Sustained Outrage

State ducked duty on smoking ban, commissioner says

commissioner-carper.jpg Earlier this week, Nitro City Council members proposed the city change jurisdiction to the Putnam County Health Department and away from the Kanawha County Health Department to avoid Kanawha’s smoking ban. The ban affects Nitro’s Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center.

The Kanawha-Putnam county line runs through Nitro, but the racetrack is in Kanawha County.

Putnam County officials say such a change would over extend an already overburdened department.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said Wednesday Nitro’s attempt to jump ship, is a result of the state’s not taking responsibility for policy.

“This should have been decided by the Legislature,” Carper said. “They had the legal authority and responsibility and they kicked this can to the health department to deal with.”

Under current law, it is up to health boards in all 55 counties to devise smoking regulations.

Carper said when the Legislature faces unpopular decisions, lawmakers leave the hard choices to counties. All-terrain vehicles and Sunday hunting are other subjects that the Legislature left to local governments to manage. The outcome is that West Virginia residents could have 55 different policies on these issues that cross county lines.

“The Legislature created this mess. They ought to get full create for this,” he said. “It’s not the county commission or health board in charge of creating laws, it’s the state Legislature.”

Metro government will draw jobs. Seriously?

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Metro government supporters routinely say that a new consolidated government would make Kanawha County more attractive to corporations looking for new locations. Skeptics shake their heads. Kanawha has about 190,000 people, including 50,000 in Charleston. Redrawing lines on a map or redesigning local government won’t suddenly add thousands of irresistible skilled workers or fix any other problems that turn business off.

True, says Matt Ballard, president and CEO of Charleston Area Alliance. But he believes metro government really could make Kanawha County more attractive to corporations.

“Large businesses do hire site consultants,” Ballard said. “They come back with a short list of sites that meet certain criteria.” Companies are usually looking for two main things — infrastructure and population of a certain size, enough to provide a good workforce.

So, for example, if that consultant makes a list of all the metropolitan statistical areas of 250,000 anchored by a principal city, no place in West Virginia makes the cut.

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How green are the proposed Putnam schools?

In response to last week’s update about Putnam County’s proposed school bond, a  Gazette reader asked whether construction of four new schools would include environmentally friendly designs?

We contacted the architect for the proposed schools, George Williamson, president of Williamson and ShriverArchitects Inc. in Charleston.

Williamson said preliminary designs for the new schools incorporate energy conservation aspects as specified in state code. The aspects include motion sensors for lighting in the building that turn off if a room is vacant for a specified period of time, and energy efficient cooling and heating systems.

He said preliminary designs so far include just a basic layout of the buildings, but if the bond is approved, the architectural designs for the building will incorporate natural lighting sources.

“On energy saving and cost prevent measures, it absolutely makes sense,” Williamson said.

usgbc.jpgThere is also a chance that the state School Building Authority will chose one of the Putnam County schools for its initiative to build one “green school” that is certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

One LEED certified school is already under construction in Berkeley County.

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A Gazette reader asked a good question: Why does Putnam County’s school bond proposal include construction of a new building for Buffalo High School, a school with only 300 students?  See proposed floor plan and fact sheet.

We posed that question to Superintendent Chuck Hatfield and Putnam Board of Education member Debbie Phillips.

“You’re kind doomed if you do, or doomed if you don’t,” Hatfield said. “We’ve looked at consolidation… [and] the voters will not support it, and probably more importantly to that we believe in community schools, especially in the rural areas of West Virginia.”

A new Buffalo High School would be built for 400 students to accommodate projected growth, Hatfield said. With the new U.S. 35 and the Toyota plant, Putnam is still expecting growth.

The new high school will also be built on a 46-acre site that the board bought in the 1970s. The school’s track, baseball and softball fields already sit on the land.

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Putnam’s school bond: What would the money buy?

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The Putnam County Board of Education will put a $56.75 million bond request — its largest ever — before voters on Aug. 29.

County voters have not approved a bond since 1976, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying by the school board.

Voters rejected proposed bonds for school improvements in 1993 for $39.5 million; 2001 for $35.8 million; and 2002 for $20 million.

Voters will be asked to decide whether the county should borrow $56.75 million to be paid back over 15 years, the way a family buys a house or car. The Board of Education has put an interest cap of 6.75 percent on the bond. Interest rates today are about 3.75 percent.

Money from the bond can be used only as specified in the proposal, which you can read in detail in the election order. If passed, the bond would fund construction of three new schools:

Poca Middle School. See the proposed floor plan and fact sheet.

Confidence Elementary School. See the proposed floor plan and fact sheet.

Buffalo High School. See proposed floor plan (pictured above) and fact sheet.

It would also pay to completely renovate Poca Elementary School, as well as to build three new auxiliary high school gyms and a new gym for Winfield Elementary School.

The state School Building Authority has said that if county voters pass a bond, the authority will provide $21.7 million for a new Winfield Middle School. See proposed floor plan and fact sheet.