A week before his planned vacation, Pocahontas County Superintendent of Schools Terrence Beam received good news from the West Virginia School Building Authority. The Major Improvements Project [MIP] for repairs at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School was partially approved.
“We applied for $980,192, and we received a few dollars more than $495,000,” Beam said.
Since the project proposal was not fully funded, Beam said he was concerned about which portion of the project received funding and which portions were left out. Luckily, the SBA chose the same portions Beam and the board of education felt were top priority.
The proposal included a new fire alarm system, replacing a clogged sewer line in the elementary wing, a new metal roof for the elementary wing, sprinkler system repair and upgrade, repair of exterior walls which have sunk and an emergency generator.
“The sprinkler system was priority one on our list and they funded it,” Beam said. “They funded everything with the exception of the emergency generator and the roof over the elementary wing.”
The outcome pleased Beam, who said many of the items to be replaced were original to the school.
“The fire alarm system was original – it’s a 1979 – so it’s almost forty years old,” he said. “It doesn’t meet the current codes. It needs to be totally replaced. The sprinkler system is the one that is causing us the most problems.”
In the next few months, Beam and the board will discuss the project and once the official letter arrives from the SBA, the ball will begin to roll on renovations.
“The first thing we will do – as soon as we get the official letter from the SBA – is advertise for architects,” Beam said. “After we advertise for architects and interview them, we’ll hire an architect. We’re going to try to push that up a little bit this year and get started on this project.”
Of the 22 counties that applied for MIP grants, only nine were rewarded all or part of the requested funding. Beam said he is pleased that Pocahontas County continues to get support from the SBA.
“The last four times we’ve gone to the SBA, they have funded us,” he said. “They funded the Hillsboro cafeteria, then they funded the seventeen million dollars – if we had passed the levy – and then they passed last year’s MIP [for Pocahontas County High School] and this year’s MIP, so four in a row is pretty good.”
The SBA has experienced several changes recently, including new leadership, and Beam said there may be changes to the way funds are awarded in the future.
“The SBA is kind of going in a different direction,” he said. “There’s going to be some new guidelines with that because it used to be you were restricted on what you could actually ask for with square footage and all that, and all of this is being considered for changes, so we’ll be having some training later on in the year.”
Those changes may include lowering the restrictions on repairing older buildings which will give Pocahontas County more wiggle room to make renovations the schools need.
“We’re meeting with the SBA on July 19, and Ron Hall, Joe Walker, John Burns and Mayor Sam Felton have all been invited to attend,” Beam said. “The express purpose of the meeting is to question how much, or if the SBA is willing to assist on any renovations to Marlinton Elementary School in its current location.
“We’ve had that conversation with them before, but the SBA has changed now, so we want to make sure before we tell people that they will or won’t do this or that, that their philosophy hasn’t changed,” he continued. “We thought it was important to get the mayor involved with it so that the town itself can hear first-hand, and we can all be in the room and hear the same message at the same time.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org