Air Conditioning Pocahontas Schools Put on Hold Due to Unexpected High Cost

At the February 22nd Pocahontas County Board of Education Meeting, Andy Cocina of the Wendell Corporation, which manages the schools’ energy programs, and Ron Hall, the schools’ Director of Maintenance, brought bad news to the board. The plan had been to allocate 2.5 million dollars of American Rescue Plan funds to install new HVAC systems which would include air-conditioning at Marlinton Middle School and Green Bank Elementary/Middle School, and also to apply for a School Building Authority (SBA) Needs Grant for another 7.6 million dollars, which would, among other things, install air-conditioning in the other three schools.

We had earlier reported that the Needs Grant request was totally denied by the SBA last December.

At this meeting, Cocina and Hall announced that while we still have the 2.5 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan, the only bid they received to install air-conditioning at Marlinton Middle School and Green Bank Elementary/Middle School came in at 5.4 million dollars, twice the amount of money the schools have to spend on the project, and nearly three times as much as they had believed cost would be. They said that inflation may be part of the reason for this, as well as having received only one bid. They suggested the bidder might have also believed the county schools had more money available for the project than they do. Cocina said he felt a 5.4-million-dollar cost is unreasonably expensive, and suggested they put out another bid proposal and advertise it more. Hall, Cocina and the board members agreed that if that rebid attempt also fails to meet the schools’ budget of 2.5 million dollars, they would be better off either waiting for the economy to improve and inflation to ease since they have until September of 2024 to spend the American Rescue Funds, or at least look for a less expensive way to do this.  Both they and the board members also agreed that it would not be a good idea to try and air-condition just one of the schools and use up all their money on one inflated and over-priced project.

Mr. Beam added that the board is going to request the maximum amount of one million dollars this spring for an SBA Major improvement Project (MIP) to replace the roof and two boilers at Marlinton Elementary School, noting that only one school can be included in a MIP Project.

Hall and Cocina also announced that the replacement of all school lights with LED lighting is basically finished with resulting energy savings.  Cocina said they are now beginning a second phase of their energy savings project, installing centralized temperature controls of all the schools at the board office. Hall said the installation of a new sprinkler system at Marlinton Elementary School is also just about complete.

Hall said they are awaiting a decision on a $250,000 Hazardous Mitigation Grant to demolish to old Board of Education Office in Marlinton. He noted that it is loaded with asbestos.

The meeting had begun with a public meeting on the 2022-2023 School Calander. Teachers will report on August 9th, with students starting on August 15th. There will be the usual seven state holidays. There will be no school Thanksgiving week, a full two weeks off for Christmas/New Years, and a week and one day off for spring Break, which will be from Friday, April 7th through Friday, April 14th. If there not being an excess number of snow days, the last day for students will be May 26th. There will be a second public meeting on that on Tuesday, March 15th, before the regular BOE Meeting.

Mr. Beam recognized the Math Field Day winners and thanked the nine PCHS students who helped out with that field day. All of those winners’ and helpers’ names can be found below at the end of this story.

Rachael Burns delivered the Student Representative’s Report, mentioning the recent basketball games at PCHS and that the Robotics Team will be competing in Charleston.

After approving routine financial reports, the board members approved an overnight trip for six PSCH ProStart students and one teacher to go to the Greenbrier Resort from February 26th to February 28th for restaurant management and seminars on Culinary Arts.

The approved six new NEOLA policies, and then, Director of Transportation, Ruth Bland, asked them to do away with the mask mandate for students and staff on school buses. She said it was not being followed and only created stress for both students and staff. All of the board members agreed and voted unanimously to remove that requirement that all students and staff be required to wear masks while on school buses, but masks will remain optional for any who wish to wear them.

The board also approved the recommended Service and Professional Personnel actions, which you can find by clicking on this link to the official agenda for this meeting 2-22-22 Official BOE Agenda PDF

The meeting ended with an executive session on a personnel matter and a scheduled closed expulsion hearing.

Math Field Day Winners

4th Grade:

  1. Jarrell Clifton
  2. Ace Gregory
  3. Ava Fields
  4. Easton Smith
  5. Eliijah Flood

5th Grade:

  1. Madeleine Burns
  2. Ezra Bond
  3. Eli Beezley
  4. Levi Hill
  5. Flash Gregory

6th Grade:

  1. Willa Hardy
  2. Taylor Trainer
  3. RT Hill
  4. Kegan Calhoun
  5. Irelyn Withers

7th Grade:

  1. Kaidence Cutlip
  2. Allyson Taylor
  3. Tanner Smith
  4. Chase Casto
  5. Morgan Beverage

8th Grade:

  1. Wade Garber
  2. Paul Jordan
  3. Ramona Hardy
  4. Shayla Bennett
  5. Warren Burns

9th Grade (Winners – not ranked)

Willie O’Ganian, Hailey Fitzgerald, Trevor Tuskan, Daniel Malcolm, and Miles Fitzgerald

KRYPTO Winners: Elementary Lever- Hunter Lundmark   Middle School Level –Wade Garber


The following high school students came out to the elementary and middle schools to help out with the Math Field Day:

Haley Spencer, Clayton Burns, Ben Dunz, Braeden Hayhurst. Tucker McGee, Rachel Burns, Macaden Taylor, Brycen Carroll, and Isabella Bauserman.


Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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