Commission hears update on Homestead

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Tom Rennix, president of the Tygart Valley Homestead Association, gave Randolph County Commissioners an update on work being done to the former Homestead Elementary School.

ELKINS — The Randolph County Commission received an update recently regarding work being done to the former Homestead Elementary School in Dailey.

Tom Rennix, president of the Tygart Valley Homestead Association, said on Jan. 30, 2017 the group received 501(c)(3) non-profit designation and in March of 2017 the building sustained damage that caused it to be closed.

“When the Homestead School was in operation we were working really hard to try to keep that school open. We did several fundraisers and we tried to spread public awareness about the situation there at Homestead School,” Rennix said. “The school board did vote to keep the school open at that time but, unfortunately on March 1, 2017, we had a terrible wind storm come through the county and that resulted in the gym roof being dislodged and it fell over on the cafeteria roof. Unfortunately, this resulted in the closing of the school permanently.”

He noted Randolph County Schools repaired the roof, but the floors of the facility were heavily damaged due to water. He said, the school, built in 1939, by the United States Department of Agriculture, was to return to their control if it were no longer functioning as a school.

“The deed between the Department of Agriculture and Randolph County Schools stipulated that if the building was not used as a school building then the building and property would revert to the United States Department of Agriculture,” Rennix said. “So, we applied to the USDA and Randolph County Schools, and on Jan. 17, 2018, the Tygart Valley Homestead Association took over ownership of the Homestead School building and property.”

Rennix said since January, with the help of grant funding, the Tygart Valley Homestead Association has repaired the roofs and made the structure “leak free,” and are now working with area groups to clean up the inside of the building.

“We have been utilizing the YouthBuild work crew for cleanup inside the building and we have been using the Huttonsville Correctional Center inmate crew for painting inside the building,” he said. “Just on Tuesday, they removed the wall separating the kitchen and cafeteria area.”

He said the facility and grounds are planned to be used as a community center. He added some of the classrooms would be rented out while some would be used for preservation.

“We plan to use four of the 15 classrooms in the building for the purposes of historical museum and genealogical purposes. We have committees over all those,” he said. “The remaining five downstairs classrooms we will lease out as office space. The six upstairs room cannot be used until we have a fire escape installed. The kitchen and cafeteria would be used for concessions, wedding receptions, banquets and other events.”

He added the biggest current need at the facility is upgrades to the electrical system to get them up to fire code requirements.

“We have received some estimates for this work in the neighborhood of $12,000, which is much, much less than the school board had commented on earlier,” Rennix said. “Once we have the electrical issue corrected, we will be able to allow larger groups to be able to enter the building and we will begin to advertise for the leasing of our offices spaces. That will get us on our way to being self sufficient.”

Rennix noted the group hosts yard sales on Saturday mornings and has done a variety of fundraisers to help raise money for the project.

The next Tygart Valley Homestead Association will be on Sept. 11. Meetings take place at 6 p.m., the second Tuesday of each month, at the former school.

“We invite the public to come to our meetings and talk to us,” Rennix said.

Randolph County Commission President Mike Taylor said he believes the Tygart Valley Homestead Association is working hard to rehabilitate the facility.

“One of the things we look for is to see how you’re helping yourself and it certainly appears the Homestead Association has stepped to the plate just by the different fundraisers and so forth you are having to generate funds,” Taylor said. “It’s difficult so I applaud you for the work you and your group has done so far. We will give it some serious consideration.”

A funding request from Rennix was taken under advisement as the presentation was made during the public comment section of the meeting and was not an item on the agenda for action to be taken.