Wise County supervisors OK architectural study for J.J. Kelly overhaul

Mike Still • Sep 8, 2019 at 2:45 PM

WISE — The Wise County Board of Supervisors has agreed to go forward with preliminary design work for a county office complex in the former J.J. Kelly High School.

After a feasibility study that started in the spring determined that the building was suitable for renovation into a multi-agency facility, the BOS voted to authorize a $58,000 preliminary architectural report from engineering firm Thompson & Litton.

County Administrator Mike Hatfield on Friday said the report will include site and floor plans along with refined cost estimates for the project. The report would be the basis for funding applications if supervisors decide to go ahead with the project.

The study contract also requires the report to meet USDA Rural Development funding application guidelines. Hatfield said that level of detail would make the report complete enough for any sort of funding application because of the stringency of Rural Development application requirements.

Discussions on the J.J. Kelly proposal stemmed from issues including a deteriorating county Social Services building on the Wise-Coeburn road, growing activity at the Wise County Health Department building and limitations on county administrative offices in the courthouse.

The feasibility study looked at whether the former high school could house Social Services, administration, Health Department and school system administrative offices. Hatfield said the study showed the school could handle those agencies in a one-stop facility.

Hatfield said the existing parking north of the creek running through the school grounds would be adequate for staff and visitors. Athletic fields south of the creek would remain in school system control.

While classroom space would be renovated into offices as determined under the architectural study, Hatfield said the old gymnasium could be renovated into a two-story office wing.

The study identified three main needs for the structure: new windows, a new roof and a new HVAC heating and cooling system for the entire building.

Before J.J. Kelly was shut down following school consolidation and the opening of Central High School, the school system had installed a temporary system of external ducts and heating-cooling equipment at the back of the building. Hatfield said that any new HVAC system would be better integrated into the facility.

Hatfield said the earlier feasibility study also removed any concerns about the building’s condition.

In other business, the BOS also voted to begin the process of refinancing bond debt from consolidation of the school system. That consolidation closed J.J. Kelly, Appalachia, Pound and St. Paul high schools and Appalachia Elementary School and required construction of Central High School in Wise and Union High School near Big Stone Gap.

Hatfield said the county has $14.8 million in anticipated bond debt from consolidation construction based on an application for state Literary Loan Fund money. Refinancing the bond debt would give better and cheaper interest terms compared to waiting for a Literary Loan approval, Hatfield said.