(06/17/2002)
The Calhoun Commission will have a special meeting at 4 p.m. today to consider sites for a new emergency services center for the county.

A second agenda item is the transfer of Wayne Underwood Field to the Calhoun Commission for recreational use. The Calhoun County Board of Education has stipulated the property must be used for community and recreational purposes.

"The Pit" a large grassy practice field

A second stipulation was added at the last school board meeting, which would exclude the large "pit" or practice field and a parking lot near Rt. 16 from the deal. Board member Ralph Cunningham says money is desperately needed for new field lighting at the Mt. Zion complex, and he would like to reserve that section for possible sale to a bidder.

Calhoun's E-911, emergency medical services and OES center is looking for a new home. The current structure at Mt. Zion is structurally unsound, decaying and does not meet minimal standards, including fire codes.

The quarters are cramped. Office of Emergency Services Director Bill Stemple says there is no place for OES emergency equipment and supplies for the county. 911 Director Barry Pitts says the E-911 center needs to be in a secured setting.

House of Delegates member and county OES Director , Stemple says he has $90,000 to start the project. A site for the center behind Calhoun Middle/High School has become lukewarm, with some citizens protesting the possible safety hazards of emergency vehicles running through the school's parking lots.

"Other than safety concerns over the access road, it would be a great site," said Commission President Larry McCallister.

McCallister said "We are looking at all the options," including the Hamilton property on High Street in Grantsville, currently being offered by Knott's Memorial United Methodist Church. If the public has other ideas, McCallister said to contact commission members.

Map of Hamilton property on High Street, Grantsville

The balancing of ambulance response time between stations at Minnora and Grantsville would remain fair to county residents.

The Calhoun Middle/High School site is near the new bus garage at the far end of the complex, and has been offered free of charge by Calhoun Schools.

The schools interest in that location may be linked to providing security for the multi-million dollar complex, possibly obtaining a state highway as an access road and improving turning lanes and better access to the school's entrance, a much needed addition.

OES Director Delegate Stemple suggested purchasing the Gary Dye garage, just south of the county park entrance along Route 16.

Dye property suggested for center

Stemple says the property can be purchased, without equipment, for $100,000, although he says it would take more money to remodel the site. The Dye property has two multi-bay garages with a nearby cottage, much of the construction being done about 1960.

Stemple is employed by the Morris family holdings which owns Calhoun Realty, the company which has the listing. The West Virginia Ethics Commission says it is not an ethical violation for Stemple to recommend the Dye site, unless undue pressure would exist regarding its purchase.

He said "The final decision rests with the Commission. I think we should keep looking for possible sites."

Stemple told The Parkersburg News the new center could cost $185,000.

Other sites considered include the County County Park, which has some restrictions regarding its defined use as a recreational facility. The main entry to the park has some safety hazards regarding traffic. Park land at the mouth of Riffle Run was considered, but it has been described as swamp land, which could become a costly venture for site preperation.

Calhoun Commissioner David Barr says the Hamilton site by far is the best option. "I think we can raise money for this project and get help from the community to get this done," he said. The 1.61 acre site is essentially flat land.

Barr said "We need to build a structure that will serve the community and last through this century."


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