Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – Lexington Richland School District Five Trustee Ken Loveless recently spoke publicly about a new Amick’s Ferry Road Elementary School he believes is a mess before it starts. He pointed out flaws and inadequacies at a panel discussion organized by the Town of Chapin recently.
Loveless was joined in the discussion by Chapin’s Mayor David Knight and Lexington County Councilmember Erin Long Bergeson. The three answered emailed questions submitted by the community. When brought up, the contentious school project was discussed in length by Loveless and Bergeson. It is Plan B after the tract first bought for an elementary school was deemed useless for that purpose. Loveless said that property had issues with its access road classification. This was bought before he was elected. It is closer to White Rock and Ballentine where an elementary school in the area is already under an enrollment freeze. Chapin Elementary’s enrollment is also frozen due to overcrowding.
Loveless said that the Amick’s Ferry School would have a capacity of 650 students and would not be expandable. It has already been redesigned because Lexington County changed zoning classifications there increasing the setbacks and making some of the property unusable for the building itself. Loveless said that this caused the district to return to the drawing board and opt for a two-story design, something he believes is not optimal for an elementary school.
Loveless told those in attendance, “This is not going to solve the problem,” referring to the school. He also called the school being built on former pastureland, “A big glass structure with some steel and brick.” He returned to that later in the discussion saying the school would be a shiny, “object,” in the middle of a field.
Loveless said he had researched the median cost of elementary schools across the nation. He compared that number against the estimated maximum cost of the Amick’s Ferry school, $24 million dollars. He said this is well above the national median. He said the national median cost included states like California and New York where materials and unionized labor make construction more expensive.
Citizens living in the Chapin and the Amick’s Ferry peninsula have vocally complained about the district’s plan to build there. Most of the traffic in and out travels through a key signal in the town. That intersection at Amick’s Ferry and Chapin Road is already congested daily. Most say added traffic from the school will only exacerbate that problem. Loveless said citizen’s concerns about a traffic signal at Lake Tide and Amick’s Ferry Road wouldn’t be immediately addressed by the SCDOT. He said he understood coming improvements at that intersection would have wiring and some other infrastructure for a signal, but no signal was being installed soon.
County Councilmember Erin Long Bergeson also took issue with District Five’s leaders. She said the county had reached out to them to plan for growth together but had been rejected. She said when the county contacted the district, they received no call back. She pointed out that Lexington District One was working closely with the county to plan for growth in its attendance areas.
Loveless finished the evening by pointing out the shortcomings of the school design he’d seen in preliminary plans. One issue he addressed was large glass windows being designed. He said the added cost of maintenance, plus higher utility cost because of the sun’s heat allowed by these windows, made them a poor design choice. Loveless has been in commercial construction for more than 35 years and isn’t building schools. He’s pointed out before he’s never done any building for District Five.
A need for a Performing Arts Center and a new football stadium in Chapin were more reasons to economize where possible according to Loveless. He said arts programs in Chapin had to, “Beg churches to let us perform.” He also said that Chapin’s move to 5-A classification made a new stadium more pressing.Loveless said if Chapin makes the playoffs, they wouldn’t be able to host home games because of capacity issues on the visitor’s side of the field.
The people of the district elected Loveless in 2018. One of his campaign issues was his experience in commercial construction. He knows how to read plans and identify budget engineering that makes building more efficient. When he’s been in opposition to projects that were engineered for looks and theory, he said he’s been against the largest portion of the board who overrode him.