Healthcare, State Government

Dunbar School Foundation Stop program $11,000 arrears on rent, notified to pay or vacate

MORGANTOWN – The Dunbar School Foundation has given the DSF Stop program until June 11 to pay past-due rent or vacate its headquarters in the former Dunbar School cafeteria at the edge of downtown Fairmont.

DSF President Houston Richardson said Stop – a COVID-19 testing and vaccination and health services program serving the Black community in four counties – is more than $11,000 in arrears on payments.

An earlier photo of the building shows the signage now missing.

Stop’s most recent grant records show it budgets $25,000 per year for its lease for the building across the street from the old school. DSF President offered a lower number, saying the arrangement is $4,000 per quarter.

But Stop is also using the school gym for storage, he said, and he is charging $1,000 per month for that.

Also, Stop is using the gym without permission, he said. “They didn’t ask me if they could have used it. I would have probably said yes. But they went on and did what they want to do, so I said, ‘OK, pay me $1,000 a month.’”

As previously reported, Stop CEO Romelia Hodges acknowledged the delinquency and said that as part of the DHHR review, the state said DSF and Stop did not have an arm’s length lease agreement; the state views them as one organization and doesn’t allow it to pay itself rent. So they have had to modify that line item in their budget and are waiting to hear back from the state.

Hodges did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

A drive by the Stop building during business hours Monday showed no cars in the parking lot and signage identifying it as Stop headquarters was no longer displayed.

Richardson said he had no information on whether Stop has left the building already.

Asked about the rent issue and the status of the update on the line item, DHHR said Monday, “We’re checking on this.”

Asked about the empty parking lot and signage gone, and the current status of the program, DHHR said, “The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health has not received notification of a change in headquarters or closure of the program.”

DHHR also provided information on the status of Stop’s current grant, which expires May 31, for $990,000, which Hodges previously said was being modified through a change order.

DHHR said, “A change order was initiated to switch the payment methodology from scheduled payments to reimbursement of costs. This requires the grantee to submit supporting documentation with invoices in order to receive payment.”

DHHR also answered questions about Stop’s status for the coming year, which begins June 1. It said, “One grant that was in process of being approved when the review started has been put on hold. The Dunbar School Foundation has not applied for additional grants.”

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