Public comment period set on Holding Center

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners postponed a decision for a week on whether to demolish the former Holding Center to allow public comment.

Bids for demolition and asbestos removal at the Second Street facility were opened last week. The commissioners asked county engineer Bill Brown to review the bids to assure compliance with specifications.

Demolition bids were received from Empire Builders, of Parkersburg, $25,400; Reclaim Company, Fairmont, $149,999; J.C. Bosley of Parkersburg, $61,900; and Graham Excavating, Parkersburg, $78,800. Asbestos removal bids were received from Justice Business Services, Marietta, $22,308; Empire Builders, $11,700; and Reclaim Co., $25,900.

Brown said the low bidders met the requirements in his report to the commission on Monday.

“Now we need to decide what we want to do,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

“The building is not doing any good up, and we’ve exhausted our options,” Commissioner Blair Couch said, referring to repeated attempts by the commission to interest federal and state corrections officials in purchasing/leasing it for some type of facility within the corrections system, but to no avail.

“We’ve had a number of visits over the years from corrections officials, but they always say the cost of renovation exceeds the cost of a new building and they don’t want to build anymore. We thought we had a shot but then they bought the old Holiday Inn,” Couch said. “We also heard a public outcry from people who said they didn’t want a corrections facility downtown.”

“I think it’s time has come and gone, I don’t see any use for it,” Couch said of the former jail.

“I agree, it’s costing the county $8,000 a year to maintain. We have a low bid, and I think it’s as good as we are ever going to get. It’s time to move on. The land would still be available for other construction down the road. I think it’s more likely to be sellable without the building on the land,” Dunn said.

“I’m afraid if we wait, we may not get another bid that’s as good,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

County officials said the only advocate for saving the building was resident Harold Yglesias.

“Most of the comment I got from the public was that they wanted to see it torn down and that having additional parking downtown would be a plus,” Couch said.

Asked for his opinion, Prosecutor Jason Wharton said under the present regional jail regulations, the building would require substantial renovations and more manpower to qualify as a 72-hour holding facility.

“It would require a substantial financial investment,” Wharton said.

Couch suggested allowing a public comment period.

Initially the commission considered 30 days, but the prosecutor pointed out bids are pending and a shorter time frame probably needed to be set. The commissioners agreed to allow the comments for one week then make a decision on whether to proceed.

A smaller version of the Holding Center was constructed in the Wood County Justice Center and all Holding Center and Home Confinement Program personnel were moved from the Second Street location when the Justice Center opened in early 2012.

Prior to being a Holding Center the building served as the county jail from the time it was constructed in the 1970s until 2001 when the regional jail authority was formed and all inmates serving sentences were transferred to the North Central Regional Jail at Greenwood, Doddridge County.