Looking Back at Wetzel County’s ‘Year In Review’
As we continue this journey of life into a new year, we often think of things we need to do better in the coming year. Whether one’s goals and resolutions reflect a change of diet, exercise regime, or to accomplish more on the to-do list, we shouldn’t completely disregard our past in pursuit of the new. Our experiences in life are the building blocks for our future. The memories and experiences – whether positive or negative – teach us and shape us into the people we are today.
So in celebration of the new year, the staff of the Wetzel Chronicle reflects on some memories and experiences of the local area that has impacted our community and individuals alike and is now history.
One big addition to Wetzel County was the implementation of the Home Rule Program. The City of New Martinsville became the 40th city to become a member of the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program. New Martinsville submitted ten authorities for review by the Home Rule Board, and the bulk of the home-rule authorities sought by the city were related to the problem of dilapidated properties. They were awarded permission to address seven of the ten, in addition to an addition of a 1 percent Sales and Use Tax Implementation in conjunction with a decrease in the Business and Occupational Tax. The following authorities were awarded: on the spot citations for violations of city ordinances concerning property maintenance, safety and health hazards; place public nuisance liens (for unpaid nuisance fines) against a property without a court order; the transfer or lease of city property to private and non-profit entities (at fair-market value) and must promote economic development and/or the public good; the authority to employ part-time, non-civil-service police officers; raise the upper age limit for initial entry-level civil service officers from 40 to 45; and eliminate party membership requirements for appointments as election officials and to civil service and building commissions. In addition to the mentioned authorities, a 1 percent Sales and Use Tax will be implemented July 1, 2020. The State Tax Office will govern and collect the tax, and the city will receive their portion in quarterly payments from the state.
Another change to the community was seen in the demolition of the Thomas Drug Store. In 2009, New Martinsville City officials announced at their September meeting that the Thomas Drug store building located on North Street by the railroad tracks had been condemned. At that time it was unclear how long the process would take to remove the eyesore, however 10 years later on November 27, 2019 it became a reality.
Also in this past year, city officials of Paden City faced some heat, when news about the PCE contaminant was released to residents. The news of the contamination, by a chemical called Tetrachloroethylene (TCE) – also known as perchloroethylene (PCE) – was first brought to the public’s attention through the March 4, Paden City Council meeting. In a letter from the city regarding a contamination it said, “Our monitoring has shown an average PCE concentration in the drinking water supply for 2018 of 5.5 parts per billion (ppb), which is in excess of the USEPA’s Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) of 5.0 ppb. The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has issued us a formal Notice of Violation for exceeding the MCL for PCE.” Throughout the year, the city and other officials have been tirelessly working to reduce the contamination with some positive results. While work is still ongoing, residents can rest assured that the situation is being handled correctly. Work on the project is expected to commence this month according to city officials who awarded the contract to Litman Contracting of New Martinsville.
More recently, it was announced that both Wetzel and Tyler Counties would receive funding for expanding broadband service within the two areas. The Red (Regional Economical Development) Partnership, Wetzel Counties Grant Recipient was awarded a 50/50 percent loan/grant total project cost of $4,189.00 to cover 1,909 households and businesses over an area of 47.76 square miles with a service population of 4,622. The re-connect program will allow RED and CityNet to provide 87 miles of new service of broadband internet fiber access area along Route 20 and Route 7 up to Hundred.
Other highlights of Wetzel County during 2019 include the following:
- New Martinsville’s 2019 Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival proved to be an outstanding weekend for the free event. The festival attracted visitors from as far away as Germany, and visitors collectively agreed they’d be back for the 2020 festival.
- As part of the 2017 Flooded Structure Project, work began on August 15 on tearing down unusable structures within the town of Hundred. It was explained that this project was started in November of 2017 as a result of the terrible flooding in the town in that year, which ruined several buildings and rendered them unserviceable. As such, the structures that were damaged beyond repair as a direct result of the 2017 flood needed torn down.
- The eighth consecutive annual RegattaFest was held in New Martinsville this past year, with top notch Powerboat racing. APBA sanctioned powerboat racing has been in New Martinsville and the Ohio Valley for 81 years, and RegattaFest 2019 was awarded the right to host the North American Championships by the American Power Boat Association for the SST 120, SST 60, Super Sport, and the entire Thundercats Category. Once again, the RegattaFest and the City of New Martinsville didn’t disappoint as they provided a unique experience for everyone who made their way to the riverbank.
- According to New Martinsville Police Department, officers were dispatched around 2 a.m., Jan. 23, 2019 to Litman’s Campground in the Steelton area due to reports of a shooting. Chief Cecil said NMPD and the West Virginia State Police obtained a search warrant to search the camper where the incident took place. The search yielded the discovery of a .380 handgun. Upon arrival to the scene, police arrested a suspect – later identified as 29-year-old Eric Lawrence Jachiemic of Illinois. Jachiemic was charged with attempted murder and was transported to the Northern Regional Jail.
- The Stalder Family Creamery, located on Main Street in New Martinsville, opened its doors for the first time on June 13, 2019 following a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce.
- The Witschey family and staff celebrated their 75th anniversary on September 18, 2019 as well as 75 years of growth, expansion, and community service in the New Martinsville area.
- Larry Lemon was elected to county commission for a 6-year term in 2014 and is currently serving as commission president. However, Lemon announced he would not run for re-election in 2020. He issued the following statement in December of 2019 in regards to the announcement: “I have been greatly honored by the voters of Wetzel County to serve as their commissioner. I have been very, very fortunate to work with wonderful past commissioners Don Mason, Bob Gorby, and currently Liza Heasley and Greg Morris over the past seven years. We, together, have accomplished a lot. Elective public service has been a passion of mine and my brother and late father for many years. We hope we have left a positive mark on our citizens. As I look back at my experiences in public service of nearly 40 years I can say without reservation – the pleasure has been all mine.”
- December 18 and 19 of 2019 were special days for nearly 50 kids in the local area as they were randomly selected to participate in the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Department and New Martinsville Police Departments annual “Shop with a Cop” event. Each child was assigned to shop alongside an officer who helped them make decisions as they were afforded $250 to spend on what ever caught their eye.
- The Paden City 2019 girls volleyball team made history by becoming the first Wildcat team to advance to the State Volleyball Tournament. The ‘Cats cruised through the quarter finals and semi finals to find themselves in the championship game against Wirt County where they were defeated and ended their season as state runners-up. Named to the All-Tournament team were Mallory Yeater, Hope Weber, and Tanley McEldowney.
- On December 23, Wetzel County Commission presented the United Mine Workers of America a plaque proclaiming the commissions support for the UMWA’s efforts in obtaining guaranteed pensions and health care coverage.
- The Wetzel County Hall of Fame inducted the following three individuals into the Wetzel County Hall of Fame: Gary Eller, Pansy Yoho, and longtime Paden City coach Henry “Hen” Healy.