Firm has plan to save class

FAIRMONT – Inspired by local businesses that stepped up to make Fairmont Area Schools’ ag program happen, Tech Builders is volunteering its time to save the district’s building trades class.

In the past, students in the building trades class have constructed a house and then auctioned it off, so the school can recoup its expense.

Lately, selling the houses has been difficult. The homes are built outside the high school, and the seller pays to transport them, which is an extra expense and hassle.

Next school year, the building trades class is building a house on site for a teacher. The following year, 2014-2015, Tech Builders is proposing that the students work for the local Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The authority needs to build one more duplex to replace all 10 of the units destroyed by a fire at Friendship Village housing complex in 2007.

Jeff Greischar, CEO of Tech Builders, talked to the authority Monday to see if students would be allowed to build that last duplex. Tech Builders would donate its time as general contractor for the project.

“They were talking about stopping the program, and we felt it was a call to action,” Greischar said.

The school would essentially be a sub-contractor, with the students doing all the carpentry, dry wall and other work of that nature, with other sub-contractors handling the electrical wiring and plumbing. Tech Builders would write the sub-contractor contracts, handle the bidding process and oversee the work.

“We would see this through from beginning to completion, just like we would for any other client,” Greischar said.

The housing authority liked the idea, but the decision may not be up to them.

“I think the concept’s great, but will HUD allow us to do something like that?” asked city administrator Mike Humpal.

HRA public housing manager Ruth Lewis-Clover is looking into the answer. The housing authority answers to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I think it’s great you’re making this effort,” said Lisa Olson of the HRA.

“We saw that group of businesses go to bat for the ag program,” Greischar said. “This is a little different. … Here, we have the instructor, you have the money, and the program is already in place – we just need to figure out a way to keep it.

“A lot of the kids in that class come out of it ready to work … with no student loans,” he said.