Building Commission endorses armory project

The City of Buckhannon Municipal Building Commission will contribute $400,000 to the West Virginia National Guard Armory and Convention Center construction project.

The city’s building commission met Thursday to host a session of public inquiry, elect a new president and vote on the fund contribution. Bob Skinner was elected as the new president of the building commission.

The site on Brushy Fork that has already been secured for the project is 44 acres of land. The armory and convention center will be about 57,000 square feet. The convention center can accommodate up to 300 persons.

“I think this is a really good opportunity, and it is a crown jewel for us as far as an economic development driver,” Michael Doss, treasurer and city administrator, said.

About 85 jobs associated with the armory’s relocation will be retained with the construction of the new complex. Doss said the conference center also will create the potential for future additional jobs through new economic development opportunities around and associated with the facility.

“Of course, we look forward to the completion of the conference center,” Mayor Kenneth Davidson said Friday. “It’s going to do what we anticipated it to do for our community; I’m sure of it.”

The complex will be able to host conferences, meetings, receptions and training for public events, private individuals, companies and organizations.

Doss said that two-thirds of the city’s contribution to project is expected to be recouped through the B&O tax on contractors once the property is annexed into the city boundaries. A public hearing on that matter is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Jan. 24 at the Upshur County Courthouse as part of the county commission meeting.

“The cost to the average tax payer within the City of Buckhannon will be absorbed through that tax, so it will be less of a burden or debt on the citizens,” Doss said. “In turn of this, we get a pretty nice state-of-the-art modern facility that we will be able to showcase here in Buckhannon, Upshur County and through the area, attracting conferences, weddings, receptions and various trainings that we can do both in the private and the public sector.”

Skinner said that West Virginia Wesleyan College would also benefit from the convention center. The college often has events, such as Homecoming, outside of Upshur County, and alumni have commented that they would prefer to be in Buckhannon. The facility can keep the local college’s activities in Buckhannon.

“We definitely think it’s a good move for us,” Skinner said.

Doss also explained the funding process for the project. Doss said he expects the total cost of the potentially three-phased project to be $35 million. In addition to its contribution that is expected to be paid toward the project in May, the building commission plans to secure a $765,000 loan through the United States Department of Agriculture to assist with the project. The term of the loan is being considered at 30 years, as recommended by the project’s loan council, but can be as much as 40 years.

The State of West Virginia also has contributed $2 million to the conference center. Because the city’s water board will absorb the cost of materials, time and labor to hook a 12-inch water line to the convention center, $150,000 will be paid to the city water board to help with those costs. For bond council to Steptoe and Johnson, LLC law firm, $15,000 will be paid.

The remaining $250,000 will be used to furnish and equip the conference center. The Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau also will contribute $100,000 over two years for equipment and furnishings. The CVB will be the managing agency of the convention center.

“We as a city and as a building commission will just be financing that, and we will step out of the way,” Doss said. “We certainly don’t want to be managing that ourselves.”

City engineer Jay Hollen said the water line completion goal is an ambitious goal, projecting the finish of that portion of the project by the end of this year. He also said that the projected completion date of the project is estimated to be mid- to late 2014.