The Top STORIES of 2012: Long-Delayed School Opening Set for January

EDITOR’S NOTE: The past 12 months have been interesting – and at times, trying – for local residents, as natural gas drilling, politics, court cases and numerous other issues dominated the daily headlines. Through Sunday, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register present the Ohio Valley’s top 10 stories of 2012, as voted on by the newspapers’ editors.

CAMERON – After a 2011 in which the project was delayed twice for various reasons, 2012 has been relatively kind to workers and officials involved in construction of the new Cameron High School, set to open to students Jan. 3.

The project, which initially called for substantial renovations to be made to the existing high and middle school building using $2.5 million from a 2006 bond passed by voters, turned into plans for a $31.8 million new building after money was obtained from the West Virginia School Building Authority.

After breaking ground and progressing through much of the project, construction was delayed in 2011 with extreme wet weather named as the culprit. An October 2012 completion date was set, and officials were quick to point out that quality of work was of utmost importance.

Throughout the first half of 2012, work continued on pace with the October deadline. In June, however, officials said more delays had occurred, again citing weather and the natural gas industry boom as reasons. After meetings between school representatives, trade unions and contractors, an eight-page, 450-task schedule was created, outlining the remaining work. A Dec. 18 completion date was set as part of that schedule.

As crews got to work in July, board of education member Lori Kestner voiced concern about the quality of work, showing photos of cracked block and pavement and non-working drains to project managers and other board members. The board made a commitment to ensure the quality of work was not being jeopardized in favor of speeding up the process.

A new project manager was appointed in July just after the board met in a closed-door executive session to discuss change orders on the project, as well as budget concerns. A second executive session was held in August, after which the board approved a $528,000 payment to Nello Construction for change orders.

Work continued until December, when a walk-through of the nearly completed building was conducted by a state fire marshal. Because of the size of the building, the fire marshal had to return to the site to complete the inspection. On Dec. 13, officials were given the go-ahead to move students into the building pending the completion of minor work.

Final approval of two areas of the building, including the main gymnasium, was expected to be granted Thursday, with students moving into the school Jan. 3. That approval is still pending today, however, as Thursday’s inspection was started but not completed.

Assistant Superintendent Wayne Simms said a fire marshal’s representative was on site Thursday but will return at 10 a.m. today. Simms said a company that provided hoods to ventilate either the chemistry room or the kitchen was unable to send a representative to demonstrate the hoods’ operation for the fire marshal. Both the company and the fire marshal are expected to be represented today, and Simms believes final approval of the building could be granted before noon.