Development Authority Approves Land Sale to Potomac State

Reprinted with permission from the Mineral Daily News-Tribune as reported by Jean Braithwaite

KEYSER - The Mineral County Development Authority Tuesday gave approval for Potomac State College of WVU to purchase eight lots, including the shell building, at the Fort Ashby Business and Technology Park.

The motion strengthened what former Potomac State College president Dr. Len Colelli had presented to the state legislators during the 2016 Mineral County Day at the Legislature in January.

At that time, Colelli spoke about an upcoming new program in agriculture on the planning table for the school, and said the purchase of acreage in the Fort Ashby Park would supplement the program with hands-on experience.

In addition, during Mineral County Day at the Legislature, Walt Helmick, state agriculture commissioner, promoted this particular idea for the county by saying that the location of the Fort Ashby Park was near to Baltimore, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

He then said that the agricultural business would be good for Mineral County, because, “Of the two million people in the state, they all desire to eat.”

The motion made on Tuesday morning at the county development authority showed the county agency accepted the proposal made by PSC of WVU to purchase lots 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, and the shell building for a total consideration of $337,100.

A stipulation nvolved in the motion was that lots 4 and 7 would be exempt from the agreement until Sept. 30, to allow for a possible purchase by another business.

Involved in this part of the sale would be that if the other interested business does enter into a contract for lots 4 and 7, then lots 9 and 10 would be the substituted acreage for PSC.

Those representing PSC at the authority meeting were Jennifer Orlikoff, president, Gregory Ochoa, dean of academic affairs, and Darin Matlick, the college’s veterinarian and agricultural clinical associate professor.

Matlick told authority members that two new programs have recently been created for PSC and, “They are a two-year associate of applied science and a four-year bachelor of applied science.”

He added that a “food hub project” would involve the community through a food market, consisting mostly of “produce, but don’t count out animal production.”

Because of this plan, Matlick said the shell building is “vital,” for the “collection, processing, and distribution center for foodstuffs.”

Mentioning that the land around the building, he said this area could in the future be used for student housing.

Adding to this, Matlick said the acquisition of the old Tubby Evans and Deremer farms by PSC would add acreage for the food hub and be used for farm and animal production.

He said that the agricultural program in many colleges is good, but the students “are not taught how to run a business.”

“In this plan, the students will learn how to run a business,” he assured the authority board members, as he added that the third- and fourth-year students would develop a business plan.

Buck Eagle, president of the development authority, spoke on “being in favor of this project,” saying this will “help the region and the state.”

He said the program would create “entrepreneurship from the beginning to the end of the process.”

Eagle compared the proposed food hub undertaking by PSC to an “anchor store in a mall.”

Authority secretary David Webb said that the merits of the proposed program exceed the negative, which he explained would be “giving up the land,” leaving little property to be promoted by the development authority.

Webb stated that the sale of the Fort Ashby Park acreage to PSC would equal no taxes for the county.

Matlick said that as people are brought in to join the future co-op, money would be made.