PARKERSBURG - The decision to name West Virginia University at Parkersburg as the site of a new National Guard Armory occurred in recent months, but area officials say they are unsure of the exact timeline.
Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, West Virginia adjutant general, announced the new site Thursday in a press release following a Wednesday night meeting and vote by the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Board of Governors.
Area officials say they are unsure when the decision was made, but agreed it occurred in a relatively short amount of time. Multiple locations in the Parkersburg area had been under consideration for years, and WVU-P was not among them.
Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, West Virginia adjutant general, left, stands with West Virginia University at Parkersburg President Marie Foster Gnage, right, prior to the December graduation ceremony at WVU-P.
"It was never on the initial list" of sites under consideration, said Keith Burdette, cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Commerce. "The first I heard about it really was just about a week ago."
"We've been looking at a bunch of different locations and had had them on the list for a while," said Cam Huffman, president of the Wood County Economic Development Authority. WVU-P "just kind of popped up. I don't have a real timeframe for you on that. I know in the last couple of months it was discussed."
"I'm kind of embarrassed we didn't think of it earlier," Burdette said. "In many ways it just makes so much sense. There are clearly a lot of opportunities there for the Guard, for the community and for the college."
Burdette said Hoyer was a keynote speaker at WVU-P's December graduation, but said he didn't know if the general's visit to the campus then was the catalyst for choosing the college as a site for the new armory.
"That would be my guess, but really at this point I just don't know," Burdette said.
WVU-P President Marie Foster Gnage was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.
In a statement emailed Friday to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, Lt. Col. David Shafer, construction and facilities management officer for the West Virginia Army National Guard, said discussion of the site and a decision to locate the building on the WVU-P campus occurred within the past few months.
"The site and the potential to partner with WVU-P had been discussed for a few months," Shafer said in the statement. "The site became the Guard's first choice, but the decision wasn't made until the board of governors voted to enter into a partnership to construct a facility that we both will use."
In the statement Shafer said the site already has been studied by a design firm "to determine the feasibility to construct a facility."
Shafer also said WVU-P officials toured the Guard's new facility in Jackson County, as the Guard is exploring other similar projects with colleges and universities throughout West Virginia.
Both Shafer and Huffman lauded the project as a benefit to the National Guard, the community and the college.
"The real advantage of the partnerships is that the school and community will be able to use the common areas of the new armory in Parkersburg and Jackson County and the National Guard will be able to use state funds that would have been spent on purchasing property to make the facility that much larger to benefit everyone," Shaffer said.
"I think if you put that type of facility out there, there will be development to follow," Huffman said.
The process for receiving federal funding for the facility could take up to 5-6 years before construction can begin. Huffman said the Development Authority will continue to look at the needs of that area, including roads, utilities and parking, to accommodate the new facility.