Meadow Bridge moves forward with suit after negotiations with state get nixed

By Sarah Plummer

REGISTER-HERALDREPORTER

Meadow Bridge Citizens for Community Schools plan to move forward with a lawsuit to attain a second opinion on Meadow Bridge High School’s second story after attempting to negotiate a resolution with State Board of Education members.

Randall Patterson, who was given authority to speak with The Register-Herald on behalf of the group, said at least five of the state board members were in negotiations and were willing to allow the group to seek a second opinion on the structure,which was deemed unsuitable for occupation in February.

The discussions were quickly shot down, he said.

Kristen Anderson, Director of Communication for the West Virginia Department of Education, said, “Several state board members had been contacted by citizens of Meadow Bridge concerning pending litigation. Our legal counsel advised board members not to comment or respond as doing so could interfere with the pending litigation. Because Dr. (Michael) Martirano (State Superintendent) acts as the designee over Fayette County Schools, any comment from the State Board could interfere with the pending litigation.”

Patterson said the group wanted to come to an agreement prior the suit, which was filed on Aug. 27 because several requests to bring in a second engineer ware denied by then-acting Superintendent Dr. Serena Starcher in April. The group received no reply to requests sent to Superintendent Terry George in July.

“We disagree with the inspection provided by ZMM. There was no engineering report. We feel that rather than inspecting, he made observations. We want to know, if there is a problem, how much it would cost to repair,” said Patterson. “We feel we are being vilified by the county and state because we have asked for a second opinion.”

He said Meadow Bridge citizens want details about what is wrong. The ZMM report states, “An excess amount of deflections for the span of the joists. The wood joists that were observed had checks and splits at the knot locations which reduces the capacity of the floor framing.”

The second story was subsequently condemned.

“If it is in that bad of repair, what about the safety of the students who are under it? If it can be repaired, we think that could be an alternative,” he said.

Patterson said this assessment does not provide parents and citizens the details they need to know. Engineer Daniel Shorts, in a letter to the group’s attorney Barry Bruce, of Barry Bruce and Associates in Lewisburg, said evaluation of a wood floor framing system should include the age of the floor system, intended use of the space, floor sheathing material and thickness, lumber species and grade, slope of the floor and specific data on the joist measurements.

Patterson said the group would be willing to pay for an inspection to be done by a certified structural engineer chosen through a bidding process.

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano has filed a motion to intervene in the suit and asks that it be moved from Fayette County to Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Anderson said the state is getting involved in the case because the county is under state control.

Patterson questions the need to move the suit out of Fayette County and feels the closure of the second floor of Meadow Bridge High School was done swiftly as a part of a larger plan to force consolidation.

Fayette Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake will hear Martirano’s motions Oct. 26.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer