ROMNEY — The second-ever Romney pool fundraising meeting got cracking Monday evening, and numbers, names, outreach and – of course – fundraiser ideas were all pitched around.
As of right now, it’s a numbers game. While the cost to hire an engineering firm to plan the new pool on School Street in Romney may be $70,000, that’s simply the tip of the iceberg.
It’ll be $70,000, plus a whole lot more – actual construction and material costs, maintenance, salaries for employees and more.
It’s actually closer to a multi-million dollar project, said group organizer Patty Anderson.
Romney Mayor Beverly Keadle pointed out that moving forward, the name of the project – and the account set up for direct donations – will be under the “Romney Pool,” even though the entire Hampshire County community makes use of it during the summertime months. Calling it the “Community Pool” makes it seem like the Town of Romney is building a separate pool rather than replacing the 60-plus year old one.
Fundraising ideas flew around the Romney fire hall at the 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday, including partnering with the Hampshire County Public Library, setting up a table or booth at the WV Peach Festival in August, an “elimination dinner” – though that might be a bit too much work for the committee to take on right now, Anderson said.
“We need to try to fund fundraisers that are easier to tackle, and do a long-term plan,” she said.
Keadle reminded folks that the Town of Romney did apply for the $70,000 planning grant, which will be an all-or-nothing amount. If the town wins the grant, all of the donations and funds raised will go toward the next phases of the new pool’s development.
If it doesn’t, then the sum needed to get the ball rolling is about $39,650 – since the County Commission granted the project $30,000 two weeks ago, and a weekend bake sale brought in just under $400.
Local businesses have also stepped up and committed to putting on fundraisers, including Italian Touch, Lost Mountain BBQ Co., the Romney Moose and The Brass Rail – and Springfield’s Bruce Nicholson suggested that the group set up donation tables at the South Branch Valley Bluegrass Festival on June 24 and the Hampshire County Fair at the end of July.
Getting the word out about meetings and fundraising events is crucial, said Romney’s Hannah Reno. Instead of using the Town of Romney’s Facebook page, Reno commented that she’d be more than happy to create a page dedicated solely to pool fundraising – a page that will promote positive ideas and cooperation within the community about the plan for the new aquatic center.
The plans for the pool right now – a splash pad and a slide are just two suggested features – is nowhere near set in stone, Keadle emphasized. There will be ample opportunity for public input as the pool moves into its planning phase.
Romney councilperson Bill Taylor pointed out the daunting reality of town pools, saying that a pool is a “luxury item.”
“You’ll never break even on a swimming pool,” he admitted. “There’s operation costs and maintenance year after year…everyone’s gotta be involved to make this work.”
The group’s meetings will move around the county, so folks who live in places other than Romney might be able to easily plan to attend. The next meeting is scheduled for June 5 in Capon Bridge – location to be determined, Anderson said.
ROMNEY — A collection of passionate community members met on the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind’s campus last Thursday to get a clear picture of “what’s next” for the school’s entrance.
The group mostly was made up of current and former WVSDB staff, school alumni, parents, and historians, and they had one goal: get the ball rolling on developing a memorial at the front of the school for the Administration Building, as well as a bus loop, new sign and expanded entrance.
The goal is for work to begin this fall, said WVSDB Superintendent Clayton Burch.
Chris Campbell with architecture firm ZMM Architects and Engineers led the open forum. The team’s proposed site improvements are six-fold: new entry and bus loop, a memorial, a new parking lot, new campus entrance signage, new site lighting at the entrance of the school, and lastly, something that garnered quite a bit of discussion: the removal of the stone perimeter wall that runs along Route 50.
The wall is crumbling in several places, Campbell said, and in order to expand the entrance to the school for bus entry, part of it would have to be removed anyway.
Romney historian Dan Oates emphasized the historic element of that wall, pointing out that it was built – likely in the 1920s – by W.W. Keister, who also designed and built the Parsons Bell Tower, a monument at Indian Mound Cemetery, the stone house across from the Romney Dairy Queen and the Pin Oak Fountain, all out of rocks from the South Branch River.
