CLINTWOOD — The Dickenson County School Board was briefed at its July 24 meeting on the status of its lawsuit over building a new elementary school and was advised that a response had been filed.
The next step, board attorney Scott Mullins said, will be to schedule a hearing with the judge.
“There is a desire on our part to streamline the litigation,” Mullins said, noting that he doesn’t see many real facts at issue. “It’s a simple question of who has the power (to decide the location) and does the Facilities Development Agreement alter that.”
Unable to reach agreement on the school site, even after mediation, the school board filed suit June 26 in Dickenson County Circuit Court against Dickenson County Board of Supervisors and the county Industrial Development Authority. The Facilities Development Agreement signed by the three states that, if the parties cannot resolve their differences by mediation, “then they agree that the Dickenson County Circuit Court, pursuant to a bench trial, applying equitable principles, will be the appropriate forum for a resolution of their differences. The parties hereby waive trial by jury regarding any dispute that may arise regarding the interpretation or implementation of this Facilities Development Agreement.”
Mullins told the board its attorneys tried “to make our litigation as non-adversarial and collegial as possible,” adding that “not everybody can look it that way apparently, I understand that. It is a very polarizing issue . . .
“All of us want a decision and we can live with whatever the decision comes but we need to get a decision and this county needs to move forward and get beyond that.”
Mullins said the board has very capable attorneys who “understand what we want to get done.”
The board hired the Abingdon law firm of PennStuart and sought a substantial discount, he also said. The fee is $175 per hour for attorneys and $100 per hour for paralegals.
County supervisors have hired Roanoke-based Gentry Locke, which will charge $400 per hour for the attorney and less for associate attorneys and paralegals. Attorney Scott Sexton also said in the engagement letter that the firm would provide a 10 percent discount on all fees on the matter.
Mullins said he hoped supervisors and the IDA will “meet us half way and stipulate to a lot of the facts” in the case, which would help streamline the process.
“If not, we are where we said we would be, spending time and money on litigation,” he also said, noting, “I understand you don’t like that.”