After Ronceverte’s leadership found more mold damage than initially expected in City Hall, Council approved the purchase of two buildings to serve as its temporary replacement.
Mayor Deena Pack told The West Virginia Daily News the move would take place by Monday, Feb. 25.
“We voted last night to purchase two buildings on the corner of Edgar Avenue,” Pack said. “In an effort to protect our staff and citizens from potential mold exposure, … we want to get the people out of City Hall immediately, so we can get into one of the buildings next week.”
On Thursday, Feb. 24, City Council held a special meeting addressing the mold discussed in the February City Council meeting (See “Mold Found In Ronceverte City Hall, City Services Available During Closure” at wvdn.com/26471/.)
“What basically first alerted us to the existence of an issue [was City Administrator Pam Mentz’s] door to her office was not shutting properly,” Pack explained. “Then her floor started to buckle a little bit, … because there’s a whole bunch of standing water under her office.”
Once the remediation began, the issues were revealed to be larger than originally thought.
“We discovered some mold issues,” Pack explained. “We had the company come in and do the remediation and it turns out … there are multiple springs coming down from behind the building off of that bank. … During this process, we learned that there were some significant sewer line issues as well, that are not easily repairable, either. … There’s some foundation damage, I think, caused by the standing water [under City Hall]. When they drilled a hole in the floor in Pam’s office, I think the water was waist deep under there. It was a lot of water.”
|The drainage issues. Photo courtesy of Mayor Deena Pack|
As of now, there are no known employees dealing with health issues due to the mold.
“As soon as the problem became evident, Pam moved very quickly,” Pack said. “What I would say is that, there was nothing out of the ordinary, [aside from] the normal COVID, flu types of symptoms that could have alerted anyone to an issue. … I don’t want to put our employees or any of the citizens in any kind of situation that might cause health problems.”
The city’s files will be moved out of City Hall and stored elsewhere while employees move to the new building on Route 219 and Edgar Avenue, next to the Sportsman tavern. While the city is leasing the building in order to move in by Monday, Feb. 28, council approved to purchase the properties for approximately $250,000.
“We did look at multiple buildings that we could move into, including [city property] and privately owned buildings,” Pack said. “We determined that this was the best option for what we needed. [The previous owner, Greenbrier Valley Investment Properties LLC,] had remodeled both of the buildings, they’re both very pretty buildings inside. … We tried to consider all the factors like location, cost, accessibility. Can we get in there immediately? Considering the amount of time that we had, we did as much investigation as we could into trying to find the right building.”
The newly purchased property is not the final solution for the water issues, however.
“Whether [the new buildings are] a permanent location, we have not decided,” Pack said. “The city will own those buildings from here on out. Once a permanent decision is made, we will know exactly where City Hall will be. It’s going to take more investigation, is what I will say. I hate the idea of not being able to use [the current City Hall] building, but if the issues are not repairable, or if the water keeps coming back, I don’t think that is a good use of citizens’ money. … The silver lining is that the city will have those buildings that we can lease and keep up retail space in there, as part of the whole revitalization process that we’re working really hard to do.”
|The new buildings|
What will become of the 30- to 40-year-old city hall building is up in the air, depending on cost of repairs, access to what needs to be repaired without destroying the building, and more.
“I think the problem is not age, I think the problem is that it wasn’t a good [design] plan,” Pack said. “[The drainage system] was not well built. … Pam did try to get a copy of the design plans, and that company is no longer in business. … I hate to lay full blame on whoever was in charge at the time that this was built, but it seems like a lot of possible preventative measures weren’t taken. … I wish that maybe there was a little bit more forethought about what happens when the … water runs off directly onto the building there in the back. … It just goes straight off that hill, under the building, and then just sits. … We’re [also] not sure if, while we’ve been doing all these water projects, something moved and caused the back up. [Could something in the] water projects have caused it? I don’t know, but it’s a possibility.”
Ronceverte recently received approximately $8 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Funds, but Pack was currently uncertain if those funds could be used to correct or move or rebuild city hall.
Anyone needing city services can find employees at the new building.
“The [bill payment] drop off will still be at the current city hall, so people can drop off their payments there. Our staff will go there and check the box to make sure any payments are received. This new building that we’re moving into does have ample parking. There’s handicap parking, so it is accessible for our citizens to get in and out. Initially, we’ll be operating with limited equipment, because we’ll be in the process of moving. It will be open on Monday.”