SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners agreed to incorporate funding for a new turf field at Stephen Decatur High School into the bond that will fund construction of Showell Elementary School.
Though they had conceptually agreed to doing so during the budget process, the commissioners made the decision official Tuesday with a 5-0 vote. Commissioner Jim Bunting and Commissioner Chip Bertino abstained from the vote.
“We have no idea what that bond issue’s going to be,” Bertino said. “I have no idea whether or not we can afford it at this point.”
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said the commissioners had never officially voted to dedicate bond funding to constructing a new turf athletic field at Decatur, a course of action they had discussed during budget development.
“It’s been brought to my attention by the Worcester County school superintendent that there’s some discrepancy about the Stephen Decatur High School fields,” Mitrecic said. “There was never a vote taken one way or the other about field moving forward.”
Mitrecic said Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor wanted the commissioners to formally approve the plan so he could include it in a budget certification statement.
“That was the discussion but there was never a formal vote made on moving forward,” Mitrecic said.
Bertino said the field was being incorporated into the Showell Elementary School bond issue.
“We don’t yet know what that bond issue is going to be,” he said. “I’m not going to vote on this. I don’t want to vote against it but I’m going to abstain.”
Mitrecic said the turf field had initially been worked into the school system’s budget in such a way that the $1.3 million expense was broken up over two years.
“There was a way to pay for this in his budget and we took it out,” he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said the county would be going to the bond market in January or February and would be finalizing the projects to be included prior to that process.
“That formal approval does not take place until the latter part of this year,” he said.
Bertino said he was not willing to make a commitment this early in the process.
“I’m just very uncomfortable making a commitment we’re going to spend $1.3 million right now not knowing what the bigger part of this pie is and that’s Showell Elementary School,” he said.
Mitrecic said Taylor was just looking for a formal decision.
“There was no formal vote taken on this when we pulled it out of the budget the way we did,” he said.
Bertino said Taylor should have made the request in a different manner.
“He should have sent something to us in a formal way like he did everything else, so we’d have the opportunity to review it,” Bertino said.
Commissioner Bud Church said Taylor likely didn’t know there hadn’t been a formal vote on the field funding.