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Old magistrate building goes to Internet college

January 23, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - American Public University System has been in its new home in Charles Town for just a few months and there already are plans to expand it.

The Internet-based university was the high bidder for the old Jefferson County Magistrate Court building at a public auction Thursday morning.

Wally Boston, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the school, purchased the two-story building at the corner of George and Congress streets for $205,000.

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Boston, who was one of four qualified bidders, said American Public University System needs the building for office space. He said officials noted the need for more space when the school moved into its new location at the former Knott Nursing Home on West Congress Street in September.

The school has been looking for commercial space, but availability is limited in Charles Town, Boston said.

The Jefferson County Commission auctioned the building at 9:30 a.m. at the entrance to the Jefferson County Courthouse. The magistrate court was moved out of the building three years ago and the commissioners have said they have no use for it.

Auctioneer Densil Nibert tried to start the bidding at $150,000. With no takers, the bidding for the deteriorating building started at $25,000.

Much of the bidding was between Boston, developer Herb Jonkers and another man.

The bidding steadily climbed before topping out at Boston's offer.

The old court building is in need of major renovations, Boston said. The roof is leaking and the ceilings have water damage, he said. The hardwood floors in the building have buckled from the water damage.

"I was hoping to pay a little less because of the renovation," Boston said.

It is not known when the university might be able to move some of its offices into the building because it is unclear how quickly the school might be able to get a contractor to do the work, Boston said.

American Public University System has been praised for the renovation it did to the Knott Nursing Home building. The building is home to the school's computer servers and about 40 employees.

The school does not need classroom space since all classes are offered online, school officials said. American Public University System offers graduate, undergraduate and certificate programs through the Internet.

Because the courses are offered online, American Public University System's 11,000 students are scattered around the world in 30 countries, said Mike Hillyard, the school's provost and executive vice-president.

The school, which specializes in courses sought out by professionals in fields such as law enforcement and firefighting, moved to Charles Town from Manassas, Va., Hillyard said.

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