receive about $4.6 million from the state for the renovations, money that Shockley hopes will arrive in one piece.
If the funding is granted in one block, Shockley pointed out that the county can use it to begin the project before going to the bond market next year. Assuming full support from the state, Worcester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson is projecting a brisk schedule for completing SHHS.
“We’ll return to you in the fall of 2013 to review project bids,” he told the commission Wednesday.
If the bids are reviewed and a contractor is named next fall, Wilson expects ground to be broken by next winter.
“I’d love to see it,” said Shockley, who admitted that “the stars will need to align” if such an early schedule is to be kept.
A new SHHS is hotly anticipated in Snow Hill, with recently elected Mayor Charlie Dorman adding his own letter of support to the presentation.
“This will hopefully set the stage for the county to receive the funding needed to move forward,” wrote Dorman.