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Henderson County commissioners delivered an ultimatum to the School Board on Monday night to cast a yes-or-no vote on the all-new Hendersonville High School plan next week. If the School Board votes no, commissioners said in a motion that passed unanimously, the county will shelve the HHS plan.
Commissioner Bill Lapsley brought up the demand as a discussion item that was not on the board's set agenda.
Lapsley said the contentious HHS construction plan has reached a point that requires a united front. The next stop is a rezoning request that would go before the Hendersonville Planning Board and City Council.
“This board decided to take a position on the project and clearly voted to direct the architect and the staff to proceed with the plan for Hendersonville High School this board has previously approved,” Lapsley said.
The next step, he said, is for the architect and staff to draft and present the zoning application to the Planning Board and City Council. Because that application could come by later this month, the commissioners need to know now whether the School Board will approve the project.
“I submit to this board that it is very important for this project that when it is submitted that those boards receive a project that is jointly approved by both the School Board and this board,” said Lapsley. “I think to go forward, where one board is in support of it and the other board may not be in support of it, is not good for our community. I think we need to be together.”
Based on Lapsley’s motion, the School Board will be force to decide yes or no on a construction plan that it originally rejected in a 4-3 vote. The Nov. 8 election complicated the politics of the issue. It remains to be seen whether the election will change the vote. Chairman Ervin Bazzle, who voted for a renovation plan over new construction, and Josh Houston, who voted for the same plan the commissioners adopted, both lost. HHS graduate Blair Craven, probably the strongest renovation-plan candidate on the ballot, and Michael Absher are the newcomers. Absher told the Lightning he favors suing the Board of Commissioners to assert the School Board's authority to make decisions on school construction. Board members Mary Louise Corn and Rick Wood, who both won re-election on Nov. 8, voted for the renovation plan but said during the joint meeting with commissioners in October they would support the new campus.
“I believe it is very important, for both boards to publicly support this project,” Lapsley said. “It is our request that they vote on the proposed Hendersonville High School project, as this board has approved and recommended, that they vote on the project and that the School Board clearly understands that if the School Board chooses to vote no on the project that the Board of County Commissioners position on a no vote would be to direct the staff to immediately stop all work on the Hendersonville High School project and that the project would effectively be delayed for many years to come — how long that would be is anyone’s guess. But the project would be stopped and no further activities would be done. I think it’s important that the School Board clearly understand that.”
Lapsley also made it clear he wanted the School Board and the public to know that the county has spent $300,000 on the project “that would essentially be put in the refrigerator. That money would be lost.”
If the School Board votes no and the project is delayed for two years “it’s reasonable to say that the total expense would be increased by inflation, probably in the neighborhood of 10 percent,” Lapsley added. “So on a $52 million total it’s reasonable to report to the public that a no vote would effectively not only delay the project but would add at least $5 million and as an elected official elected by all the taxpayers I think that’s not acceptable.”