Lawsuit concerning new Sullivan's Island school 'iffy'

By Nikki Gaskins

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- A lawsuit filed several weeks ago by council members against islanders opposed to a new elementary school on Sullivan's Island will likely not move forward, according to town councilman Jerry Kaynard.

Thursday night, homeowners got another look at the new elementary school during a special workshop at Sunrise Presbyterian Church.

Some people like Larry Middaugh look forward to the new building.

"It'll provide our children and the children from the Isle of Palms and maybe a few others with an excellent place to go to school," Middaugh said.

Others, like Eddie Fava, are very much against the proposed school.

"The size of this building is just too much for this location and the island," Fava said. "It's the largest, single structure that has ever occurred on the island and the most expensive."

The new school will be more than 70,000 square feet and hold 500 students. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $26 million. The consulting firm, Cumming, is overseeing the project.

Project manager Ed Strack says by mid-April demolition of the old school is expected to occur with construction starting in June 2012. Strack anticipates the new school to be finished by August 2014.

Several months ago a group called "Islanders for a Smaller School" got 261 signatures on a petition that called for a referendum that would allow a vote on the new school's size.

"Our town attorney's told us that was not a question that could be put to a referendum," Kaynard said.

Kaynard says the town then sued the group so a judge could decide whether a vote on the school's design should take place.

However, he says the lawsuit has run into a problem -- only four people who signed the petition have agreed to be named in the lawsuit.

"We have to have the entire group participate in that lawsuit. Individuals can't speak for the group," Kaynard said.

Fava signed the petition. He's angry things have gone this far.

"I think it's really unfortunate that council would try to sue its own citizens," Fava said.

On March 5th, council members initially adopted a motion to drop the lawsuit if representatives for the group didn't come forward. Kaynard says, so far, not everyone is represented.

"Their failure to participate in the case will lead to a decision by town council at our next meeting to discontinue the lawsuit," Kaynard said. "Both the supporters of the school and those who are opposed to the school genuinely agree they don't want the town to spend money on a lawsuit that won't give us an answer as to what size school should be built".

Town council's next meeting is scheduled for March 20 at 6 p.m.

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