OAK HILL, WV (WVNS)– In Oak Hill, the New River Trust building could be called the most impressive on Main Street. The proud eagle at the top flies high above the Fayette County town, and crowds gather in the front for special events.
Oak Hill City Councilman David Perry (Ward 1) said the city was offered the option to purchase the New River Trust property for about $300,000 in 2018 but opted not to buy.
Last year, Council members began the process of buying the property, which was appraised in October 2021 at $454,000. The owner asked for $675,000, said Perry, noting the spike in real estate prices since the New River Gorge was recognized as a national park in 2021.
He said the estimated cost to build the structure in today’s economy is more than four million dollars.
Council will vote next month on whether to buy the bank property. The majority of Council members are in favor of the purchase.
“In terms of a premier site on Main Street, Oak Hill, it is, and provides for future expansion, as well,” said Perry on Thursday, July 28, 2022.
Former bank employees told Council there was mold in the basement. A mold inspection report, prepared by a Beckley inspector, showed some mold but not enough to require remediation. The inspector suggested the mold be cleaned and a humidifier placed in the basement. The inspector reported the mold was not a threat to air quality.
Some Oak Hill residents have appeared at past meetings to tell Council they do not want the city to buy the building.
Jim Aleshire said he understands Perry is looking toward the future of the town. He still has concerns that the cost is too high and that residents have not heard a solid plan or bottom line cost for renovations.
“There’s so many unforeseen things it’s going to cost and that’s one of the things I asked them in the Council meeting,” said Aleshire. “Why would you buy this, and you don’t even know, or won’t let us know, what it’s going to cost to renovate?”
Aleshire said the current city hall on Kelly Avenue serves its purpose. He said he has not heard Council’s future plans for the current building, which shares electricity with the nearby amphitheater.
“It’s not their money,” Aleshire said. ” It’s our money, and that’s the way it is today– just, ‘We’ll spend your money and not worry about it, we’re doing what we think is best.’ But I think the citizens of Oak Hill deserve more than an answer like that.”
Perry said the city must add a second-floor fire escape and renovate a bathroom to make it accessible for handicapped people.
“Beyond that, other than cleaning, the building could be occupied tomorrow,” Perry said. “Now, do we want this to be a gem for the city of oak Hill? Yes, so there will be some additional renovations.”
Renovations could cost between $250,000 to $600,000, depending on the renovations Council decides, he said.