The Gloucester Board of Supervisors and School Board now have an opportunity to begin a process of consolidating certain functions that would result in considerable annual savings and streamlined operations. Currently, the school system has openings for a finance director and a human resources director. Instead of hiring two new directors, all school system financial and human resources functions, personnel and equipment should be transferred to the county finance and human resources departments. Consolidating these two areas alone would save approximately $243,000 annually in salaries and benefits alone.
The county needs a new vehicle maintenance garage and the school system needs to upgrade and expand its’ bus garage. All vehicle and equipment repair and maintenance activities should be consolidated at the bus garage property under the control of the school system. This would allow the school system to retain 100% control over the bus fleet which is essential to school system operations. It will also allow the county to sell the current garage property at Providence Road as suggested by Mr. Curry during the September 1st BOS meeting. All public works type functions, employees and equipment should be consolidated at the old Page site under the county’s control. Consolidating these areas will also produce considerable annual savings in salaries and benefits
The public utilities department “desperately” needs a new office and storage yard. Money was borrowed to purchase land and to design and construct them. Part of the money was spent on design work and a parcel of land was found, but the BOS froze the project over the land purchase aspects. The Board wanted to know if suitable property was already owned by the county or school system. It was determined that the old Page property and the new Page property are the only suitable properties. Construction of utilities’ office and yard should occur at the old Page property as the first phase of consolidating all public works type functions. A strip mall type office building should be constructed in phases along the alignment of the old school building and extending as long as necessary to provide office space for utilities, public works, buildings and grounds maintenance and any other appropriate public works type services.
Consolidation on the old Page property does not seem to appeal to those who have been set, since the tornado, on seeing the property sold. The interests of a few should never take priority over that which is in the best interest of the citizenry overall. Our public works type infrastructure is and has been in need of serious attention for many years and now is the most opportune time to render that attention through restorative and fiscally responsible action. The money saved and generated from the suggested consolidations could be used for associated construction costs and improving our school system. Growth in Gloucester will continue to be severely restricted as long as the toll remains on the Coleman Bridge and history demonstrates business growth in Gloucester occurs only as fast as the population grows. The only real way to spur growth under the current conditions is by making it worthwhile and attractive to live in Gloucester. The best way to do that is by developing a good county appearance and reputation and developing the “best” public school system. Consolidating the suggested services would be a step in the right direction, as it will ultimately free up funds that can be better invested in making our public schools the best in the Country. If our public schools are the best to choose from, people and businesses will come to Gloucester despite the toll.
Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.