POINT PLEASANT — After a public hearing with no comments, the third and final reading of an ordinance to secure financing to pay for renovations to the former Moose property, creating the new home for Mason County Schools’ administrative staff, was passed by the Mason County Building Commission.
The public hearing and final reading was held Wednesday with Building Commission Members John Collins and Mindy Kearns voting yes on the final reading. Member Dale Humphreys was not present at the meeting. Secretary and non-voting building commission member John Gerlach was also at the meeting.
The Mason County Board of Education asked the building commission to approve a lease revenue bond agreement for not more than $1.4 million to finance costs of the construction, renovation, improvement, furnishing and equipping of the Kiwanis Boulevard property located just past Krodel Park on W.Va. 2.
As previously reported, though the county is the actual bonding authority, the Legislature created the building commission format to allow financing for projects beyond one year, as the county commission itself can only borrow money for 12 months at a time. The county has acted as the bonding authority on projects like the Mason County Health Department and the Mid-Ohio Valley Center in the past. Despite being the bonding authority, Camden Siegrist, attorney for the Mason County Board of Education, has said this in no way obligates the county commission, nor does it raise taxes. Seigrist, also at Wednesday’s meeting, has said there is a deed of trust on the property so if there were ever a default in the agreement, there is recourse for the bond holder to foreclose on that deed of trust.
Also approved at the meeting was a resolution containing the actual financing terms, which are: $1,293,197 financed at a fixed rate of 2.75 percent from Farmers Bank. The bonds will mature Dec. 15, 2030 at which time the building commission will turn over the deed to the property to the the Mason County Board of Education for $10. Signing of the loan closing documents is at 11 a.m. Dec. 18 in the Mason County Commission room.
On Sept. 22, seven contractors submitted bids on the project with Mid-Atlantic Construction having the lowest bid at $1,035,150 with 130 days of possible construction, allowing staff to start moving into the building in July 2016. There is no word yet on what will be done with the current central office building.
The funds from the bonds would go toward financing only the administrative office space. As indicated in previous stories, the Mason County Board of Education proposed in the future, that there is the potential to place classrooms in the remainder of the 28,000-square foot building. A school official has said, refurbishing classroom space requires very specific criteria and specifications which may require even more funding, with the West Virginia School Building Authority as a possible funding source, again, in the future. The Mason County Board of Education has submitted an application for funding to create space for preschool classrooms from the SBA, according to Superintendent Jack Cullen.
Cullen, along with Mason County Schools Treasurer Gary Hendricks, were also at Wednesday’s meeting. Cullen went over some of the reasons why this project was undertaken in the first place. He discussed receiving written notice from Americans with Disabilities Act Advocates advising the central office was not handicapped accessible back in August 2014.
Cullen said at that time, the board of education sought out options from its architectural firm which came back with costs of, roughly, $200,000 to put on a handicapped accessible entryway to the building; roughly $550,000 to install an elevator; roughly $2-plus million to install either an entry ramp or elevator and upgrade the heating and cooling and windows to the central office which was built in 1917; over $3 million to build a new facility of around 15,000-square feet on existing school property; or find an existing facility to upgrade. The latter of which was where the former Moose property came into play with the board of education purchasing the 28,512-square foot building with 47 acres for around $690,000 and now the $1.2 million to renovate the office space.
Cullen said this was the most cost effective plan to meet ADA regulations and allow the school system space to grow in the future. Hendricks also pointed out, from a financial standpoint, the levy passed by voters used to upgrade the three county high schools comes off tax tickets this July.
The resolution to move forward with the bond agreement did not receive a unanimous vote at a recent Mason County Board of Education meeting with Board Member Jared Billings voting no.
Billings said, about his vote: “The reason I have continued to vote no on this matter stems from the beginning, that in my opinion, it was rushed and questions that I had were left unanswered. Also, in my opinion, I don’t feel everything was looked at fully due to being rushed. I respect the decision of the majority of the Board on this matter and hope it turns out for the best for Mason County Schools and Mason County.”
Mason County Board of Education President Greg Fowler said he understood why Billings voted no on the project and respected his vote. He said all the members on this board of education work together well, even if their opinions differ. As for Fowler, he voted for the resolution to move forward with the renovations.
“This was, by far, the most economical decision for the Board to make,” Fowler said. “It was going to cost us more money to make the building we had handicapped accessible than to buy and renovate the Moose property. We did the very best we could for the smallest amount of money.”
Also voting yes on the bond agreement resolution at the Mason County Board of Education meeting were members Paul Sayre, Dale Shobe, Tom Nunnery.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.