At its October 3 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission discussed options with regard to using the jail or jail site for the new Courthouse Annex. Historic Preservation Architect Bryson VanNostrand and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Susan Pierce were present for the discussion.
For background, the commission wants to build the new Courthouse Annex on the site of the former jail building behind the courthouse, however in the 1990s, the then sitting commission inconveniently placed the 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. Pierce had previously informed the commission that it is almost impossible to remove a building from the registry. Although it would be legal for the commission to tear it down, however they would not be able to use federal funds to build anything else on that site.
Commissioner John Rebinski told Pierce that, after reviewing the previous commission meeting minutes, he found that the commission, back in the 1990s, never discussed including the jail building on their registry application, but somehow it appeared there when the reg- istry application was submitted. Commission President Walt 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.
VanNostrand said that, while the structure of the old jail building is solid, the building is currently too small to be renovated into a courthouse annex that would meet the commission’s 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. This would also likely be acceptable to the registry. He said doing this would cost about 10 to 15 percent more than constructing 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 including building the annex at another county-owned site such as on Beards Heights or at the Edray Industrial Park.
John Leyzorek told the commission 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.
In other business, the commission:
• held an executive session on Courthouse Security, with no action taken.
• will allow the Pocahontas County Marksmanship Program to use the former archery area at the ARC building in Marlinton as an air rifle and archery range.
• approved the FY2022-2023 county financial statement.
• approved a $15,000 budget revision to pay for the health insurance for the 10 new full-time employees of the County Ambulance Authority.
• made the following appointments to the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC.)
– Sam Felton, Town of Marlinton, three-year term.
– Michael O’Brien, Office of Emergency Management, three-year term.
– Jaynell Graham, The Pocahontas Times, two-year term.
– Christine Plumley, Green Bank Observatory, two-year term.
– John Osborne, Town of Durbin, three-year term.
– Travis Cook, Shaver’s Fork Fire and Rescue, two-year term.