Plans for garage require funding
Plans to construct a parking garage on the East Campus of Shepherd University are still in limbo as school and elected officials struggle to find a source of funding for the estimated $10 million project without raising student fees.
Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, and Shepherd President Suzanne Shipley say that they are trying to work around a state law which limits the use of money from West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Fund to the construction and operation of academic buildings only. Under the law, auxiliary buildings which serve little or no educational purpose, like a parking garage, a pedestrian bridge, and even dorms and cafeterias, are supposed to float on their own, said Doyle by phone on Tuesday.
Doyle noted that while cafeterias and dormitories can make money off of the student fees charged for their use, a parking garage, nor a pedestrian overpass being considered to replace the crosswalk at North Duke Street and West Campus Drive, could reasonably expect to be money making ventures.
“It may be that we have to tweak that rule in the next legislative session,” said Doyle, “Both I and the governor want to get this for Shepherdstown.”
Gov. Joe Manchin’s press secretary Melvin Smith issued a brief statement to the Chronicle this week on the matter saying that Manchin has discussed the project with local officials. “The funding for this project could come from table game money after Charles Town comes on line and the start-up costs are covered,” wrote Smith by email on Wednesday, but emphasized that “nothing formal has been arranged thus far.”
University officials say that the garage project is at least two years away from reality. First, Phase II of the Center for Creative Arts must be built to replacing the aging Sarah Cree Hall, upon which officials hope to build the new garage, according to President Shipley. Sarah Cree, now largely abandoned since the opening of the Wellness Center, is still home to the Shepherd University Police Department, the student newspaper, and a black box studio theater used by the Contemporary American Theater Festival.
“They are linked, Phase II of the CCA replaces the Sara Cree Theater,” said Shipley by phone on Tuesday, “the linkage is not inextricable, but it would be best to get a commitment on the CCA.”
The Shepherdstown Business Association in recent meetings has urged its membership to support a plan which sees the garage constructed first.
Somewhat on the sidelines of this affair is Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer. “It’s a university project not a town project, so I’m just kind of like encouragement. Obviously the corporation would benefit from having a parking garage, and I’ve brought it to the governor’s attention on several occasions about how important that is for the town.”
Shepherdstown Business Association President Meredith Wait sees the garage project as “imperative” for Shepherdstown. “I think it’s a really important thing that needs to be done sooner rather than later,” Wait said.