Uncertain Future

PARKERSBURG – The former Rayon School is headed to a different owner after the Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force moved out.

The school, at 1508 Rayon Drive, was purchased by the task force control group from Wood County Schools in 2004 for $5. It became the Parkersburg/Wood County Law Enforcement Training Center and has been used for S.W.A.T., K-9, firearms and other kinds of training.

It once housed a Parkersburg Police substation, and there is a gym for law enforcement officers in the basement.

For now, the building is still being used for training and the gym remains open, but it will no longer serve as the base of operations for the task force, which is a joint effort of the Parkersburg and Vienna police departments, Wood County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s offices and the West Virginia State Police.

“This move was made possible because of the availability of another government-owned facility that dramatically reduces the overhead costs of the task force,” Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton said in an email Monday. “The reduction in overhead expenses as a result of the move will permit the task force to focus virtually all of its funding on drug investigations and enforcement.”

Those funding figures were not immediately available Monday.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin said the task force will not have to pay for any utilities at its new location, which he and Wharton declined to reveal, citing “operational security.”

“Utilities were a huge burden” at the former school, Martin said, describing heating costs in the winter as “astronomical” before the decision to not heat the main building was made several years ago.

The deed from the sale 10 years ago stipulates that the building would revert to Wood County Schools if it was no longer used for law enforcement purposes. District officials did not return calls seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Wharton said school board President Tim Yeater had been notified unofficially that the reversion would likely take place in the near future. But Martin said it’s possible another law enforcement agency could take it over.

It wouldn’t be a cheap proposition.

“That building really needs a lot of work,” Martin said. “It’s a money pit, basically.”

Still, the chief said the building has been an asset and he would not rule out recommending the city take it on.

“Obviously, funding is always going to be the drive behind any decision that we do make,” he said. “I’d have to confer with the mayor and City Council as well.”

While the building is structurally sound, Martin said some maintenance has fallen through the cracks over the years. In addition to the heating difficulties, new paint is needed, among other things, he said.