He said that Romney has been “devastated” over the last several years by the loss of priceless historic structures.
“I hate to see another thing go down the toilet because we can’t save it,” he said. “That wall has meaning, history. It’s a part of history that’s very specific to this school.”
Former WVSDB teacher Sue Staley asked simply, “Have we not lost enough?”
Keeping the wall would mean repairing it – which would be a huge cost, Campbell warned.
Glen Pinkard, a former WVSDB student and current teacher’s aide at the school, voiced a different perspective, pointing out that if the stone wall is in disrepair, it may pose a safety hazard to students, especially those who are blind or visually impaired.
“I can say that to me, the wall has no significant historic value,” Pinkard said. “If it is in disrepair, I don’t see a need to keep it in its location, spending tons of money on a wall someone built in the 20s…you can preserve history and grow for the future at the same time.”
It’s a definite possibility for ZMM to remove the wall but keep its materials to be incorporated into the new signage or the memorial, Campbell said. The purpose of the forum was to brainstorm, and nothing is really set in stone just yet.
The new entrance to the school and the planned bus loop has the potential to be a huge problem-solver for blind and visually impaired students and staff, Pinkard said. They lost the direct path to Route 50 when the Administration Building burned and the hull was torn out. The bus loop is currently planned to run one-way from the entrance to campus to the McDonald’s intersection.
“We definitely need a nice pedestrian sidewalk that connects…to Route 50,” he said. “That’s the most important thing to me.”
There were several memorial ideas thrown around – including a fountain, which blind and visually impaired students would be able to hear.
Hampshire County Development Authority director Eileen Johnson asked if the WVSDB students would be involved in the memorial planning process, and current school staff pointed out that the students just don’t have the attachment to the Administration Building that the adults, staff and alumni do.
Approximately 450 to 500 bricks were saved from the Administration Building, and using those bricks for either the memorial, the signage or both were all ideas tossed to the ZMM representatives.
One attendee suggested planting trees in the green area as a part of a memorial, and another pointed out that an outdoor classroom could make the space a “living memorial.”
Campbell emphasized that the firm is looking to capitalize on green space and develop the school’s connection to Route 50.
“It has to make the community proud, make the school proud. It can’t be just a driveway,” Staley said.
Charles Hall, who runs HistoricHampshire.org, pointed out that the Administration Building used to be the Classical Institute, and that the memorial should cover the building’s entire history – not just its history as a part of WVSDB.
ZMM Architects and Engineers are no strangers to working in Romney, or on the WVSDB campus. They’re working on the Blue and Gold Building, as well as spearheaded Keller Hall’s roofing project.
“We’ve been entrusted with working with a lot of state landmarks,” Campbell said, adding that just recently, ZMM put the pyramid roof back on Wood County’s courthouse. “We do understand the importance of landmarks in this community.”
Once the firm completes the design process and it’s approved at the state level, the package will go out to a pre-bid meeting for all subcontractors, confirmed Burch. The total cost of the project will be determined at that point.
AUGUSTA— Hampshire County school faculty and their families gathered at Augusta Elementary School for the 2023 Teacher of the Year and Service Person of the Year ceremony last Friday.
This year, the Bank of Romney presented Cynthia Corbin – who has spent her entire 34-year career at Capon Bridge Elementary School – with the Teacher of the Year Award.
Corbin has organized and spearheaded many activities, such as the “Kindness Club,” which shines a light on students who act kindly on and off school grounds. During this school season, she invited former teachers to volunteer their time as part of the PLUS (professionals lending us support) staff that adds support to current teachers in Hampshire County. The Bank of Romney presented Corbin with a new laptop and printer to gear her up for the following years.
Now a reading specialist, Corbin thanked her parents, children and husband for supporting her throughout her teaching career.
“My staff at Capon Bridge has put up with many ideas that I throw out to them,” Corbin said. “I’ve enjoyed my years as a teacher; I wouldn’t have chosen anything else.”
