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Justice announces $3.5M to turn old Ramada Inn into social services center

MORGANTOWN — Renovations to turn the former Ramada Inn facility on Scott Avenue into a hub for social services have been under way for well over a month and are all but complete.

The announcement of $3.5 million in CARES Act money that funded those renovations came Wednesday.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the allocation during his regular COVID-19 briefing.

“This is what we need. We’ve got a lot of people that are out there that are really, really hurting,” Justice said, adding “We hope and pray this is going to do a lot of good stuff for a lot of people that are out there, great West Virginians that are hurting.”

Robert O’Neil, executive vice president and chief administrative services officer for WVU Health System, said the money was provided in October.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s tenant ready,” O’Neil said, explaining that a new roof, HVAC system and sprinkler system have been installed. The 110,000 square-foot building has been largely overhauled, with particular focus on the industrial kitchen.

The building and 10-acre property was initially provided to WVU Medicine by Mark Nesselroad and the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust with the vision of turning it into a one-stop shop for those in need of aid and services.

Morgantown Community Resources Inc., a subsidiary of WVU Hospitals, currently owns it. O’Neil said it will be converted over to a community organization as the building begins to fill.

“We intend to have a tenant that will provide shelter for the homeless, at least one tenant that will have a feeding program, and a sobriety center. We still may have additional space after that, but that will take the bulk of the building,” he said, noting Bartlett House is heading up the homeless services and the city of Morgantown is in talks regarding the sobriety center.

At the request of the property owner, Morgantown City Council voted in September to annex the property into the city, though that annexation has yet to go before the Monongalia County Commission for final approval.

He could not disclose the name of the feeding program, but pointed out that these tenants will join the United Way, which was the first to occupy the structure thanks to $820,000 from the charitable trust in June.

That money was used for some renovations and the launch of a boxed meal program for students and families stuck at home due to COVID-19.

O’Neil said he wants to see the facility, which was initially pitched as an idea in February of 2019, up and running as soon as possible.

“It’s been a tremendous amount of work by a number of people,” he said. “A tremendous amount of work.”