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Wood County Commission chooses firm to develop new county building

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission has picked the architect and engineering firm they want to work with in developing a new county building for downtown Parkersburg.

On Thursday, the commission announced ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston as the firm they will be working with.

A meeting will be set up between ZMM and county officials in the near future to go over the project, what the county would like to see included and begin the planning process, Commission President Blair Couch said.

“You select them on credentials first and then price and other items second,” he said.

Couch also announced the two runners up, as required by state law.

If things with ZMM do not go as planned, the county can call up the next firm.

The second and third place firms, respectively, are Alpha Architects and Engineers of Morgantown and WYK Associates of Clarksburg.

The county has been looking at possible uses for the 170-foot by 170-foot lot the old county jail sat on, including a possible new 911 center, somewhere to house the county maintenance department as well as having a large meeting room/emergency shelter facility, being able to do some storage and more.

However, 911 officials have stated they did not want to be in downtown and that aspect of the project may change, but county officials still want to look at creating something for the maintenance department, something for record storage and having a large meeting space that still allows for social distancing.

Commissioners stated the old building that still houses the maintenance department and previously housed the Wood County Sheriff’s Department would remain up and used until the new building is built before they tear it down to be turned into parking spaces. The Wood County Coroner, who has an office in that building, is also requesting office space in the new building.

The county is scheduled to receive $16.2 million from the American Recovery Act as well as additional money from opioid abuse settlements, some of which could go into the project.

County Engineer Maria Hardy also sat in on the interviews to ask questions the county would want to consider in moving forward with this project.

ZMM had done work in Wood County before on the Judge Black Judicial Annex and the Wood County Justice Center as well as a number of improvement projects at the Wood County Courthouse.

ZMM officials said they wanted more meetings, beyond the initial interview, to be able to discuss what the needs are as that will help guide them in their design work.

In other business, the commission talked about the need to possibly hire a financial director to keep track of spending for the $16.2 million the county will be receiving from the American Recovery Act over the next couple of years as well as other expenditures the county deals with to make sure those are tracked and done properly.

“We have to show reporting of expenditures of that money,” Couch said. “The state auditor also wants reporting done to him.

“We are hoping to have someone who is employed by the commission that will be in charge of watching the expenditures of this.”

Couch said it would be a lot to ask the County Administrator’s Office to handle it on top of their other duties. The county already set aside the money in its budget to be able to hire someone, he said.

“Having someone with a financial background right now would be ideal,” Couch said. “We want to make sure we spend every dollar of taxpayer money correctly and be good stewards of that money.

“All of the commissioners agree that we need to be transparent with the public. The people ought to know what their money is being spent on.”

Couch said by next Thursday they will have a description of what they are looking for. They will be looking at a variety of experiences with Couch saying they may look to someone who might have recently graduated from college or someone with more experience, depending on what they will be able to pay for the position.

Jeremy Webb, owner of West Virginia Cafe, is looking to open two video lottery establishments at a site near the exit ramp of I-77 near Williamstown (described as Map 151, Parcels 2 and 8). He is looking for an appeal for the Video Lottery Ordinance.

County officials agreed to table the measure until May 20 in order for local residents within certain distances of the site to be contacted by certified letter and determine if they have any objections to the measure.

The commission had previously waived the measure on a site outside of Williamstown, only to have residents come in and object after the fact which led to the county rescinding that waiver. Officials did not want a repeat of something similar.

David Gilbert of Appalachian Telecom also appeared before the commission seeking information on cable franchises in Wood County. Appalachian Telecom wants to come to Wood County and provide services countywide.

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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