Armory purchase passes 6-3

ELKINS – Elkins City Council voted 6-3 Thursday to purchase the former Elkins National Guard Armory on the first of two required readings of the ordinance.

Council members Lonnie Randall, Mark Scott and Joe Sabatino cast votes against the ordinance, while First Ward Councilman Bob Woolwine abstained. Woolwine is on the board of directors of the Mountain State Forest Festival, which has expressed interest in using the former Armory.

“We just wanted more specifics,” Scott, who represents 3rd Ward, told The Inter-Mountain after the meeting. “We’re looking for a concrete plan and we haven’t been presented one yet.”

“To me, to make such a large purchase with the taxpayers’ money, I feel like we need to have a better plan of action for that facility,” First Ward Councilman Randall said. “I don’t feel like there’s been anything laid out to me to make me think that this is going to be perfect for our citizens.”

“We need to see a plan of use,” Sabatino, who represents 5th Ward, said.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m against it. If the circumstances were right and they’d use it properly I’d be in favor of it. Otherwise, no,” Scott said.

“It’ll never become a convention center because we’ll never have the finances to make it a convention center,” Randall said.

“They need to show me a plan that will convince me this is beneficial for the citizens and the city. We need to get the landfill done. We need to close that door before we open another one.”

The ordinance states the city will pay $200,000 for the former Armory. It also states “the mayor (will) be authorized to execute on behalf of the city any and all documents necessary to complete said purchase, upon approval of said documents by the city attorney.”

Thursday’s vote was taken following an executive session lasting nearly 40 minutes.

On Aug. 28, in a historic joint meeting, Elkins City Council announced it planned to purchase the former Armory on its own, with the Randolph County Commission agreeing to “step back” to allow the city to obtain sole ownership of the facility.

The announcement came after more than two years of county and city officials working together on the issue, followed by several months of halting progress on a joint purchase by the two governing bodies.

On Aug. 7, Elkins City Council approved on its first reading an ordinance allowing the city and the County Commission to buy the former Armory.

The second and final reading of the ordinance was on the agenda for the Aug. 14 City Council meeting, but after Council met in executive session for more than an hour no vote was taken on the issue.

The proposed Armory purchase plan’s price was announced as $200,000, with the cost being split equally between the city and county.

Taylor announced the joint Armory purchase plan at the July 17 Commission meeting. He said the deal would include the main Armory building, which is about 20,000 square feet, 8 acres of land near Elkins Middle School and several utility buildings.

Numerous outside entities have expressed interest in utilizing the building. The Mountain State Forest Festival has presented the County Commission with a letter of intent that they want to be an intricate part of the facility, possibly even a lessee, Taylor said.

The County Commission and Elkins City Council have been working with the Randolph County Development Authority and the Mountain State Forest Festival board of directors to obtain the former Armory for use as a community building.

Construction of the new $15.5 million Armed Forces Reserve Center, located just off Corridor H near Belington, has made the old Armory obsolete.

In January 2013, a feasibility study, initiated by the RCDA, was presented to local agencies to provide information on the costs of maintaining and upgrading the building.