After a program beneath a large, shiny white tent, several officials of West Virginia's Board of Education and an array of county citizens took gold shovels and scooped up sand in a rectangular area to symbolize the start of construction of the multimillion school complex.
Mingo County School Superintendent Dwight D. Dials welcomed visitors and acknowledged many prominent citizens on hand for the groundbreaking. Acting as master of ceremonies, he talked seriously of plans for providing the best in educational facilities for the young people of Mingo County.
He announced that recent bidding on phases of the construction of the new high school complex was satisfactory and under the projector's budget. Neighborgall Construction Co. of Huntington has been selected as general contractor for the project. An August 2010 completion date has been mentioned.
Joining Dials on a stage set beneath the tent were Dr. Steven L. Paine, state superintendent of schools, West Virginia Department of Education; Delores Cook, president of the West Virginia Board of Education; Priscilla Haden, vice president of the state board; Barbara Fish, state board member, and Greg Blankenship, division president of Alpha Natural Resources.
The talks that followed centered around the plan and hope for providing children of Mingo County the best education possible.
Dr. Paine told of talking Dials into coming out of retirement and taking the Mingo County school superintenden'ts post when it became vacant. He said he felt Dials was the man for the job and expressed pride in Dial's leadership and of the progress in plans for the new county high school.
He discussed briefly the responsibilities of members of the state board and its present leader, Delores Cook, along with other state board members who are often faced with making difficult decisions. The board currently has control of the Mingo County School Board.
He also thanked James H. "Buck" Harless of Gilbert, head of International Industries, for being present and for his friendship and support of the school system. Mike Whitt, executive director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, was singled out for praise for his efforts to promote industry in the county.
Paine said the Mingo Central High School has been a very controversial project, adding, "But I hope we can go forth today and develop the best possible educational facility so the Mingo County kids can get a world class education."
State board of education President Cook spoke briefly of the fact the sun was shining on the special activity, saying, "The Lord is with us."
She said the first time she visited the proposed school site it was nothing like the site she saw yesterday, as rocks and gravel had turned into a beautiful site for the building of Mingo County's new school.
"I bring you greetings from the state board of education," said Cook. "This (school project) has been a long time coming. We are grateful for the opportunity today to get the project started and know the children will be pleased by all the opportunities that are going to come once the school is completed."
In brief comments, Blankenship said Alpha Natural Resources got involved with the project in 2005.
"Ten million yards of material were moved; $400,000 was spent on the water system," he said. "I hope that more projects like this will happen later on. ANR appreciates the opportunity to participate in this."
Dials recognized numerous other persons present for the days event, including former Williamson Mayor Sam Kapourales and his wife, Dee, a former member of the Mingo Board of Education and a supporter of the new school project.
Dr. Mark Manchin, executive director of the School Building Authority of West Virginia, had been scheduled to be a guest at the ceremony, but was unable to attend. The SBA is the agency that has approved the $29 million initially for the school's construction. Nicewonder Contracting Inc. also was given credit for developing the site.
Among others present were Ted Shriver, Charleston architect whose firm drew up the plans for the new school; a representative of Neighborgall Construction (the general contractor for the school complex); Clyde Lester, former board member; Mingo Sheriff Lonnie Hannah and Mingo Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks; Mingo board members Dr. J.W. Endicott and William D. Duty; Mingo principals and teachers, and various other citizens, including the news media. Robert "Hank" Starr, director of maintenance for the Mingo BOE, and assistants arranged the setting for the day's events.
Dials reported that the contract with Neighborgall as general contractor was to be signed later in the day. He expects to provide figures on the bidding as soon as they are tabulated and considered.
Prior to the groundbreaking, Josh Addair, recording artist and 2006 graduate of Matewan High School, sang the National Anthem; two students led in the pledge of allegiance, and the Rev. Mitchell Bias, of the Regional Church of God, gave the invocation and the benediction.
The school site has an elevation of 1,950 feet. After the groundbreaking ceremony, the three buses took their passengers along the portion of the new King Coal Highway that has been constructed to rough grade. Work at this time is progressing in the Mary Taylor Mountain area.
The new central high school is designed to serve high school students from Williamson, Delbarton, Matewan and Gilbert and those schools will be closed or put to other use. In addition to serving the school, the King Coal Highway is expected to be the means of opening up land for development of industry, business and new housing. Mike Whitt once commented that "the possibilities are intriguing."
The four-lane highway will eventually have major highway connections in the Bluefield area and north of Mingo County.