Katie Buckley was recognized as the Service Personnel of the Year. Currently a cafeteria manager and cook at Augusta Elementary, Buckley began working for Hampshire County Schools three years ago at Hampshire High School. Hampshire County Schools Superintendent Jeff Pancione began the ceremony by thanking Buckley for putting everything together, especially with the last-minute move of the ceremony’s location from HHS to AES due to the high school’s power outage last week.
“Not only is she trying to prepare, clean up and run a kitchen for 300 kids, but she was out here cleaning, trying to rearrange… she was more concerned about the appearance of her work area this afternoon than getting home, getting ready, getting back,” Pancione said.
The ceremony also recognized the folks retiring at the end of this school season.
Hampshire County Schools transportation director J.W. See mentioned that Ruth Nitz-Rippeon logged more than one million miles in her 51-year career as a bus driver.
Pancione said that while Steve Hott, the schools’ Maintenance and Safety Coordinator, may be retiring this year, his knowledge is nothing that “can be found in textbooks;” the schools will continue to seek guidance as they transition into the new schools.
Pancione said that when the power went out at the high school last Thursday, Hott worked relentlessly to find the part for a 1964 panel box from a Federal Pacific that went out of business 35 years ago. Hott restored the power the following evening.
Hampshire County Schools Human Resource Director Pamela Slocum, the ceremony’s organizer, noted that the schools were losing valuable members due to retirement. She mentioned that it was becoming less common for folks to stay employed in one place for such a long time.
The HHS Pro-Start program prepared the ceremony’s dinner. Flowerpots and succulent plants from the HHS greenhouse were available for the nominees and retirees to take home.
The Bank of Romney gifted retirees and all the nominees with engraved Yeti mugs.
The following are the retirees for this school season: Victoria Ford, Carla Hart, Carolyn Henderson, Stacy Hill, Tammy Malone, Robert Miller, Kimberly Powell and Mark Shanholtz.
The Service Personnel of the Year nominees were: Wendy Booth, Randy Hiett, Caroline Loy, Jeanne Milleson, Cindy Parker, Barbara Riggleman, Ronnie Riggleman, Ron Spiker, Peggy Stafford and Pam Timbrook.
The Teacher of the Year nominees were: Shania Farris, Allison McCormick, Meaghan Stehle, Robert Colebank, Laura Harrison and Margaret Page.
Asbestos contamination of tile adhesives in the old hospital building might delay transfer of the property to the Board of Education, the Hampshire County Development Authority was told at its meeting last Wednesday.
Fortunately, the problem was resolved by the end of the meeting.
Demolition at the old hospital site had been paused after the contractor became suspicious of additional contaminants on the hospital site and sent samples to three different labs. There were discrepancies in the results, with some indicating asbestos in the black glue under the floor tiles.
The state Department of Environmental Protection offered to test everything at no cost to the HCDA and had collected samples the previous week. If all the floor tiles were found to be contaminated, it could drive project costs up as much as another $400,000, Johnson said.
Thrasher Group project engineer Patricia Escoriaza was assuring everyone that they were working “to the utmost of their capabilities” to complete the project on time when Johnson received a message on her phone from DEP Brownfields Program Manager Erin Brittain.
Brittain had good news: the DEP had received the test results, and all samples were negative. The demolition contractor could resume work.
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Pancione, who attended the meeting with Board of Education President Ed Morgan, expressed frustration at the delay, pointing out construction was underway at the other two new schools, and people were losing patience.
Morgan added the contractor for the construction of the South Branch Elementary School was getting nervous, and Pancione pointed out that further delays would leave them trying to figure out what to do with students from the two schools.
He added that the costs of any delays would eventually impact school children because the budget would have to be cut somewhere. Johnson assured him no further delays are expected.
It was the first HCDA meeting attended by Jon Todd “J.T.” Hott, who will take over as the executive director when HCDA Executive Director Johnson retires at the end of June. The Board thanked the county commission for providing funds for Johnson to remain in the office for a while to provide guidance as Hott takes on his new responsibilities.
Hott said he went off to North Carolina to play football after graduating from HHS in 1989. He met his wife there, and they agreed to raise their children in North Carolina before retiring to West Virginia. His wife has another year to go before joining him.
