CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia State University jumped one of its last hurdles in its project for new student housing after the Kanawha County Commissioners approved a $30 million bond issue for the dorm at a special meeting Tuesday.
The bond issuance will pay for the construction of the new building, and the bonds will be repaid through boarding fees residents will pay.
"There's no question that this is an exciting development for the university," said Commission President Kent Carper.
Proceeds from the bonds will be directed to the West Virginia State University Foundation, which will lease university-owned land and construct the residence hall. Two residence halls, Prillerman Hall and Gore Hall, will be torn down in the process.
"This will be the first new residence hall built on campus since 1969," said Jack Bailey, West Virginia State's director of public relations.
Though the county commission is issuing the bonds, the commissioners won't be financially liable for any part of the project. The bond agreement is written in a way that investors who purchase the bonds and the university will be liable for all funds.
Thus, the county is essentially only a channel for the funds received from the bonds.
Mark Imbrogno, who represents the bond counsel (Jackson Kelly), said that West Virginia State would transfer funds received from boarding fees to the bond counsel, but first passing through the commissioners as a formality. The bond counsel would then make payments to Huntington National Bank to repay the bonds.
"It's clearly stated that bonds will be repaid by the rentals of the room," said John Poffenberger, another representative of the bond counsel. "The money will be borrowed and (the commissioners) will not be responsible."
West Virginia State maintains that new housing is needed to replace the aging existing facilities.
"We believe that it's absolutely essential we have a facility to accommodate the students of today," said Melvin Jones, vice president business and finance for the university.
Jones said that the university conducted focus group interviews and surveys to find out what interested students in new housing. The new building will have 291 beds and will be suite-style, meaning a small number of bedrooms will share a bathroom and common area, as opposed to one bathroom or common area for an entire floor.
"Current students have embraced the new facility," he said. "They have wholeheartedly said they would move into this new facility."
On campus, students say the prospect of the new dorm has piqued the interest of students living in the school's existing, outdated residence halls.
Andrew Walters, the resident director at one of those dorms, Sullivan Hall West, also went to school at State and graduated in 2005. Between his time there as a student and as an employee, he's lived in every dormitory on campus and said the school is in sore need of the addition.
"They've done some renovations to them and done things and made them livable," he said. "But improvements don't compare to a whole new building."