Bid accepted for demolition of schools Mayor led out by police

By Daniel Tyson REGISTER-HERALD

SUMMERSVILLE – Before Nicholas County Board of Education members took a step Monday evening to move ahead on the superintendent’s recommendation to consolidate five of the county’s schools, Richwood’s mayor was led out of the meeting by police.

While the official vote to consolidate the schools – three of which were destroyed by June’s flooding – is a number of public hearings and meetings away, the board’s action to approve their demolition was a sign of approval, those sitting in the audience said after the vote.

Superintendent’s Donna Burge-Tetrick recommended consolidation of the county’s two high schools, career center and the flooded middle schools into one campus. Her recommendation and data will be available to the public 30 days before a series of public hearings are held. Tetrick said the public can submit statements and testimony,as well as pose questions to board officials during the five hearings slated for February and March.
The board unanimously approved a $397,000 bid to demolish Summersville Middle School, Richwood Middle School and Richwood High School upon the strong suggestion by district business officer Kevin Hess and Burge-Tetrick.

The contract calls for a 45-day demolition schedule for both middle schools and requires extra days for the high school, Hess told the board. With the contract approved, demolition could start on Summersville Middle around the beginning of February.

Nicholas County Commissioner Dr. Lloyd Adkins tried to ask if the price includes asbestos abatement, but Board President Gus Penix did not recognize him. Adkins, a former board of education member, said the bid seems too low to include asbestos abatement.

Prior to the vote, several Richwood citizens expressed interest in purchasing their former high school’s auditorium. Hess said revising the bid could cost the district money. By noon today, Burge-Tetrick will have a list of requirements the town must follow to purchase the structure.

The two-hour meeting was contentious at times. Burge-Tetrick and Penix had said in the past that any move forward would be determined on data. However, speakers accused Burge-Tetrick of using alternative facts while presenting her recommendation at the board’s last meeting.

When Burge-Tetrick was repeating some of her data, Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber challenged her.

“Mr. Baber, this isn’t your council meeting,” Penix warned the mayor. A short exchange followed between the two. “Mr. Baber, this is your second …,” Penix said before Baber responded with, “Excuse me for taking up for my city. I’m trying to get the correct facts. I’ll just leave now.” It was then he was led out of the meeting by two Summersville Police officers.

A few minutes later, Burge-Tetrick tried to explain the purpose of consolidation. “It’s nobody’s intent to hurt Richwood,” she said.

That drew laughter from the roughly 70 people attending the meeting.
To which Burge-Tetrick sharply replied, “Thank you, that’s what I expected.”

Chris Tinney, a teacher at Panther Creek Elementary School, questioned several statistics presented by Burge-Tetrick.

One of the biggest was her statement that it takes 18 minutes to travel from Panther Creek to the industrial park. Tinney, a nationally recognized teacher, asked who did the driving, did the bus make stops for loading and unloading students, did it stop at red lights and did it get stuck behind a logging truck?

Another flaw in her presentation, said Tinney, was comparing Nicholas County, which is the state’s eighth largest in land size, to smaller counties. To underscore population and number of schools, Burge-Tetrick compared Nicholas to other counties, including Hancock, which is only 83 square miles, said Tinney.

Richwood’s band director, Greg James, told board members they broke promises to the Richwood community. He said that shortly after the flood, the board and superintendent told the community its school would be rebuilt. However, said James, the superintendent’s recommendation states otherwise.

In the end, he said, it’s up the the five board members to decide. “Gentleman, don’t blame the superintendent or Charleston. You have the final say,” he said, to a round of applause.

— Email: dtyson@register-herald.com