What the consolidation pause means for Valley

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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With the announcement of the Chambers County School Board’s decision to pause matters concerning the consolidated high school, questions on the chosen Valley site also surfaced. Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said their plans have not changed, and the city will hold the site for the new superintendent next year when they come into office. 

“The site will be there if they want it. If they don’t want it, they can just tell us and we’ll turn it into an industrial site. I mean, we’ve built that road in there,” Riley said. 

Incumbent Superintendent Casey Chambley and the school board began moving forward with construction at Valley’s school site after Judge Keith Watkins approved the site in his order last year. 

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However, after Chambley lost the republican seat in the election on March 5 to Dr. Sharon Weldon, he and the board voted to pause the bond process for the new school.

“I’m disappointed but that’s their decision,” Riley said, adding that the cost of the school will continue to increase the longer the board waits. 

Riley said the land in Valley is set up with water, sewage and cable lines, and it is very close to the school district’s football stadium. 

Since the order, the city has already made progress on the location, building a road and a turn lane. The city of Valley also purchased a bulldozer for the project, which Riley said would save the school board $4 million. 

Still, even after the pause, Riley said that if the incoming superintendent, either Weldon or democratic candidate Winford Ashmore, does not want the land, the city will use it as an industrial complex. 

“The city of Valley is not going to be out any money except on that bulldozer, which we can use that bulldozer for a lot of things,” Riley said. 

Chambley told the Valley Times-News after the board meeting that his recommendation to pause decisions on the consolidation was out of consideration of the incoming superintendent. He added that the feedback from the community during the primary election showed him that the community felt strongly about handling the consolidation differently. 

“We did not feel like, and I personally don’t feel like, it’s appropriate for myself as the outgoing superintendent to bond and put the school under that type of debt when I’m not going to be the person that has to pay it back without the incoming administration having some say and some input into the situation,” Chambley said later in an interview with the VTN.