All but the Smoot Building, which was built around 1960, are considered to be contributing factors to the area's listing on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a letter from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History that Karpynec read aloud at the start of the public hearing.
"We urge the protection and preservation of the historic structures within Charles Town. We encourage investment in the preservation of these historic building(s)," the letter reads in part. "By preserving these buildings, the county will retain the attractive elements of the location and retain the potential for financial incentives that do not exist without the historic structure(s). Preservation in this sense is a way to stimulate economic recovery."
County Commissioner Rusty Morgan was the only elected official to attend the hearing. He sat in the audience after saying the meeting should be considered informal.
County officials are considering tearing down the buildings to provide more needed office space, Morgan said after the hearing. The buildings currently house several county offices, including the Tax Department, Assessor's Office, Sheriff's Department, Office of Emergency Services and the Planning, Zoning and Engineering departments.
"People are working on top of each other," Morgan said.
He said the county needs around 40,000 square feet of office space, including two more courtrooms, to effectively serve the public.
Karpynec, who arrived in town Monday, said he will spend the rest of this week examining the buildings. He said he will prepare a comprehensive review and description of each building's interior and exterior, noting any changes that were made over time. He also plans to find out each building's original use, describe the building materials used and discuss the effects any demolition of or alterations to the buildings will cause.
He said he hopes to have his report finished by the holidays.
The county is paying around $10,000 for Karpynec's study, county officials said.
Only one person not affiliated with any city or county office or organization spoke during the public hearing.
Angela Shearer of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said she finds it ironic that the county is considering tearing down four old buildings not long after money was spent trying to make the city look more historic and aesthetically pleasing.
"(That) doesn't make sense to me," Shearer said.
Karpynec responded that he is only looking at preservation issues, not at any impact tearing down the buildings could have on tourism or other issues.
After the meeting, Shearer told Karpynec that she is worried he is being paid to tell the County Commission what it wants to hear. Karpynec replied that is not the case and that his findings have angered many past clients.
Karpynec handed out business cards to those in attendance and said he welcomes public input.
Anyone with information or photographs of the buildings may call the County Commission office at 304-728-3284.
Written comments about the county's proposal may be mailed to Jefferson County Commission, Historic Review-East Washington Street P.O. Box 250, Charles Town, WV 25414. Comments must be postmarked by Nov. 30.