Just because school is out for the summer, that doesn’t mean the Pocahontas County Board of Education is sitting on the beach and relaxing until August rolls around.
It is busy looking for ways to improve the school system and save a little money.
Superintendent Terrence Beam recently reported that the board has been on the market for a new building to house the board office. The search has returned a few options and the board is looking at which building will best serve as the new central office.
“We have visited two properties in the last week,” Beam said. “One property we’ve looked at recently is something we’re strongly considering. I would like to see us get out of this building by winter, by this fall, so we don’t have those big heating bills.”
Beam wanted to assure the community that the new building will be paid for by funds set aside specifically for the board office. No funds from the general county account will be used.
Because the current board office is in the flood zone – and has suffered high water several times – the board has money from flood insurance coverage that must go toward fixing the board office building or relocating the board office.
“Not one penny of county money will be used to relocate this board office,” Beam said. “The floods that we have had over the years – including the one in June of last year – we have received money for repairs. It’s just like if we get flooding at Marlinton Elementary School, we can’t take the money from Marlinton Elementary School to fix Hillsboro. It’s the same way with the board office.”
There are many benefits to moving the board office – the most important is saving money.
“If we get out of this building, we can cancel the flood insurance on it, which is substantial,” Beam said. “We’ve been told it’s going to increase twenty-five percent each year that we’re in it. That’s one thing. The cost to heat this building is substantial. It’s an old building. It’s two floors. It’s got high ceilings. Another thing is the insurance. We’re looking at the insurance to see what it would cost us to move into a different facility compared to what we have here.”
Another reason for moving the building is the sense of pride is lost when offices are located in a less than stellar building.
Beam said he wants to welcome people to the board office and not be ashamed of the shape it is in or how unwelcoming it seems.
“When you talk about a school system, one of the first things you think about is where is the board of education office,” he said. “We’ve had several meetings with RESA. I have yet to invite them to this board office for the meeting. We’ve gone to Hillsboro. We’ve gone to the Wellness Center and we’ve done everything we can to avoid people coming into the building.
“I think it needs to be a symbol of your school system,” he continued. “I’m not saying it has to be the Taj Mahal, but I’m saying it needs to be a respectable, clean, safe building that’s attractive for people to come to. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
At this time, Beam and the board members are tight-lipped about the location of the property or building they are considering for the board office, but once it is a done deal, the board will be forthcoming in sharing information about the move and what is in store for the current board office.
“All these things will be totally open for the public to be aware of what we’re actually investing in here,” Beam said. “That’s something the board would have to decide. There are some options out there other than demolishing the building.”
Other plans for the school system include replacing the sewer system at Pocahontas County High School.
As reported at the board meeting June 5, the system is in total disrepair and in need of either a complete makeover or replacement.
Beam said the board of education submitted a Major Improvements Plan [MIP] grant application to the West Virginia School Building Authority and the decision will be announced June 26 if the grant was approved.
Whether the grant is approved or not, Beam said it is imperative to replace the system.
“I don’t think that it’s inappropriate for me to say this – if the SBA does not approve our sewer system, then we’re going to have to find a way to replace it on our own at a cost of approximately three hundred-to-three-hundred-fifty thousand dollars. It is to the point where it must be replaced. There’s no more limping along here.”
Along with the sewer system, the MIP application includes roof repair and window and door replacement in the vocational building at PCHS, but Beam said there is a possibility that if the SBA is stretched thin, it can choose to just fund the sewer system.
“We’ve talked with the SBA on a couple of occasions – both in person and through emails – and tried to emphasize the importance of the safety of our students, the health of our students and employees with that sewer system,” he said. “The only concern that I have is the same concern we always have – are they going to require matching funds. There’s thirteen counties trying to get this money that’s available this summer. There’s not that much money to go with. I think there’s ten million dollars for thirteen counties.”
The total project, with all components included, was estimated at $900,000. There are three possible outcomes – the entire project is funded, the sewer system is funded or the project is turned down completely.
Beam said maintenance director Ron Hall, PCHS sanitation plant operator Morgan McComb and board member Joe Walker will attend the SBA meeting June 26 to present the project and answer any questions.
“I think those three are perfectly capable of explaining our needs,” Beam said. “The SBA will ask them specific questions about what kind of system we need. They can answer those questions. We’re going to be prepared.
“I personally will be very surprised if we don’t get the money for it,” he continued.
Regardless, Beam said the board has to be prepared for the funding to be denied and ready to seek other avenues of funding for the system.