ToquiNotes: Next on List, but No Guarantee BHS will be Next Major SBA-Applied for County School Project

By Jeff Toquinto on November 18, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, school superintendents from 28 counties across West Virginia were in Charleston. The purpose of the visits by those individuals was to make their pitch to get a cut of $50.5 million available from the state School Building Authority.
 
Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin was not one of the 28.
 
It wasn’t an oversight by the county. In terms of dollars the SBA makes available annually, there’s no chance our local board and administrative staff – including Manchin – weren’t aware of this year’s round of funding.
 
“Right now, we’ve got our hands full with the new Johnson Elementary project,” said Manchin. “I would imagine we’ll be submitting one to the SBA next year. If that happens I’ll do, and I’m sure the board will do, everything to make our request as favorable as possible for approval. This time, it was just a matter of it not being necessary to submit an application for various reasons.”
 
Manchin said part of it is financial. The Johnson Elementary project required millions of local dollars to help lock down millions more from the SBA. And he added part of it is time.
 
“Even though we have construction managers and consultants working at Johnson, to have a project of that magnitude is taxing on our staff,” said Manchin. “From myself to so many others, there is a substantial workload added so having multiple major projects going on, including many projects we do on a regular basis with our own money, can be cumbersome when it comes to time available. The SBA wants to make sure all projects they help fund receive proper attention.”
 
Manchin knows a thing or two about the process. After all, he was the former director of the SBA. During that time, he said there were often counties that submitted every year to “see what would happen” and that the number of times a county submitted didn’t have – when he was in charge – any impact on the decision-making process.
 
I bring this up because Manchin said after further discussion he’s pretty certain that he not only will he make a recommendation for another big project funded partially by the SBA, but has been pointed in that direction. The direction came during a Monday meeting of the elected Harrison County Board of Education.
 
His edict from the Board was to bring a “facilities plan” to them by July 1, 2018. Manchin said he’ll review the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) and plans on having a recommendation as to what is next for the school system in Harrison County.
 
“Right now, we haven’t identified a specific project that we feel is worthy because we simply haven’t looked greatly into it,” said Manchin.
 
The CEFP, which is required by the state if you want SBA dollars, was done in 2010 and will be redone in 2020. It was shaped and molded by community participants and educational leaders that spelled out the most pressing needs in Harrison County. The needs were listed and ranked. Since 2010, the top two projects on the list are either done or under way.
 
A new Lumberport Middle – now Lincoln Middle – was the top priority and it is in operation. Johnson Elementary, which most know is under construction, was ranked second.
 
Item three on the list isn’t a new Bridgeport High School. However, Bridgeport High School is ranked number three. The CEFP calls for a renovation and expansion of the cafeteria, the addition of classrooms and a gymnasium. The estimated cost for the work is listed at $16,971,368 and you can guarantee that eight years later that number has risen.
 
Here’s the thing: That doesn’t mean BHS is next. It also doesn’t mean it won’t be next.
 
“Bridgeport High School is up there. There are also issues with schools in Lost Creek in the South Harrison attendance area, Washington Irving and others on the list. None of those listed are excluded and even those aren’t listed aren’t necessarily excluded,” said Manchin.
 
The CEFP List can be found by clicking HERE.
 
Here’s the thing I would really like those in this community and the rest of Harrison County to do. First, take a deep breathe when this process unfolds next year and potential recommendation and request is made. Second, understand that the list the CEFP is using is eight years old. A new CEFP as I stated above will be fashioned in 2020, which again, is required by the state.
 
“Things change over the years and priorities change because of that. Part of what I’ll be doing in the months ahead is looking at what has changed and what I feel is the most pressing,” said Manchin, who said he’ll have plenty of input from staff on the condition of existing facilities. “I can’t say the next project will be Bridgeport High School just because it’s third on the list. I can say that it doesn’t have to be the next project.”
 
Manchin said when he headed up the SBA, if a project was skipped on the CEFP list he would inquire as to why. He said it didn’t disqualify a project, but he wanted to know what changed and usually there was a good reason.
 
If it’s not BHS, I can assure you a large portion of the Bridgeport community and its feeder system will be up in arms about it. If it is BHS, I can assure you a large portion of Harrison County will be up in arms about that as well. Actually, no matter what school is chosen next someone is going to be upset and loudly so. That doesn’t make me Nostradamus. I just know what Manchin knows when it comes to schools.
 
“These situations become highly emotional and the good part is we want the community to be passionate about education so we understand that. In the end, the Board has to make the tough decision,” said Manchin. “I can tell you the decision will be made with what is the direst need.”
 
That’s the way it should be.
 
Just because Bridgeport High School is next on the list doesn’t mean it should automatically be next. Things can change in a year, let alone eight years. And just because Johnson Elementary was the most recent project, shouldn’t automatically eliminate Bridgeport High School from being next if it’s the most pressing of needs.
 
Of critical nature here is to be able to explain the reasoning for Manchin’s recommendation for the next big SBA project and what the board decides to do with it. Both groups will need to have their ducks in a row as far as information relating to final decisions and I fully believe that will be the case.
 
“I’m actually looking to have a recommendation by late May or early June. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t know what the recommendation will be,” Manchin said. “I assume it will probably come from the (CEFP) list or a variation of it, which is my best educated guess at the moment.”
 
Sit back folks and relax. A decision is coming. Try to remember that someone is going to get what they need and someone will not.
 
I’d like to think that if the process is explained correctly that a good majority will handle it like adults. Being Nostradamus again, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I would really like to be wrong.


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