The battle continues over the $150,000 purchase price for land that Irving College supporters want the county to buy, saying the school system overspent on land for other schools.
“You’ve set a precedent in the past,” said County Commissioner Michael Shane Wilcher during his address of the Board of Education which met at Warren County High School’s auditorium Thursday night.
Wilcher, along with fellow County Commissioners Randy England and Scott Rubley, addressed the School Board, all supporting spending $150,000 to buy 10 additional acres that border the present Irving College campus. There is presently a $3 million expansion and improvement program underway at Irving College and some say the land is needed for the school to be functional and secure.
Wilcher pointed out the school system spent significantly above fair market value to purchase land for the Morrison and Dibrell school projects. He wondered why the board would not do the same in the case of Irving College.
“The Irving College kids are worth it,” Wilcher said.
School Board member Scott Holmes, who represents the Dibrell district, pointed out the price was high at Dibrell because the property included parts of a working nursery that had buildings on it. He noted Morrison School is in an industrial area, noting he would support the Irving College land purchase if it were more in the $9,000 range, which is still above the fair market value given its rural location. Holmes also said there are better ways to spend the school system’s money.
“That’s $150,000. That’s three school resource officers or three teachers,” Holmes said.
Director of Schools Bobby Cox noted early indications are the Irving College project may be over budget, something that doesn’t sit well given the school system’s limited budget.
“With our budget situation, it will be iffy,” Cox said of even being able to come up with the $150,000 to fund the extra land. “The estimates are already over budget.”
Cox noted it was agreed in the beginning that to keep Irving College School open in its present location on the frontier of the county there would have to be sacrifices made. There was a movement in the beginning to abandon Irving College School and build a new school closer to McMinnville. However, outcry from Irving College resident led to a decision to improve and expand the present facility.
The question of buying the additional land has never come to a board vote. Board member Tanya Bess, who strongly supports buying the land, could not get a second to her motion to bring the question to a vote last month. However, it is believed fellow board member Bill Zechman may second her motion next month when the question is revisited. The question was tabled Thursday because Zechman was not present.
In the meantime, board member James Bennett requested Cox approach the County Com-mission’s Finance Committee and see if it would buy the land. While the question of the land remains in limbo, work on the design of campus expansion is ready to be put out for bids. Engineers say they can go ahead with or without the additional land.
The county commissioners who spoke Thursday night have asked to be heard again during the next meeting of the Board of Education.