WVU OKs foster college plan at for Montgomery campus

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West Virginia University’s governing board Friday morning approved the terms of an agreement for KVC Health Systems to buy part of the West Virginia University Tech campus in Montgomery.

KVC, which intends to open a college at the campus for children coming out of the foster care system, will start leasing the facilities in the beginning of July. At the end of the 25-year lease, KVC will have purchased the facility for $9.4 million.

“We are pleased with this agreement and what this will mean for the future of the campus in Montgomery,” said WVU Tech President Carolyn Long. “There is enormous potential here for the community and for the students who will benefit from this innovative new school.”

KVC has a couple of options to buy the campus before the end of the lease. If it wants to purchase the property before June 30, 2020, KVC can pay $8.3 million, or it can pay $8.9 million between 2020 and 2027.

The plan was approved by every board member except for two with ties to KVC who abstained from voting. Thomas Heywood abstained because he is a managing partner at the Charleston law firm Bowles Rice and is representing the YMCA in negotiations for it to use some of the campus’ athletic facilities. Edward Robinson abstained because KVC is a tenant in one of the properties he owns.

WVU spokesman John Bolt said there has been no appraisal on the property yet but that one would be completed before KVC purchases the property. Bolt also said state law dictates that the property cannot be sold for less than the average of two independent appraisals.

“Through our other emerging partnerships, KVC looks forward to establishing its college campus, generating a positive economic impact in the Upper Kanawha Valley and supporting youth in foster care transitioning into adulthood,” Tommy Bailey, KVC’s director of strategic initiatives, said in a news release.

KVC’s college would be the first to target only foster care children. Children from across the state, and perhaps from out of state, would come to the eastern part of Kanawha County to go to school. Several child advocates have told the Gazette-Mail the plan breaks with years of research that says a child in foster care is best served when kept in their own communities.

WVU Tech is moving from Montgomery to Beckley at the end of the spring semester.

KVC is not planning to buy the entire Montgomery campus. The HiRise Residence Hall will be torn down before the end of June, according to the release. BridgeValley Community and Technical College might buy the engineering laboratory, engineering building and facilities building.

Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for legal, government and entrepreneurial engagement, said the price for the property was determined by adding the amount of money the school still owes on upgrades to the campus’ buildings and the cost to demolish one residence hall.

“Beyond that, we wanted them to be in the best position to invest in the facilities and the community to make it a success,” Alsop said. “There was not a desire in our negotiation for the university to profit off of this. This was about helping the upper Kanawha Valley re-envision itself.”

Under the agreement, WVU won’t bring in any additional revenue for selling the campus, Alsop said.

WVU plans to transfer ownership of the school’s marina and the alumni center to the town of Montgomery.

Reach Jake Jarvis at jake.jarvis@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-7939, Facebook.com/newsroomjake or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.

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