Board of Education Members Ask Pocahontas Commissioners for School Repair Help
At the March 21st Pocahontas County Commission Meeting, Board of Education member Joe Walker, accompanied by Board of Education Vice President Jessica Hefner, addressed the Commissioners. Walker asked the County Commissioners for financial help to repair the alarm and sprinkler systems at both Marlinton Elementary School and Green Bank Elementary/Middle School. Listen as Joe Walker tells the Commissioners his purpose in addressing them.
“We’re not coming here to ask for a certain amount of any kind of support” said Walker. “We’re here to discuss what you all can do and kind of lay some background of the situation we’re in. We kind of got two sides of this scenario. We’ve got our budget, which is very short. We’ve done everything we can with our budget to squeeze everything we can out of it. We went through our RIF (Reduction in Force –or layoffs) situation and all that. We’ve gotten closer but we’re not there yet. But the problem we’ve got is out major improvements – they keep stacking up against us – that we simply don’t have the funding for.”
Walker said that that there were a couple of lessons learned from the public meetings during the failed Excess School Levy effort last fall. The first one of these lessons was that they have to develop an emergency plan in case one of the schools had to be closed due to either orders from the State Fire Marshall or major damage or failure to the building. He pointed out that a plan has been formulated, at least for Marlinton Elementary School.
By the way, that plan is detailed in our news story about the March 13th, 2017 Board of Education Meeting, which can be found on our website.
Walker said the other lesson learned was that the Board of Education needed to develop a maintenance fund to help cover major repairs. However with the loss of $377,000 in National Forest timber money crippling the Board of Education’s budget, this is impossible without help. Walker suggested that if the Commission wanted to help out by contributing to this fund, perhaps it could be set up that approval would be needed by the Superintendent of Schools, a Board of Education member and a County Commissioner before that fund money could be spent.
Walker then described the most pressing major repairs facing the schools.
“The biggest problem we got right now is with our Green Bank Elementary/Middle School and our Marlinton Elementary School” Walker said. “As you all know, we are not going to get any funding period for the Marlinton Elementary School. It’s in s flood zone and it’s just not gonna happen. If we’re going to fix it, we are going to have to fix it, and we don’t have the money to fix it. And we’re confronted with two different problems. Number one is the sprinkler systems, they’re old, they’re wore out. Green Bank’s is not as critical as Marlinton’s. Marlinton’s is in bad shape. It’s roughly $120,000 to fix it. The other two problems we have are the fire alarm systems, one in Green Bank and one in Marlinton. And they’re both –to fix those, approximately 20 thousand dollars.
The Commissioners showed compassion for the financial problems at the Board of Education while pointing out that their own budget has been very tight, but they said they needed to ponder over the situation before deciding what if any assistance they can provide to the schools.
Earlier in the meeting, the Commissioners did approve their 2017-2018 Budget. They had to slightly raise the levy rate from $14.15 last year to $14.19 this year in order to balance the budget.
They approved an agreement with Fire and Life Safety America out of Salem, Virginia, to repair the sprinkler system at the former Shoe Factory Building at a cost of $14,180.00.
The Commissioners heard Glen Galloway’s February monthly update on the activities at the Day report center, and were impressed that at the urging of the judges, the number of drug screenings doubled in February.
Bob Martin reported that he attended the last RAD meeting at Snowshoe and they seem to be on the right track this time around, gaining the support of the many home owners associations on the mountain.
They did not agree to allow the PCHS Baseball Team to practice in the Former Shoe Factory Building during inclement weather after Bob Martin told them any such agreement would have to be with the Board of Education, not with the coach.
The meeting ended with an executive session on an employment matter and the signing of invoices.