USGlass upset by board’s WES study of Fenton site

The head of USGlass, owner of the Fenton Art Glass trademark, is calling foul on a decision by Wood County Schools to look at the Williamstown plant as the possible site of a new elementary school.

Gene Bem, chairman and president of USGlass, sent a letter Thursday to Wood County Schools Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling asking for documentation on how Wednesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting was announced.

In the email, Bem said he believed the board had violated open meetings law by not properly announcing the meeting, not properly describing the details of the agenda items and by directing Fling to pursue the Fenton site without a vote.

“It appears that an official action has been taken authorizing (Fling) to move forward on the site election process,” Bem said in the email. “This was specifically not mentioned in the agenda that was published before the meeting.”

Wednesday’s agenda listed under items for discussion “Report on new Williamstown Elementary School site selection.” Nothing about the site or Williamstown Elementary was included under “items for consideration or action.”

During his presentation Wednesday, Fling asked for permission to move forward with consideration of Fenton Art Glass as the site for a new elementary school. Fling said without the board’s permission he could not even discuss creating a letter of intent to purchase the property, which would be the next step.

That letter of intent would not obligate the school system to buy the property, but would indicate it was a serious possibility and allow the school district access to land surveys and environmental reports and to conduct its own surveys.

In his email Bem said USGlass and Baceline Investments already have a letter of intent to purchase the Fenton property.

Fling said the school system has not made any deal for the Fenton property.

“There has been no formal negotiation between Wood County Schools and the Fenton family for that property,” Fling said.

Bem has requested records and minutes from Wednesday’s school board meeting, including all motions and resolutions, vote tallies and other such information. Bem hinted the company could file a lawsuit against the school system.

“In preparation for possible legal action, including filing a West Virginia ethics complaint, please respond as appropriate,” he said in the email.

Superintendent Pat Law said Thursday he could not comment on Bem’s email, but planned to meet with Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton, who is the legal counsel for the school board, to discuss Bem’s concerns.

USGlass Inc., announced in 2012 that it had acquired assets of the 107-year-old Fenton company with intent to revitalize art glass manufacturing and create jobs for the community.