WEST JEFFERSON-Where will the future home of Wilkes Community College in Ashe County be located?
That’s the question college officials are currently working on, and visits to possible sites are already underway.
Here’s the reality, according to Chris Robinson, president of the Ashe Campus: since the mid 1980s, WCC has called a series of metal buildings and subsequent additions home but those structures are coming close to surpassing their lifespan.
The metal shells that make up the current complex behind Ashe County High School – it was last amended in 1996 and 2004 – were simply never designed to operate beyond the 30-year mark.
So the college has turned its eye towards the future.
On Tuesday, community college officials toured the Jefferson Station location in downtown West Jefferson, according to Robinson. It is one of several sites WCC will visit in the coming weeks and months, he said. Robinson didn’t comment on whether the Jefferson Station site could be a viable home for the Ashe campus in the future.
Along with Jefferson Station, WCC will be weighing their options for facilities very carefully as recommendations for walk-throughs continue to come in from local real estate agencies.
WCC was not Jefferson Station’s only potential buyer.
YMCA became interested in utilizing the downtown location to offer health and recreational opportunities for the county’s population in 2014 when Curt Hazelbaker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, appeared before the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen.
Since the meeting, the YMCA had been working to determine what the needs of the community are and finding a location for a potential YMCA. In August 2015, Jefferson Station was taken off the table when owner Tom Banks withdrew his offer to allow the organization to purchase the property.
While plans for an expanded Ashe Campus have been on the minds of WCC officials for several years, it didn’t become a feasible possiblity until recently with a commitment from the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to contribute up to $6 million for the project, along with help from the state’s new Connect N.C. Bond package.
Robinson reiterated that the college’s plans for an expansion are still in its infancy and officials are uncertain if they will expand the current facility or seek new digs at an undeveloped or existing site.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.