By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
Citizens must reach a common ground in order to meet the major school facility needs in Marion County, said Dr. Mark Manchin of the School Building Authority of West Virginia.
Manchin, executive director of the SBA, provided information and answered questions during a special session of the Marion County Board of Education Tuesday night at North Marion High School. The public forum was called to discuss future construction or renovation projects in the North Marion attendance area, especially the middle school needs.
Manchin commended the board of education for inviting him to speak and for trying to get input from the public about how they feel. He stressed that he wasn’t at the meeting to substitute his judgment for that of the five elected board members and the superintendent.
Manchin told the audience that he’ll do whatever he can to help the North Marion area, which is where he grew up. The citizens here care about their community, and the heart of the community is the schools, which is why these decisions related to school projects are so tough, he said.
“I’m understanding and sympathetic,” Manchin said. “I love this county. I love its communities all around.”
The SBA is held accountable for spending the taxpayers’ money responsibly. Since its creation in 1989, the authority has spent $1.8 billion on new school construction, and $35 million of that total amount has come to Marion County, he said.
Manchin said the funding is extremely competitive. Right now, about 28 projects in the state are requesting approximately $175 million worth of school construction, and the SBA only has around $40 million available to distribute. Marion County doesn’t have a project this year.