Ric Griffith: Voting 'yes' on Wayne bond the right thing to do
Since Dr. Marple of the West Virginia Department of Education closed Kenova Elementary, after the sinkhole developed, I have heard and read elaborate conspiracy theories, all spoken with a sense of certainty.
The comments remind me of a cartoon drawn by a young Charles Schultz, before he developed his "Peanuts" characters. It showed a young man reading the Bible, as his father walked into the room and commented, "Son, I'm glad to see you consulting the Holy Scriptures." The son replied, "Don't get me wrong, Dad. I'm just looking up verses to back up my pre-conceived notions." That is how many people have evaluated the current Wayne County Schools dilemma, but my appeal to you is to exercise your vote while considering the following realities.
As Kenova's mayor, I contacted Tim Wetzel from KU Resources, an engineering company that assesses abandoned and dilapidated properties and oversees building reclamation projects. Because the city had acquired Kenova Elementary in a property swap with the school board, I asked Tim to provide answers regarding safety and redevelopment issues of the site. The engineer confirmed that closing the school was the appropriate decision.
The sinkhole outside the cafeteria building, which prompted the state's action, was only part of the underground issues. A collapsed sewer line running under the floor of the cafeteria had created a large void, causing the floor to crack and rise from wall to wall, and the cinderblock outside wall was cracked from the ground to the roof. Asbestos was flaking off several walls, water was leaking through the block wall on the west side of the Oak Street building, and the roofs were leaking significantly in three of the buildings, including their connecting hallway. Metal frame windows dating from 1926 were rusting and falling apart and the Poplar Street building's basement flooded up to 4 feet deep with a storm/sanitary water mix. Another void was discovered under the basement floor of the 14th Street building. A pipe 6 feet long was inserted into the 4 inch crack, but did not reach bottom. The engineer could not believe closing the school was questioned.
The state only provides money matches to replace schools, not repair them.
Crum Elementary has similar issues, and the state ranks Kenova and Crum numbers 1 and 3 on its list of schools in West Virginia most needing replacement.
Ceredo Elementary is number 6 on that list, giving Wayne County three of the top six worst facilities in our state.
Consolidating Ceredo and Kenova elementary schools will save the taxpayers money.
Badly needed upgrades to safeguard the students of Wayne High School remains remarkably absent from many discussions about the bond election. How can anyone ignore that need in today's society?
If the bond does not pass, the SBA will give the promised $18 million match from lottery money to another county. Also lost will be $2 million to equip the new schools, which would require no local contribution.
The much-needed work at other schools in our county will not be funded until the top priorities (Crum and Ceredo-Kenova Elementary Schools) are met. Therefore voting against the bond will delay those projects.
The sub-par education of West Virginians is preventing industries and businesses from locating in our state, eliminating good paying jobs.
Nothing is more important for our children, economic development, property value, and the quality of our lives than good schools. The day the bond passes, the school committees at Crum, Ceredo and Kenova need to join in the fight for addressing additional needs throughout the county.
I do not think anyone in Wayne County witnessing a child in danger would hesitate to stop and attempt to save that child. Yet our school children are in danger from unsafe buildings and inadequate educational opportunities, which lead to unfulfilled potential, poverty and a future burden on all taxpayers. Supporting this bond issue is an investment that will pay dividends to every resident of Wayne County.
Throughout my youth, my mother would underscore any questionable behavior of mine with the phrase, "You should always do what is right, because it is right, period! Never because it benefits only you, or gains you praise, but because it is the right thing to do." I hated that maxim, until I grew up and had children, when I began to quote it often. Today, regarding the Wayne County School Bond, her lesson to me applies to us all. Please do what is right and vote "YES" on May 13.
Ric Griffith is the mayor of the City of Kenova.
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