The latest in the ongoing struggle of Oakvale High School had Mercer County Schools Preservation official John Cottle accused SEM Partners and the State Fire Commission of conspiracy to prevent the reopening of the Oakvale High School.
The estimated costs of compliance to correct 11 of the 17 fire violations was $249,192, an amount that Cottle called "ridiculous."
"A month ago the people at Oakvale knew the prices would be jacked sky-high. When SEM finishes its survey of what is necessary or wanted by the board in every county school, we expect the prices to be among the highest in the county again. We feel this is all a part of a conspiracy by the board, SEM, CCC, and the fire marshal to keep Oakvale closed on the grounds that it is too expensive to reopen."
In particular, Cottle questioned several items on a list of required repairs to reopen Oakvale from the State. They include repairs such as providing a window for the library, an interior room, at a cost of $83,700; and providing a sprinkler system for the school that would require building and installing a massive water tank system, since the area at the time was entirely dependent on well water, even though a system from wells would not provide enough pressure to make the system effective.
Cottle also questioned a $77,004 cost for the installation of a zone type fire alarm with smoke and thermal detectors. The system would be redundant according to Cottle because the inspection already called for individual smoke alarms in the same areas and thermal alarms required enough heat that would kill humans before they would activate.
Cottle also said that he learned from citizens who had tried to file appeals with the State Fire Commission that Fire Marshal Smittle had requested that the Commission not hear any appeals on the order of condemnation by either the MCSP or any other aggrieved persons; and his attempt to prevent a hearing scheduled for Aug. 28 of that year.