Wood BOE hears elementary school site proposals

PARKERSBURG – Members of the Williamstown Elementary New School Steering Committee recommended two sites to the Wood County Board of Education Tuesday for a new elementary school.

Flanked by more than 20 members of the committee and community officials, Jason Hill, committee chairman, and David Ferguson, with ZMM, presented board members with their top two choices: 219 W. Fifth St., site of the Williamstown High School football field, and 700 Elizabeth St., the Fenton Art Glass property.

Officials touted both sites, but the Fenton property seemed to be a more favorable choice for the committee.

“Fenton meets more criteria than the football site,” Hill said. “This site has more room and lends itself to a lot of criteria.”

The Fenton site is 11 acres and the proposed school would be built on the parking lot.

Committee members said there is plenty of room for expansion and parking.

Hill said as with any real estate, location was important.

“It’s no different with the building of a school,” he said. Hill said the committee looked at 11 sites, including the present elementary school site.

Officials noted the Fenton store, which will remain open, is separate from the factory, which the committee did not think was open.

Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford was asked if the factory was open or would be open in the near future.

“Speaking for city I would love to have a business there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” she said.

Several board members raised possible issues with environmental concerns.

Officials said environmental concerns were targeted to part of the property that is not part of the sale.

Assistant superintendent Mike Fling said Fenton officials told the committee they are in the 15th year of a 30-year mitigation and indications are the site is clean.

Williamstown Elementary School Principal Heather Bretthauer said all the reports they received from Fenton indicated the site was clean.

“We are assured the site has been clean for quite some time,” Fling said.

Fling said if the board moves forward on the purchase of the property Fenton would make its environmental records concerning the property available.

Board member Tad Wilson requested environmental studies be reviewed by experts.

“A more detailed synopsis would be preferable,” he said.

Officials also presented the Williamstown High School site, which entails a two-story elementary school on the site of the football field and track, because the site is only three acres.

“It’s constricted, but doable,” Ferguson said.

“We would prefer eight acres,” board member Jim Fox said. Fox was serving as acting president. Tim Yeater was once again absent.

Hill said state School Building Authority (SBA) officials liked the idea of a school on the high school site.

But if chosen, the track, football field and bleachers would not fit and a new site for those facilities would have to be found.

Athletic components are not covered by SBA so the burden would fall solely to the county taxpayers.

Fox asked Ford if she was comfortable with the recommendation of both sites.

“Definitely,” she said.

Hill said cost and acquisition of property would be the next step and that’s in the board’s hands.

“We did as much due diligence as we could,” he said. “Now it’s the board of education’s prerogative.”

The proposed new school is not tied to next month’s continuing levy renewal vote.

Hill said committee officials would like to have a new school open in 2015.

“If we get hustlin’,” he said.

Officials want to submit a $250,000 planning grant intent request to SBA officials in early December to “get things rolling.”

Officials took no action on the recommendations.

Fox said additional discussion on the sites would be held at the next meeting. He said the committee- and the community-is not out of the loop as the board moves forward on the project.

“We want their consideration and feedback,” he said.

Following the committee presentation, board members went into executive session for about 40 minutes with Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton. The session dealt with property easements with regard to Stadium Field. No action was taken or discussion held when members returned.