District 5 Takes No Vote on Covert Land Purchase

March 12, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveKim Murphy
Citizen Reporter

 

Lexington-Richland District 5 school board members offered no vote nor any discussion following their executive session meeting Wednesday night to purchase an 81-acre tract of land between Dan Comalander Road and Haltiwanger Road in the most rural area of the school district.

According to several sources, the site, just two miles from the Newberry County line in northwest Richland County, was to be the location for a future elementary and middle school to complete the formation of a lightly advertised fourth high school cluster (attendance area).

Neither the administration nor the board has released any details – location, size, price or objective. But, board member Carol Sloop expressed her concern of an unnamed site and its far-out location at a meeting in May.

“I don’t think we need to have this discussion until we have the exact numbers of where these kids are right now,” said Sloop. “That’s the biggest problem we have. We need to get the numbers before we decide anything.

“The perception is if we put the schools out there (northwest Richland County) the builders will follow,” she added. “So we better have some concrete numbers to talk about before we talk about putting a school there. It is just going to validate everything that is said.”

When asked if he could share any information on the property matter listed on last night’s agenda, Buddy Price, District 5’s director of community services, said, “They (the board) took no action on it.”

But, the absence of a vote is presumed to be attributed to the lack of support from board members and basically represents a “no” vote.

Herb Berg, District 5’s superintendent, said shortly after he arrived in August 2008 his goal was to have unanimous votes – to show support for the administration’s recommendations and unity among board members.

The problem is, the board never voted in the first place to authorize the administration to make an offer or to negotiate with the landowner, as required by the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, so it would be difficult for them to have a public vote now against the site.

It is the administration’s responsibility, along with the board chair, Robert Gantt, who was elected in November 2000, to guide board members when it comes to following Robert’s Rules of Order and S.C. FOIA requirements.

At least one person is happy about the board’s public inaction. Wayne Duncan, who served on the district’s building committee said, “It looks like that back-room deal has died. It’s about time they (the board) got a hold of the administration to stop the runaway train.”

In addition, no discussion took place related to the administration’s unauthorized threat to condemn 10 acres of land at the proposed high school site.

Kim Murphy and her family live in Chapin. She serves on the State Workforce Investment Act Board and the Richland County Appearance Commission.