POINT PLEASANT — This week, the Point Pleasant Register will be looking back over the past year, highlighting memorable moments and stories from 2016.
This review begins with stories that took place July through September this year, with more months, and a final story, to follow on Saturday.
July saw new terms for those serving the City of Point Pleasant. Winning races held in May, the following took office on July 1 for four-year terms: Point Pleasant City Council Members Leigh Ann Shepard, Olivia Warner, Jerrie Howard, Brad Deal, Rick Simpkins, Gabe Roush, Council-At-Large Member Janet Hartley, Mayor Brian Billings, City Clerk Amber Tatterson, Council-At-Large Member Charles Towner, Councilwomen Elizabeth Jones, Elaine Hunt.
Also in July, normally growth is a good thing when talking about downtown Point Pleasant, unless talking about the mystery growth then spreading along the flood wall murals. The growth had been appearing at the top of the flood wall and was black in nature. When it rains, the residue streaks down the murals which cost around $800,000 to place at Riverfront Park. Turns out, plain soap and water seemed to do the trick, at least on the surface, though its still unknown what caused the growth. The murals, a project which began in 2005 and was completed over five subsequent summers, have become a tourist attraction in downtown Point Pleasant. The paint, which at the time cost $200 a gallon, came from Germany and had a 50-year guarantee though it was proven to last 150 years.
In July, it was announced Deana Spaulding of Point Pleasant, would be recognized for turning a personal tragedy into successful advocacy and education about the dangers of impaired driving. Her service to the community would lead to her being a recipient of the 2016 Governor’s Service Award on Sept. 6. Presented since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors individuals, families and organizations that exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. Spaulding received her award in the Adult category.
In November 2011, Spaulding lost her 14-year old daughter, Andrea Bailes, in a drunk driving crash involving an impaired driver. When she discovered the driver had multiple previous DUI arrests, she began her campaign to change the law as it relates to driving under the influence. In June 2015, her efforts resulted in the passage of Andrea and Willy’s Law, which increases the jail time and penalties for those who have caused injury or death as a result of driving while impaired.
Also in July, a new $50,000 lamb barn was built at the Mason County Fairgrounds. The “Hartley Market Lamb Barn” was built solely on donations from the community.
A familiar face stepped in to lead the Mason County Health Department in July. Jennifer Thomas, a nurse at the health department, was selected by the Mason County Board of Health as the nursing director/administrator of the Mason County Health Department effective Aug. 1. Diana Riddle, who held that position, retired this year.
One of the most talked about stories in the Ohio Valley broke in August when a Gallipolis, Ohio man was arrested after human remains were found just outside Point Pleasant.
Richard Hurt, 47, of Gallipolis, currently faces third-degree felony tampering of evidence and fifth-degree felony abuse of a corpse in Ohio. Hurt pleaded not guilty to both charges in previous court hearings. He was also charged with concealment of a deceased human body in West Virginia.
According to court records, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted authorities July 30 in Mason County, W.Va., with the discovery of a dismembered human body. During the investigation, Hurt reportedly told investigators he and a recently reported missing Gallia County woman, Jessica Berry, 32 at the time (she would have been 33 on Sept. 20), of Gallipolis, were at a residence on White Road in Gallia County on or about July 19. Berry allegedly overdosed on narcotics at the location.
Hurt also allegedly said he used a saw to dismember Berry’s remains, placed them in trash bags and transported those remains in his vehicle for roughly one and a half days before taking them to Mason County, where he buried the remains on private property.
Hurt reportedly said he disposed of Berry’s clothing and the saw in the trash that was collected by a local garbage service. Court records state Hurt said he knew the items would end up at the local landfill.
The Daily Tribune had previously reported Berry’s disappearance. Records further state Hurt had supposedly provided a false statement to Gallia County deputies in regards to Berry’s initial disappearance.
Hurt was released after posting bond in late September upon paying roughly $5,000 in accordance with a $50,000 ordered bond in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas by Judge Dean Evans, with a 10 percent surety. Hurt has a jury trial scheduled Jan. 18, 2017.
In September, it was announced the Gen. James M. Gavin Plant in Cheshire was sold, along with three other plants in Ohio and Indiana, to a pair of private-equity firms Tuesday by Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. The deal with Blackstone and ArcLight Capital Partners LLC was reported to be for $2.17 billion. In addition to the Gavin Plant, the deal also includes facilities in Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Waterford and Mount Sterling in Ohio. All told, the four plants generate about 5,200 megawatts of electricity in Indiana and Ohio. The Gavin plant alone has a capacity of 2,665 megawatts. One megawatt can provide for the electricity needs of about 1,000 homes. The Lawrenceburg, Waterford and Mount Sterling facilities are each gas-fired plants, while the Cheshire plant is coal-fired.
The sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017. AEP expects to net about $1.2 billion in cash after taxes, repayment of debt and transaction fees. The sale is also subject to regulatory approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and federal clearance pursuant to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.
Also that month, in a room where no one took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance, Chief Deputy Dave Downing was named Mason County’s Officer of the Year. Downing, of the Mason County Sheriff’s Department, received the recognition during the Fourth Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet held by the Point Pleasant Rotary. A man of typically few words, Downing was left even more speechless, though he did say, a full-fledged investigation would be launched on that following Monday into how this happened.
September also saw the return of the 15th annual Mothman Festival which broke an attendance record with an estimated 10,000 people attending the event on Saturday alone. The crowd, coupled with the 4,300 people who already live in Point Pleasant, meant, for at least several hours over the weekend, Point Pleasant was roughly the size of the city of South Charleston, in terms of population. Despite some rain and cooler temperatures, the crowd remained steady on Sunday as well.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.