Monday, September 30, 2013

Gloucester, VA Page Middle School Corruption?

Received From A Local Very Concerned Resident:  This Needs Your Attention Everyone:

I am a resident of Gloucester CountyVirginia, retired from the U.S. Army and former construction site work and utility superintendent.  Since becoming physically disabled and unable to work I have become more involved in what is occurring in my local government and public school system.  Upon submission of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, I was advised by that editor that the newspaper would be unable to print my letter for legal reasons and suggested I contact the Virginia Attorney General’s Office with my information and contentions.
Sometime in May or June 2011 the Gloucester School Board, the Board of Supervisors and the Public Schools Superintendent began publicly disregarding input from Gloucester’s residents and the Gloucester Board of Supervisors on matters pertaining to the rebuilding of Page Middle School which was damaged by a tornado on April 16, 2011.  School Board and Board of Supervisor meeting videos and minutes pertaining to Page Middle School reconstruction clearly document the level of disregard.  It appears that what began as a community disaster quickly turned into the means for the School Board, the Board of Supervisors and the Schools Superintendent and possibly others to assist certain land developers in having Gloucester tax payers and possibly VDOT pay for several million dollars worth of infrastructure that will enable certain developers to make significant financial gains.  Many Gloucester residents believe numerous improprieties and violations of law have occurred throughout the Page Middle School rebuilding process.
The acreage of this school site is in excess of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines of ten acres for a middle school complex and contained actively used sports fields with fences, lighting, seating, concession stand and parking.  The lighting, seating and concession stand were removed from the property, but the fields are still actively being used through utilizing a portable concession stand and portable lighting systems.  The School Board ultimately voted to rebuild Page Middle School on Gloucester County owned property that is located across Route 17 from the Page site and about three tenths of a mile down T.C. Walker Road.
During the months after the tornado, the School’s Superintendent and the School Board held multiple public comment meetings at which almost all residents requested that Page be reconstructed on the existing site.  Essentially, Gloucester’s residents asked for a quality built, community storm shelter capable, environmentally friendly, shooter safe, technology equipped, low maintenance and fully functional school to be constructed by the most efficient and economical means possible.  The School Board, the Board of Supervisors and the School’s Superintendent also received numerous emails requesting the same even though during a significant amount of the Page reconstruction planning process the School Board’s email account was restricted from accepting emails from accounts outside of the school system.  The Schools Superintendent seemed to be guiding the School Board through the process, acting more like a salesperson than superintendent. During a joint meeting between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors, Supervisors Robert Orth and Andy James expressed their displeasure about how he and other members of the community were left out of the planning process on what to do to reconstruct Page.  The initial site work has now been completed at the new Page Middle School location and the contract to build the school building has been awarded.

