(08/03/2001)
By Dianne Weaver

Economic development was on the mind of Calhoun Commissioners last night, discussing the possibility of a steel barrel manufacturing company locating in the county. County Clerk Richard Kirby reported Del. Bill Stemple has been meeting with state officials to tie the project with Weirton Steel, who is facing a major problem in closing one of its production lines. "The drum manufacturing business could help keep it alive," said Kirby.

A meeting with the designer of the unique steel drum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in Grantsville. The company recently became incorporated in West Virginia with its operations centered in Calhoun County, and is looking for investors in the project.

The Calhoun Commission has applied for a $250,000 small cities block grant to assist with the company, which could bring much needed jobs to Calhoun County. The former B. F. Goodrich property near Grantsville has been offered to the company.

911 Director Barry Pitts gave a report on the status of 911 mapping and addressing for Calhoun County. Pitts and others met Thursday with Doug McKenzie, owner of McKenzie Engineering of Summersville, to review the status of the project. McKenzie claims his mapping is up to standards set forth in his contract.

Calhoun Commissioner David Barr said McKenzie's mapping was "out of kilter" and appears to present some serious problems in completing the project. The Commission hired McKenzie to move the county ahead with E-911. "The maps are just not accurate," said Barr, who is the Commission member on the 911 Advisory Board.

Commission President Bob Weaver asked for and obtained a unanimous vote to request Prosecutor Tony Morgan to evaluate the contractual agreement between the county and McKenzie. Weaver called McKenzie to task earlier this year because the 911 mapping and addressing project had been lagging. His time table called for the mapping and addressing to be completed early in 2000. McKenzie told the Commissioners it was out of his hands, and the project completion rested with the U. S. Postal system.

Weaver told the Commissioners last night several West Virginia counties who have dealt with McKenzie are experiencing difficulty, including Wood County which has paid him over $200,000. He said Wirt County has been withholding payment to the Summersville businessman because the mapping has been inaccurate.

Pitts told the Commission he will continue to make a careful assessment of the validity of the maps prepared by McKenzie and report to the next meeting. McKenzie's company has completed the installation of the technical and electronic equipment at the Mt. Zion 911 Center.

The Commission was advised there was no response from the official board of the Minnora Community Center, after the Commission offered to assist that group with internal problems which have plagued the organization for two years. It was noted the MCC Board was yet to have a scheduled meeting.

Commissioners have been reluctant to engage themselves in the conflict, since the center was granted a 99-year lease on the property, which was given to the county by the local school board. Commissioner Larry McCallister said "We don't have any legal jurisdiction over the center, but we would like to see it continue." Commissioner Barr said he has supported the center from the beginning, and would dislike to see it fail.

The contents of the letter sent to the MCC Board:

July 26, 2001

To Wanda Richards, President of Minnora Community Center and all members of the Board of Directors:

We, the members of the Calhoun Commission, express to each of you our serious concerns regarding the continued crisis over the management of the Minnora Community Center, more particularly what could be the collapse of the center and the vital services it is providing to southern Calhoun. The conflict, unfortunately, has continued for over two years.

The Calhoun Commission has given its support and endorsement to several of the established programs and services, and shares the vision of what the center could mean to the citizens of the area in the future. The re-establishment of the center after closure, would be very unlikely.

We, the Commission, are grateful to each of you for your vision in starting the center, and the hard and difficult work it has taken to maintain its operation.

The Commission has no legal recourse since the property has been leased to your board for a period of 99 years, but extend to you our willingness to make recommendations for its continued operation.

If your board votes to "ask the commission for help," we will make one or more recommendations, solely based on saving the center and would expect your board to consider such recommendations seriously.

We respectfully request your consideration of this proposal, and would hope to hear from you shortly, the matter being placed on the agenda.

Sincerely,

Bob Weaver, President of the Commission
Larry McCallister, Commissioner
David Barr, Commissioner

Other news from Thursday's Commission meeting will follow.


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