School board considers land purchase on Fairview Drive for future uses

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board will consider approving a contract of purchase of 28.3 acres of land at 1088 Fairview Drive at their meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, May 11.

The land is located behind the intermediate school and adjoins the 23 acres the school board owns at the Warm Springs Middle School-Warm Springs Intermediate School complex.

The board’s action that they will vote on includes authorizing Superintendent Kristen Tuttle to sign a contract and negotiate the settlement of the purchase to be brought back to the board for final approval.  The sum listed on the agreement for the property is $330,000.

School board president Aaron Close said on Monday morning that the opportunity to acquire the land came up very quickly. The property belonged to former teacher Ann Smith. Smith’s family approached them after Smith passed away.

The land includes a two-story home that could be used for offices, depending on what future use the board decides for the property. They have no plans to start digging up dirt any time soon, he noted.

Possible land uses

Possible uses for the land include building another school, a bus garage or offices.  The property could possibly provide a second access road to Fairview Drive for the middle school-intermediate school complex that would hook up to the planned Fairview Connector Road between U.S. 522 and the area around War Memorial Hospital.

Close said that the school board had been offered a right-of-way from another family for a second access road for the middle school-intermediate school complex a while back.  They looked into that land for an access road, but decided it couldn’t be done.

Special meeting

The school board held a special 2 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, April 27 to discuss the sale or purchase of property. Close said before that meeting that they would be going into executive session and that no details could be released at that time.  When a certified deal was agreed on, the details would then be disclosed.

The property that was discussed then was Ann Smith’s property. They’ve been working with an attorney and realtor Jay Lawyer on the land purchase, he said.

Planning for growth

Close said that his plan was for future school boards to be able to handle the growth that Morgan County could see and to expand their footprint at the middle school-intermediate school complex. Close would like to hire their architect Williamson and Shriver to draw up a potential layout of the board’s wish list for the property.

Close said he believes Morgan County has a great opportunity to seize on people moving to the Eastern Panhandle.

The Eastern Panhandle is one of the few areas in West Virginia that are growing.  He hoped the land purchase could be settled before the middle of June.

Close didn’t foresee building a new high school in the immediate future with all the work that was done on the Berkeley Springs High School gymnasium and Building D.

The state recommends a minimum of 100 acres for the construction of a new high school, but a school district could request approval from the state board to build a high school on an available property of a smaller size.

Close saw the land purchase as a long-term plan with future potential and an opportunity to perfectly add to their imprint at the Warm Springs Middle School-Warm Springs Intermediate School complex.

The Morgan County Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. at the school board office on May 11. That office is located at 247 Harrison Avenue in Berkeley Springs. Meetings are also accessible remotely.  Login information is on the May 11 meeting agenda here.