Williamstown School site recommendation remains under review

WILLIAMSTOWN – Officials responsible for the site selection of a new elementary school in Williamstown say the recommendation likely won’t happen before the self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline.

Tim Yeater, president of the board of education and member of the Williamstown Elementary New School Steering Committee, said it does not appear the group will meet its end of the month deadline to present a recommended site to the board.

“The committee moved the date,” Yeater said. “I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Mike Fling, assistant school superintendent for Wood County Schools, said the property search in Williamstown is on-going. He said there is a full committee meeting set for Aug. 28 to discuss the results of the property matrix.

Officials said additional questions from the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) have pushed things back.

“The SBA came in with some questions with regard to the sites and wanted to make sure we were doing our due diligence with the process,” Yeater said.

A lot of the questions involved pricing of the property and floodplain issues.

In April, officials hoped to have sites identified by May with a recommended selection by Aug. 31. The committee targeted a purchase of property by the end of November.

“We started with about 10 properties. I think we are down to four now,” Yeater said. “It would be nice to narrow it down to two or three and give it to the board. … Obviously, we would like to see that done as soon as possible.”

A new Williamstown Elementary is the top priority in the county’s comprehensive education facilities plan. Costs to build an elementary school would run about $10 million.

A new elementary school is going to require 8-10 acres of land. Williamstown Elementary sits on three acres. The current building is more than 100 years old and holds classrooms in the basement. The building is not handicapped accessible.

The board and the city of Williamstown sought land on at least eight acres within the school district with access to public utilities. Committee officials said the community prefers the new school remain in Williamstown, but will settle for keeping it in the Williamstown district.

In June members of the steering committee toured potential sites for a new school. Sites included properties in Williamstown (including the current school site), on the edge of the city limits, outside the city limits and as far away as Boaz.

Committee members have not identified the sites.

The committee was asked to consider six criteria in evaluating the sites:

  • Safety and environment; adjacent roads, traffic volume, air and soil quality and pollution.
  • Location and accessibility; access and dispersal routes, including emergency vehicle access.
  • Topography, size and shape of the lots and potential for expansion.
  • Public utility and service access
  • Officials will consider additional costs, above the purchase price of the property, such as site prep, potential environmental cleanup and maintenance costs.
  • The final criteria is public acceptance by the residents and officials.

Last month SBA officials came to the area to review sites.

“The SBA controls the funds, and the community expects the committee to explore every option presented,” Fling said.

Yeater said county taxpayer costs for the school might include a $15 million-$20 million bond.

“Next year, if our work is done, we would like to get that on a ballot,” Yeater said. “There is still a lot of work, even with property recommendation.”