The Randolph County Commission and other local officials talked Thursday about the possibility of purchasing the soon-to-be-vacated West Virginia National Guard Armory in Elkins once it is replaced by the newly constructed Armed Forces Reserve Center in Harding.
Del. Bill Hartman, D-43rd District, said at Thursday's commission meeting that "the unit will be moving in the next 60 to 90 days. Hopefully, by late summer or early fall, the existing armory will be vacated."
Hartman said he began discussions two months ago with county and city of Elkins officials about "the possibility of putting some kind of authority together to assume that building."
The National Guard sells vacated armory property and uses the proceeds to help build future armories, he said.
"After an armory is vacated, the opportunity is given to organizations that can prove that they have the ability to manage and maintain it and the source of funds to pay for that management," Hartman said. "If there's nobody in that category, then it will be sold at public auction."
The delegate said he has met with National Guard officials and has learned that the armory and the eight acres it is situated on have been appraised at "just short of $1 million." He said he was sure that any offers on the armory building would be "much, much less than that."
"I think if we can secure that building and get an active committee together to manage the thing, I think it could become a very important part of the community," Hartman said.
Commission President Mike Taylor said he thought the armory building would be a valuable community asset, but noted, "We all want to proceed cautiously. What's it going to cost us to operate it? That's the main question."
Hartman said he'd learned that the fixed expenses for maintaining the armory building were about $45,000 a year, including utlities, insurance and other costs.
Taylor said Robbie Morris, the executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority, has prepared an RFP (Request For Proposal) for a feasibility study for the redevelopment of the armory building.
Taylor said four bodies will share in the cost of the feasibility study: the county commission; the city of Elkins; the county Development Authority; and the Mountain State Forest Festival.
Taylor said that Dr. James Phares, superintendent of Randolph County schools, will present the plan to the Randolph County Board of Education on July 2. After that meeting, the county BOE may come on board the project as a partner as well, he said.
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution allowing the commission to participate in the feasibility study and share in its expenses.
Also at Thursday's meeting, the commission voted to help pay for the city of Elkins' flood control certification project.
Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott told commissioners that the city's flood control structure is mandated by the federal government to be inspected and certified. The mandate came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he said.
Talbott asked the county to help pay for the project, which he said would cost between $80,000 and $83,000.
"This will have a great impact on a lot of people other than the city of Elkins," Talbott said. "Two-thirds of the people in Randolph County get their water from the city of Elkins."
The mayor said that if the city is not able to find some additional funding for the project, the costs will have to be passed along to customers by increasing water rates.
Talbott noted that the current water rate increases being voted on by Elkins City Council are for the purpose of building a new water plant, and have "nothing to do with" the flood control certification project.
Bob Pingley, the operations manager for the city of Elkins, said, "It's a mandate that's been laid on us with no funding."
Pingley said the project is about halfway done, and he expects it to be completed later this summer.
Taylor said the flood control project is very important to county residents. "I don't think (a water rate increase is) a burden we should subject the citizens to," he added.
The commission voted unanimously to pay for half of the project cost or up to $40,000. Commissioner Joyce Johns said the funding will come with a stipulation: that there be no rate increase passed on to the water customers of Elkins or Randolph County.
The funding will come from the county's contingency fund after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Contact Brad Johnson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.