Randolph County Commission members decided Thursday to pursue further negotiations for possible purchase of the former Elkins National Guard Armory.
Commissioners made the unanimous decision following a brief executive session for real estate matters. Commissioner Mike Taylor explained the commission has been working on the issue with the Elkins City Council, Randolph County Development Authority and the Mountain State Forest Festival board of directors for about a year and a half. The Elkins City Council made a similar motion to move ahead with negotiations at a special meeting last week.
A feasibility study on the Armory building purchase was completed in October, showing the 40-year building is in good repair, Taylor said.
"It's time to move forward," he said.
The next steps will include possibly forming an authority or board to handle the purchase and operation of the Armory building, as well as reviewing funding sources.
"We probably would like to move forward on it by the end of summer," Taylor said after the regular meeting.
Construction of the new $15.5 million Armed Forces Reserve Center, located just off Corridor H near Belington, has made the old Armory obsolete. The former Armory is on approximately 8 acres, Taylor said, and is approximately 20,000 square feet.
He said the facility could potentially be used as a community building - something Randolph County and Elkins residents definitely could use.
"There's a lack of a big public facility in the county," he said, explaining if the project does move ahead, the site eventually might be used for dances, receptions, large meetings, auctions and more. "I think there are so many positive aspects of that being used as a community center."
In other business Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved the policy and procedure manual for the Randolph County 911 Center, as presented by Jim Wise, 911 director and the director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management.
Wise and his assistant, Julie Lewis, created the policy book from scratch over the past year and a half, and commissioners commended them for their hard work.
While the manual is basically complete, Wise said he will add emergency medical dispatch information once all county dispatchers complete mandatory EMD training.
The West Virginia Legislature is requiring all dispatchers in the state to receive EMD training and certification by June 30, Wise said.
Randolph County's current 13 dispatchers will complete this process by the deadline, he said, explaining this will mean changes in the way emergency medical calls are handled.
Once the EMD changes go into effect, dispatchers will be able to better assess emergency medical calls and possibly offer tips to keep a patient stable until emergency responders can make it to the scene.
For example, if someone calls 911 about a person who may be having a heart attack, the dispatcher will ask a specific set of questions to determine exactly what type of medical problems are present. The dispatcher might also recommend that the person take an aspirin.
"It's trying to make sure we have a real good idea of what this person is experiencing," Wise said, adding this will give more responsibility to dispatchers, while helping patients as well as emergency responders.
"It's going to be challenging," he said about the dispatchers' EMD training. "It's going to be radically different from what they're used to."