Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To the people whose jobs kept them working outside during this stretch of brutally cold weather. From highway workers who have worked around the clock keeping roads passable to construction workers, it hasn’t been an easy week. And since the forecast for next week is calling for more of the same, they won’t get much of a break. We thank them and appreciate their efforts on our behalf.

DOWN: To Freedom Industries, the chemical storage company in Kanawha County whose Jan. 9 leak into the Elk River caused a water emergency that lasted for nearly two weeks in nine counties. The original leak of crude MCHM, a chemical used in the coal-cleaning process, was thought to have been the only chemical in the storage tank. However, this past Tuesday, company officials also said about 300 gallons of “PPH, stripped”, a chemical that is added to crude MCHM, also leaked into the river. The company’s late disclosure dumbfounded and angered the state Department of Environmental Protection where officials have asked the question that is still unanswered: why is this information just now being released?

UP: To Parkersburg High School graduate Mike McAllister who, along with his bandmates from the longtime New Orleans-based band J.J. Muggler Band, is being inducted into the Lousiana Music Hall of Fame today. J. J. Muggler is the longest-running southern rock and blues group and has played in the New Orleans area for 42 years. McCallister, a 1975 Parkersburg High School graduate, played with the band for 13 years. He was forced to leave New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and currently lives in Cummings, Ga. McCallister joins such illustrious New Orleans musicians such as Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Louis Prima and Louis Armstrong in the hall.

UP: To meetings this past week between Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia lawmakers and officials of Brazil-based Odebrecht, the company discussing opening an ethane cracker plant in Wood County. Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said the meetings were part of “moving the project along.” While Odebrecht has not yet committed to building the facility – named ASCENT, or Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise – Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC bought the SABIC plant property on Dec. 31.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC for its purchase this week of the SABIC Innovative Plastics plant property on Dupont Road. While Tuesday’s purchase does not mean the cracker plant project has been finalized, it is a positive sign, or as Cam Huffman, president and CEO of the Area Roundtable, said, a step “closer to the goal line.”

DOWN: To the the mess the Wood County Board of Education now finds itself in because of the spiraling cost of the Stadium Field repairs. Last year, the BOE committed $700,000 toward the then-estimated $1.3 million cost to repair the home side bleachers. The rest of the money was to be raised by the Parkersburg High School Stadium Committee and through private donations. Somehow, the cost of repairs has grown to more that $2 million. Last week the board ordered all work to halt and seek answers both on why the project is over budget and contractors have not been paid. No one is willing to speak publicly about how this has happened, but the public deserves answers to those questions as well because not only was that $700,00 provided by the board from taxpayers, concerned citizens also supported the project by donations at various fundraisers.

UP: To the Latrobe Street Mission officials who are considering taking over operation of the Public Inebriant Shelter. The shelter, which provides a place for individuals arrested for public intoxication to “sober up,” was formerly run by Westbrook Health Services at its its Amity Center. Westbrook said it no longer was interested in operating the shelter because of safety, security and other concerns. Operating this type of shelter isn’t a pleasant job, but it is a necessary responsibility for a community. For some of the people brought in, a night in this shelter could be the beginning of a new life of sobriety. Hopefully, the mission’s board of directors can make this happen.

UP: To all of the area residents who helped out during the water crisis in nine counties because of the chemical leak into the Elk River in Kanawha County. Many residents donated bottled water and other items which were delivered to distribution points in the affected areas.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

UP: To the workers whose jobs kept them outside during the brutally cold temperatures of this past Monday and Tuesday.

DOWN: To Robert L. Burdette, 61, Belleville, who on Friday was charged with the theft of several items from the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley. Police received several tips from the public that led police to Burdette’s identity. The items – a World War I-era bayonet, a World War II-era chaplain’s cap and a World War II-era airborne military patch from the Veterans Museum on Seventh Street – will soon be back at the museum. Burdette was arraigned and taken before Magistrate Joe Kuhl. He was released on $1,000 bond. If convicted Burdette faces up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500.

UP: To the Tower of Power Engineering Day, sponsored and organized by Pickering Associates, for students at Hamilton Middle School. Pickering, one of Hamilton’s Partners in Education, sponsored the event as an opportunity to show students the varied careers and aspects of architecture and engineering. Congratulations to Pickering for putting on this event to help spur students’ interests in science careers.

UP: To the Payless Shoe store and Community Resources for helping to provide 25 pairs of shoes and boots to needy children in the area. Each year Payless Gives, a program of Payless ShoeSource, awards grants to organizations across the country where they have stores to provide shoes to needy children. The shoes were distributed Thursday at the Payless Shoe Store in the Grand Central Mall.

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UP: To the Mid-Ohio Valley’s first babies of 2014. At 8:08 a.m. New Year’s Day at the Memorial Campus of Camden Clark Medical Center, Colton James Wolfe-Williams was welcomed by his parents, Dianna Wolfe and Brandon Williams. The family’s newest addition weighed in at a healthy 6 pounds 15 ounces and was 20 inches long. And a couple of hours later, at Marietta Memorial Hospital, 5 pounds, 9 ounce Brooklyn Ann Welsch was welcomed by her parents, Brielle Thomas and her fiance, Belpre Township resident Jeff Welsch. Congratulations to the families, and also a congratulations to the family of Cheyanne Elizabeth Cline, who was born at 1:16 p.m. New Year’s Eve, and was the last baby born in Washington County in 2013. Her parents are Dunham Township residents Roxanne and Dave Cline.

DOWN: To West Virginia’s rank as No. 1 in the U.S. in all-terrain vehicle deaths. The state averaged 105 deaths per 10 million people in 2011, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Wyoming was second with 70 deaths per 10 million people. Ninety percent of all ATV deaths involved males ages 16 and older, and many could have been prevented by the rider slowing down and wearing a helmet. Perhaps it is time for the West Virginia Legislature to again take up this issue.

UP: To the highway workers who spent Thursday evening and Friday morning clearing the roads after the first snowfall of 2014. The snow, coupled with the extremely cold temperatures, made driving hazardous for commuters.

UP: To Parkersburg Development Director Ann Conageski, who retired Dec. 31 after being with the city since 2001. Conageski had announced her intention to retire in September. She has overseen some of the city’s largest development projects in recent years, including the Point Park project, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s downtown offices and West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s downtown campus, since becoming development director in 2005. She is being succeeded by city planner Rickie Yeager. We wish her and her husband well on their move to Florida to be closer to family.