Mason County: A year in review


Looking back on memorable moments, October-December

By Beth Sergent and Mindy Kearns



POINT PLEASANT — This week, the Point Pleasant Register has been looking back over the past year, highlighting memorable moments and stories from 2016.

This final review begins with stories that took place October through December this year, as we all prepare for 2017.

October

A request to have the West Virginia Division of Highways property along Jackson Avenue transferred to the county commission was denied. The request was discussed at a regular meeting of the Mason County Commission. Commissioners said DOH would eventually be moving from that property to a new facility north of Point Pleasant on Fair Ground Road. The commission requested the property for possible economic development use in the future. DOH did not give a reason for its denial in the letter sent to the commission on Sept. 30, though the letter did say “we are not in a position to agree at this time, to the transfer of the property.” It said DOH would keep the commission’s request on file and invited them to inquire again “once we have vacated the space.”

Point Pleasant City Council took an important step in turning a proposed water spray park into a reality at Krodel Park. In October, council voted to allocate its first expense on the project in the amount of $3,681 to create an official design of the park which contractors can move forward with in the future. This is the first phase of getting the park built, with council now looking at an estimated cost of $68,260 for the spray park pad only. It was decided that constructing the spray park in phases would be more fiscally viable, just as volunteers have done in updating the playground at Krodel Park. Basically, the city will construct what it can afford, as it can afford it, with plenty of fundraisers planned to help boost the project to fruition sooner rather than later. Recreation Committee members and councilwomen Janet Hartley and Leigh Ann Shepard led the discussion on the project. Speaking of the Krodel playground, Mayor Brian Billings recommended council allocate $3,500 to the playground project, with council voting to do so. The $3,500 was raised by charging visitors to park at Krodel Park during the Mothman Festival, with volunteers parking 800 cars at $5 each.

It was literally a crowning moment for 21-year-old Lauren Roush of New Haven Sunday, as she was chosen Miss West Virginia USA 2017. With approximately 45 close family members, friends and sorority sisters in the crowd cheering her on, they watched throughout the two-day pageant in Morgantown as Roush was named to the top ten, final five, and was finally crowned. Roush described the winning moment as an “out of body experience.”

“I remember falling to my knees, and then feeling very loved and supported as fellow contestants surrounded me, helping me up and congratulating me,” Roush said. “I remember pointing up, giving all the glory to God, and looking out at my family. It was all so surreal.”

Roush and other contestants competed in three categories – interview, swimsuit and evening gown. Once she was named to the top five, those contestants were given on-stage questions. Roush said hers was concerning social media and how she would use her account as Miss West Virginia USA. Her background had prepared her to easily answer. Roush speaks to middle school girls in a program she created, and told the judges and audience she would use the account to promote female empowerment.

November

Jim and Sharry Rossi of Mason County, created a business complex at 2807 Jackson Avenue, turning four lots into 5,000-square feet of economic development opportunity. This complex houses a Pizza Hut Express, is the new home of the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (currently located on 5th Street) and a new office for Edward Jones Investments.

Just days before the county will vote on an EMS operating levy, the Ambulance Authority Board appointed a new director. Dylan Handley, of Point Pleasant, was tapped for the new EMS director, effective Dec. 1, taking over for Chuck Blake who officially retired on Nov. 30. Handley, who attended Marshall University, has worked in EMS for 19 years and has been a paramedic since 2001. He has a background in the fire service as incident command and is also a critical care paramedic who flew for several years with Healthnet aeromedical services.

Also, the Mason County Commission chose a new director for 911 and the office of emergency services. Dennis Zimmerman was unanimously appointed to the position, effective Dec. 1, following the retirement of Chuck Blake on Nov. 30. “He brings a wealth of experience and skills to this position and we look forward to working with him in the future,” Commission President Tracy Doolittle said on behalf of herself and Commissioners Miles Epling and Rick Handley.

At the time of his appointment, Zimmerman was a consultant for the United States Department of Homeland Security with its Center for Domestic Preparedness. Also, as a hazmat/medical specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Team in Phoenix, Ariz., he responded to the following large scale emergencies: Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City, Okla. in 1995, the summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. in 1996, the World Trade Center Attack in New York, N.Y. in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was also a Cpt. Paramedic Hazmat Technician for the City of Phoenix from 1983-2008. He also holds several FEMA and Phoenix fire certifications.

