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Kanawha shut out of School Building grants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school officials were unsuccessful Monday in their attempt to secure state money to deal with mold problems at South Charleston Middle School.

The West Virginia School Building Authority, however, awarded nine other counties with grant money during a meeting Monday. Authority members considered Major Improvement Project proposals from 24 counties.

Each year, the authority awards individual MIP grants of up to $1 million for structural and safety renovations across the state. This year, Grant, Harrison, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Monroe, Morgan, Raleigh and Ritchie counties received a total of $4,799,357 from the SBA.

After parents and students from South Charleston Middle came forward with mold complaints in September, Kanawha County school board officials decided to apply for the state funding. Tests conducted in October found high levels of mold in a girls' restroom at the school.

The county had requested money to replace the HVAC system in the school's gymnasium and auditorium, as well as an electrical main service upgrade. That funding project did not include other necessary improvements to the school, which SBA staff noted "would be better addressed by a larger, more comprehensive project."

Those include a buildingwide HVAC system, roof replacement, ADA accessibility upgrades and lighting and technology upgrades.

Plans are in the works for the school to receive a new roof, Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring told the Gazette in September.

Also Monday, Lincoln County's proposal was part of the original funding list, but was dropped for another project after board members noted that the county's school board failed to provide requested information to the SBA.

Lincoln school officials wanted money for window replacement and asbestos caulking abatement for two of its elementary schools but failed to provide an architect's estimate, instead choosing to submit an estimate from a window supplier that did not include "soft costs."

"It did not include architectural and engineering fees or soft costs," said Scott Raines, SBA director of architectural services. "We requested that information from the county, but they didn't feel like they need to have architectural or engineering input at all."

The SBA also approved seven "3 percent projects" which are regional or statewide in scope, in the amount of $2,414,133.

One of the projects will provide $234,950 to the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind for a new roof, parapet repair, gutter replacement, sprinkler installation and the replacement of four HVAC units for part of the aging facilities.

According to SBA Director Mark Manchin, the school, which will need more funding to remedy all of its existing problems, will have to figure out how to secure partial funding from another party for the larger project before the SBA can consider funding it.

"We're going to be watching very closely for participation from the West Virginia Legislature, as well as the state Board of Education," he said. "The authority does have the funds and may decide to appropriate them, but we want to see participation at the state level from people who directly have responsibility for the Schools for the Deaf and Blind."

The school is state-run and governed by the state Board of Education, but the state board does not have the authority to run a bond or levy on the school's behalf.

Hampshire County also cannot run a bond or levy, but Manchin said the SBA is reviewing whether it may be possible for the city of Romney, where the school is located, to use its bonding capacity to help the schools through the "home rule" law, which allows municipalities to run bonds for specific projects.

The Legislature is the more obvious source of funding, Manchin said, but a looming $300 million deficit may factor into the decision.

"I think the Legislature has let that school down," said SBA and state school board member Bill White, who added that the maintenance of the facility is atrocious. "You have HVAC problems, and some buildings are cordoned off because they're that unsafe. We can't put our blind and deaf students at risk like that."

Grant County will receive $239,498 for the replacement of fire alarms and gymnasium floor for its Union Education Complex. Harrison County will receive $1 million for a six-classroom addition and kitchen renovation to Simpson Elementary School. Marshall County will receive $831,541 for HVAC, ADA, window and door renovations for Glen Dale Elementary School. Mason County will receive $614,880 for countywide HVAC and control system replacement.

Mercer County will receive $655,033 to replace the boiler at Bluefield High School. Monroe County will receive $110,000 to renovate the lighting at James Monroe High School. Morgan County will receive $121,605 to renovate the HVAC system at Pleasant View Elementary School. Raleigh County will receive $1 million for the renovation of the HVAC system at Beckley-Stratton Middle School. Ritchie County will receive $226,800 to replace the cooling tower at Ritchie County Middle School.

In addition to the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, the SBA also approved 3 percent projects for the following facilities: the Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center, the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center, the Roane-Jackson Technical Center, the James Rumsey Technical Institute, United Technical Center and the Burlington Center School.

For a full list and description of projects funded at Monday's meeting, visit www.wvs.state.wv.us/wvsba.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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