By JOHN G. WOLFE
After months of work and public hearings by the Weston Planning Commission, Weston now has a comprehensive plan that city leaders hope will serve as a blueprint for the future development of Weston.
The plan was approved by unanimous vote of the City Council at the regular Council meeting held on Sept. 2. The approval came after a scheduled public hearing prior to the regular meeting in which no one appeared to voice opposition or support for the plan. City leaders hope the plan will also aid the city in securing state and federal grants.
The plan addresses what the Planning Commission identified as six critical issues facing the city, including deterioration of the downtown area, vacant and dilapidated housing, poor economic growth, land use, insufficient recreation opportunities and transportation.
The plan includes steps to be taken to address these issues. For example, on the issue of vacant and dilapidated housing, the plan calls for the city to inventory all vacant and dilapidated structures, a process that is underway through the work of the BAD Buildings Committee.
It also calls for targeted code enforcement, development of a system to track citizen complaints, and increased enforcement of building codes and property maintenance ordinances.
The plan in it's entirety can be seen at the Weston Municipal Building or online at www.cityofwestonwv.com.
After months of indecision, the Council also unanimously approved a proposal submitted by the Weston Police Department to lease two police vehicles for a period of five years.
In the past two years, the city has been able to obtain two new police cruisers via a matching grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the department has experienced repair problems with older high mileage cruisers still in use. Repair costs on the older cruisers had reached over $30,000 per year and officers have had problems with the old cruisers breaking down.
Under the lease program, the cost per year would be approximately $13,700 per year and the city could end the lease at any time.
In other action, the Council:
> heard from Twila Montgomery about water run-off problems on Peggy Street and from Bernard Davis about the possibility of closing an alley,
> approved a request for the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Program to be held outside the city municipal building following the Law Enforcement Parade on Sept. 27,
> discussed annexation proposals,
> heard from Blair Taylor of the Muncipal Pensions Oversight Board on ways to maximize city returns on pension investments for the police and fire departments,
> heard a plea from Fire Chief Kenny James for more funding for the Weston Fire Department to assist with mandatory truck and equipment inspections and needed training for firefighters,
> set Halloween Trick or Treating in the city for Friday, Oct. 31, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.,
> approved a proclamation presented by local DAR Regent Pat Goodwin recognizing Sept. 17 - 24 as Constitution Week,
> heard a suggestion from Mayor Julia Spelsberg that a Weston Parks and Recreation Board be created as mandated by city ordinance,
> held a short executive session to discuss personnel issues,
> approved the minutes of previous meetings and approved all department head reports.
By ALLISON CLARK
At Monday's Commission meeting it was announced by the commissioners that Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources have come together in a joint venture to own the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The proposed pipeline will stretch 550 miles from Harrison County, to southeast Virginia with an extension to Chesapeake, Va. and then south through central N. C. A portion of the pipeline will be located in Lewis County.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a $4.5 to $5 billion project that will bring 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day to N.C.and Va.
This pipeline will potentially create thousands of jobs, promote economic development, promote cleaner air and increase state and local tax revenue.
The pipeline is expected to be in service by late 2018, pending regulatory approvals.
There will be two public forums held next week that will be on energy related sources and matters that will effect Lewis County.
On Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m. there will be a public forum at the Greek Alumni Room in the Performing Arts Center of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon about the proposed 550 mile long pipeline.
At Jackson's Mill Assembly Hall there will be a public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with Consol Energy. This meeting will be about the company's plans for oil and gas development in Lewis County.
Attendees will be provided the newest information of the company's proposed activities in Lewis County and attendees will be able to discuss the purpose, process and need of gas and oil drilling.
In other new, Theresa Turner was sworn in as Lewis County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney by Commission President Agnes Queen.
The Commissioners approved Turner to be Assistant Prosecuting Attorney on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Turner was working as Interim Assistant Prosecuting Attorney after the former Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Bailey left the office on Tuesday, July 22.
