Liz McCormick Published

W.Va. Senators Debate Costs For Requiring Water Bottle Stations In Schools

Stephen Baldwin Jan 28 2022.jpg

West Virginia senators signed off on a bill Friday that would require water bottle filling stations in all newly built public schools. SB 246 would also require older school buildings to install them if they are undergoing major renovations.

The stations are a little different from traditional water fountains. They would have filtered water and be better designed to fill a student’s water bottle.

The bill has no fiscal note, though, and would not be paid for by the state. County school boards would need to come up with the funds on their own.

This was an issue for Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, who said the bill puts an undue cost burden on counties and takes away local control.

“This is [for] a very good purpose,” Baldwin said. “We want our students to be healthier, but if we set this precedent with these unintended consequences, then when do we stop?”

Baldwin said the West Virginia School Building Authority testified in committee that construction costs in schools have gone up in recent decades, and a main reason for it is due to unfunded state and federal mandates.

Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, is a public school teacher and is the lead sponsor of the bill. She argued that many schools already have water bottle filling stations, and the cost for installing new ones would be small.

“The building designers who build the schools in this state said that this cost will be fractions of pennies,” Grady said. “For instance, a $10 million renovation would be a $350 cost.”

SB 246 passed 26-3, with one Republican, Sen. Dave Sypolt of Preston County, voting against the bill. The legislation now awaits consideration in the House of Delegates.