Wood BOE to pay part of construction bill

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Schools administrators will ask the Wood County Board of Education to pay most, but not all, of an outstanding bill for construction at Parkersburg High School Stadium Field.

The school board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district’s 13th and Plum streets offices. The meeting is open to the public.

The top item for discussion Tuesday is issues related to the Stadium Field construction project, which was stopped in January after officials became concerned over the increasing cost of the project and a $455,000 unpaid bill for construction work completed at the stadium.

The school board has called for an audit of the project as well as a financial audit of all booster groups which were involved with paying for the project.

Superintendent Pat Law said he will recommend Tuesday the school board pay 90 percent of the money owed to Grae-Con Construction.

“Grae-Con needs to be paid,” Law said Friday.

But Law said another item up for approval Tuesday is the hiring of the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, Chief Inspector Division, to conduct an audit of the construction process and the three bid packages awarded by the school system to Grae-Con.

Officials have never accused Grae-Con of any wrongdoing and have said the company did excellent work on the project, but Law said the school system needs the audit to publicly confirm those facts. Until then, part of the payment will be held back.

“If we find there are some amounts that need looked at, it would be easier to do that with a 10-percent contingency being held back rather than paying them and then asking for money to be returned,” he said. “We feel they are not going to find any significant issues (through the audit) but there have been questions about the project in the community and we would like to get those questions answered and out of the way.”

Law said officials at Grae-Con have been consulted and have agreed.

“They’d like to have it all, but they understand and are agreeable to that step,” Law said.

Wood County Schools Finance Director Connie Roberts said the audit recommendation is for the construction project only. The financial audit likely will be bid out later, and depending on the details may or may not require a vote of the board.

Roberts said the school system hires a private company to do annual financial audits of the district and its schools. One such audit is currently being conducted at Parkersburg High School. Roberts said she was unsure whether the booster group audits could be included in the school audit.

Law said at Tuesday’s meeting he also expects to update the board on discussions with the PHS Stadium Field Renovation Committee concerning paying the school board back for money paid to Grae-Con.

The school board last year agreed to put $700,000 toward the project, but did so based on a $600,000 loan obtained by the committee. Committee officials later said they had drawn only $200,000 of the loan and bank officials prevented them from drawing any more due to the rising cost and uncertainty in the committee’s ability to pay back the funds.

The committee recently asked the school board to pay $455,000 to cover all outstanding bills on the project. Board members have said they want that money returned to the district’s coffers.