County commits funds to new park in Whitesville

Fred Pace

December 4, 2013

MADISON — The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group is building a new riverfront park near the miners’ memorial in Whitesville and asked the Boone County Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd, to commit to help the project.

“I am asking for a $30,000 commitment from the county,” said Memorial group president Sheila Combs.

Combs gave the commission an update and overview of the project.

“We have had help from many people, companies, organizations and volunteers and have two picnic pavilions completed,” she said.

The “Coal Heritage Riverwalk” park is the next project for the group that also worked to help erect a memorial to the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion.

Combs says the park will have two picnic pavilions, a stage and a riverfront walking trail.

She said this project will reference the area’s rich coal heritage while improving the quality of life for area residents.

The project will be located at the former site of a public pool in Whitesville near the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial.

“The Coal Heritage Riverwalk will be a nod to the state’s rich coal heritage,” according to Combs

She said green space at the park is designed to be used for community movie nights, concerts and other events. Future expansion could include a structure that will serve as a museum. All structures will have details that are reminiscent of the bygone era of the coal company store, she said.

Rob Dinsmore, designer of the UBB Miners Memorial, will be the head architect on the Coal Heritage Riverwalk.

The project was launched in April and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2014.

“We are committed to the preservation of the region’s coal heritage and the further development of coal related tourism in southern West Virginia,” Combs said.

The commission voted unanimously to commit $30,000 to the project.

In other Boone County Commission news:

• The county agreed to allow Rick Kirk to place the Transfer Station and Dog Pound on the same working hours.

The hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kirk says the hours need to be the same so employees can cover for each other and he can better utilize and manage the staff.

• Since the county received no public bids for holding cells for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, commissioners unanimously voted to accept a quote Chief Deputy Chad Barker received from PX Direct in the amount of $56,800.

• Boone County Clerk Gary Williams asked the county for a promise not to cut his budget next year. The county agreed to not cut the budget, if its revenues were the same, but asked Williams to eliminate a current open position in his office.

• Terry Martin with the Regional Intergovernmental Council gave an update to the commission on water and sewer projects in the county. He said the design loan for the Boone County Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade and West Madison Line Rehabilitation project of $137,000 was in the pre-closing stage and she be finalized in January 2014. He said the full loan would be finalized by April or May of next year. The sewer project is estimated to be finished by the summer or fall of 2015, he added.

• Boone County Circuit Judge William Thompson and Chief Probation Officer Jerry Swanson approached the commission about badly needed office space. Commission President Mickey Brown said the county wanted to help, but was awaiting on grant money to use on the old Ellis Building it owns for additional space for the county court system. Commissioner Atholl Halstead encouraged the judge and probation officer to make calls to officials to help get the money to the county faster. Both said they would make calls and try to help obtain the needed funding for the project.

• Officials with Boone Memorial Hospital informed the commission that a few more details were needed to be completed to finalize the transfer of the hospital and secure the hospital’s $31 million U.S.D.A. loan. A reverter placed in the deed when the change was made from the county to the newly formed non-profit hospital group needed to be removed to allow the U.S.D.A. first lien position on the loan. The commission agreed to sign the documents needed to obtain the loan at its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17th.

• Larry Lodato with the Boone County Economic Development Corp. announced to the commission three new grants. The WV Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority awarded a $80,080 grant for installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system on the 1st and 2nd floors of the courthouse. A previous grant of $100,000 was awarded for a sprinkler system in the basement of the courthouse.

The 1st and 10 Foundation awarded the county a $15,000 grant for the Boone County Amphitheater project at Water Ways Park.

The West Virginia Development Office approved a grant request in the amount of $31,008, which must be matched with local funds, for economic development activities and carrying out a comprehensive program of economic development in Boone County.