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Former middle school may get new owner

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The board of directors for the Cabell County Community Services Organization has voted unanimously to negotiate the possible sale of the former West Middle School to the Housing Development Corporation, the property development arm of the Huntington Housing Authority.

The reason was that CCCSO has been unable to move forward with its plans to turn the building into a senior housing and recreation facility, while the housing agency is in better position to do so.

CCCSO agreed to a deal with the Cabell County Board of Education in November 2009 to buy the property for $9,999, with plans to use federal grants for renovating the school into 20 housing units, a senior community center and new headquarters for CCCSO.

But grant money dried up, and CCCSO did not receive funding. Bob Bailey, president of the CCCSO Board of Directors, said the agreement with the school board included a clause that the property would revert back to the school board if the project was not completed by 2015.

He said the lack of funding and that deadline pushed CCCSO to its decision on Wednesday. If they simply let it go back to the school board, CCCSO would lose the more than $222,000 spent for insurance, roofing and architectural services. Bailey said they expect to recoup those costs in the sale to the Housing Development Corporation because new architectural plans -- which cost $122,000 -- aren't needed.

"(The Housing Development Corporation) has access to resources we don't," said Chuck Ricks, the new executive director of CCCSO.

Bailey said the initial estimate for the cost for the renovations back in 2009 was about $3 million. On Wednesday, he said that has increased to $5 million.

Charles Holley, the director of planning and development for the city of Huntington and the city's representative on the board, said the deal is probably the best way to save the school and accomplish the goal of bringing additional senior housing to the area.

The property is located in the 1000 block of Jefferson Avenue in West Huntington.

Bill Dotson, the executive director of the Huntington Housing Authority, did not return a call seeking comment.

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