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Schools learn results of requests for funds

April 01, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Berkeley County, W.Va., has received $4.65 million in state funding to renovate and add on to South Middle School in Martinsburg, but Jefferson County officials were told to make another presentation for possible funding next year, according to county school officials.

Jefferson County officials asked the state School Building Authority for $15 million. Of that amount, $5 would have been used to renovate Jefferson High School, while the remaining $10 million would have been used to help build a second high school.

SBA officials announced their funding decisions Monday.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said the SBA announcement was welcome news.

"I am very pleased for the citizens and students of Berkeley County," Arvon said. South Middle is "a building that needs the renovations and additions."

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The $4.65 million that Berkeley requested and received will be used for work at the middle school off South Queen Street, which was built in 1952.

Plans call for a new cafeteria, more classrooms, functional science laboratories, new flooring and ceiling tiles, updated electrical wiring and a new HVAC system.

"It's something we will all be proud of," Arvon said.

Arvon said he hopes to solicit bids this spring for the work, which is expected to take about 18 months.

Another $1.15 million in local money will be used for the project.

In November, when a new round of presentations is held before SBA members, Berkeley County will seek money for a new intermediate school to serve the Back Creek Valley/Gerrardstown area, Arvon said.

Other projects on the horizon include renovations to Hedgesville (W.Va.) Elementary, Bunker Hill (W.Va.) Elementary, Martinsburg High School and Mill Creek Intermediate, Arvon said.

Morgan County, W.Va., received $629,000 from the SBA for renovations to Widmyer Elementary.

Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley said she was disappointed the board did not receive the $15 million it requested. She said she was pleased, though, that it received $498,000 for boiler repairs, which was money doled out in a separate category.

She said if the SBA had desired, the county would have held back on the $10 million request for the new high school until after May 2004, when voters will decide whether to approve a bond.

How much the county will seek depends on whether impact fee collection begins, whether a land proffer comes in for a second high school and whether a $6 million grant from the Economic Development Grant Committee is doled out.

School officials learned in November that Jefferson County received the economic development grant, but the money is in limbo after a group filed a lawsuit challenging the grant committee's procedures. A judge ruled in favor of the committee, but an appeal is pending.

The last time Jefferson officials put a bond call out to voters, it was for $39 million and soundly was defeated in September 2000.

Renovations to Jefferson High School, which Stilley said she originally hoped could begin this summer, were to include work in the cafeteria, auditorium and library. A couple of classrooms might have been added.

Stilley said she had hoped to expand the library and open it to the public.

New seating in the auditorium was needed, Stilley said. She said she heard someone fell through one of the seats to the floor.

"We're not going to give up," Stilley said. "We'll pick up the pieces and come back even stronger."

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