Jail Building Options discussed with Architect and State Historic Preservation Office

At their October 3rd meeting, the Pocahontas County Commissioners discussed their options regarding using the jail or jail site for their new Courthouse Annex. The discussion was with Historic Preservation Architect Bryson VanNostrand and with Susan Pierce, the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer.

The brief background behind this discussion is that the commissioners want to build their new Courthouse Annex on the site of the former jail building behind the Courthouse, however in the 1990s, a prior commission had inconveniently placed that jail building on the National Register of Historic Places. They did this at the same time they placed the entire courthouse complex on the registry.  Susan Pierce had previously informed the commissioners that it is almost impossible to remove a building from the registry, and although it is legal for the commissioners to tear it down, but if they do that, no federal funds will be allowed to be used to build anything else on that site.

Commissioner John Rebinski told Pierce that after reviewing the previous commission meeting minutes, he found that the commissioners back in the 1990s never discussed including the jail building on their registry application, but somehow it appeared there when the registry application was submitted. Helmick and Rebinski said they don’t believe it was the intention of those commissioners to include the jail building in their registry application.  Pierce did not agree with that opinion. There is a link to the official application and approval to place the courthouse and the jail on the National Registry of Historic Places at the end of this story.

Architect VanNostrand said that while the structure of the old jail building -which consists of both the jail cell block and the jailer’s house – is solid, the building is currently too small to be renovated into a courthouse annex that would meet the commissioners’ needs.  VanNostrand also said that there is a 27-inch height difference between the jailor’s house and jail block parts of the building, which complicates renovating the building for “historic adaptive reuse.” He did. however, recommend that the jail still be renovated for adoptive reuse, but also that an addition to the south side of the building be added, making it spacious enough to meet the commission’s needs. Also, this would likely be acceptable to the registry.  He said doing this would cost about 10% to 15% more than building a new building there, but the cost would be partially offset by not having to pay to demolish the existing jail.

Helmick said they will consider VanNostrand’s option, as well as other options to build the annex at other county-owned sites such as on Beards Heights or at the Edray Industrial Park.

John Leyzorek told the commissioners he opposes the destruction of any historic buildings in Marlinton since too many have already been demolished, but he could accept VanNostrand’s recommended adaptive reuse of the jail building.

Randy Sharp said that any attempt to renovate an old building like the jail is unrealistic since concrete deteriorates over time, and the jail building is built mostly of concrete.

Additionally, the commissioners made the following board appointments to the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC.)

-Sam Felton, of the Town of Marlinton, to a three-year term.

-Michael O’Brien, of the Office of Emergency Management, to a three-year term.

-Jaynell Graham, of the Pocahontas Times, to a two-year term.

-Christine Plumley, of the Green Bank Observatory, to a two-year term.

-John Osborne, of the Town of Durbin to a three-year term.

-Travis Cook, of Shaver’s Fork Fire & Rescue, to a two-year term.

The commissioners also:

  • Held an executive session on Courthouse Security, with no action taken.
  • Allowed the Pocahontas County Marksmanship Program to use the former archery area of the old Shoe Factory building in Marlinton as an air rifle and archery range.
  • Approved the FY2022-2023 county financial statement.
  • And they approved a $15,000 budget revision to pay for the health insurance for the 10 new full-time employees of the County Ambulance Authority.

To see the actual 1994capplication to; and the approval by the National Registry of historic Places to place the Pocahontas County courthouse and the jail on the registry, click here- Official Jail Historic Registry PDF

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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