WELLSBURG - At the Brooke County Commission's Aug. 2 meeting, Bethany town officials shared their concerns about increased truck traffic arising from natural gas drilling in their area and discussed efforts to spark involvement in the community.
Bethany Mayor Jay Eisenhauer told the commissioners residents have approached him with concerns about the truck traffic, particularly since school will be beginning soon.
He noted the town always sees an influx of drivers not experienced in navigating the curves of state Route 67 when a new year begins at Bethany College.
Eisenhauer said there's also concern about the impact of truck traffic on school bus routes from Bethany to Brooke County schools.
He said large trucks traveling from drilling operations near the town often are accompanied by a smaller vehicle with a sign indicating a wide vehicle is to follow but there have been exceptions.
The mayor asked Brooke County Sheriff Richard Ferguson to step up patrols in the area.
Ferguson said he's spoken to supervisers with contractors involved with the drilling to stress the need for safety and warn that citations will be issued for speeding and other violations.
He said a few drivers of smaller trucks have been cited.
Ron Ujcich, Brooke County Schools transportation director, said he's been in regular contact with officials from Chesapeake Energy, who have agreed to coordinate transports around school bus routes.
"I can't afford more than a 5-minute delay because we're on a tight schedule," Ujcich said.
Ferguson noted many parents transport their children to school on their way to work.
"That puts a lot of people on the road at one time," he said.
Eisenhauer said the town welcomes any economic development the drilling may bring, such as jobs and additional revenue for the county, but is aware it will have some negative impact as well.
The mayor also announced Bethany's Open Air Country Market will return on Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the corner of Ross and Main streets. In addition to produce, art and other goods sold by local vendors, there are plans to offer activities for Bethany College students, he said.
Eisenhauer said the town wants to help the students feel more a part of the community.
Bethany Councilman Patrick Sutherland told the commission of efforts by the town's Main Street revitalization committee to make the town attractive to new businesses, residents and visitors.
That effort includes the upcoming addition of "Welcome to Bethany" signs and the possible development of a four-year plan, with the help of Valley Ventures of Wheeling, to promote retail development and tourism.
Kazienko suggested town officials also contact Pat Ford, director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, about possibilities for development in Bethany.
He said the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, for which he is a board member, is interested in initiating bus tours from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort to the town and college, which originated the Disciples of Christ Christian Church movement.
"You're a vital part of this community, especially historically," Kazienko told the Bethany officials.
Luke Hardt, chairman of the college's department of visual and performing arts, said the college often holds free plays and concerts and he hopes to promote them to people outside the school and town.
In other business, the commission:
Announced it has been able to balance its budget through cuts made by various department heads and itself and by drawing about $100,000 from the county's coal severance fund.
Kazienko said the cuts were made to various areas, including salaries and materials.
The commission recently reported a $600,000 deficit, citing rising costs for employee healthcare, retiree benefits, future pensions and materials, including fuel.
Recognized Bobbi Taylor, an emergency medical technician for the Brooke County Emergency Medical Service for 24 years. Kazienko noted Taylor served as a volunteer for the agency for three years, followed by 10 years as a part-time EMT, and finally in a full-time capacity since 2000.
Taylor said she's always been proud to be part of Brooke County EMS and knows she leaves the agency in good hands, including her daughter, staff member Kelli Riedel.
Appointed Donna DeJaro as director of the county's animal shelter and Charles Shreve as its dog warden. A former county dog warden, DeJaro has served as interim director of the shelter for the past several months.
Shreve has worked in a security position at a local steel mill and has served as a firefighter. He also was hired, with five others, for part-time positions on the Brooke County EMS squad.
The others hired are: John Morgan, Jacob Howard, Matthew Nguyen, Stacey Cronin and Rodney Smail.
Approved the removal of a dilapidated structure, at a cost of $300, on property near Harmon Creek in Colliers acquired by the commission through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's buyout program.
Was advised the county's building commission still has a vacant seat. The board, which meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month, is charged with pursuing improvements to county buildings.
Those interested in serving should contact County Clerk Sylvia Benzo's office.