  The New Page Middle School will not be usable as a community storm shelter nor will the new undersized gym be usable for competitive sporting events like the gym that was demolished could.  The School Board selected developing new building plans, developing a new site, mitigating wetlands, extending utilities, building turn lanes, placing traffic control lights and making other improvements at the Route 17, T.C. Walker Road intersection over building a full sized, fully functional community wanted and community usable public school building.    
Property records reflect that one day prior to the Gloucester School Board publicly voting to rebuild Page Middle School on property it received from the Pella P. Hundley Trust in 2004, local business man and developer Harry Corr purchased all 26.79 acres of Route 17 road frontage property that is connected to the Gloucester County property where the new school is being built.  The Gloucester County property and Mr. Corr’s adjoining property also extend along T.C. Walker Road.  Property records indicate Mr. Corr purchased the Route 17 frontage property from the Hundley Trust for $420,000.00.  This was and is more than four times the assessed value.  When the Hundley property was received by Gloucester County in 2004 it appears the almost 27 acres of land that Mr. Corr purchased was divided from the property intended for Gloucester County and placed back into the Hundley Trust. The reason for this division is unknown.  Mr. Corr owns and controls close to 400 acres of land that connects to the old Page Middle School land and connecting Gloucester public school transportation complex.  The extension of the waterline and other utilities to supply the new school, placement of traffic control lights and other improvements to the Route 17, T.C. Walker intersection will financially benefit Mr. Corr who seemed to know prior to the School Board’s vote that Page would be re-built on the property received from the Hundley Trust. 
Property records reflect that along and across T.C. Walker Road from the new Page Middle School there are 1,896.53 acres of land that is owned or controlled by Ingles Investments, LLC and Breckenridge Ingles.  This is about 97% of the land contained within the circle formed by Routes 17, 628, 629 and 614.  Mr. Ingles is a partner in local law firm Martin, Ingles and Hensley, Ltd. Gloucester School Board member Kimberly Hensley’s husband Devin Hensley is also a partner in the same law firm as Mr. Ingles. A significant amount of the Ingles’ land that was once wooded has now been cleared.  Full development of the land will require the improvements and traffic control light placement at the T.C. Walker Road, Route 17 intersection.  It will also require the completion of the waterline loop and extension of other utilities.  Extension of these infrastructure items are normally paid for by for profit developers, but now will be paid for by Gloucester County tax payers and possibly VDOT because the decision was made to vacate an already developed site in order to build on the T.C. Walker Road property.  
There is an existing waterline that currently forms an incomplete loop from the Route 17, Shortlane Road intersection down Shortlane Road and partially along T.C. Walker Road. (See attached map)  To complete this waterline infrastructure loop and maximize its supply capability the waterline would need to be extended the rest of the length of T.C. Walker Road and be connected to the main waterline located across Route 17 at the Route 17, T.C. Walker Road intersection.  Upon the School Board’s submission of the Page Middle School site work plans to the Gloucester Building Inspections Office, a requirement from that office to complete the waterline loop was initially made and eventually rescinded due to resistance from the Board of Supervisors and the community.  It was determined that a waterline extended from the opposite side of Route 17 and down T.C. Walker Road to the new school entrance would suffice in supplying the school’s needs and could be connected to at a later date to complete the loop.  This, at the very least eliminates the cost of crossing the four lanes and median strip of Route 17 from the developers budget.  Completion of the waterline loop, other utility extensions, traffic control light placement and other improvements of the Route 17, T.C. Walker Road intersection will financially benefit Mr. Ingles and Ingles Investments, LLC.  During a recent joint meeting between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, non-elected School Board member Kimberly Hensley suggested the Gloucester Public School’s transportation complex, which connects to the old Page Middle School property, be moved to a new Gloucester County Transportation Division/Public School Transportation Division complex that could be built on 22 acres of Gloucester County owned land located near the T.C. Walker Building off of T.C. Walker Road.  Building the complex proposed by Mrs. Hensley would likely require completion of the waterline loop.  Which would also provide financial gains for the developer.   
The continual decrease in Gloucester Public Schools student enrollment associated with the nations economic down turn brought about the possibility of having to close a Gloucester school. RRMM Architects was awarded a contract on April 21, 2010 for the purpose of providing possible solutions for the “Repurposing of Page Middle School into a School Administration and Operations Center. On March 25, 2011 that contract was extended to June 30, 2012.  On April 16, 2011 Page Middle School was damaged by a tornado.  On June 6, 2011 a Purchase Order submitted by RRMM was approved by Gloucester County in the amount of $10,000.00 for “emergency work done to support investigative needs of schools to assess damage”.  On June 6, 2011 another Purchase Order submitted by RRMM was approved by Gloucester County in the amount of $17,000.00 for “emergency work done to support investigative needs of schools to assess damage”.  On June 15, 2011 a Request for Professional Services to “review the potential for reconstructing Page Middle School was advertised.  On July 7, 2011 another Purchase Order submitted by RRMM was approved by Gloucester County in the amount of $13,545.00 for “schematic design/feasibility study-committee facilitation for Page Middle School options study”. 

 This work included creating schematic design options of proposed facilities and locations, facilitating a Schools Superintendent appointed study-committee for Page reconstruction options and presenting those options to the School Board.  At a School Board meeting on July 12, 2011 the Gloucester Schools Superintendent, announced the receipt of eleven proposals in response to the June 15, 2011 Request for Professional Services.  On August 9, 2011 Duane Harver, Principle for RRMM, publicly presented information to the Gloucester School Board pertaining the July 7, 2011 study committee facilitation purchase order.  RRMM was awarded the Professional Services contract on January 10, 2012.  By this time RRMM’s involvement in the reconstruction professional services process was extensive.  RRMM was clearly given an advantage over the other eleven architectural firms who submitted bids in that they were already performing work described in the June 15th Request for Professional Services before it was advertised and the contract awarded.  Having worked closely with project estimators in the past I contacted several of the bidder’s representatives who expressed the same opinion.  One bidder’s representative suggested their company had considered contesting the contract award, but decided against it.
The School Board, the Board of Supervisors and the Schools Superintendent have caused the waste of a substantial amount of Gloucester County education money in their quest to vacate adequate and suitable school land containing existing athletic fields, infrastructure and an approved VDOT School Zone during a time of economic downturn and limited financial resources.  More importantly, they did so against the will of their constituents and fellow Gloucester County managers.  In doing so they manipulated the Professional Services procurement and bidding process and took many other actions which raise many questions that Gloucester residents deserve, but cannot obtain answers to.  What caused the School Board and Schools Superintendent to become so rebellious against the Gloucester community during the aftermath of the tornado?  Why have so many of Gloucester’s residents become reluctant to serve on the School Board?   Why did the School Board and the Schools Superintendent manipulate the procurement of professional services process?  Why, after hiring RRMM Architects for the purpose of providing possible solutions for the repurposing of Page Middle School into a School Administration and Operations Center, did they destroy the Page Middle School gym and auditorium and begin discussing the possible sale of the land?  Why do they want to relocate the school transportation complex all of a sudden?  Why did they choose to sacrifice building a complete, fully functional and community wanted school to develop a new school site?  What caused Mr. Corr to purchase the Route 17 frontage property one day before the School Board voted to change the site location?  Why was School Board member Kimberly Hensley allowed to render input and vote on matters pertaining to the T.C. Walker Road land without disclosing a possible conflict of interest?  Not being able to obtain credible answers to these questions, the actions of the School Board and Schools Superintendent since shortly after the tornado, and the underlying land and utility issues have caused many within the Gloucester community to suspect corruption exists within their local government.

Written By:

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.    
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