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Grants to aid three projects

November 13, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

EASTERN PANHANDLE - The Jefferson County Board of Education received a $6 million grant Tuesday to help build a second high school, one of three local projects that received funding from the state Economic Development Grant Committee.

Also Tuesday, PROSystems Inc. received $280,000 to build a manufacturing facility in Burr Industrial Park. A month ago, it was announced that Eastern Regional Airport received $1 million for a new terminal.

Grant committee members rejected a $6.8 million proposal to restore and enhance the B&O Roundhouse complex and nearby downtown areas in Martinsburg, W.Va., along with a $5.8 million proposal to build a 308-acre business park along the Berkeley/Jefferson county line on W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg.

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Jefferson County officials had asked for $15 million for a second high school, but $6 million will help tremendously, they said.

Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, used two words to sum up his feelings about receiving the grant: "We're elated."

Although it's one-fifth of the estimated cost of $30 million needed to build a second high school, Manuel said he feels it's an important amount.

"I believe that this will put us on track to get a funding package together," he said.

Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said surprise, then excitement, took over on hearing the news.

With $6 million all but in hand, other funding sources are now being examined, including a $17.5 million request from the state School Building Authority, Stilley said.

Of that, $10 million would be used for the new high school, and the rest to upgrade the existing Jefferson High School on Flowing Springs Road in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

"We want to make sure we have two top-notch high schools," Stilley said.

To round out the money needed, Stilley said she hopes to use impact fees from developers. Asking county residents to pass a bond will be the last resort, she said.

The new high school will most likely be built on nearly 60 acres in the Huntfield subdivision off U.S. 340 just south of Charles Town, W.Va.

"I think we're getting close to working out that arrangement (with Huntfield's developers)," Stilley said.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, a supporter of a second high school, was in Chicago Tuesday when he heard the news.

"Obviously I'm happy for $6 million, but it's not enough," he said. "I'm going to find more state money. Whatever we can find from state sources, the better off we are" as far as collecting money from local residents through a bond call and impact fees, he said.

County officials also need to start planning for a third high school, Doyle said.

The grant for PROSystems Inc., a company that was started in 1999 and is based in Sharpsburg, will be used to build a new manufacturing facility in Burr Industrial Park in Bardane, W.Va.

The company makes hollow retroreflectors, which are often used in laser tracking and surveying equipment. At a cost of $250 to $1,000 or more each, company owner James Lyons described retroreflectors as three-sided mirrors that always reflect light back exactly as it came in. They usually are 1 or 2 inches in diameter. PROSystems sells about 100 a month, Lyons said.

The company's new facility, which will be slightly less than 5,000 square feet, will enable Lyons and his employees to move out of their Sharpsburg facility, which Lyons said is too small. The grant should cover most construction costs, he said.

Eight people work for the company, and Lyons said he plans to add five more by the end of 2003, and have 25 or more employees altogether within five years.

Along with making retroreflectors, PROSystems made a device that allowed U.S. Olympic speedskaters in Salt Lake City to polish their blades - contributing to 11 medals, Lyons said.

While news of the grants pleased many, others were not so happy, including C. William "Bill" Hayes, executive director of the Roundhouse Authority.

If Roundhouse officials had received the money they requested, plans to improve the complex - which included building a pedestrian bridge across active railroad tracks to access the complex and a car bridge across Queen Street - would have been more easily accomplished.

However, Hayes is not without hope.

Amendment 1, which voters passed last week, allows local economic grant project leaders to apply for bonds, which are then paid off with the new business' property taxes.

As he campaigned around the state pitching the amendment, Gov. Bob Wise stopped at the Roundhouse, saying it might be a perfect fit with Amendment 1.

"We have to sit down and think this through," Hayes said. "We're going to get it done."

Altogether, 35 projects from around the state will receive grants totaling $218 million. The committee believes it can award more than its original $200 million because grants to nonprofit or government agencies will cost less in bonds than anticipated.

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