CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram says his community still needs help more than six years after West Virginia University moved WVU Tech from Montgomery to Beckley.
Ingram is asking state lawmakers to remove the sunset provision of a bill signed into law in 2017 that requires representatives of state agencies to meet with community leaders in Montgomery concerning efforts to fill the buildings left behind on the former WVU Tech campus.
Ingram told members of the state Senate Workforce Committee that an extension of the law is needed, if that doesn’t happen, it will sunset in 2024.
Ingram said the state had never allowed a state supported college to move from one community to another like the legislature voted in 2016 to allow WVU to do. He said more time is needed to respond to the impact.
“We’re still learning, we’ll all learning. WVU is learning. Montgomery, the Upper Kanawha Valley, is learning of the devastation,” Ingram said. “I think we owe it to ourselves to learn for another four years.”
Ingram said he meets with the state agencies, along with a WVU representative, every 60 days.
“It’s an effort for the state of West Virginia offices to step up and try and bring jobs to Montgomery, maybe with state offices,” Ingram said.
Senator Mike Caputo, D-Marion, asked Ingram if there’s been any progress.
“Has it worked? Has it been successful? Are we getting anywhere with that? Or are we meeting and nothing’s happening? Caputo said.
“We’re meeting and nothing’s happening,” Ingram said.
The most significant use of the buildings so far has been the Mountaineer Challenge Academy South.
Ingram said the conversations need to be allowed to continue, at the very least, for residents of the area.
“We need to do something to help those people recover, not just Montgomery, but the whole region, the whole Upper Kanawha Valley region, four counties were affected by that move,” Ingram said.
Ingram called the move a “community injustice” when he appeared before lawmakers last week. He said the help the 2017 bill provides should be allowed to continue.
“It’s all in the name of filling those buildings and giving people an opportunity to go to work,” Ingram said.
An initial bill calling for the communications between the state and local officials was passed in 2016 (SB656) and then updated in 2017.
WVU Tech began classes in Beckley in August 2017.