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Pine Grove Church Faces Struggle

By Staff | Aug 11, 2010

Marie Shama of the Pine Grove Church of God met with the Wetzel County Commission on Aug. 9 to inform the commission of the discrepancy causing the congregation much worry over the future of the church.

In May of this year the congregation declared its independence from the Church of God affiliation.

They elected trustees and made the appropriate changes at the Wetzel County Assessor’s office. They even have a deed stating the trustees own the church and property. However the National Church in Cleveland, Tenn., and the district office in Beckley, W.Va., made a surprise visit to the independent church stating they were the owners of the building and property and that the Pine Grove congregation had 30 days to either purchase the church or move out.

Shama went on to say the church had been in terrible shape over the years and that the present congregation worked very hard and spent what little money they had to make vital improvements to the building, including a new electrical system and roof. She stated the district and national affiliations provided little or no help in such renovations.

Shama stated their next step is obtaining legal council, though the congregation worries over the expense of such measures. Members of the church have contacted various sources and contacted media outlets all in the effort to find out who has true ownership and figure out what can be done.

“Do all of the Churches of God know they don’t own their church?” Shama posed to the commission. In an effort to keep their church, the Pine Grove Church of God will hold an informational picket and hopes for support and answers to this devastating situation.

The commission offered suggestions to Shama including speaking to West Virginia Attorney General Darryl McGraw.

In other matters, Keith Nelsen of Wetzel County Public Service District No. 1 was also present before the commission to provide an engineering report for the Whiteman Hill Project. Helen Earley and Paul Weaver, residents of Whiteman Hill, were also present to hear the report.

Nelsen stated the project is estimated to cost around $2.5 million, adding the likely understandable requirement for the project to include fire protection. Nelsen bluntly stated the project can only go through if it is fully funded by grant money.

Additionally, he speculated that should the project come to full fruition, the project will cost more to produce than what income will be generated. The commission discussed the money that was earmarked by Mollohan, money which is less likely to be gained now. “This project has to stand on its own,” Nelsen said. “The PSD can’t take on any debt. It simply won’t go through.” Nelsen underlined that because of the low customer, high cost circumstance, this project is unfortunately not the best. However, Nelsen stressed that despite such facts, the people of Whiteman Hill deserve water. “The fact that it’s such a borderline project shouldn’t weigh into it. We are behind it, but we are not able to handle the debt,” he said. “It’s sad that it’s about the amount of customers they can get, not the amount of the customers who need the water,” Paul Weaver added. “The valleys don’t need it. The hills do.” Helen Earley lamented, “We’ve waited 10 years for this.”

Despite the discouraging discussion, the commission and PSD will push the project forward to the next stage which is drafting the Rule 42 and infrastructure application. Additionally, the commission will contact Larry Lemon of Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s office to discuss the project and the county’s present situation.