Baynes Wants Property Donation

WHEELING – Darryl Baynes does not yet know what he will be able to accomplish with the former Clay School building in East Wheeling, but he wants city officials to consider giving him the former Imperial Pools property nearby after demolition of the structure on it is complete.

Baynes, who owns a nonprofit company that promotes science education through school assemblies, summer camps and professional development for teachers, wants the city to donate the land to him so he can build a smaller structure to store the science equipment he now keeps inside the old Clay School. He also indicated he could create classrooms in the proposed structure to conduct continuing education classes for educators.

Baynes stressed he has made no decision about the future of the Clay School, and he is continuing to search for grants to help him realize his original goal of converting the building into a science and recreation center for local youth.

He said he expects to speak today with representatives of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in hopes of securing federal funds to repair the structure.

“Whether I fix Clay School up or tear it down, I need to put my equipment somewhere. … I want to stay in East Wheeling,” Baynes said, noting he needs 10,000-20,000 feet of storage space and has been unable to find a suitable building available elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Neither Mayor Andy McKenzie nor City Manager Robert Herron gave any indication whether they would support such an idea. Both said Tuesday they could not comment until they learned more about Baynes’ specific intentions for the Imperial Pools property, although Herron said the city will listen to proposals to redevelop the land after demolition is complete.

Red tape now encircles the perimeter of the McColloch Street building – which the city took ownership of earlier this year – as asbestos abatement of the property is under way. It’s unknown exactly when demolition will begin.

Meanwhile, McKenzie has said he wants Baynes to make a decision about his plans for the Clay School within the next six months.

A recent inspection of the building turned up numerous structural issues, and Baynes has put a fence around the southeast corner of the building to keep passersby out of harm’s way should any of the shifting masonry near the top of the building give way.

Wheeling Director of Economic and Community Development Nancy Prager has told Baynes she believes it will cost him about $300,000 to tear down the building – a sum he admits he cannot afford. But contractors have told him it likely will cost $500,000 or more to put a new roof on the building, and merely stabilizing the damaged masonry easily could run into six figures.

He believes it will cost $1.5 million to renovate and open just the first floor of the 83,000-square-foot edifice he purchased from the Ohio County Board of Education for $65,000 about a decade ago. The school closed in 1996.