Readiness Center efforts discussed

PARKERSBURG – Representatives from West Virginia University at Parkersburg and the West Virginia National Guard told Wood County commissioners Monday they want to proceed with the locally funded portion of the proposed Parkersburg Readiness Center, while waiting word on federal funding for the reminder of the project.

Joe Campbell, with the university’s Guard Readiness Center Liaison Committee told commissioners the board of governors for the university has agreed to set aside $4 million from its reserves for the $11 million project.

“They made that commitment, it doesn’t cover the whole project obviously, but the facility will proceed in phases. These funds are for the part of the facility that can be utilized by both the college and community,” Campbell said. “We do not know for certain yet when the federal funds might be available, but because of the reduced federal funding, they have been delayed.”

Adam Krason, with the engineering and architectural firm of ZMM, told the commissioners the cost for the building would be about $11 million. Initially the cost was to be $13.3 million.

The facility contains more than 57,000 square feet and will accommodate 3,500-4,000 people. It could be used for trade shows, conventions, theater productions, banquets and there will be locker rooms.

“It will be multi-use, flexible so it can accommodate many functions, there is nothing else like this in the community,” Krason said.

The entire project cost, including the federally funded portion would be about $40 million.

“The layout would be the same, there is no change in intent, and guard officials are meeting with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., to try and address the federal funding,” Campbell told commissioners. “It’s just a delay, we are still on line and on board.”

Krason said the project has now been separated into phases. The field maintenance shop, library center, classrooms and other facilities would be constructed later, he said.

Campbell said it’s hoped the funds can be raised so ground could be broken for the first phase of the project possibly in 2015.

“So the college has committed $4 million out of its savings and you need a total of $11 million for phase I, with the possibility of $2 million being funded back through the feds,” Commissioner Blair Couch said, noting the commissioners assumed eventually representatives of the project would be in asking for funding help from the county, but the commissioners felt they have been “left out of the loop” on a lot of the information as the project proceeded.

“We would hope the yearly revenue raised by the rental at the facility would be used to offset at least some of the annual operating costs,” Couch said.

Lt. Col. Paul Stephens with the West Virginia National Guard told commissioners the guard gets federal funds for shared space, and there would be some funding for reimbursement available.

“This is an interesting project, it is in the county, it’s an exciting project, and WVU-P has stepped up with the free land and is contributing part of the local funding,” Couch said, asking what kind of financial commitment was being asked from the county. “What level of contribution are you asking for, do you need?”

Campbell said the officials could return to meet with the commission within 90 days with some specific numbers.

“I’m a little hesitant at this point, from what’ I’ve heard, I think you need some more partners,” said commission President Wayne Dunn.

“I’m concerned, $11 million seems awful high for one building,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

Couch said there were some possibilities for raising revenues the county could consider including bonds, part of which might be used for other county projects, while also providing some funds for the readiness center.

“Our rainy day and other savings at this point are all tied up with paying on the justice center,” Couch said. “We haven’t really discussed this between the three of us at this point. We aren’t going to raise taxes to support a readiness center, we might be able to come up with some revenue another way, but we haven’t discussed it yet.”

“We aren’t asking for a commitment now, we just wanted to update you on the project,” Campbell said.

“I think you need to get a lot more people involved first,” Dunn said.

Couch suggested the officials also contact the municipalities, development authority and the Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau as other possible funding sources.

“The public needs to weigh in on this, we are just trying to see if we could help,” Couch said.

“I assumed no one would commit anything until the federal funds came in,” Gainer said.