Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 8, 2014

Hearing set to discuss college lease

PRINCETON — A public hearing date was set Monday to discuss a possible lease agreement that would allow a college to move into the former First Community Bank building on Mercer Street.

A joint meeting of the Princeton City Council and the Princeton Building Commission was conducted at the Princeton Municipal Building to discuss a possible lease with New River Community and Technical College. After the building commission discussed the general terms of the proposed lease, the city council and the commissioners set a public hearing date for 7 p.m. on July 17.

Under the lease, the college would pay the city $11,850 a month, said Paul Cassell, the city attorney.

“A small portion of the lease payment made by the college to the city under the proposed lease, which constitutes the principal portion of the city’s loan payment, will be credited to the college upon their ultimate purchase of the property,” Cassell said.

Dr. Marshall Washington, president of New River Community and Technical College, said the institution was actively looking at its finances and looking at purchasing the building with some private donations and, hopefully, a future state bond that would become available.

The college hopes to move into the former bank building by this fall, said Steve Wise, the campus dean. Having a student body of 175 when the Mercer Street campus opens is a conservative estimate, he added. Within three to five years, this figure could grow to between 400 to 500 students.

“The city has done a wonderful job with the renovations work,” Wise said. “The space suits us very well.”

Much of the college’s furniture and equipment now at the Mercer County Technical Education Center could be moved to Mercer Street. The main challenge will be running the cables and other hardware needed for the classrooms’ technology, Wise said.

Mayor Tim Ealy said the city was still in the process of accepting the donation of the former Dean Company building off Stafford Drive. The current plan is to move city offices to that facility; the former plan was to move to Mercer Street.

“That is still in the process,” he said. “We have to get this college thing settled first.”

Once the college finalizes its finances to purchase the Mercer Street property, then the city will close on the Dean Company property the same day, Ealy said. The owner, Richard Preservati, is donating the Dean Company property to the city.

The members of the Princeton Building Commission include Barry Blizzard, Dave Johnston and Ken Johnston. Dave Johnston and Ken Johnston are not related.

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