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Fort Gay group's request merits full consideration

Jan. 22, 2014 @ 07:06 AM

An initiative to strengthen the Wayne County community of Fort Gay has set its sights on using two existing assets, an idea that makes sense on the face of it.

The initiative is called A New Day in Fort Gay. Its overall goal is to make the community of about 700 people a safer place that offers resi­dents more options for housing, recre­ation, education and wellness activi­ties. Its organizers believe two substan­tial former school buildings offer the perfect places to become hubs of those many activities. The group has asked the Wayne County Board of Education to donate the former Fort Gay elementary and middle school buildings to the New Day effort. The New Day group envi­sions incorporating affordable senior housing, senior and community wellness centers, a youth recreational center, a multi-purpose area, a Mountwest Community and Technical College exten­sion and even Fort Gay Town Hall into the structures.

The buildings, replaced by a new school that opened last fall, now are used as offices for the school system’s maintenance department and storage space for furniture and other equipment.

The region has plenty of examples where former school buildings have been converted to useful pur­poses. In Huntington alone are the former Huntington High School (now the Renaissance Center), the for­mer Lincoln School (now a treatment center for recov­ering addicts) and the former Douglass High School (now the home of Ebenezer Medical Outreach).

From the school board’s perspective, it will need assurances that the New Day group has the capabil­ity to carry through on its goals and keep the former school buildings from deteriorating. There’s no benefit to Fort Gay if the New Day plans fall apart and the structures become eyesores. But many community groups are in support of this effort, and the concept is certainly worth exploring. The school board should give full consideration to the New Day group’s request.

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