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Slaty Fork alternatives announced

Thursday February 28, 2008
The Pocahontas Times

By Drew Tanner, Staff Writer

Pocahontas County Commission President James Carpenter announced the county is turning its sights from the Sharp family farm for the location of the proposed Slaty Fork sewage plant.

“This is the culmination of a promise I made long ago to remove the prospect of eminent domain from this project,” Carpenter said, reading from a prepared statement at Tuesday evening’s monthly meeting of the county Public Service District.

Carpenter said none of the sites being considered would require the county to invoke eminent domain, and that work would begin immediately to evaluate the suitability of the sites.

More than three years since state regulators first gave the project the green light, the commission president called Tuesday’s “the first step to get the project back on track.”

The three sites include a parcel referred to as “the Boarding House site,” owned by the State Rail Authority and two parcels owned by Snowshoe Mountain Resort, said PSD Treasurer Mark Smith.

One of the resort-owned parcels is 2.4 miles north of the U.S. Route 219 bridge near the Sharp family’s property that crosses the Big Spring Fork of the Elk River. The other is off of West Virginia Route 66, near the base of Snowshoe Mountain.

If none of the sites work out, Carpenter said project planners would keep searching for other options.

“We will not stop searching for other options that will ensure that eminent domain is no longer a part of this project,” he said.

The announcement represents a marked change from the county’s previous position, when, almost three years ago, commissioners told the Sharp family they had no intention of moving the proposed sewage treatment plant.

The PSD has turned away from the Sharp farm site before, saying it would study other options, only to come back and say the alternatives were too costly.

Tom Shipley, who has led the Sharp family’s fight against the facility was clearly wary of a repeat of that same scenario at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Is the Sharp Farm still a possibility, or are we saying it will not be taken by eminent domain, period?” asked Shipley.

“We can’t say it’s off the table,” Michael acknowledged, but said he was directed to take every legal measure to move the plant off the Sharp property.

Board secretary Scott Millican said the studies should produce a definite answer to that question in 60-to-90 days.

“I’m pretty confident that, once we do the studies, at least one of them will be feasible and then, we’re not going to be taking your property,” Michael said.