Turner has been practicing law for about 14 years and previously served as an Assistant Public Defender in Kanawha County.
Brian Bailey and his wife were in attendance at the Commission meeting and requested to go into executive session after the regular items on the agenda were complete. In this executive session Bailey asked for the session to include the Commissioners, County Administrator Cindy Whetsell, Prosecuting Attorney Lea Anne Hawkins and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Theresa Turner.
Director of the Lewis County Economic Authority Mike Herron reported that he is working diligently to get the approval for the Roanoke School Water Project. Herron hopes to see the project approved this year and if approved hopes to see the project begin in the fall of 2015.
Herron also reported that there are about $10 million worth of water projects in Lewis County that are being pursued for financing.
Commissioner Queen also signed and read a proclamation proclaiming that Sept. 17 - 23 in Lewis County will be Constitution Week. The proclamation was brought to the Commissioners by the Trans-Allegheny Daughters of the American Revolution.
This group will use the Lewis County Courthouse Plaza on Sept. 17, at 4 p.m., for a bell ringing ceremony to honor the 227th anniversary of the framing of the United States of America Constitution.
The next meeting of the Lewis County Commission will be held Monday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m., at the Lewis County Courthouse.
Big Hike Is
Seen in Oil,
In an effort to familiarize local government and civic leaders with CONSOL Energy's oil and gas development plans for Lewis County, the company hosted a tour of their latest drilling venture last Thursday.
Approximately 30 individuals representing local, county and state government, civic leaders and the media gathered at the Jane Lew CONSOL headquarters where they were briefed and prepared for a tour of a Marcellus well site on Churchville Road near Camden. There they were told that CONSOL is excited about what is expected to be a 30% increase in oil and gas production on an annual basis over the next three years.
After a safety briefing, participants donned safety gear that included hard hats, fire retardant coveralls, gloves, safety glasses and steel toed boots and were transported to the well site to learn firsthand exactly how the rigs operate. For most, it was their first venture to a well site, let alone a Marcellus well site and CONSOL and other employees on site took time to answer questions from the participants.
Company officials said it is part of their effort to reach out to the community. CONSOL's Matthew Imrich told media representatives that CONSOL has, "had open town hall meetings, met with the public, spoke with them, hand to hand, just saying here's how we conduct business from our personal, not third, fourth, fifth-hand."
Along those lines, CONSOL is sponsoring a public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at WVU Jackson's Mill so that local citizens can learn the latest on CONSOL's proposed activity in the area and be able to discuss, the purpose, need and process of oil and gas drilling. The meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Assembly Hall.
The Lewis County Commission has spent much time at their meetings discussing infrastructure changes needed to accommodate the expected growth in the oil and gas industry in the county. Indeed national media has indicated that the state's infrastructure has been overwhelmed. Lewis County Economic Development Director Mike Herron told the media that Lewis County officials needed to capitalize on the potential growth related to oil and gas exploration and to be prepared for the related economic changes.
At a meeting of the state Chamber of Commerce held at the Greenbrier Resort earlier this year David Peebles, vice president of the Odebrecht Brazilian conglomerate that is preparing to build a gas "cracker" plant near Parkersburg said, "This is going to be a tidal wave that we do not yet understand." At the same meeting, Exxon Mobile's XTO Energy President, Randy Cleveland, predicted that XTO's labor force in West Virginia will soar as drilling proceeds on 170,000 thousand acres of leased land. "We're just getting started. Our growth here will be tremendous." Cleveland told delegates at the meeting that West Virginia schools will need to focus more strongly on teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in order to produce qualified workers unless people want to see those jobs go to people from out of state.
The rush to develop oil and gas wells has already had an economic impact in the state. It is estimated that in 2009 alone West Virginia's economy grew $1.3 billion as a result of the oil and gas boom and thousands of new jobs have been added. Many say that Lewis County's better than average unemployment rate can be attributed to the growth in the oil and gas industry in the local area.