05/16/04 — Committee to resume meetings on funding new Duplin school

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Committee to resume meetings on funding new Duplin school

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 16, 2004 9:10 AM

ROSE HILL -- A committee formed to find money to build a new middle school near James Kenan High School will start meeting again.

The Duplin County commissioners and school board members discussed the matter over breakfast Thursday at the Rose Hill Restaurant. School officials asked the commissioners why the joint committee of county and school officials stopped meeting.

The committee had been meeting consistently, said Commissioner Reginald Wells, but it stopped abruptly a couple of months ago when the school board started being pulled in other directions by other parent groups.

"We were looking at several sources of funding, and we had talked to legislators," Wells said.

Commissioners Chairman L.S. Guy said his board is still committed to doing what the school board decides is a priority, but it hasn't received any cost estimates.

"We need a plan," he said, "then we'll help you fund that. It will take a bite at a time, but the county can't ask the community for support until we get that nailed down."

He said a bond issue may be the best way of raising the money.

The school system had identified $41 million in school construction needs when it started considering a new middle school for children at Warsaw and Kenansville.

The James Kenan District is next in line for funding, but the school board also needs to do something about the overcrowding at B.F. Grady Elementary School, said Doc Brinson, school board chairman.

"The longer we wait, the worse it will get," he said. "In the next five to 10 years, all of that's got to be addressed."

A consultant is scheduled to talk to the school board at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday about finding a solution.

It's going to take significant funding to go in any direction, but Brinson said the school board has made no motion to stop the plans for a new middle school. The joint committee needs to start meeting again and move forward while the consultant is studying the situation, he said.

"There's no doubt we're going to need to spend some money," he said. "If the best way to do it takes 30 years, it's a different story if there's something we can do in five to 10 years."

A couple of school board members said they realize it's going to take 8 or 9 cents in tax increases to pay for a $40 million loan for all of the school building needs.