Still waters are running a little too deep, attracting unwelcome bugs and snakes near Cougar Elementary School, so say members of Manassas Park’s School Board and nearby neighbors.
A fenced water retention pond near the elementary school is not draining properly and has a large section high grass, according to the School Board and Superintendent Thomas DeBolt. They allege that the Blooms Crossing Owners’ Association, which owns the pond property, has failed to maintain the pond. School officials say they are withholding maintenance fees to the association until there is proof that the work is being done.
The pond has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, snakes and other creatures partial to warm climates, according to school officials.
The school board, unsatisfied with the response from the association, has asked the city to help rectify the situation.
In 1999, the School Board agreed to pay 18 percent of the cost of maintaining the pond in question and 26 percent of the cost of maintaining a nearby pond.
After the association’s property management company, Community Management Corporation, sent a memo requesting payment of $1,826.80 for two years of maintenance on both ponds in October, the school division’s director of financial services Jennifer Maguire requested detailed invoices as proof of what work had actually been completed. Those invoices have never been provided, according to Maguire.
“The school board is more than willing to pay their share of successful maintenance,” said DeBolt, whose home is adjacent to the school and the pond. “But the school board has directed me — don’t send any money — we’re not paying for this,” said DeBolt.
Community Management Corporation community manager Kimberly Boseman, who said the agreement between the school division and Blooms Crossing only stipulated general maintenance such as trash pickup and drains being kept clear of clutter, directed press inquiries to Sharon Corbin, president of the Blooms Crossing Owner’s Association. Corbin would not comment on the situation.
City Manager Mercury Payton, who did not respond to press inquiries, has directed city engineer Barnes & Johnson to evaluate the pond and make a recommendation of what action should be taken.
“All these ponds should be inspected once a year to make sure they’re operating to what their design standards were,” said Jay Johnson, president of Barnes & Johnson. “Right now, it appears that it’s clogged and there is sediment buildup in the bottom of the pond.”
Johnson will study the pond with the superintendent of public works on Monday and provide a report within the week.
DeBolt and Cougar Elementary School Principal Patricia Miller said they received complaints from parents last year when mosquitoes and copperhead snakes were seen in the warmer months, and they want to take a proactive approach now that summer is approaching.
“I mean, it’s not just the snakes. I mean, we had a child come into the school with a frog in his pocket the other day,” said Miller. She added that the school’s custodian does a “snake check” at least once a week now.
Blooms Crossing resident Fairlie Burnham, who has one child attending Cougar, lives within walking distance of the school and pond. There hasn’t been enough progress made in rectifying the pond situation, said Burnham. “We’ve seen some action but the water is still there, so … it hasn’t been effective,” said Burnham.