SYCC ponders potential for future expansion

BUCKHANNON — Walls can’t talk, but they can still serve as a visual barometer of what a community values.

And based on the simple presence of the Stockert Youth and Community Center, the Buckhannon-Upshur community values its youth and future generations, Dr. Rob Rupp told a group of city officials, SYCC board members and residents who had gathered at the center for a public forum and brainstorming session Monday evening. The city and SYCC board hosted the event to compile community input on how to transform the dream of building a new SYCC multi-purpose auditorium and gymnasium into a reality.

“Can bricks talk? No, but you know what they can do? They can give silent testimony to what a community does,” Rupp, a longtime SYCC board member, told the group. “[When it was East Main Street School], this school made of bricks gave silent testimony to the fact that the citizens of Upshur County wanted a public education facility for the children of Upshur County.

“It is a testimony when I drive by that this community has rallied and supported its youth. When I first came here, we didn’t have girls’ basketball, and then what happened last year? We had an outstanding (Buckhannon-Upshur High School) girls’ basketball team,” Rupp added.

Rupp said the late Joyce S. Stockert — whose will directed that $500,000 be used to purchase, construct and operate a youth center — created a myriad of life-enhancing artistic and recreational opportunities for children in the community. And now the city and county has the chance to significantly improve that youth center by constructing a connected multi-purpose facility to be used by youth, adults and seniors alike.

“Now, we’re talking about another brick building,” Rupp said. “An extension, and what that will say to everyone who drives by, everyone who comes in this city, that Upshur County is devoted to its kids. I can’t say that about other counties, I can’t say that about other towns, but I can say that about Buckhannon, and I also want to testify to [the fact that] good intentions are fine. Good attempts are fine.”

But intentions and attempts are nothing without strategies to implement them, Rupp emphasized. That’s why he and SYCC board member and longtime supporter Don Nestor moderated Monday’s public forum, which featured a review of the building’s history; the center’s program offerings for youth and adults; group breakout sessions; and a SWOT analysis, or overview of the project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

SYCC executive director Debora Brockleman said the center, which logs about 12,000 youth involvement hours monthly, provides after-school care for 60 children per day. Other programs include drill team, a basketball program for ages K-12, cheerleading, Camp Buccaneer, tutoring services, karate, adult kickboxing, adult yoga and Zumba classes, among other offerings. 

City public works director Jerry Arnold briefed attendees on two separate project proposals for the future facility. The price tag on the simpler, cheaper model is approximately $389,000 but doesn’t include provisions for spectators or public restrooms.

“The initial building is just a gym,” Arnold explained. “It’s a space that’s heated, that’s air-conditioned, and it’s only 60-by-100 feet that would allow for practices and games.” With project engineering and contingency taken into account, the exact price tag would be $389,084.72.

What Arnold referred to as the second and preferred option is a blueprint for an 82-foot-by-140-foot building that incorporates women’s and men’s restrooms as well as a concession area; its cost is estimated at $468,234.72.

“That $468,000 for the larger building is ready to play basketball with all the blacktop, sidewalks and all the outside extra areas,” Arnold said.

So exactly how much cash does the city have on hand?

Finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said Buckhannon had accumulated about $190,615 for the project, which includes funds from private donations, the SYCC’s capital campaign and contributions from people who regularly donate to the cause on their monthly utility bills.

Another possible funding source could be secured through a $1.7 million grant proposal information coordinator and grant writer Callie Cronin Sams has submitted for Abandoned Mine Lands pilot funding through the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection. If obtained, the grant could supply funding for not only an indoor/outdoor recreational center at SYCC, but also extending the Riverwalk trail to the northern and southern sections of Upshur County.

Following an assortment of presentations, attendees broke into groups to discuss the project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then those were prioritized; results will be shared at a later date, mayor David McCauley said.

During a ceremony that took place at the beginning of the forum, McCauley honored Joyce Stockert’s lawyer, Roy Law, with a special Service to Youth Champion Award.

“The guy that was responsible for counseling Joyce Stockert about making this facility and this concept of a youth center for our children possible is attorney Roy Law,” McCauley said. Holding back tears, an emotional Law accepted the award for his compassionate service and contributions to community youth. The city’s 12th Service to Youth champion, Law shared a few memories of Stockert.

SYCC was initially bequeathed to the Upshur County Commission in 1994, and the county entered into a rent-free, year-to-year lease with the Upshur County Board of Education, which allowed it to utilize the old East Main Street School as a youth center. In 2004, the county, city and Upshur BOE established an agreement providing that the city would own and operate the center with assistance from the BOE and county.


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