Board to consider Williamstown school site at Nov. 12 meeting

PARKERSBURG -With recommendations in place, members of the Wood County Board of Education will need to make a decision on property for the proposed new Williamstown Elementary School.

Tuesday, Williamstown Elementary New School Steering Committee officials presented two property recommendations to the board of education: 219 W. Fifth St., site of the Williamstown High School football field, and 700 Elizabeth St., the Fenton Art Glass property.

Board of Education president and member of the steering committee Tim Yeater said the committee decided to focus on where the community would like to build the school and not get caught up in politics or consider other factors.

“We didn’t get caught up in relocating the football field or any other other board or county responsibilities, other than just looking for an available location and a location acceptable to the community,” he said.

Board members took no action on the recommendation, but officials will move soon, hoping to have enough things lined up to proceed with a $250,000 grant request to the state School Building Authority (SBA) by early December. They requested the property decision be placed on the Nov. 12 agenda for discussion.

“Before that time central office representatives will meet with property owners to gain more in-depth information about how to progress on both of the selections,” said Wood County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling.

The football site, which is already owned by the board, is only 3 acres. The Fenton site is 11 acres. It’s registered to two property owners, Fenton Art Glass and Fenton Gift Shops, and encompasses a parking lot, part of which is used by Hino Motors, and the the former factory.

Yeater said any issues with the property would have to be picked up by Fenton.

“We won’t pick up the cost,” he said.

But he and the rest of the committee were unanimous in stating there have been no environmental issues with the site, so far.

“We would never do anything that would be environmentally unsafe to students,” he said. “Before we put a shovel in the ground we know where it is at and where we are at in regard to community and student safety. And I felt good with what I was told.”

“The reclamation of sites has come a long way,” he added.

Fling said the purchase of a piece of property is not necessary to submit the grant application to the SBA. However, the board must approve a piece of property before additional steps can be taken.

“The board will have to negotiate with a property owner and secure a letter-of-intent to purchase the property in order to submit the planning grant. All of this is simply the first formal step of the planning process,” he said.

Officials have not decided how the proposed school and grounds will fit onto the recommended plots. Fling said school design and layout will based on the location of the school, the needs of the school community, and of course funding.

“At this point, the information presented last evening by ZMM was simply a footprint of what footprint would best fit the two properties recommended,” he said. “The SBA has guidelines to assist school systems in the formal planning of the building. These include classroom sizes, green space, security, and access and egress control just to name a few.”

Fling said formal negotiations on the purchase of property are “down the road.” The actual timeframe on a property purchase depends on several factors including whether the planning grant is approved, funds are available from the SBA, and planning and design of the actual facility. He corrected Hill’s timeline for completion, stating officials want to have the school open in 2016.

Officials reiterated the proposed school project is not part of the continuing levy that is up for vote next month.

“The decision to present this project last evening was so that the board could take advantage of the opportunity to apply for the SBA planning grant,” Fling said.