Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 10, 2013

New Princeton City Hall proceeding

PRINCETON — If everything goes according to plan, Princeton’s municipal government could be in its new Mercer Street location when 2013 concludes; meanwhile, city officials have had informal discussions about sharing their new home with a local college.

The city of Princeton purchased the former First Community Bank Building last year with plans to convert the structure into a new municipal building. The concept has been approved, and bids for contractors will have to go out before construction could begin, said Mayor Patricia (Pat) Wilson.

“What we’re hoping for is to be in the building by the end of the year,” Wilson said Friday. “That’s our dream.”

The building’s upstairs area will house the city’s municipal offices.

“There’s not a lot of need for renovation up there. It’s mostly electrical. The elevators have to be fixed. I think one of them is working and one of them isn’t, but they will try to update and repair both of them.”

The Princeton Police Department will be situated on the lower floor. Plans call for the Princeton Fire Department to remain at its present location on Courthouse Road adjacent to the current municipal building, Wilson said. No decision has been made yet about what to do with that building when the city government leaves it.

“No decision has been made yet,” she said. “We will wait until we have made the move, and then we will decide whether we will lease it out or exactly what will be done with it.”

The cost of purchasing the Mercer Street building, along with the estimated cost of renovations, is approximately $2 million, Wilson said. The budget has remained on track.

Relocating Princeton’s municipal office to Mercer Street will benefit that downtown district, she stated.

“There will be more foot traffic on Mercer Street, and the police presence will be there. With the library and the post office there and the railroad museum at the other end (of Mercer Street,) it should tie it all together and we should see some vast improvements on Mercer Street,” Wilson said.

New River Community and Technical College, an institution that currently offers classes at the Mercer County Technical Education Center in Princeton, has been seeking its own quarters in Mercer County. Approximately 154 students now attend classes there, said Barbara Elliott, the college’s director of public relations.

The college was looking at the former Mercer Street bank as a possible location when the city purchased it, said City Manager Elke Doom. The structure has more square footage than the city needs now, and it is also larger than what the college is seeking. Both entities were considering the building with future growth in mind.

Doom said that she looked at a possible floor plan along with architect Todd Boggess to see if the city could share the space with college offices and classrooms.

Elliott later said that two of the college’s administrators, Chief Financial Officer Steve Benson and the Vice President for Workforce Education Bill Loope, met informally with Doom about the possibility of using the Mercer Street location. No decisions have been made.

Mercer Street offers the college parking, plus the Princeton Public Library is nearby, Doom said. Restaurants and other amenities that could serve students are appearing on Mercer Street.

“We’re more than ready to welcome them if they are interested in sharing the space with us,” Doom said.

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