With 10,382 ballots cast in Tuesday’s general election, voters in Mason County not only set a record when it came to voter turnout, but also decided several county races. In the race for Mason County Commission, Sam Nibert (R), won the seat being vacated by Miles Epling. Mason County Sheriff, incumbent Greg Powers (D), also won re-election as did Mason County Assessor Ron Hickman. In uncontested, county races, incumbent Diana Cromley (D), received 8,882 votes for county clerk; incumbent Bill Withers (D) received 8,853 votes for circuit clerk; Ronald “RF” Stein, Jr. (R) received 8,996 votes for county prosecutor.

Cromley said there were 3,420 ballots cast during the early voting period which meant setting another voter record when it came to turnout. There are around 18,000 registered voters in Mason County.

During the generatl election, the Mason County EMS operating levy went down in defeat by a narrow margin. Those voting for the levy were 5,807, those voting against the levy were 4,170. The levy required 60 percent of the vote in order to pass.

When Gary Clark passed away Dec. 31, 2015, he left quite a legacy for the people of the Bend Area – to be loyal to, and active in your school and community. Clark died after a six-year battle with cancer, but not before being honored by Wahama High School for his 40-plus years of covering sports in both newspaper and radio, as well as many other contributions. On Dec. 15, 2015, the basketball court at the school was dedicated in his honor. It was the last basketball game Clark attended. In November, prior to the start of a new basketball season, Clark’s name was installed on the floor under his beloved White Falcon mascot with the words, “Gary Clark Court.” It serves as a forever reminder of Clark’s work and his athletic achievements.

December

Construction continues on the completion of US Route 35 through Mason and Putnam Counties, including near the southern end of the project at Southside in Mason County, W.Va. A work site has been established along Cornstalk Road where construction has been ongoing. This construction of the 14.6-mile stretch of road is employing 300 people from construction and consulting companies, according to the West Virginia Division of Highways. This Route 35 upgrade will provide a four-lane highway from I-64 at Crooked Creek in Putnam County, W.Va. to the Ohio River at Henderson, W.Va. in Mason County. Currently, the road is only two lanes for 14.6 miles through Mason and Putnam counties. As previously reported by WVDOH, at $174.4 million, the project is the second-largest awarded contract in the agency’s history and its second public-private partnership. Bizzack Construction Inc., of Lexington, Ky. was awarded the project as the prime contractor last year. Assisting Bizzack are 14 subcontractors, 10 of which operate offices in West Virginia. Six consulting engineering companies, which also operate offices in the state, are assisting the prime contractor, according to WVDOH. The final section is expected to be complete in 2018 and paved in 2019. Upon completion, this national freight corridor will provide for future economic development in the greater Kanawha Valley, Mattox said.

The longtime dream of many came to fruition earlier this month with the official dedication of the Robert and Louise Claflin Annex at the Mason City Library.The 20- by 40-foot room was built with a $40,000 grant from the Robert and Louise Claflin Foundation. The addition houses children’s books, and serves as a room for youth activities, such as story hour and summer reading. It is also available to the community and organizations for meetings.

The last thing drivers want to see in their rear view mirror is blue lights. However, that sinking feeling quickly turned to a happy one for 20 drivers in Mason County who were randomly pulled over to receive $100 gift cards from Walmart earlier this month. The idea was started by Appalachian Railcar Services, which has a facility in Point Pleasant as well as in Putnam County, W.Va. The company fixes railcars which are in need of repair or scheduled maintenance. A similar giveaway was happening yesterday in Putnam County. Mason County Sheriff Greg Powers said the company came to him with the idea of passing out $100 gift cards to those drivers who were obeying the law – driving the speed limit, wearing seat belts, not talking or texting, etc.

The day after Christmas didn’t feel “normal” in Point Pleasant, W.Va., and it had nothing to do with the unseasonable temperatures. Many in the community awoke to the news that a staple of downtown, Carolin Harris, had unexpectedly passed away Monday, after becoming ill on Christmas Day.

Though Harris knew many in the tri-county, those who didn’t know her personally, undoubtedly knew her in a roundabout way. Harris, who ran Harris’ Steakhouse on Main Street for 48 years, also helped start the popular Mothman Festival and was a driving force behind the Christmas light display at Krodel Park, among her tireless work with the Main Street Point Pleasant organization. In Point Pleasant, Harris was also known for her support of downtown businesses, local merchants, local people in need and whatever else Point Pleasant needed that she could provide.

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Looking back on memorable moments, October-December

By Beth Sergent and Mindy Kearns