WELLSBURG - State Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, may have had it right when he said Wednesday that Christmas had come a little early in Wellsburg.
Yost was referring to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's announcement of four grants, including one from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History to aid the Brooke County Museum in relocating.
State Del. Tim Ennis, D-Brooke, noted a total of $300,000 in grants were announced by Tomblin during his visit to Wellsburg City Hall during a stop in the area for the re-opening of the Market Street Bridge.
MUSEUM?RECEIVES?GRANT– Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and local representatives to the West Virginia Legislature announced the award of a grant to allow the Brooke County Museum to move to a new location. On hand for the announcement were, from left, front: museum board member Phil Greathouse, Randall Reid-Smith, state commissioner of History and Culture; Tomblin, and museum board members Ruby Greathouse, Vickey Gallagher and Luella Tokas; and back: Brooke County Commissioner Marty Bartz, state Sen. Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg; state Del. Tim Ennis, D-Brooke; and state Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-Wheeling.
Yost, Ennis, state Del. Roy Givens, D-Brooke; and state Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-Wheeling, also were involved in securing the funds.
Grants also were announced for efforts to improve the Wellsburg Town Square, separate combined water and storm sewers at the city's north end and purchase equipment to maintain the Brooke County Pioneer Trail.
Ruby Greathouse, secretary for the museum board and its unofficial curator, said the $90,000 grant will enable the Brooke County Commission to purchase the former G.C. Murphy Store at 704 Charles St.
The commission has made tentative plans to relocate the county's magistrate court and offices to the museum's current building, the former Miller's Tavern at Sixth and Charles streets.
The court's present location on the third floor of the Progressive Bank building requires costly improvements to meet state fire regulations.
But Greathouse said the current museum also lacks space. She said it's been difficult to find room for an increased number of donations received from older residents who are moving into smaller homes and parting with things of historic interest or families of deceased residents who have found such items among their loved ones' belongings.
The G.C. Murphy building piqued museum board members' interest because of its visible location, handicap-accessible entrance and restrooms and a freight elevator that would allow artifacts to be moved to a second floor in the event of a flood.
Greathouse said the board is seeking additional funds for a sign, awnings and other renovations. Anyone interested in making a donation may call the museum at (304) 737-
In April, the museum board met with Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner for the state Division of History and Culture, who suggested funding was available if the museum broadened its scope to include the arts.
He said such facilities can attract a larger audience.
Greathouse said performances by the Brooke High School Madrigal Choir and an art exhibit featuring the work of students at the high school are among activities the board hopes to offer at the new location.
In recent years the museum has accumulated more than 100 pieces produced by glass factories that once operated in Wellsburg. The city was once home to more than 45 glass factories, and Greathouse hopes one day to have samples of all of them.
Its exhibits also include an old-time barbershop chair and equipment and two-seat shoeshine stand; kitchens fitted with equipment and furniture dating to the late 19th Century and 1930s; and uniforms and other items from military conflicts dating to the Civil War.
Tomblin also announced a $160,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to refurbish the brick walk along the Wellsburg Town Square.
Mayor Sue Simonetti said there also are plans to replace benches on the square and address overgrown trees there.
She is seeking private contributions for a 20 percent match required of the grant.
The city earlier this year was awarded a $164,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to restore the brick walk along the adjacent Charles Street between Sixth and Seventh streets; and add crosswalks, benches and trash cans.
Simonetti said she hopes to advertise for an engineer for the project in the near future.
Tomblin also announced the city has been awarded a $60,000 grant through the West Virginia Development Office to cover cost overruns for the separation of combined stormwater and sanitary sewer lines on 27th, 26th and 25th streets.
City Manager Mark Henne said the funds came through the allocation of $20,000 each from Tomblin and the state Senate and House of Delegates through the local legislators.
The city is among municipalities throughout the U.S. that have been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to separate such lines because they present a risk of raw sewage entering rivers and streams when the sewers become overtaxed by heavy rainfall.
James White Construction of Weirton has separated the three lines, the first of a series proposed in a long-term citywide plan, under the direction of Burgess & Niple Engineering of Parkersburg.
Also awarded was a $32,000 WVDOT grant for a tractor with cutter bar and snowblade to maintain the Brooke County Pioneer Trail.
Greathouse, who is president of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail Association, said the grant requires a $7,000 match, and the group has secured $2,000 in private contributions thus far.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)