BDC plans to market middle school sites

BDC plans to market middle school sites

WELLSBURG — On Monday the Brooke County Board of Education agreed to enlist the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle in marketing the sites of Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools to potential new owners.

Plans call for the schools to be closed in 2018, after a countywide middle school under construction near Brooke High School is completed.

Superintendent Toni Shute said, “Our expertise is providing high quality education to students, not in property development. We reached out to the BDC, as the local development experts in repurposing and developing properties, to partner with us to not just repurpose these buildings, but to identify the best use of these properties for the taxpayers of Brooke County.”

The board approved a memorandum of understanding that is the first step in establishing the economic development group as manager and marketer for the schools and their adjacent properties.

BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said a formal agreement will be presented to the board detailing terms of payments for the agency’s services.

He said the arrangement may be similar to that for the Three Springs Business Park in Weirton, which is owned by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority but managed and marketed by the BDC.

Ford said in that case, the BDC uses fees paid by the state board for operations and marketing and any work required of that property.

He said, “It’s important to note the Brooke County Board of Education will retain ownership and final say in the disposition of these properties. The role of the BDC will be to leverage our relationships with state and federal agencies to obtain grant funding, where needed, to handle these buildings in an environmentally sensitive manner, paying great heed to the surrounding properties.

“Once the buildings are under the management of the BDC, we will be able to evaluate which alternative uses will provide Brooke County taxpayers the most value as well as sustain the vitality these schools have brought to our county.”

Brian Ferguson, the school board’s president, said the move will “take a lot of weight off the board’s shoulders as far as what to do with these properties because we’re not in the Realtor market.”

The board arranged to meet with Ford after a work meeting where it discussed the futures of the two schools and their lots.

Rob Robinson, the school district’s facilities director, told the board after they are closed, the board will continue to pay about $250,000 in utilities for them.

He said if the board chooses not to maintain them, it will cost at least $500,000 to demolish them.

Both schools were built in the 1920s, though the Carlin Dodrill Field House was added to the Follansbee school in 1955. The school and field house occupy 67,098 square feet of a 90,638 square foot lot.

Wellsburg Middle School is 69,212 square foot and sits on a 70,828 square foot lot.