POINT PLEASANT — The proposal to upgrade the National Guard Armory north of Point Pleasant to house female inmates on a satellite campus of Lakin Correctional Center, is being met with mixed reactions, though the general consensus is, there needs to be more information about it.
This week, the West Virginia Division of Corrections, which is reviewing the possibility of upgrading the armory, told the Point Pleasant Register this is only a proposal at this point. Lawrence Messina, spokesperson for DOC, said the idea came about this month and includes a cost estimate of $8 million to upgrade the armory for use and $3.9 million a year in operational costs. Messina said on Wednesday, the DOC estimates this expansion would create 50 new jobs for Mason County.
As for what this expansion would entail, Messina said there’s been no final decision on how the armory would be used but the most practical use of the property would be as a minimum security facility housing female inmates assigned to Lakin. The National Guard would also continue to have a presence on the property, overseeing maintenance of the armory building and continuing its work operating and rebuilding generators. Messina said the DOC could also offer training to National Guard personnel who may wish to pursue careers as correctional officers.
“There have been no final conclusions yet,” Messina stated about the property’s use.
As Messina said, this would be a partnership between DOC and the National Guard. According to records found in the Mason County Clerk’s Office, the deed to the property where the armory sits dates back to 1952, with a corrective deed filed in 1953 between Industrial Rayon Corporation and the State of West Virginia. The deeds states for the sum of $1 the state can use the property for the construction and use of an armory, arsenal, repair shop and other like facilities. If this use is stopped or the property abandoned by the state, it reverts back to the successors of Industrial Rayon Corporation. After being built for an estimated $160,000, the armory was reportedly dedicated in 1955.
Not much is known about Industrial Rayon Corporation other than it was registered as a Delaware-based company which merged in 1961 with Midland-Ross Corporation, an Ohio-based company. This according to records also found in the county clerk’s office from a time when corporations were required to register with local counties. This means Midland-Ross was the surviving corporation.
Messina said the state will not be purchasing this property because they already have use of it for no charge. He added the usage of existing properties already under the state’s charge is an example of the state finding new uses for these properties rather than purchasing new land and financing for new construction.
As for why not simply expand the current campus at Lakin, Messina said: “I’m sure the division could look at expanding the campus….we try not to rule out any options when it comes to expanding DOC property.”
Messina said expanding existing facilities or using property which is already paid for will at least reduce the backlog of inmates sentenced to prison who are serving those sentences in regional jails. This is the reason for the proposal and to house a growing female inmate population.
Messina said the DOC is very interested in sharing the proposal with the people of Mason County and hearing what they have to say about it.
“The Division of Corrections believes very much in being a good neighbor; the successful establishment of the Charleston Correctional Center earlier this year provides a good example of that,” Messina said on Wednesday. “Gov. Tomblin and Commissioner (Jim) Rubenstein are sensitive to the views of area residents. Both are committed to working with local officials and the community to determine the best course of action for all concerned.”
Many in the neighborhoods near the armory, are hoping to hear from the state and soon. Some residents in the Meadowland Estates subdivision, some with yards only a few feet from the chain-link fence separating them and the armory property, have been growing anxious. Some of these residents have been raising questions about how this will affect their property values, the safety of their neighborhood and just what kind of inmates will be housed at the facility, if the proposal is given the green light.
Some residents closest to the armory have also been talking about organizing a community meeting about the proposal and the Mason County Commission has also been attempting to organize a public hearing on the matter to get more information and to hear from residents. Messina said Commissioner Rubenstein wants to also meet with the community to discuss the proposal and to hear feedback.
More on this story as information becomes available.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.