Brooke park is awarded grant

WELLSBURG – As Brooke Hills Park officials prepare for its 60th anniversary, they were awarded a grant for sewage improvements at the park and reached a resolution with the Brooke County Commission to a question about natural gas revenue.

Del. Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, presented confirmation to the Brooke Hills Park board and the Friends of Brooke Hills Park of a $6,500 grant from the West Virginia Development Office to install a grinder pump for the park’s waste processing system.

Jonathan Beall, treasurer of the Friends of Brooke Hills Park, a non-profit tax-exempt organization formed last year to raise funds for the park, said that group raised a $6,000 match for the grant.

Walter Ferguson, the park board’s president, said installation of the grinder will help pave the way for further development at the park.

Janice McFadden, the park’s manager, expressed thanks to Diserio and other state legislators and to the county commissioners, who served as the government conduit for the grant, for their support over the years.

She also applauded the Friend of Brooke Hills Park, noting the group also raised money through the park’s 2013 golf scramble and other fundraisers and secured funds from the Northern Panhandle Resource Conservation and Development Council for a chairlift to aid handicapped patrons in entering the park’s swimming pool.

McFadden and Ferguson said attendance at the pool has increased greatly since a heating system was installed there earlier this year.

In related business, the commission approved a quit claim deed with the park board, transferring property at the park that was in the county’s name and interests in oil and gas.

In February the question was raised of whether the county was entitled to a portion of $750,000 received by the park from a natural gas drilling lease and 18 percent of royalties on gas produced there in the future.

Brooke County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III said the county received checks from Chesapeake Energy in the name of the Brooke County Court, a name once used for the county commission, and about 228 acres and their oil and gas rights were found to be in the commission’s name.

Bill Watson, the park board’s attorney, said property at the park was in the county’s name until the park and recreation commission was formed to manage it in the 1960s. He said even then, the deeds stipulated that it was for park purposes and revenue from the gas drilling should be used there.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said Barki has determined a previous county commission ceded the oil and gas rights to the park and recommended the quit claim deed.

Ferguson told the commissioners, “We’re greatly appreciative of your actions.”

He said park board members have discussed many improvements, including a water park and amphitheater, “to make the park a destination for people not only in Brooke County but all over.”

Prior to the meeting, McFadden said plans are being made for a three-day celebration of the 60th anniversary of the park land’s donation to the county by the W.C. Gist family, who had operated a farm there.

She said live music, a car cruise and other attractions and free or discounted admission to park facilities are planned for July 29-31, with full details to be announced soon.

The commission also filled three vacant park board seats, appointing Kaili Ridgley to a full term and Julie Barnhart and Jason Ferguson to unexpired terms. A seat remains to be filled, and those interested should submit a letter of interest to the county clerk’s office at the county courthouse.

The commission also must fill a seat on the county’s solid waste authority, which oversees the county’s recycling program and meets quarterly.

The commissioners also heard from Iris Himmelrick of the Marland Heights Community Association, who asked them to contribute to the group’s efforts to reopen the Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool. She said the Weirton park board recently agreed to lease the pool to the group, which is working to restore the pool, beginning with the bathrooms.

Himmelrick said the pool has been closed since 2005 and has deteriorated in that time, but the group wants to make it available to younger residents so they may enjoy it as association members and others had.

Andreozzi said the commission has cut its budget in recent years and isn’t entertaining requests for funding from groups it hadn’t previously assisted, such as the Weirton Transit Corp. and Hancock-Brooke Veterans Memorial.

But he said the commission could serve as the government entity through which the group may seek grants, if that’s legal.

Wayne Buxton of Animal Advocates- Brooke County also told the commission the group appeared, with seven dogs from the county’s animal shelter, in the Wellsburg Independence Day parade on a float sponsored by First National Bank and Mullenbach Funeral Home, and five of the dogs were adopted or accepted by a rescue group soon after.

Himmelrick invited the group to bring shelter animals to a craft show to be held by the MHCA on July 26.