County commissioner seeks alternate school site
April 2 – A Wilson County commissioner urges the school board to reconsider its selection of a site in Laguardo for a new school.
However, the school board president says it’s too late.
The growing number of students in the county has forced Wilson County schools to explore sites for new campuses. After the Requests for Purchase (RFPs) were sent out to the community, the school district was able to narrow the list down to two possible sectors.
Plans for a new school site on Double Log Cabin Road are currently in the due diligence phase after the Wilson County Budget Committee advised the school system that it has the funds to purchase the land. However, Wilson County Fifth District Commissioner Jerry McFarland said recently that he has identified more than 10 sites in the Laguardo area that he believes could house the future school.
Wilson County Schools Board of Education Chairman Larry Tomlinson said if those landlords wanted to sell to the county, they should have planted their land while the window to do so was still open.
Last year, the school district put out tenders as it sought new land. He was given seven, scattered across the county, and eventually settled on the Double Log Cabin Road property.
In a letter to the press he circulated last week, McFarland mentioned that independent research he had conducted had led to the discovery of properties that “on the surface” seemed suitable for schools. McFarland added that to his knowledge, none of these landowners have been approached to assess their interest in selling their land.
In a follow-up phone call, McFarland boiled down the decision to a question of ingredients.
“You need good roads, you need water, and you need good soil, and I don’t think all three are there at this particular site,” McFarland said.
The commissioner does not despise the project. He said in his email that he supports building the school and is “excited” that the Fifth District will get a new school for the growth it is experiencing.
He, however, urged pumping the brakes, saying the county doesn’t need to rush into decisions that may not be in the best interests of students and parents. If he has any qualms about the project, it’s the way the sites were envisioned.
“Tenders are really like a duck hunter shooting in the dark, closing their eyes, shooting into the sky, and opening them to see if anything has fallen,” McFarland said of the process of getting sites. potential to consider. “You have to go find the property you want. Then you sit down and negotiate with the owner of that property at what price it could be sold to the county. Instead of just putting up a flag saying, ‘If you want to sell your property , call us. To me, it’s just a dumb way of doing things.”
Tomlinson said that several years ago, the Wilson County Planning Commission asked the school board to use competitive bidding when finding land.
“That’s what we did,” Tomlinson said. “We asked anyone interested in selling their land to submit an RFP, and we did. All I would say is if any of these sites that have was identified as better than what we identified, so these people had the opportunity to put their land on option.”
Since the whole process is still in the due diligence phase, it is possible that traffic, runoff and soil studies will come back with poor results. .
“If these two sites that we’ve identified for schools don’t work, we’ll hold another tender, and then they’ll have the opportunity to set it up,” Tomlinson said.