In other business, Capon Bridge attorney Logan Mantz reported that the town hoped to close on the transfer of Capon Bridge Technical Park utilities quickly so as not to interfere with Aquabanq’s purchase of a lot in the park for its shrimp farming operation.
Mantz said two things remained to be done, the town’s renegotiation of water rights with the Department of Natural Resources, for which they now had a memorandum of intent, and a new agreement with Central Hampshire PSD, with whom they would be meeting June 6.
The county commission had questioned the price set on the property Capon Bridge wished to purchase from the HCDA for a bulk water plant to be built with county American Rescue Plan funds to bring in revenue to offset the costs of setting up and operating CBTP utilities.
Johnson said the property was priced at the value given on the asset sheet prepared by their accountants, with no markup. She noted a structure on the property is insured for $240,000 and pointed out they were willing to sell the property while retaining the debt still owed on it.
The new HCDA website is up and running, and HCDA Marketing Committee Chair Rebecca Hott reported the day after the meeting that Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation Executive Director Sara Dearing said Hampshire County has the best economic development website in the entire state.
Dearing had seen the website at the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor in early May. Johnson said Rebecca Hott had been remarkably effective at the event, attracting investors from as far away as Sweden to consider locating in Hampshire County,
State Rail Authority Executive Director Cindy Butler agreed in a May 11 meeting to prepare a cost-benefit analysis for bringing a rail spur with a freight loading dock into the Romney Business Park, Johnson said. The study will take about six months and should greatly improve the HCDA’s chances in the next round of the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Transportation Grants.
Johnson reported that Aquabanq will hold a June 8 “ground-breaking” ceremony at Hawthorn House in Summit Point, a few miles west of Charles Town, for lack of a suitable venue closer to their planned installation in Capon Bridge. She added that they plan an event specifically for the local community at a later date.
Health Department Director Tamitha Wilkins announced the county had no Covid deaths in April. They are now vaccinating people 65 and over or immunocompromised who were last vaccinated more than four months ago.
Wilkins added that she had “two very good prospects” she would be interviewing for the vacancy for a nurse on her staff. Money from a CDC grant to strengthen and retain staff will help with salaries.
WINCHESTER — John Handley High School history teacher – and Hampshire resident – Jeffery Keller brought home to Augusta the title of 2024 Virginia Teacher of the Year last week.
Keller was selected in April as one of the state’s eight regional teachers of the year, and is now Virginia’s nominee for the national title.
He grew up in Augusta (attending Augusta Elementary and then Romney Middle, he recalled), graduating from HHS in 2004. Then, he attended Shepherd University, went on to earn a Masters in History from George Mason University in 2012 and is currently working on a PhD, too.
He and his wife – also a HHS graduate – moved to Winchester for 10 years, but moved back onto her family farm in 2018.
He’s been a staple at JHHS for 15 years.
“I took a one-year job at JHHS in 2008 after college. I fully anticipated being here one year and then going to law school,” Keller said. “However, I just fell in love with it.”
He’s passionate about history, about his students and about knowledge in general. One of the best things about being a teacher is playing a role in the lives of your many students.
“I love the relationships you get to have with students and the feeling that you can play a small part in them becoming who they become,” he added. “For some students, that means pushing themselves to go to prestigious schools and on to high-powered careers. For some students, it means figuring out they have a passion for community service. For some students it means developing a love for history or for writing. That’s the thing that keeps you coming back.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons said Keller would be an “outstanding ambassador” for the state at the national level.
“Jeffery encourages each of his students to set high goals and creates pathways for them to achieve excellence,” she said. “I am looking forward to visiting (JHHS) and watching him in action.”
Keller is the Region 4 Teacher of the Year and Winchester’s Teacher of the Year for 2024. There are seven other 2024 regional winners in Virginia as well.
The 2024 National Teacher of the Year will be announced next spring at a ceremony at the White House.
“It’s exciting. It’s validation for hard work and long hours.” Keller said. “I am thankful for my students, too — it’s really for them. They’re what it’s all about.”