Community challenge

THE POWHATAN Point Revitalization Association is issuing a Powhatan Community Challenge in an effort to keep the former school in the village for use as a community center.

Contributions are being sought by Saturday, March 1, with $50,000 needed so the building can be in compliance with state regulations. Letters seeking help have been sent to residents, former students and friends.

It was pointed out that state building code occupancy requirements including fire safety, handicap access, emergency exits and architectural drawing deficiencies must be remedied. Also needed is a new occupancy permit because of the change of use and ownership.

This requires an application fee of $7,000 to $10,000, depending upon the number of variances to the requirements that will be allowed. The cost of code upgrades is estimated to be $40,000 to $50,000.

According to the association’s letter, it has been issued an ultimatum by the state to submit the application fee by mid-March or be forced to close the doors and vacate the premises.

In issuing the Powhatan Community Challenge, association members “are offering a memory brick, engraved with your name or the name of friend or loved one with his or her class, for a donation of $100. We are hopeful that no fewer than 500 of these bricks are ‘purchased.’

“We encourage individuals or groups of individuals to consider making generous donations to cover all graduates in their class. It would be such a great testimony of our fond memories of Powhatan High to have the names of all graduates engraved and displayed.”

To respond to the Powhatan Community Challenge, checks are to be made out to the “PPRA/Community Center” and mailed to the Powhatan Point Revitalization Association, 125 Second St., Powhatan Point, Ohio 43942, by March 1. Donors are asked to include the name(s) and graduating class year(s) for their brick(s).”

If adequate donations aren’t received to cover the expenses for state compliance, the association will return the donations and “unfortunately be forced to vacate the facility. This will only add to the further demise of what used to be a proud and vibrant community,” according to the group.

The association has formally occupied the school since May of last year. Previously, the grade school was housed in the building, which formerly was the high school.

Association officials explained the group’s board and volunteers have invested thousands of hours of their personal time and more than $20,000 in donations to develop a quality facility to serve the community.

According to the letter, “The center offers the Powhatan Antique and Crafts Mall …, a certified kitchen for take-out/delivery pizza, haunted house, show events, “Christmas in the Village” support and future plans for more venues and services to improve the quality of life in our community.”

The gymnasium has been made available for volleyball, basketball and cheerleading practices, and Zumba classes have been held every Sunday. Space is leased for a photography studio.

Randy Sisson, association president, said the building also offers “outstanding rent opportunities as a small business incubator that never before existed in Powhatan.”

He also said the occupancy issue was always anticipated, but the requirements of the state codes enforcement office are much more than expected.

Sisson pointed out the gas lease boom has meant more money for many residents. “Our hope is one or several will realize that if they don’t make charitable contributions, they will forfeit that money to the state and federal governments.”

If the necessary funds aren’t raised, Sisson said, “Our facility will be vacated and become a huge decaying blight in the center of our once-bustling business district, and all benefit to the community will be lost. Now is the time to turn this community around and make it the vibrant, proud town that it once was.”

Pokas can be reached at