SNOW HILL — Worcester County has officially gone to the bond market for partial financing of Snow Hill High School (SHHS).
The County Commissioners voted to borrow $45 million in general obligation bonds this week. That will be used to fund the lion’s share of SHHS renovations with the remaining money coming from the state. The total projected cost for the renovations is about $50 million.
During the public hearing, prior to the bond authorization, some familiar complaints about the cost of the design of the school re-surfaced. Ever since the new SHHS was announced, there has been the occasional criticism of the cost of some of the features. Resident Ellie Diegelmann made similar complaints this week and wondered why aspects of the design couldn’t be cut to reduce costs.
“I just wanted to ask if the kind of legacy you all want to leave is indebtedness,” she said. “Not so much indebtedness but out-of-control indebtedness and never ending indebtedness.”
The county has little leeway in much of the design features, according to Commissioner Virgil Shockley.
“There’s no choice in this,” he told Diegelmann. “The state dictates what you’re going to build and how you’re going to build it, plain and simple.”
If the county didn’t follow the state outline, then it wouldn’t receive any state funding.
That might not be the worst thing in Diegelmann’s opinion.
“I liken it to a situation with store coupons,” she said.
Coupons, like state funding, can be useful, she continued, but if you’re being asked to buy much more than you need to even use the coupon it might be better to pay the full cost on just the items that you do require. Commissioner Jim Bunting agreed.
“I would love for the Board of Education to say, ‘We’re not going to take any of your money. We’re going to build this school ourselves,’” said Bunting, referring to the state. “We could save millions. I’ve been saying that for three years.”
Such a scenario would be unlikely, however. While the County Commission is responsible for finding funding for school renovations, it’s the Board of Education that plays the biggest part in putting a design together. The board is not inclined to drop features to come in under state guidelines to save money, said County Attorney Sonny Bloxom.
“Try to convince the Board of Education to build a school without following the state’s regs then come back to us and see how successful you were,” he told Diegelmann.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of the bond authorization. It was a big moment for Shockley, who has been the most vocal about the need for a new SHHS.
“Commission President, Bud, may I? I’ve waited 15 years to do this. I’d like to make a motion,” he said.