WEIRTON - Artifacts uncovered during the demolition of the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery in Chester are on their way to a new home in the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston.
The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, current owner of the nearly 10-acre site, presented the items to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday afternoon at the BDC office.
Among the items donated to the museum were bricks from one of the pottery's original bubble kilns and the original foundation, as well as several cups and saucers. There's also a photograph, taken from an old calendar, showing what the factory had looked like in its heyday and a new plate purchased from an online auction site.
ARTIFACTS UNCOVERED — Artifacts uncovered during the Taylor, Smith & Taylor remediation project were presented to West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Wednesday in the Business Development Corp.’s office in Weirton. Taking part in the presentation were, from left, BDC board member John Manypenny; Tomblin; Chester City Clerk Sandi Parkins; Chester Councilman Mike Dotson; Hancock County Commissioners Jeff Davis and Dan Greathouse; and BDC Executive Director Pat Ford. - Linda Harris
Marvin Six, assistant director of the BDC, said the artifacts had been buried "under heaps of trash and broken plates" that accumulated over the years.
"They're samples of ware that didn't get shipped. We found them buried at the site," he said. "Most of it was broken, that's why the site was contaminated - the broken ware has exposed edges and there's lead paint in the glazes."
The near 10-acre riverfront property is owned by the BDC, which acquired it in July 2011 for $125,000. BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said at the time the site has "virtually unlimited development potential" once the clean-up is complete.
Some $1.1 million in local, state and federal money has paid for the demolition and remediation work. The final piece of the funding puzzle came in April when Tomblin presented them with $200,000 in state money.
"The $200,000 you provided in gap financing was what we needed to make it happen," Ford told the governor.
Tomblin said he "certainly appreciates" the effort being made to rid Chester of a health and safety hazard and replace it with new business and industry.
"I was what, the fifth governor (to stand on that bridge)?" he asked Ford. "And I remember saying at the time that I'd be the last governor to stand on that bridge and tell you I'm going do something to help with getting rid of the pottery."
Tomblin, meanwhile, said he feels pretty good about the election, though he concedes he "has concerns with President Obama's EPA." The regulatory agency is widely blamed for job losses in the Mountain State's coal industry.
"That's the reason we continue to file lawsuits," he said. "It's costing us West Virginia jobs. Four federal judges, different judges, have already ruled against the EPA saying they are overstepping their statutory authority. The only remedy we have in order to fight them is to take them to federal court, so we'll continue to do that whenever they're costing us West Virginia jobs.
"At the same time, I've got concerns with Gov. Romney," he added. "We have a state with one of the oldest populations in the country. His stance on Social Security, the risks he'd be taking with Social Security and Medicare as we know it, could really hurt our seniors in this state. I'm in one of those positions where I have concerns with both major candidates in this race."
Tomblin said over the last 18 months nearly $6 billion has been invested in West Virginia "with over 6,500 new jobs created."
"That's what I want to continue to do," he said. "I think we've changed our state a great deal, made it a lot more fiscally responsible than we have been in the past. We're paying down our debts, lowering our taxes on both consumers as well business and even our workers' comp rates in the last five years have gone down nearly 60 percent since we privatized workers' comp. I think West Virginia, right now, is a pretty attractive place to locate a business or expand a business."
Tomblin said he looks for the oil and gas industry to pick up now that prices are "starting to creep back up."
"I think we had the lowest natural gas prices we've had in 10 years," he said. "As the prices goes back up we'll see drilling pick up again. And obviously, we're concerned about what's going on in surrounding states as far as gaming goes. I've talked with leaders of both Mountaineer and Wheeling Island, and I think we have got to be more competitive. We need to provide additional services, that special thing that brings people back and will keep jobs here in the Northern Panhandle."
Tomblin said the state continues to lobby for a cracker plant, which he said could bring as many as 12,000 downstream jobs.
"Naturally, we're working very had to make sure we do get one and that we don't let our natural gas or byproducts go to the Gulf Coast," he said.