Mason Co. Schools moving forward with renovation

Beth Sergent -

POINT PLEASANT — Mason County Schools is one step closer to securing financing through a lease revenue bond agreement to pay for renovations to the former Moose building to create the new home for its central office and administrative staff.

The main purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to present to the Mason County Building Commission, the Mason County Board of Education’s plans to secure lease revenue bonds for not more than $1.4 million to finance costs of the construction, renovation, improvement, furnishing and equipping of the Kiwanis Blvd. property located just past Krodel Park on W.Va. 2.

Superintendent Jack Cullen and Treasurer Gary Hendricks, along with attorneys for the Mason County Board of Education, met with the Mason County Building Commission at the Mason County Courthouse. Representing the commission were voting members Dale Humphreys and John Collins, along with John Gerlach acting as the secretary/treasurer which is a non-voting member. The building commission currently has one vacancy with the Mason County Commissioners recently indicating they would be appointing a third member as soon as possible.

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. If financing is secured, the project would be paid with money from the Mason County Board of Education acting as the lessee of the property, with terms on the project from a lending institution not to exceed 16 years at a fixed rate not to exceed five percent interest. Finding these lending institutions to submit financing proposals on this project will be representatives from the Piper Jaffray firm of Charleston who were also present at Tuesday’s meeting. The building commission approved the firm as the placement agency with financing expected to be in place by the first or second week of December.

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, said this in no way obligates the county commission, nor does it raise taxes.

“The county commission clearly isn’t liable as specified in the ordinance,” Siegrist said, adding 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.

Hendricks told the building commission, the funds from the bonds would go towards financing only the administrative office space. As indicated in previous stories, the Mason County Board of Education proposed in the future, there is the potential to place classrooms in the remainder of the 28,000-square foot building. Hendricks 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. Hendricks said, for example, some criteria for refurbishing these spaces could be masonry walls in every classroom and special fire doors, among many other specifications which would require much more funding.

Hendricks presented the building commission with renovation cost estimates on the part of the former Moose building which would house the administrative offices. The estimates, compiled by ZMM Architects and Engineers, stated the total estimated cost was $1.1 million. 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 building commission approved the first of three required readings on the ordinance to issue lease revenue bonds for not more than $1.4 million. A second reading will be at 11 a.m., Nov. 16, with a public hearing at 11 a.m., Dec. 2 followed by the third and final reading, all held in the county commission room at the courthouse.

Beth Sergent

Reach Beth Sergent at or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.

Reach Beth Sergent at or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.