DHHR Choice Explained
To the editor regarding the Wheeling Department of Health and Human Resources location:
The replacement of the existing Wheeling DHHR first went to public bid in approximately the 2006-2007 time frame, with no respondents meeting the criteria of the bid regarding the building size, location and parking requirement. It was publicly bid again in the 2008-2009 time frame, with similar results. A third bid was released in the 2010-2011 time frame, and Mr. Mike Ferns was the only bidder with the current 16th Street location.
This bid process was initiated prior to his son Ryan Ferns ever having been elected to office. Furthermore, I was not personally aware that Mike Ferns had a son in the Legislature until years later.
Following a consensus opinion and recommendation from the West Virginia Real Estate Division, as well as an evaluation committee from the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, a Letter of Intent was issued to Mr. Ferns, requesting he renovate and build-out the location. A floor plan was generated by a Wheeling-based architectural firm in accordance with all applicable building codes and under prevailing wage requirements. This required a significant investment of more than $3 million to meet DHHR’s specifications. Once the construction was complete, it was the intention of the state to lease it at the current market rate.
At the time this project was awarded to Mr. Ferns, his son Ryan was a member of the House of Delegates. This in no way influenced the above-mentioned consensus recommendation to locate the DHHR at the 16th Street location with Mr. Ferns as the lessor. The decision was based on the fact that after three public bid requests, Mr. Mike Ferns was the first respondent to meet the requirements made by DHHR for the new location. I believe the location and building speaks for itself as a great opportunity to provide DHHR services to the Ohio County citizens.
I retired from the West Virginia Real Estate Division a year ago and live in Ripley, W.Va. During my long tenure with the state, I worked to develop dozens of offices throughout the state. This office, as well as all the rest, were chosen and built as a result of practical business decisions and for no other reason. The claims being made that Ryan Ferns had any involvement whatsoever with the Wheeling DHHR office are blatantly false.
The West Virginia Real Estate Division can be contacted at 304-558-3062 if more information or specifics are needed.
Deputy Director (Ret.)
West Virginia Real Estate Division