County Commissioners Discuss Proposed New Court Annex Project
At the August 15th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Commission President Walt Helmick spoke about their proposal to expand the courthouse by adding a Courthouse Annex building on the site of the old county jail building. He said he has been consulting with Historical Architect, Bryson VanNostrand, about the possibility of renovating the existing jail building and converting it into an annex, however the jail building is just too small to meet the needs for a court annex.
Helmick said he is considering the possibility of demolishing the existing jail and rebuilding a modern and larger courthouse annex on that site, which is behind the courthouse. He likes the idea of designing the exterior of the annex to keep the same exterior historical look as the existing jail building, but it would be a larger building. Doing this, Helmick believes, might make tearing down the old jail more palatable to the people who run the National Registry of Historic Places. Currently the entire courthouse complex, including the old jail, are listed on that registry. Commissioner Rebinski said he believes it was never the intention of the former commissioners when they placed the courthouse on the registry years ago, to include the jail building as being part of the courthouse’s placement on the National Registry of historic Places.
Both Helmick and Rebinski agree they can come up with the necessary money to demolish the jail and replace it with a new annex building on the same site, since they have not spent much of their American Rescue Plan money on wasteful projects, and Helmick believes they can also tap into the Hotel/Motel Tax revenues to help finance the project. Helmick said he would like to invite Architect VanNostrand as well as Susan Pierce, the Director of the WV State Historic Preservation Office, to the next commission meeting in September to hear their thoughts on all of this. He said the commissioners “need to make a decision one way or the other” about the annex, which Helmick insists is badly needed because of over-crowding in the main courthouse.
The commissioners also agreed to send letters to Frontier Communications and CityNet, who were awarded areas in the county to develop broadband service in by the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.) These letters would request that both of these internet service provider companies update the county on how they are meeting their deadlines for providing internet service in their awarded areas in the county. Ruthana Beasley told the commissioners that companies that received RDOF awards must complete 80% of their builds in their areas by 2026, and 100% by 2027, or face penalties. She said those percentages are based on the entire state, so it is very possible that a company like Frontier could build their entire 80% in other counties by 2026, yet not any in their Pocahontas County areas. These letters will ask the companies to provide specific updates about their RDOF progress in this county.
Tim Wade of the Huntersville Historical Traditions and Historic Architect Michael Giolus briefed the commission on the status of the reconstruction of the original Pocahontas County Clerk’s Office in Huntersville. He said that, unlike the bids they sent out last year, the new bids yielded a very reasonable bid of $54,170 to do a partial restoration on the exterior walls of the building. Because the bid was so reasonable, Wade asked the commission to authorize him to obtain an estimate from the construction company who won the bid on how much extra would be needed to go ahead and also finish the restoration on the interior of the building, which would include hanging dry wall which would resembles the original plaster, wood flooring and trim. Wade said he is thinking that could be done for about an additional $17,000, and between the $50,000 the commission has pledged, and the money Huntersville Historical Traditions has raised, that would be doable. The commissioners authorized Wade to ask for the estimate.
Additionally at the meeting the commissioners took the following two actions:
- They approved the $24,979.00 Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG.)
- They approved an $11,673.00 Budget Revision and Resolution for the Sheriff’s Department.