Commissioners pursue funding for courthouse, other projects

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County commissioners visited Charleston this week to seek funds for various projects, including a proposed expansion of the county courthouse, water and sewer projects and repairs to local roads.

The commission hopes to secure funds to expand the courthouse south over the lot where two dilapidated houses were razed last year and possibly incorporating the adjacent building that once housed the county’s museum.

Because the site is in the city’s floodplain, plans call for the addition to be built over a parking garage.

Some have estimated the cost at $3 million, but the commissioners have hired the Silling Group of Charleston to determine the expansion’s feasibility and an official estimate.

The addition would allow the commission to return the county’s magistrate court to the courthouse. It and the county’s family court were moved from the courthouse’s first floor to the third floor of the Progressive Bank building on Charles Street following the 2004 flood.

But the commission has learned since then that area of the building, which is separate from that used by the bank, doesn’t meet state fire codes.

The family court has been moved back to the courthouse but the commission is struggling with limited space there for the magistrate court.

Asked about pursuing vacant buildings in the city, Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said the commission owns the lot where it hopes to build and wants to avoid buying or renting additional buildings to occupy county services.

He said money in the county budget for the courthouse annex – owned by the county and occupied by the county’s probation department and West Virginia University Extension Service, and rental of the Progressive building and the Cross Law Office, used by the county prosecutor – could be applied to the expansion.

Andreozzi said there are no plans for a new county levy to support the expansion.

He said the commission also lobbied state legislators for more funding for water and sewer projects and for more funds to be allocated through the state Division of Highways for repairs to Brooke County roads.

Commission President Tim Ennis said the commissioners met with all of the state delegates and senators representing Brooke County.

The commissioners also discussed such issues with Mary Jo Guidi, who represents U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the Northern Panhandle, and stopped by at Friday’s meeting to hear their concerns.

Also at Friday’s meeting, which was moved to accommodate the Charleston visit:

The commission adopted an update to the county’s comprehensive plan for development. Prepared by the county’s planning commission, the plan suggests areas most suited for business or residential development and infrastruture, such as water and sewer lines, needed in the county.

Ennis noted changes involve mainly references to the oil and natural gas industry, with a section noting its impact but not making any recommendations, and updates to population and school enrollment numbers included when the plan was developed in 2008.

The original plan was developed with input from the WVU Extension Service and has been used as a template by others, including the Bethany Planning Commission.

Ennis thanked planning commission members, past and present, who had a hand in the plan, saying their volunteer efforts saved the commission $25,000 to $50,000.

The commission approved the hiring of Michael DiLoretta, Jeffrey Johnson, Eddie Seladoki and Justin Miller as part-time paramedics and Brian Howell as a part-time emergency medical technician for the county’s ambulance service.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)