Supervisors oppose outsourcing transportation, consolidation

Patrick officials unanimously passed two resolutions, both to voice their opposition to school officials about a transportation study and a consolidation study.

The Patrick County School Board directed Schools Superintendent Bill Sroufe to issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) on the two studies. The RFPs will help determine the number of potential vendors as well as the costs of the studies.

School officials determined to pursue the studies as a strategy to cut expenses, Rickie Fulcher, vice chairman, said at the Nov. 19 meeting of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.

“But that’s not going to help. They might cut some teachers, but overall, it’s not going to help,” because there are a myriad of other costs, said Fulcher of the Peters Creek District.

Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, said he did not yet know whether the supervisors have the authority to prevent the school board from undertaking the studies or acting upon them.

“I’ll never vote to close a school or consolidate,” Weiss said, adding the studies are arm twisting “to get more money out of Patrick County.… If we cannot stop them, they’ll have a heck of a time getting my vote in the future.”

Lock Boyce, chairman and of the Mayo River District, said the supervisors do not have the authority, and noted that school board members are elected just as supervisors are elected.

“We can’t make them do anything, but we can let them know how we feel,” Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, said. “Spending extra money like that” on studies “is wrong.”

Roger Hayden, a former member of the supervisors and a bus driver, said that according to his research, only one company contracts with school districts to handle transportation. That company is based in Pennsylvania, Hayden said, adding that it also maintains offices in other locations.

Hayden said he was concerned current bus drivers would lose their jobs and benefits, like insurance. He said that according to his research, there is no guarantee current bus drivers would be hired if transportation is outsourced.

“I can’t think of any more of a stupid idea than hiring a company” from another state “to handle our transportation,” Boyce said. Consolidating or closing schools also is distasteful, he added.

“They did that to my community,” Hayden said of Red Bank School. “It devastated our community. Our community just died. A school attracts people into the community.”

In addition to Hayden, the board also heard comments from a number of residents, including Sarah Jordan, who asked whether officials have met with heads of county departments that are already over their budgets just a few months into a new fiscal year.

County Administrator Tom Rose said that has not been done.

“The department heads should have already been called in to talk,” Harris said. “We know there’s a problem.”

Jane Scales Fulk, of the Dan River District, said she believes budget overages are due to medical care of jail inmates.

Jordan also said she does not agree with spending money to complete the transportation study because she feels staff members in the school board office are capable of performing that task.

Residents also requested an expense report that is user friendly.

Charles Vivier suggested the board change the date real estate taxes are due to give the county the revenue when the fiscal year begins rather than in December.

Supervisors directed Alan Black, county attorney, to explore that possibility.

“I think a 10-cent (tax) increase is coming. I think it’s needed,” Vivier said.

Bill Moore said he hoped “to set the record straight from the previous meeting and to shine some light on some skullduggery in our county government.”

Moore discussed a financial consultant’s report on the status of the former Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick, Debbie Foley’s resignation from her post as director of Economic Development and other issues, including past telephone votes which the supervisors ratified in open session.

Weiss said “I do not vote on the telephone. I give my opinion.”

Weiss also said he did not see Moore or anyone “waving papers” when the county saved companies like Hanesbrands Inc., The Results Company in Stuart and several other businesses; or other successes, such as when the county remodeled schools, built a new jail or “kept taxes fairly low.”

Moore presented information he obtained by filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as previous stories in The Enterprise. More of his comments will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Enterprise.

In other matters at their meeting, the board also:

  • Heard a report about Medicaid expansion from Christie Vernon, of the Patrick County Department of Social Services.

Boyce said there still is a plan “for us or someone to acquire the hospital.” He pitched an idea to lease 75 percent of the space in the hospital to Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) for their nursing program.

“All of us got the email that they were not interested,” Weiss said.

Boyce said he wants to meet with the PHCC Board and other officials about the idea.

  • Discussed an exotic animal ordinance. Black was directed to strike certain words from the existing ordinance.

The board will hold a joint special called meeting with the Patrick County Economic Development Authority on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. in the third floor board room. A public comment session will not be held, according to Rose.

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