BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon is contemplating partnering up with Upshur County Schools to tear down a pair of rarely used maintenance buildings.
Upshur County Schools superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus visited Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting to ask for the city’s assistance in razing two buildings, but no decisions were made, and additional meetings will be scheduled to discuss the proposal.
A proposed draft memorandum of understanding between the city and the school system included in the Upshur County Board of Education packet for the board’s Nov. 13 meeting identified the two buildings.
One is the long structure referred to as the “old maintenance building” beside the board of education office located at 102 Smithfield St., while the second is the white building near the corner of Tucker and Ritchie streets with the blue lettering spelling “Upshur County Schools Maintenance.”
At Thursday’s council meeting, Stankus said demolishing the buildings would allow the school system to build additional parking lots for its employees at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, which would, in turn, free up spaces on College Avenue for neighborhood residents.
Mayor David McCauley explained the request stemmed from discussions about difficulties some College Avenue residents experience during daytime hours when trying to park in front of their houses.
“This came about during the discussions of parking on College Avenue,” McCauley said. “There are a couple of seldomly used – if used at all – buildings [owned] by the board of education, and Dr. Stankus had asked me about the opportunity of our city partnering, collaborating with the board of education to be of some assistance – that precise assistance would have to be determined – in helping them raze these buildings.”
The mayor said while one structure was “pretty much a metal shell of a building,” the other was “a bit more substantial.”
Stankus said constructing two additional parking lots for BAES employees would “free up” spaces on the street for city residents.
“We know that our employees are parking on the streets at Buckhannon Academy, and when we have parent activities, they park on the streets, and … just on reflection, I went back to the board office and said, ‘What can we do to help?’” Stankus said. “We’d like to take a look at taking that gray building down, and if you’d help us do that, then we could then chip in and make the parking spaces there that the city could use when they wanted.”
Stankus said she consulted the school system’s maintenance department employees about their use of the white building on Tucker Street, and the employees told her they could completely transition their operations to a newer warehouse located near Tennerton Elementary School.
Then, that maintenance building could also be razed, and that space could possibly be transformed into a parking lot for BAES staff and parents.
McCauley suggested city officials meet with school system personnel to possibly do a walk-through of both buildings and iron out the details of a potential agreement.
The mayor said the committee would likely include public works director Jerry Arnold, city architect Bryson VanNostrand, Stankus and Upshur Schools maintenance department representatives.
The committee’s main task would be “to come back with a plan that would be subject to this council’s approval,” the mayor said.
“That’s wonderful,” Stankus said, adding that the purpose in razing the buildings is two-fold – downtown beautification and the practicality of producing more parking spaces.
McCauley asked if council was on board with the idea.
“Council, are we moving in a direction that everybody’s on board with?” he said.
Councilman Robbie Skinner said he was open to listening to the committee’s recommendations.
“Let’s see what comes back,” Skinner said.
Arnold, the city’s public works director, said the committee would need to assess the cost of demolishing the structures and constructing new parking lots.
“I think we need to assess what’s there and come up with some numbers,” Arnold said.
“I think that’s critical issue,” councilman David Thomas agreed. “We have to see what the estimates are for doing all this.”
McCauley told Stankus a meeting would be arranged soon, after which council would determine how and if the city could support the project.