SBA in holding pattern with flood-damaged schools

By Alex Wiederspiel in News
ROANOKE, W.Va. — The SBA’s Director of School Planning and Construction said the state is preparing for school repairs, renovations, and possible relocation projects as a result of the June 23 floods, but remains uncertain of a time table to begin any concrete planning.

“It’s very fluid, and that’s what I told the Authority members when we started this morning,” Scott Raines said Monday at the SBA’s quarterly meeting. “I didn’t prepare a hand-out or an attachment to the agenda because things are so fluid that it literally is changing–we can talk one thing in the morning and it will change in the afternoon.”

Raines said the time table for the installation of modular units, the bidding process, and the finalization of FEMA surveys of the five damaged schools are all contributing factors to the uncertainty.

“We’ll obviously work to try to get things back to normal as quickly as we can, but there are so many variable in the construction world that you just don’t have control over,” he said.

FEMA surveys and damage assessments are required for all of the schools before determining if they need to simply build new schools, which must be built outside of the flood plain.

“We don’t anticipate that there’s going to be an issue with any of the five,” he said. “But until FEMA says, ‘We’ve reviewed it all and we’re in agreement that direct relocation is needed,’ we can’t say 100 percent that that’s the direction of the path.”

The assessments are underway for three schools in Nicholas County: Richwood High School, Richwood Middle School, and Summersville Middle School. In Kanawha County, Clendenin Elementary School and Herbert Hoover are also eligible.

“We’ve had the structural evaluations done and damage evaluations done on all the facilities,” Raines said. “Those evaluations have to be reviewed for the ability to rebuild, remodel, renovate, relocate before we can make any determination officially as to who gets rebuilt and who doesn’t.”

In the meantime, Raines is hoping all the affected schools will have modular units installed as a temporary measure by December.

“Once we get those bids received, we’ll determine who the successful contractor is in order to get those buildings established and put on site as quickly as we can to move those kids out of the situations that they are currently in into a more permanent temporary,” he said.

“We’re really hoping that we can provide them the temporary housing by December–the first of the year–which will provide them with some sense of normalcy.”

School repair costs are expected to make the difference in what level of funding West Virginia needs to provide during state-wide rebuilding efforts.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill last week to allocate $85 million in funding as part of cost of the June flood.