The BridgeValley Board of Governors plans to demolish four former West Virginia University Institute of Technology buildings in Montgomery, unless private buyers or state agencies who want the facilities materialize.
President Casey Sacks said “the mayor of Montgomery is maybe interested in Ratliff Hall,” a former WVU Tech dormitory.
But Sacks and Board of Governors Chairwoman Ashley Deem said there is no interest in the other buildings: The GRID, which was a space for artisans, and two former classroom buildings called Pathfinder and Westmoreland halls.
Both women said that’s “not for lack of trying.”
Sacks said some citizens are interested in the structures, but BridgeValley is allowed to sell the properties only for their appraised value, “and no one wants to pay the appraised value.”
On Friday, the board approved, in a voice vote with no dissent, a 10-year master plan that includes these demolitions if non-BridgeValley uses can’t be found. Sacks said the plan could take at least a decade, noting that one building demolition alone is estimated to cost more than $500,000.
For one of the four buildings, Westmoreland, a summary of the plan says just that it will be demolished and turned into green space, instead of being sold or transferred.
The plan also includes vacating a structure the college rents and pays utilities on called the Upper Kanawha Valley Technology Community Building or Printing Innovation Center.
A summary of the plan says it was “intended as [a] business incubator that did not materialize.” Sacks said BridgeValley doesn’t use the building.
The college also plans to vacate the rented buildings where its diesel engine repair and lineman programs are housed, relocating those programs elsewhere. And it plans to sell the college-owned house that ousted president Eunice Bellinger lived in.
WVU Tech moved its campus to Beckley in 2017. BridgeValley, under the leadership of Bellinger and several now-replaced board members, began taking over the buildings in 2018.
The plan summary says that, if it’s fully carried out, the amount of square feet per student in Montgomery would drop about 70%, from 1,677 to 524.
“The excessive space in Montgomery will eventually strain BridgeValley’s finances and is not prudent or sustainable,” the plan summary says.
The master plan now goes to the West Virginia Community and Technical College System’s board for its approval or rejection.
Mayor Greg Ingram said “the city of Montgomery itself does not have an interest in any of the buildings, but the city of Montgomery does have an interest for private investment.”
Ingram confirmed the interest in Ratliff Hall, but also mentioned interest in another structure that he declined to name. He said he had visitors from other states looking at one building and a private foundation looking at the other.
“Other than that, the rest of them probably need to be dismantled,” he said.
“What they’re doing needs to be done,” he said of the college. “They need to downsize these buildings. Why, in God’s world, they ever took these buildings, I don’t know. I know they had plans of expansion, and maybe that’s in the future, but it’s not today.”