Wirt works on infrastructure

ELIZABETH – The Wirt County Commission has been working on where a nursing home for the area will be located, and continuing to make progress on infrastructure projects and dealing with the county’s limited finances.

Commission President Bob Gunnoe and Commissioners Robert Lowe and Charles Murray have been working on projects to improve infrastructure and create economic opportunities for county residents.

The majority of work on courthouse renovations has been completed.

The courthouse and its surrounding grounds have had renovation projects over the past few years, funded through grants, including restoring the building’s clock tower, fixing leaks around the building, installing outside lighting around the courthouse, adding courtroom furniture, the installation of storm windows, rewiring the entire building, and replacing the building’s roof/trim.

”The courthouse is in really good shape,” Gunnoe said.

The building has been looked over by officials who track the conditions of courthouses around the state and commended the county’s efforts for its restoration.

”They said we were among the tops in the state for the things we were able to accomplish,” Gunnoe said.

During the 2012 session of the Legislature, bills were passed that will allow a nursing care facility to be built in Wirt County.

Wirt and Doddridge have been the only counties in the state without a nursing care facility. Wirt County has around 900 elderly residents. Officials are hoping to build a 32-bed facility.

Because Wirt County does not have such a facility, residents who need this kind of facility are sent to facilities in Wood County, but if no beds are available they could end up getting sent to facilities in Ohio.

Being that far away causes hardships for family members who have to drive a long distance to be with their family member, commissioners said.

A meeting was held recently to discuss where the facility will be placed.

”We are finalizing where it will go,” Gunnoe said.

Commissioners are discussing options on what could be done with the deteriorating Wells Lock and Dam outside of Elizabeth.

The structure, which lies along the Little Kanawhar River outside Elizabeth, has been deteriorating for years.

It has undergone modifications and repairs, but erosion has taken a toll on the structure.

A failure of the dam would likely not result in any loss of life or property downstream, but officials fear there will be an adverse effect to the local water table, causing infrastructure problems for Elizabeth as well as erosion along the riverbanks with the loss of the holding pool behind the dam. A few years ago, rock fill was put in the lock chamber to reinforce a bowing chamber gate.

An engineer is supposed to be meeting with the commission soon to discuss a possible option.

”A rock-arch bridge is one of the options being looked at,” Gunnoe said.

Work is expected to begin this spring on the Newark sewer project with the construction of a treatment facility.

The commission has spent years working on getting something moving on the project as the existing system is aging, inadequate and creating problems for 400 households.

The commission recently provided grant money to the city of Elizabeth to construct a sidewalk along Court Street from Clay Street to the Coplin Health Clinic.

The county relies on grants to fund a lot of work on projects.

With the Wirt Oil and Gas Group marketing thousands of acres throughout the county, the commission made a conserted effort to digitize its county records and maps to assist with searches, titles and other records. This project was done through grants.

”We have most of our record books scanned in,” Gunnoe said. ”We still have 11 books to do. They were too big for the scanner and will have to be taken down to Charleston to be done. We are finishing up this project.”

An operating levy previously rejected was approved by voters in a special election on Feb. 23. The levy generates $225,000 a year, about 25 percent of the county’s $1 million budget.