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Delay T.C. Williams Lights Or Risk Costs
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Delay T.C. Williams Lights Or Risk Costs

Plaintiffs say schools’ installation schedule may risk spending money twice; schools disagree.

Residents, who recently sued the School Board, asked a judge to block the installation of stadium lights at T.C. Williams High School until a jury decides the case, citing risk to taxpayers.

“The public interest is protected by the issuance of a preliminary injunction,” said Lars Liebler, the residents’ lawyer, in a motion for a preliminary injunction filed on Monday, May 6 with the Alexandria Circuit Court. “In the absence of an injunction, substantial public monies will be expended for the installation of the wiring, conduit, foundations and support pillars, light towers, and light fixtures during the period June, July and August 2019. In the likely event that the Residents prevail at trial in this matter later in 2019 or in 2020, the light towers will be removed at substantial additional public cost. The public school budget funds expended to install the lights, and subsequently remove them, will be entirely lost.”

Asked to detail the the cost of whatever specifically the schools would install this summer, the administration didn’t respond.

Liebler believes his clients will prevail because a judge recently denied the School Board’s request that the court dismiss the lawsuit.

The residents, who live adjacent to the high school, believe an alleged agreement made with the original homeowners in the 1960s never to install stadium lights remains contractually binding today. They say this “no-lights promise” was reaffirmed in a 2003 Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) for the construction of the current high school facility, which says: “The schools have agreed that there will be no permanent lighting installed at the stadium behind the schools, or on any of the athletic fields on the site.”

The School Board and City Council disagree, saying that any such agreement constitutes not a contract by a legislative decision, subject to change by a future government.

In an April 17 ruling, Judge Thomas Horne overruled the governments’ arguments. While not ruling definitively in the resident plaintiffs’ favor, he thought their contractual claims warranted a trial.

Nevertheless, according to last week’s motion: “Legal counsel for the Alexandria City School Board has represented to Residents’ legal counsel that construction activities directly related to the installation of the 87-foot permanent light towers will commence on or around June 15, 2019.”

Asked to comment, the schools administration indicated a less aggressive installation timeline: “While many other aspects of the project will be in a position to go forward in late summer or fall, the current schedule would not result in the installation of field lights until approximately spring of 2020. In the meantime, there are other components of the project that can be implemented, including replacement of the field and track, and the press box, construction of restrooms, concessions, a ticket booth and concessions, relocation of the scoreboard, replacement of the sound system, and improvement and lighting of the walkway to the visitors’ stands.”