At Monday night’s work session of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, a dire situation was laid out to the board of supervisors: our harsh winter has drastically worsened the already poor state of the some of the school buildings.
Chris Truckner, the Director of Operations with Northampton County Schools, went through a report which included several photographs of major damage to the bricks and mortar of the high school and former middle school, damage to interiors from leaking roofs, HVAC problems, and in one case a load bearing wall physically separating from a non-load bearing wall, among others. The repairs needed are extensive and Truckner had over 200 photos of issues needing attention at the County’s schools.
Currently the Northampton School Board has approximately $2,000,000 in it’s capital improvement fund, but that amount alone would only cover the roof repairs for the high school.
Following Truckner’s presentation, Superintendent Eddie Lawrence took the floor and said he had heard rumors of ‘Eddie Lawrence wanting a new school’. Lawrence replied saying even if the Board voted for a new high school at this meeting, he wouldn’t live to see it open. He continued that anyone who might potentially want to move a business to Northampton would likely decide against it if they saw the state of the school. In conclusion, Northampton needs a new school.
At this point, a long discussion ensued regarding frustration the school board and central office employees feel with the lack of dialogue of how and when money to build new school infrastructure could begin to be secured. Truckner added every time it seems like things are moving in the right direction, a new election comes, new supervisors come in, and the progress seems to stop.
Northampton’s fiscal situation is equally as dire. Construction of a massive, now mostly unused, jail and courthouse set the County’s debt service at levels where no new money can be borrowed. Supervisor Coker added that Northampton would have to raise taxes 20-25% to build a new $35,000,000 high school, and the likely result would be the entire board being voted out in the following election. Supervisor Oliver Bennett felt that Northampton County needed more business if it was going to be able to dig itself out of this financial mess. Northampton Schools Finance Director Brooke Thomas also added that Davenport Financial had recommended ways of restructuring the debt to allow new borrowing, and that feasibility studies have already been completed looking at different options moving forward.
Superintendent Lawrence asked the board for a timeline. With costs generally rising for construction and interest rates rising, he felt a plan needs to be set in motion. Supervisor Robert Duer then recommended County Finance Director John Chandler get with County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski to discuss such a timeline, which will be discussed at the June Work Session of the Board.