2010-06-09 / News

Liaison committee updated on comp plan

By Greg Pearson

Durfee Durfee Planning Director Kirk Turner reported to the Joint Board of Supervisors/School Board Liaison Committee last week, telling its members the county’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee “was on track” but tending to drift into the minutiae of planning. The committee for the countywide plan rewrite has been meeting for a year.

The liaison committee, which discusses school-county issues but little about budgets, consists of supervisors Marleen Durfee and Dorothy Jaeckle, school board members David Wyman and Omarh Rajah, Superintendent Marcus Newsome and County Administrator Jay Stegmaier.

Turner saw the meeting as an update – one of 50 meetings the planning staff has held with other groups around the county. But Rajah said he felt the briefing should have been scheduled earlier.

“We’re behind the eight ball, and you’re putting pressure on us,” he said

Wyman Wyman “I don’t think we’re late in coming to you,” replied Turner.

Last month, David Myers, the school system’s assistant superintendent for business and finance, told the steering committee the school board was still reviewing the proposed Public Facilities Plan and “consulting with legal counsel.” The facilities plan determines where school sites should be located and now proposes to set limits on how much land should be used for new schools. “The school board will determine those issues” granted “by the Virginia Constitution,” Myers said then.

Last week’s meeting stayed away from that contentious issue. Durfee even questioned whether the liaison committee should be discussing the comprehensive plan since the committee won’t be finalizing its draft until September.

“Respectfully, I disagree,” said Wyman. “…This is the perfect forum.”

Newsome Newsome Newsome pointed out that the school system has been participating by sitting in on meetings “but not initiating” during the rewrite process.

Stegmaier gave credit to both boards and the planning commission for “stepping back from the process” and letting the steering committee do its work. “The nervousness [now] is understandable,” he said.

Future issues

The committee meeting ended early with discussion about future topics in its every-other month schedule. Durfee wanted the school budget and capital improvements program on the list, acknowledging “some overlap” with the Budget & Audit Committee (B&A), which normally makes financial recommendations to the board of supervisors. Wyman, who attends most B&A meetings, cautioned about the overlap because of the staff time required.

“We need to address the image of the county…to promote it as a place for families to live in,” suggested Newsome. Because of school budget cuts, some parents are concerned about what they perceive as a declining level of education in the county.

Rajah recommended a discussion of “social issues” within schools “including gangs.” Wyman agreed but cautioned, “It is a bit nebulous.”

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