AMHERST – The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board hopes to have a recommendation on the proposed sites of a new West Highlands Elementary School by September.
A pair of board officials met Tuesday with a group of people who may submit bids to the board’s call for expressions of interest that was issued earlier this month.
The deadline for that process is Aug. 7.
Valerie Tucker, the board’s director of purchasing, said a committee will be established by the board to evaluate the proposals. She said the committee will likely include board representatives and those from the Department of Education and the school.
“This process will take a number of months, but hopefully it will take place as quickly as possible,” Tucker said.
Each of the responses will be scored out of 10 with three preferred sites recommended to the board, which will make a recommendation to the department.
After that, she said, the province will issue a request for proposals and contact the property owners of each of the recommended sites.
Tucker said the process being followed by the board is the same as last year.
Herb Steeves, the board’s director of operations, said it’s a long process, but it’s one that’s designed to be open and fair.
“It’s going to take a long time, but it has to be to be open and fair. That last thing we want to hear is someone saying they didn’t get a fair shake,” Steeves said.
Roy Smith, who owns Roymac Homes and owned one of the two sites recommended by the board last year, said he never received any formal notice from the province that his property was not acceptable.
“What concerns me is that we went to a certain stage and then it was halted,” Smith said. “The town submitted another proposal after the fact and we never got official notice.”
Education Minister Ramona Jennex sent the process back to the drawing board in March when she rejected the proposed sites for the school, including Smith’s property behind Colin Court, the Harold Lusby property on West Victoria Street and the existing school site on Hickman Street.
The town, which originally supported the existing school site, later submitted the Lions Park and Lion Cecil Small Ball Park as part of a land swap that would see the Amherst Lions Club get the existing school property in return for the park and ballfield.
Ron Gould, who lives near the school and attended the information session as an interested neighbour, said the obvious choice for the school is a piece of land near the asphalt plant that’s on Anson Avenue.
He said the plant’s owner has been an excellent neighbour, but suggested building the school would be an opportunity for the town and the province to find another location for the business.
“Seven hundred metres from here is a gigantic property that’s surrounded by residences. The paving plant is a neighbour of mine and he’s been a great neighbour of mine, but because of the nature of the business he’s not been a great neighour,” Gould said. “There’s an enormous opportunity to relocate the business and there should be more of an effort to consider doing that.”
Steeves said that’s something that’s out of the scope of the committee’s work.
The new school was originally promised during the 2009 election campaign and announced by Premier Darrell Dexter in December 2010. It was originally scheduled to open in September 2013.