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Voters reject $5.8 million school bond in Monroe

By CHARLES BOOTHE

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PETERSTOWN, W.Va.  — For the second time this year, Monroe County voters rejected a bond issue that would have built a new school for Peterstown elementary and middle school students.

Saturday’s unofficial total saw 1,223 against the $5.8 million bond to 877 for.

With the failure of the bond, the county loses $16 million from the State Building Authority (SBA), money that could have been used to pay for the bulk of the $24 million school.

“I’m just so disappointed for our students and teachers,” said school board member Andrew Evans. “I wanted this for our teachers and service personnel as bad as I wanted this for our students.”

Evans said the board will have some “big decisions” to make in the coming weeks and he was critical of the Monroe County Commission.

“The county commission really hurt us badly with what they did when they established the ambulance fee,” he said. “They put a $100 fee on every household in the county right before the election, so residents were obviously in an anti-tax mood when they hit the polls Saturday.”

Evans was referring to action by the commissioners in August to implement that fee to provide ambulance services to the county after the Union Rescue Squad folded. The timing of the fee has been questioned since the county was receiving services from Greenbrier County and could have continued doing so until after the bond referendum.

Now, Evans is concerned about continuing the needed maintenance on the two schools because the buildings are more than 60 years old and present a myriad of issues, including heating and cooling, the electrical systems and dilapidated structures.

“We will not have another opportunity to make this happen for a long time and funds are not available to renovate existing facilities,” he said, referring to the loss of the $16 million, which had to be secured by Dec. 1, and the estimated $13 million price tags to bring the old schools up to Code.

“We had an opportunity to address a huge issue and it just didn’t work out,” he said. “I put a lot of blame on the SBA as well. While they did offer us $16 million, they really did not take time to understand the politics we were facing in this battle when they asked us to come with another $6 million.”

Evans said rural counties are at a “major disadvantage” with the SBA.

“Had this been a county with a larger tax base, they would have had the ability to write a check for the difference and they would have gotten their school,” he said. “It’s disheartening thinking our students don’t deserve what their peers have simply because we do not generate the revenue necessary to complete these projects.”

Voters also rejected a $10 million bond in June that would have built the school as well as address other facility needs in the county.

That bond was rejected by a vote of 1,189 to 609.

School officials lowered the bond request for Saturday’s referendum and made an effort to get out the vote to pass it. If it had passed, the debt would have been spread out over 15 years and amounted to a monthly cost of about one single meal ($7) from a fast food restaurant for most county families.

But out of 18 voting precincts in the county, the referendum failed in all but three: Peterstown Elementary, Peterstown Middle and Bozoo.

Vote totals are unofficial until the certification process, which starts next week, is completed and precinct vote totals will also not be released until after that process, according to the clerk’s office. 

Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]

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