Pocahontas Board of Ed Searching for Solutions to Imminent Facility Repair Crises

Ron Hall, Director of Maintenance for the Pocahontas County School System asked the Board of Education at their February 20th meeting for direction about how he should handle failing school buildings. Hall explains that the County Schools have just received new written demands from the State Fire Marshal regarding Marlinton Elementary and Green Bank Elementary-Middle schools.

“When we started the levy last year, I stated that we needed sprinkler systems at Marlinton and Green Bank and our alarm systems were also in dire need” Hall said. “At that time the State Fire Marshal recommended we replace that stuff. It is no longer a recommendation. The State Fire Marshal now says you ‘shall’ replace the sprinkler system and the alarm system at Marlinton Elementary and the alarm system at Green Bank. Roughly, we are looking at about a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to replace the sprinkler system over here (Marlinton Elementary School) and roughly another twenty thousand to replace the alarm system, and then another twenty thousand at Green Bank to replace the alarm system. So we’re looking in the general area of two-hundred thousand to keep these schools up to State Code.”

An obviously frustrated Ron Hall made it clear that unless it can be shown that these sprinklers and alarms are going to get fixed quickly, the State Fire Marshall might order those two schools closed at any time. Hall said that he is planning, with Board approval – which was granted later in the meeting- to apply to the SBA for a Major Improvement Project. However, that type of project is limited to repairs at only one school per year and limited to a maximum of one million dollars. Therefore, Hall feels the Major Improvement Project would best be used to fix the PCHS sewer system which is failing and also used to do repairs to the vocational building at the high school. Hall says that replacing the sewer at the High School will cost about $350,000, and is in such poor shape that someone has to literally shovel sewerage out of the sewer’s sand pits daily to keep it functioning. He is also certain that, no matter which direction the Board takes regarding closing schools, the vocational building will always be needed.

It was pointed out that the Major Improvement Project could not be used at Marlinton Elementary School anyway since that school is ineligible to receive SBA funds because it is located in a flood plain.

Listen as Hall expresses to the Board his dilemma.

“Basically, what I’m here for this evening is I need direction” said Hall. “I can’t go forward, because I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what our direction is, what are we going to do? Is it the intent of the Board to keep all five schools open? Is it the intent of the Board to do 2 pre-K – twelve’s?  Is it the intent of the Board to do a pre-K –eight and a high school? I need some sort of direction, because what you tell me determines where I move. “

Hall cited an example. He had provided Board members with information from a lighting company –Eco Lite- who was offering to install LED lighting in all the schools. These would save 30 to 70 percent on energy bills. There would be no upfront charge for the lights or the installation, but the Board would send Eco Lite the money they save on electricity costs until the lights are paid for, then the schools would keep those savings themselves. However, until he knows which – if any – schools will be closed, he cannot make a recommendation to the Board on issues like this.

The members of the Board made it clear that they know these decisions need to be made, and are working on finding solutions themselves. Because of the financial situation faced by the Board of Education, their options are limited. The loss of over $300,000 in Forest Service money has made just keeping normal operations going tough, and these emergency repair and replacement expenses just make things worse.

Listen to AMR Radio for Part two of the Board of Education’s February 20th meeting which will discuss the work session held during the meeting which dealt with the funding the various athletic programs as well as covering all the other items on the agenda which were handled during the meeting.

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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