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Bond sale planned for additions to Brooke County courthouse

DEMOLISHED — Crews with Keith Yost Excavating of Wellsburg tore down two buildings in the 600 block of Charles Street Tuesday. The Brooke County Commission bought the two structures to create additional parking space for the county courthouse. On Tuesday the commission also moved forward with plans to sell bonds for the expansion of the courthouse. (Photo by Warren Scott)

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission Tuesday moved forward with plans to sell bonds for a planned addition to the county courthouse and learned another round of free COVID-19 tests will be offered in Bethany.

Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the sale of up to $10 million in bonds for the addition, which they said will house all of the county’s court facilities.

Roger Hunter of Bowles Rice of Charleston, co-bond counsel with Frankovitch, Anetakis, Simon, DeCapio & Pearl of Weirton, noted the bonds will be issued through the commission’s building commission.

The volunteer board was formed to seek loans for improvements to county facilities, which the county commission may not do.

Hunter said the building commission will assume ownership of the property, with the commission paying a lease on it that will be applied to the debt service. Once that’s paid off, the property will be conveyed back to the commission for a nominal fee such as $1 or $10, he said.

Hunter noted the amount of bonds sold will depend on the project’s cost and may not be the full $10 million.

The commissioners said the term and interest rate for the bonds hasn’t been determined.

“This is the first of many steps to make that (the annex) come to fruition,” said commission President Tim Ennis.

In March the commission hired McKinley and Associates of Wheeling to design the addition, with the firm to receive 10 percent of the project’s cost.

Plans call for it to extend south onto an open lot and the corner occupied by the former Brooke County Museum.

County Commissioner A.J. Thomas said the architects are looking at the needs of the county’s circuit, magistrate and family courts to determine courtroom and office space needed for the future addition.

Thomas said plans call for the county probation and prosecutor’s offices to also occupy it.

The commissioners have said moving those offices and the courts into the annex are part of an ongoing effort to eliminate rent for facilities it doesn’t own and address security issues raised by operating the courts within a building occupied by other county departments.

For example, the annex will include a holding facility for prisoners there for court appearances and those individuals can be transported on an elevator separate from the one currently used by courthouse visitors, Thomas said.

Over the years, the current and past commissions have razed three buildings south of the courthouse to accommodate the expansion.

On Tuesday, crews with Keith Yost Excavating of Wellsburg set about demolishing two buildings in the 600 block of Charles Street to create additional parking for the courthouse.

Both were purchased for $10,000 from Aracich Heating & Cooling, which has moved to state Route 2.

The business operated in the structure at 627 Charles St., which had been occupied by a shoe store for many years; while using the adjacent building at 635 Charles St. for storage.

The latter building was once occupied by the Helsey Cigar Shop, where cigars were made and sold, according to the Brooke County Genealogy group.

In other business, April Eltringham, community wellness coordinator for the Brooke County Health Department, announced free drive-through and walk-up COVID-19 testing will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 and 15 at Bethany College’s Hummel Field House, 6288 Main St.

Eltringham said the testing is expected to draw a large number of participants since Bethany College students soon will be returning to the campus.

The college has issued many guidelines for preventing spread of the coronavirus, including the requirement of wearing a mask while with others and not eating unless documentation of certain health conditions is presented.

Eltringham said the testing is available to anyone, with participants asked to wear a mask and bring identification. Those with questions can call (304) 737-3665.

She said of 537 tested on July 24 and 25 at Brooke Middle School, results showed that eight were positive.

State health officials have reported of 298,290 West Virginians tested for the virus during the last few months, 7,051 have tested positive. They have reported 124 fatalities as a result of the disease.

Brooke County health officials Tuesday reported four new cases involving two men in their 50s, a woman in her 20s and a woman in her 60s. Of them, two have been hospitalized.

The commission also announced it will accept letters of interest in three seats on the Northern Panhandle H.O.M.E. Consortium board. The board oversees administration of the First-Time Homebuyers Program by C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc.

Letters of interest may be submitted to the office of County Clerk Kim Barbetta.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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