PARKERSBURG - Officials at West Virginia University at Parkersburg say they will be looking for suggestions from the public when determining what classes and services might be offered at a new West Virginia National Guard armory on the college campus.
Officials say they have yet to finalize an agreement and choose the exact location of the new facility, which was announced in February. The facility will be built on the Parkersburg campus behind the Caperton Center, said Marie Foster Gnage, president of WVU-P.
"We continue to be excited by the possibilities," she said. "Right now we are just waiting to sign the final agreement, and we're expecting that to happen in the next couple of weeks."
Photo by Michael Erb
A new West Virginia National Guard armory facility will be constructed somewhere behind the Caperton Center on the campus of West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
Once those agreements are signed, representatives from the National Guard and college will begin planning the new facility. Securing funding for the project may be as much as five years down the road.
Gnage said part of the planning will be gathering public suggestions.
"The main questions we have to answer are how do you get economic development with it? How do you make sure the community is involved?" she said. "It definitely increases our span and our reach as a college, but it is about more than that."
Gnage said it is too early to talk about specific programs that might be offered.
Joe Campbell, chairman of the WVU-Parkersburg Board of Governors, said a steering committee will be created to help determine the best uses relative to the armory.
"It will truly be first and foremost an armory and secondly something the college can use," he said.
Campbell said the steering committee will rely on reports and recommendations from multiple subcommittees, which will be comprised of various stakeholders, such as students, staff, the community, government representatives and representatives of the National Guard.
"We want to give these groups a chance to talk amongst themselves and come back to the steering committee," he said. "We want to make sure all of the stakeholders are represented."
Campbell said even though construction of a facility may be years away, he believes the planning and public input stages will begin within the next 12 months, giving officials more information to present when it comes time to ask for funding.
The agreement also allows WVU-P use of the AFRC in Millwood. The college's Jackson County campus already boasts more than 700 students and continues to grow.
"We are already talking now about what can be offered at the Millwood facility," Gnage said. "It's impressive. It is a very modern facility and there are a lot of possibilities for us to expand our offerings for Jackson County."
Campbell said he expects the college to quickly begin looking at what new classes may be offered or if existing programs can be expanded at the Millwood facility.
The armory announcement comes even as the college already has several projects under way on its campus and in downtown Parkersburg. A new Applied Technology building is under construction next to the Caperton Center, and Gnage said when that building is completed work will begin nearby on an early childhood center.
Gnage said work on a downtown building on Market Street is already nearing its next phase and crews are beginning to work on facilities for a culinary school in that facility.
"It is a very exciting time," she said.