By: ROGER ALFORD Associated Press Writer
May 22, 2013
Julia Roberts Goad
MATEWAN - The STOP Coalition recently discussed plans to use the former Matewan High School building as a multi-functional community center.
Matewan High School was closed when Mingo Central opened and Matewan Middle will close at the end of the current term, those students will attend Matewan K - 8.
STOP is a drug recovery coalition, which operates Crossroads, a residential treatment facility in Gilbert.
Present at the meeting were members of STOP’s Board, Matewan Mayor Sheila Kessler and council members David Smith and Johnny Fullen, Board of Education member Mike Carter and Jada Hunter, Vice President of Action in Mingo.
Joshua Murphy, STOP Assistant Director, said he feels STOP moving into the building is a perfect fit.
“The location is ideal for several reasons,” Murphy said. “It is close to Matewan, as well as a short drive to Delbarton or Williamson. Yet, it is isolated enough that security is not a problem.”
Murphy said STOP learned they would be able to get the school during the latter part of March. As plans were taking shape, Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was fatally shot on April 3.
Crum was known for his Operation Zero Tolerance, an anti-drug task force that had made more than 70 people in multiple drug busts since he took office at the first of the year.
“We each, independently of each other, had the idea the center should be named for Sheriff Crum,” Murphy said. The new center will be called the Eugene Crum Memorial Complex in honor of Crum’s war on drugs in the county.
He said the coalition hopes to use the building as a recovery center, a community center and housing for people who are transitioning out of recovery. Other uses for the space are emerging.
The building will be turned over to the City of Matewan sometime after July, and the City has agreed to allow STOP to lease the building in exchange for maintenance and improvements STOP will make to the school.
During the first year STOP has the building, the Mingo County Commission has agreed to pay utility bills on the building while the group looks for funding for renovations.
Murphy said the layout of the building, with several classrooms, a large library and gym, lends itself to any number of applications and uses.
He said that while renovations to turn classrooms into four-bed rooms and to convert other spaces as needed may take some time, the building itself in structurally sound.
“We are looking to be able to house at least 30 beds,” Murphy said. “And put in some small suites or apartments that people who are transitioning from being in rehab could rent.”
Murphy said STOP hopes to use the center section of the school where the gym and cafeteria is located as a community center. As those rooms would need little in the way of remodeling, it is hoped the community center will be open by the end of the year. He said the space could be used for anything members of the community could need, such as classes or community events.
“I envision a community center in the very truest sense of the word,” Murphy said. “I really think it will thrive if we can get the members of the community to behind it.”