Lawsuit filed against Murphy
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It is well known by the community that the renovations at Chapin High School have not preceded due to a lawsuit against the district by school board member Kim Murphy. The lawsuit has greatly impacted everyone in the community and now Student Government President Maggie Stroud along with a group of business leaders and parents have decided to turn the tables on Murphy by fighting back with a lawsuit of their own.
“We’ve tried a bunch of things and we need the school [renovated]. It’s my last chance to give something back to Chapin so I feel like it was almost the last option, nothing else was being done,” Stroud explains.
Due to the inability of the two sides to reach a solution, no aspect of the renovations has started nor is there any sign of the process beginning anytime soon due to the ongoing lawsuit against the district. Murphy has offered support for a district decision to begin the academic part of the renovations but this is seen as an inconvenient and costly since it may require revising existing structures if Murphy were to win her lawsuit.
Whether in the crowded hallways or the rotting portables, students and staff have each found more and more reasons to be upset with the conditions of the high school.
“They disallowed me a smart board because they said it is too dangerous in a portable for a smart board because of all the water that’s coming in,” says faculty member Jack LeGrand, “There’s stains everywhere. It is in pretty bad shape.”
LeGrand is not the only one upset with the shape of his classroom setting. There are a number of faculty members that wish the lawsuit would be over with so they could have a proper learning environment.
“I frankly think the entire situation is unfortunate and ridiculous,” says Mike Mewborne, “On one hand, I think [the portables] are really terrible. There are places where I can almost fall through the floor and we have wasps in here on a regular basis. On the other hand it has some character to it-there’s a nice musty odor.”
Murphy has become the most vocal voice of dissent when it comes to the renovations, which may be causing some constituents to question her loyalty in serving the students. Many people in the community are upset with her reasons behind the lawsuit. Some feel Murphy has chosen an environmental issue of the well-being of the students she has promised to serve and look out for as a board member.
“Even if anyone does believe it is a wetland I don’t think it’s worth jeopardizing an entire student body for a creek,” Stroud says. “Kim Murphy is using the courts to accomplish her own political goal. We also feel that because she voted no and she was not a supporter of the bond referendum to begin with. She is using these appeals to block plans she didn’t want to happen to begin with.”
Members of the district and Chapin High School are hoping that Stroud’s lawsuit will work in their favor. They are becoming impatient.
“Our argument is that if any government official was to do this we’d have mass chaos.” Stroud explains, “I’m not hoping to win money or anything all we’re hoping for is to stop these appeals and the school can be built.”
Both sides seem to be very passionate about their beliefs; Murphy towards the wetlands and Stroud toward the renovations. Murphy feels it would be a shame to build over the wetlands, saying that her along with her family spend time in the area.
However Stroud understands the student’s point of view, “I’ve been there from the beginning and I know how bad [the renovations have] been needed and it’s really frustrating to see it not happening. I’ve been in the background of it since eighth grade.”
Murphy has not changed her stance on the wetlands. She feels that there are better ways to renovate Chapin while protecting the wetlands.
There had been hopes of mediation between the district and Murphy but this fell through when Murphy was unable to come up with specific project details within the allotted time frame. This would have allowed the two to come to an agreement on the issue of how to go about with renovations.
“We have shown that there are many different options available-many which are less expensive than the district’s plan, that provide Chapin with everything plus protecting the creek,” Murphy states.
However Murphy failed to present any specific resolutions for the matter
“While a detailed cost analysis of these alternative site plans is beyond the scope of Mr. Strickland’s [expert in Civil Engineering and a specialty in Environmental Engineering] alternatives evaluation, in his opinion a number of alternative site plans may actually reduce project costs…” states a letter from Murphy’s attorney to the District.
Murphy’s attorneys were willing to present a statement for mediation but claimed that they were not given enough time-they would only be given three minutes to present but they felt that twenty minutes was minimal. To Murphy this time restriction is seen as the district hiding something from the public.
“Why would the board chair want to prevent the board and the public from seeing the various options that are available?” Murphy questions the district.
Students and staff at Chapin High School become more and more anxious with each passing day-let alone year. They have even become angry toward Murphy because her lawsuit is keeping them in a school overcome with portables and crowded halls. Many question Murphy on her passion toward saving the wetlands however Murphy has stood her ground on the matter, still saying there are better alternatives.
“As you are aware from hearing Mr. Strickland’s testimony at trial, he has over twenty-five years of experience as an engineer and is licensed in six states. Based on his years of experience, he has expressed the expert opinion that the feasible alternatives he presented at trial for accomplishing the project purposes of providing parking, athletic fields, a road system and associated sewer and storm water infrastructure can be accomplished without requiring destruction of the headwaters stream.”
While Murphy’s beliefs are understood, it is questioned as to whether or not the creek should be put before the basic necessities of a student body.