CAMERON - Teri Galentine spends her days ensuring the patrons of The Bridgestreet restaurant receive the best possible food and service - if they don't, she realizes they can just find another place to eat.
That commitment to running her business the right way is leading her to question why the public's business - in this case, construction of the $32 million Cameron Middle/High School complex - has been heading the wrong way. Galentine believes the residents of Cameron should expect the same level of service from their elected officials that they expect from private business owners.
The school, located along U.S. 250, currently is 14 months behind schedule and more than a half-million dollars over budget.
Photos by Daniel Dorsch
The new Cameron High/Middle School project is due to be finished on Dec. 18. That is 14 months beyond the original October 2011 deadline, and the roughly $32 million price tag is about $528,000 over the original budget.
The delays and cost overruns have Galentine and others in Cameron angry over what they see as a lack of accountability with the project from Marshall County school administrators and board of education members.
"I just think the taxpayers of Marshall County should be asking questions," Galentine said. "Fourteen months and how much extra money? Fourteen months is an awful long time to be behind."
Originally, the new school was scheduled to be finished in October 2011. Now, it is tentatively set to be complete in December and open to students in January.
The issue for some in the small Marshall County community goes beyond a project running behind schedule and over budget - it goes to what they see as a lack of respect for their town.
Among Galentine's patrons last week was Drew Brandt, who indicated the residents of Cameron feel slighted compared to Marshall County's larger towns.
"When Moundsville wants something, they get it," he said. "The bigger the town, the more people pay attention to it."
Megan Gorby and Jesse Stoneking said they are suspicious as far as finances being put into the project, as well as the competence of those controlling it.
"There's definitely a lot of money going into the project," Gorby said.
"I think that they could have picked a better location," added Stoneking. "They could have put a lot more thought into it."
Laurne Wasneth also expressed doubt regarding the location of the new high school.
"To me, they could have picked an entirely different spot," said Wasneth. "It's going to be a lot more trouble than they thought. If that was the ideal location, they wouldn't be behind."
Across the street from The Bridgestreet is the Cameron Floral and Gift Shoppe, owned and operated by Greg Galentine.
"It is sad that (the project) has been delayed," said Greg Galentine. "The taxpayers ultimately foot the bill."
He also believes that the public has not been informed of the project details, and wonders why taxpayers should have to pay for mistakes he believes were made by the contractor.
Much like Gorby and Stoneking, Greg Galentine wants to know who made mistakes to cause the project delays. Once that party is identified, he believes that entity should be held accountable for changes and delays.
His mother, Sharon Galentine, also spoke out about the project.
"I just hope when they get it done, they get it right," she said. "The citizens of Cameron have worked hard to get that high school."
The county's response
When asked what is causing the delays and cost overruns, Marshall County Schools Superintendent Alfred Renzella said there are a "multitude" of issues.
Some of the biggest challenges to overcome are shortages of both supplies and manpower, he claimed.
"All tradespeople were going to the oil and gas projects. The blocklayers had to call people out of retirement. There may also have been some staffing shortages for the contractors," he said.
"The oil and gas industry made it difficult to get supplies," Renzella added.
Transportation also proved to be an early challenge, he said. Because much of the new school's frame involves solid steel construction, large steel beams had to be hauled to the project site using special equipment. Permits also had to be obtained from the state Division of Highways to approve the moving of such large and heavy objects on the roads.
Renzella and Assistant Superintendent Wayne Simms said there were problems with the building's original design.
"We had design issues from the get-go that had to be worked out," said Renzella.
"We had a little bit of a problem with the steel framing design," added Simms.
Both also blamed rain in the summer of 2011 for slowing the project down.
Simms and Renzella said the priority now is to finish the project, then take time to investigate and determine whether any individual entities bear responsibility.
Renzella said he visits the project site weekly, while Simms is visiting at least twice weekly. He also said a board of education meeting will be held Sept. 25 at the school.
"Undivided attention is being given to the project to expedite the process," Renzella said.
"We just want to finish the building first," said Simms.