County showing profit on rents from old hospital
by Jazz Clark
The Morgan County Commissioners last week addressed concerns that the Pines Opportunity Center on War Memorial Drive is losing money by renting to Blue Ridge Community & Technical College.
At the September 20 meeting, Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said she had heard some buzz in the community about income from the former hospital building.
“One question I’ve heard is that we aren’t making enough money from rent to even pay the heating bill,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson suggested the commissioners look into it at a public meeting to put the issue to rest.
“We’re doing better than I thought,” said County Administrator Jody McClintock after looking over the data.
She reported that $144,000 was coming annually from Blue Ridge College’s rent and from use of other nearby county-owned buildings by Valley Health and Berkeley Springs Internal Medicine.
Estimated expenses for a 12-month period totaled $90,000. Expenses include phone bill, electric, building contracts, sprinkler testing, mowing, pest control and trash removal.
There are some unknown costs from special projects such as the new heating system.
“It’s important to note that we would have done all this anyway,” said Commissioner Brad Close. “We have to upgrade the building to keep the building, and by generating additional revenue outside the tax fund, this isn’t hitting the taxpayer’s pockets.”
Close estimates the county would still net $25,000 from the rental, even after paying for the new heating system.
Any tenants gained in the future aren’t counted in the revenue estimate.
Bill Clark of the Economic Development Authority is looking at possible rental space in what he calls the “underbelly” in the basement of the building.
Clark thinks the space could be used for light manufacturing or lesser office space.
Almost 16,000 feet remains of usable space after factoring out maintenance areas, hallways and area occupied by Blue Ridge.
County officials are always on the lookout for new tenants in the remaining space, and Clark said he has seen some interest.
At the September 20 meeting, the commissioners also agreed to pay the deductible cost for an ongoing lawsuit involving a police shooting on Fairview Drive on October 5, 2010.
Ulysses Everett, Jr, claims police used excessive force when Deputy Sheriff Seth Place shot him in the abdomen and hip while responding to a domestic dispute.
A West Virginia State Police investigation cleared Place of wrong-doing in the incident.
The commissioners agreed to pay the $5,000 insurance deductible, using carryover funds in the sheriff’s budget.
The case of Everett Vs. Morgan County Commission has cost a total of $12,500 in fees so far.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” said Commission President Stacy Dugan before making the motion for payment.
The motion was approved by the other commissioners with reluctance.
“The attorneys have no incentive to wrap things up,” said Commissioner Close.
The deductible is a set fee that is paid to the West Virginia Risk Pool, the insurance program for the commission.
The case is set for trial next March 13 in U.S. District Court, Martinsburg.
Methane gas money
A surprise parcel of funds came from the state based on production of methane gas. The County Economic Development Authority wants to use the money to upgrade the water treatment and sewage systems at U.S. 522 Business Park, south of Berkeley Springs.
Though Morgan County is not a methane producer, it is entitled to $15,008 through the state distribution formula and the industrial park improvements fall within the guidelines for possible use.
The commissioners approved the spending.