MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The WVU Board of Governors on Tuesday morning gave its OK for university management to negotiate the termination of a lease-purchase agreement with KVC Foundation for the Montgomery campus.
KVC had hoped to start a vocational college there to train young adults aging out of the foster care system. But KVC said that capital improvement and repair costs at the former WVU Tech campus exceeded its current resources.
In other action regarding the Montgomery campus, the BOG approved a lease for the use of the Neal Baisi Athletic Center for less than six months to the YMCA of Kanawha Valley.
“We’ll lease the Baisi Center to the Y,” WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said. “It’ll be at a $1 a month so that they won’t have any costs from that. We’ve agreed to provide a sponsorship to the YMCA over the next few months of $75,000 that will help them from an operational standpoint to keep the YMCA open.”
Kansas-based KVC Health Systems is a national, nonprofit behavioral health and child welfare organization. Its subsidiary, KVC West Virginia, offers including foster care, adoption, in-home family preservation services, and outpatient psychiatric and behavioral healthcare.
KVC had hoped to launch its career college pilot program at Montgomery. WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said KVC entered into the lease with WVU in 2016.
Alsop said that KVC offered its written notice in mid-January. The lease requires 24 months’ notice but KVC doesn’t want to be there for that long.
However, he said, WVU will have certain costs during the notice period. While WVU expects KVC to exit before the end the period, they will negotiate on compensation for the costs.
He doesn’t know when KVC might leave the campus. “We don’t have a final resolution for that, but we would expect soon.”
Meanwhile, he said, WVU will be exploring other uses for the campus. It previously transferred a couple buildings to Bridge Valley Community College and will continue talks with the college about those buildings.
“We’ll look out again to state and federal agencies or other private sector individuals who may have an interest in using all or part of the campus,” Alsop said. “Just like we were looking for a partner in KVC, we will be looking for a new partner or partners who are interested in the campus.”
And WVU will look at other potential uses for the campus, Alsop said, “whether that’s a state agency or feral agency or someone that may have an interest in the building.”
KVC said on its blog that it has been working on the college idea for five years. It’s intended to offer a “combination of vocational training in high-demand fields such as healthcare, IT and hospitality services along with specialized behavioral healthcare support and career readiness training.”
KVC said, “Verbal support for the project is exceptionally high, however there is a need for greater public and private financial support to successfully launch the initiative. … KVC remains deeply committed to the concept of a specialized college campus with wraparound supports and is exploring other ways to bring the vision to life.”
KVC cites the need for the college: “Nearly 20,000 youth nationally age out of foster care each year without a permanent family or home, putting them at high risk of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, illness and unplanned pregnancies.”
The Dominion Post is awaiting comment from a KVC official. The report will be updated.
YMCA of Kanawha Valley is based in Charleston. The Baisi Center facility, YMCA spokesman Anthony Lewis said, is intended to serve the eastern part of the valley.
KVC was the Y’s previous landlord, he said, but with the lease termination in the works, WVU has become the new landlord. They’ve operated there since June 2017 and want to continue serving he area, which has suffered economic loss with the relocation of WVU Tech and various business setbacks – such as the decline of coal.
“The YMCA is one of the bright spots in that area,” Lewis said. They’ve seen membership grow in the past year and hope to continue building in order to be able to remain there and continue serving the area beyond the lease deadline.”
MetroNews’ Jake Flatley contributed to this story.