Council approves bids for Sunnyside, former Woodburn school building

MORGANTOWN — A pair of bids — one continuing improvements to the Sunnyside tax increment finance district and the other addressing accessibility in the former Woodburn School — were approved Tuesday by Morgantown City Council.

Assistant City Manager and acting director of the Campus Neighborhoods Revitalization Corporation, Emily Muzzarelli, explained  “Phase 3A” of the Sunnyside TIF will address a portion of Beverly Avenue, 4th Street and a nearby alley.

According to information provided by the city, the work will include the construction of roadway, sidewalks, lighting and storm water improvements.

Council took Muzzarelli’s recommendation to approve the $2,889,382.98 bid from Green River Group for the work.

Council also approved a bid for $58,500 from Mills Group for architectural services ahead of $400,000 worth of accessibility improvements to the 100-plus year old building on Fortney Street that formerly served as the Woodburn School.

The money for the project was earmarked by the city using Community Development Block Grant funds.

The work will focus on making the old building compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and will address the building’s Parsons Street entrance, ground floor restrooms and the addition of an accessible elevator.

The building serves a number of organizations, including the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club and PopShop Performance Academy, among others.

Given the age and condition of the building, questions were raised about whether it constituted a wise use of funds.

Councilor Ron Dulaney, who serves on the Woodburn Redevelopment Commission, said estimates provided to the commission indicated replacing the building would cost between $2.6 million and $4.5 million.

Dulaney went on to say  addressing all the building’s needs will have to be done in phases and will likely cost about $1.5 million.

The city purchased the building and four-acre property from the Monongalia County Board of Education for $490,000 in 2013.

Council also approved a resolution requesting $25,000 in grant funding for the Woodburn facility from the Monongalia County Commission in the upcoming budgeting process.

Also on Tuesday, Councilor Ryan Wallace said an effort is under way involving WVU Medicine and the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust that will turn the old Ramada Inn hotel on Scott Avenue into a “center for homeless services and social services.”

Wallace said the roughly 30,000 square-foot building and 10-acre lot came to WVU Medicine by way of the charitable trust and Mark Nesselroad.

He explained  WVU Medicine will operate the center as a rent-free location for any agencies that would like to relocate in an effort to centralize services.

“The hope is that various agencies will be able to meet with WVU Medicine or the people in charge of the facility and negotiate what they might need if they’re willing to move out to that location,” Wallace said.

He said the building has a commercial kitchen capable of serving approximately 1,500 meals a day.

In other city news, council:

— Adopted an ordinance requiring candidates in city council elections to complete a financial disclosure statement to be provided to the West Virginia Ethics Commission and kept on file in the city clerk’s office.

— Approved a resolution authorizing the release of $50,000 to assist with a collapsing wall at Mountaineer Middle School.

The funds were initially generated through business and occupation taxes collected during the construction of Eastwood Elementary School.

City Manager Paul Brake said the money was collected with the understanding it would be used to provide sidewalks for Eastwood Elementary. That plan fell through due to right-of-way constraints, and the city has held the money pending a request from the BOE.

— City Clerk Christine Wade said there have been 83 city residents registered to vote since Dec. 1.

She went on to say  the city is still in need of poll workers as well as a backup ballot commissioner for the upcoming April 30 city election.

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