SBA approves funding for Fayette, Putnam, but not Kanawha

Ryan Quinn , Staff Writer

The West Virginia School Building Authority’s board awarded Monday about $7.7 million in “major improvement project” funding to 13 school systems, including about $1 million to Fayette County to add six classrooms to Midland Trail High, thus paving a way to close the structurally deficient Ansted Middle.

In a voice vote with no nays heard, the SBA board members provided funding for projects in Barbour, Berkeley, Cabell, Fayette, Grant, Mason, Mercer, Monongalia, Nicholas, Putnam, Randolph, Ritchie and Tyler counties. Putnam got $336,000 for renovations at Buffalo Elementary, including replacement of the circa 1950s windows.

The board denied funding for four other counties that requested it: Kanawha, which requested $1 million to help build an auditorium for Horace Mann Middle; Gilmer, a state-controlled county that requested $875,000 for heating, ventilation and air conditions upgrades at Gilmer County High; Lincoln, which requested $1 million to add four classrooms to West Hamlin Elementary; and Summers, which requested $997,000 for heating, ventilation and air conditioning component replacements.

The major improvement project dollars usually are distributed annually, although this year the SBA — which has seen lawmakers and the governor make successive cuts to its available grant funding — combined two years’ worth of MIP grant funding and gave it all out Monday.

Schools systems are supposed to compete for the limited grant money by trying to make the case that their projects are the most worthy of funding. The SBA board gives out money from a much larger grant pot, the “needs” fund, in December, though even then it can’t afford to fund all school systems’ requests.

In another voice vote Monday with no nays heard, the board distributed $2.2 million from the 3 percent grant pot, which contains 3 percent of total distributable funds. This pot is used for projects that are regional or statewide in scope, including multi-county vocational centers.

Of the 3 percent money, Calhoun Gilmer Career Center, the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center in Buckhannon, the James Rumsey Technical Institute near Martinsburg, the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute in St. Marys, the Roane Jackson Technical Center and the South Branch Career and Technical Center in Petersburg all received funding for school access safety upgrades, totaling $1.9 million.

The state Department of Education also got $107,000 to continue the Statewide Preventative Maintenance Program and the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Romney received $192,000 to address what SBA documents dubbed “life safety issues,” including fire suppression system upgrades and installation in three buildings.

“This project addresses direct concerns from the State Fire Marshal’s Office that require immediate attention,” an SBA staff explanation of the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind’s funding request stated.

The board gave out all of the MIP money it had available this funding cycle, and almost all of the 3 percent money. It denied 3 percent grant funding requests from Cedar Lakes Conference Center, the Nicholas County Career and Technical Center near Ripley and the United Technical Center in Clarksburg, none of which addressed school access safety.

All of the projects funded Monday were the ones that the SBA’s staff ranked the highest.

The Fayette funding will allow for Ansted Middle’s kids to be moved to Midland Trail High.

Scott Raines, the SBA’s school planning and construction director, said Fayette’s citizens want to keep Midland Trail in some capacity, be it a high school or prekindergarten through eighth grade facility or something else.

“It is a very old building,” he said of Ansted. “It has a coal-fired boiler, steam piping … there’s a sump pump in the stairwell, I mean these kids really need to be out of this facility.”

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.