Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

The Pocahontas County Board of Education and Superintendent are moving ahead with acquisition of the old Moose Lodge in Buckeye so they can relocate the Board Office from Marlinton. At its November 27th meeting, the BOE approved purchase of the property for nearly $30,000 more than the current assessed value and considerably more than it fetched when the Moose sold it in 2009. This property has been dormant for years and has been held by the owner’s estate since he died in 2013; it will require extensive renovation and equipment replacement to make it usable as office space.

This appears to be an example of management malpractice because of the way the superintendent and Board have gone about this project. The entire process ignores good business practice and has been performed in a backwards fashion. Last fall, without prior public discussion regarding its intent, the Board Office solicited bids to renovate a building they did not own or have a contract on. Then, after receiving bids the Board Office began negotiations with the owner’s estate from the position of an eager buyer with a pot of money from past flood insurance claims. Last week, the Board approved the purchase of the property for $100,000 which is significantly above what would typically be expected in an estate sale where the owner has been deceased for four years. The next step, apparently, will be to award the renovation contracts received several months ago.

It remains to be seen whether enough money will remain from flood insurance claims to complete the project given that the renovation contracts do not include replacement of the heating and air conditioning system or the electrical work which must be performed. Mr. Beam has said publicly that no taxpayer funds will be used to relocate the Board Office, yet Ron Hall said during the bidder’s conference for renovation contracts that school maintenance employees would be used to perform electrical work in the building – which clearly involves spending taxpayer funds. It is also not clear where money would come from to relocate telecommunications lines and equipment or to pay for the actual move.

There is no publicly available estimate for the total cost of all parts of the relocation project and no schedule for completion.

Ironically, the Board Office is required to follow best practices for project and financial management of the School Building Authority’s grant to improve facilities at the high school, but sees no need to apply the same principles to a project conceived and managed by itself. Instead, secrecy and seat of the pants management seem to be the order of the day. The Board Office should not wonder why it is held in such low regard by county residents.

Jay Miller

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