Funds sought for courthouse
WELLSBURG – Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis visited the state capital last week to seek funds for some special projects and ask legislators to change the funding formula for revenue collected from natural gas production.
It was a case of turnabout for Ennis, who served for many years as a member of the state House of Delegates and was accustomed to funding requests from local officials.
Ennis said while in Charleston he met with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, state Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Glen Dale; newly elected House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison; and others.
Ennis said he knew Miley while serving in the House of Delegates and has great confidence in his leadership there.
He said he asked the state officials to consider funding for the demolition of two homes between the Brooke County Courthouse and former Brooke County Museum as well as the possible expansion of the courthouse in the space they currently occupy.
The commission has made plans to move the county’s magistrate and family courts from the third floor of the Progressive Bank building where they are located because that area of the building doesn’t meet state fire regulations.
The former museum was considered but concerns have been raised about the cost to renovate it to meet criteria for court facilities set by the state Supreme Court.
The commission has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the state Development Office for the removal of the Pertko house and Charnock house. It received two bids for their demolition: $49,749 from Keith Yost Excavating of Wellsburg and $26,395 from Mike Pusateri Excavating of East Liverpool, Ohio.
Ennis said whether the courthouse is expanded, the commission should move forward with razing the two houses because of their poor condition.
He said while in Charleston, he also discussed changing the manner in which the state plans to distribute revenue collected from natural gas production.
Ennis said current plans call for the funds to be disseminated evenly among the state’s 55 counties. But he would rather see counties where the natural gas is produced receive a larger cut, as has been done in recent years with coal severance funds.
Brooke County currently has 43 natural gas wells in various stages of construction but none are producing gas yet.
Asked about local revenue from the wells, County Assessor Tom Oughton said many residents have received money for leasing property to natural gas companies, but the county doesn’t directly receive money from income tax on signing fees paid by gas companies.
He said only when the wells are producing and the property’s value is reassessed, may the county see an increase in revenue.
In other business, the commission reappointed Delores Ginier of Weirton and Luella Tokas of Wellsburg to the board for the new Brooke County Museum and Cultural Center.