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Word of funding could help turn old hospital into an economic a

Considering the unfortunate circumstances that have surrounded promotion of the old Weston State Hospital in the past 18 months, it was heartening to learn that West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood was to visit Weston Friday to make an announcement regarding funding to aid a restoration effort at the nearly 150-year-old building.

There were previously unsuccessful attempts made at marketing the former psychiatric hospital into an economic shot-in-the-arm for Weston and Lewis County. But perhaps the best known setback involved the infamous paintball games, causing thousands of dollars in damage to the interior of the main building.

We are hopeful that the governor's announcement of Budget Digest funding -- the state money was appropriated as a match to federal funding -- will be the catalyst needed for transforming the old hospital into a viable economic endeavor.

The federal funds had already been received by the Weston Hospital Revitalization Committee earlier this year, secured by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., through the National Park Service division of the federal budget, according to Lewis County Commission President Robert Conley. He said it was administered through the Save Our National Heritage Program, with the stipulation that the money be matched by state and/or local funds. The matching amount was put into the Budget Digest this year by Underwood and the Legislature.

Whether the pre-1860 facility is renovated for use as a Civil War-era museum or for some other purpose to attract residents and tourists -- the efforts began after the hospital closed in 1994 and was replaced by William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital about two miles away -- we are encouraged that things may now be on a faster track toward success.

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