Ohio County Schools Energy Project Moves Forward

Photos by Joselyn King Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones, left, and board of education members Chris Carder and David Croft listen to discussion regarding energy upgrades at Wheeling Park High School during Monday’s board meeting.

WHEELING — The work might have to be ripped out later, but the Ohio County Board of Education unanimously voted Monday night to add heating and ventilation upgrades at Wheeling Park High School to a list of energy improvement projects set to happen next summer.

Proposed energy upgrades at WPHS and other properties in Ohio County Schools account for $6.35 million of a $76 million property improvement plan approved by voters earlier this year. The early improvements at WPHS — the largest building in the school district — is expected to save Ohio County Schools about $160,000 next year, according to representatives with McKinley & Associates and the CMTA Engineering firm.

But as future plans call for additions and the removal of walls at WPHS, it’s possible any savings would be offset if contractors have to go back and redo work, said Patrick Rymer, project architect with McKinley & Associates. He could not guarantee the board contractors would not have to tear up concrete pads at the school, necessitating additional work.

He did say core drilling would be happening at the school in the coming weeks, which will give engineers an idea if pads need to be eliminated. The school district would have time to change plans if results make early HVAC upgrades not an option.

Jonathan Gasser of CMTA also was present at Monday’s board meeting. He told board members they should avoid upgrades to areas of the school where future projects would be planned, and those areas account for just 15 percent of the building. CMTA then would come back and finish the project after McKinley’s construction was over.

“If I were in McKinley’s shoes, I would probably be hesitant to say yes, go ahead and put in the HVAC system,” Gasser said. “But we know we can do it. We’ve spent days digging around that school.”

He said the system proposed by CMTA is just a stronger version of the one currently at WPHS, “and the duct work is there.”

Board members indicated they couldn’t ignore an opportunity to get a jump start on energy upgrades and save the district money.

“If we can save $160,000 in a year, I think we owe it to our community to say we did all we can and it wasn’t feasible,” member David Croft said. “At the end of this process, I don’t want to look back and say we missed a window because we couldn’t have a meeting of the minds on an approach.”

Board member Sarah Koegler said she was encouraged by CMTA’s assurances.

“To have Wheeling Park High School (HVAC upgrades) done a year early and to start so soon, just think what that message is to our community?” she said. “We are moving quickly, and with as little disruption as possible.”

Board president Zach Abraham made the motion for the HVAC work to start at WPHS to start next summer. He, Croft, Koegler and board members Chris Carder and Molly Aderholt all voted “yes” in a voice vote.

In other matters, the board met in private executive session for about an hour for a personnel hearing to consider the superintendent’s recommendation that a professional employee be terminated.

After the session, members unanimously voted to terminate Pam Peters, a second-grade teacher at Steenrod Elementary School. Because it is a private personnel matter, no further information was provided.

The board also approved the retirement of Transportation Director David Ziegler effective Dec. 3. Ziegler has been employed with Ohio County Schools for more than 12 years.

The next board meeting is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 22 at the board office, 2203 National Road, Wheeling.