Old School: S.C. Developer Eyes Edgemont, Rivermont

Old School: S.C. Developer Eyes Edgemont, Rivermont
The former Edgemont and Rivermont school buildings may soon get a new lease on life.

Jerry Kiehl, of Carolina-based Patriot Assisted Living, announced his company’s intention to purchase the two buildings Tuesday night during Covington City Council’s regular August work session.

“We’re motivated,” said Kiehl. “We want to go ahead and talk about, by next week, making an offer to city council, especially for the Edgemont facility.”

Kiehl said the company was originally looking to locate an assisted living facility in Roanoke or Beckley, W.Va., before data began pointing toward Covington.

“Our information started saying the community is very veteran friendly,” he explained. “The demographics also said there’s a need in this community for an assisted living facility for veterans, as well as employment opportunities for about 35 people after the facility is up and running.”

Since the Edgemont facility is laid out on a single floor, Kiehl’s preliminary plans are geared toward creating an assisted living facility for veterans.

“This partnership is achievable. There’s a fair profit to be made, but the main thing is there’s a need in your community for an assisted living facility for veterans,” Kiehl said. “I’m not talking about a nursing home that you walk into and it smells and reeks of urine. We’re talking about quality assisted living facilities that are going to be a standard for others to match.”

He also explained to council that the multi-floor layout of the Rivermont facility requires a different approach.

“Rivermont has a little different twist to it,” Kiehl said. “We were talking about how to provide apartments, internship apartments, maybe elder care apartments on the first floor and other things.”

Council has been searching for a way to take advantage of Covington’s location between The Homestead in Hot Springs and The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and providing housing for resort employees, as well as those of MeadWestvaco, may be the answer.

“We’re in the process of talking to key officials at MeadWestvaco about this,” Kiehl said. “It’s something to look at and consider.”

Kiehl also told council that being a part of the community would be an important part of any agreement they reached.

“We like the location, we like the community and the neighborhood it’s in. We want to be part of that neighborhood,” he said. “We’re not looking to be some facility stuck away someplace.

“Both of these facilities have current parks that are being used by the communities. We’re not looking at throwing a chain on the gates of those parks,” he added. “We’re looking at maintaining those parks for the community. If we go for Rivermont, that field can still be used as an emergency landing zone. It can still be used as a 911 communications center. I don’t have a problem extending that out to the ham radio for emergency communications.

“We want to be a partner with the community here, not just folks who rush in and make a dollar,” Kiehl said.

The prospect of new facilities in Covington also raises the prospect of new job opportunities.

“We’re talking about employment,” Kiehl explained. “We would like to see, when this deal is accepted, that we’re able to find a qualified general contractor from this area.

From there, this qualified general contractor starts looking for the local contractors. To us, bringing that dollar back into the community is a major part of any deal we make here.”

While Kiehl set an admittedly ambitious opening date for Veterans Day in November, a formal offer for the buildings has yet to be made.

Public hearings must be held before council can sell the facilities and the matter would need to go before the Covington Planning Commission so zoning status of the Rivermont facility could be changed to allow for apartments. Discussions concerning any agreement to sell the facilities would also likely involve City Attorney Elizabeth Dillon, who was not present Tuesday and does not typically attend council’s work sessions.

“We just need to come back, discuss and set all that up,” said Covington City Manager J.B. Broughman.

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