WEST UNION -- With the opening of the North Central Regional Jail just weeks away, a trickle of what local officials hope will be a development flood has begun.
"I've done a whole bunch of interviewing," said Tim Bowen, jail administrator. "I've probably hired 20 off the streets as correctional officers."
Ten of that initial group are from Doddridge County and are already in training.
Brandon Nicholson, 25, of New Milton is among them.
"I like it," said Nicholson.
Previously, he worked more than six years at the Weston Quality Farm and Fleet. He said the new job is more convenient and pays better.
Starting salary for correctional officers will be $20,256 as of July 1.
Another 63 officer jobs are already filled with transfers from county jails that will close when the regional facility opens. The jail will serve Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, Doddridge, Tyler, Ritchie, Wirt, Pleasants and Wood counties.
However, Bowen anticipates more local workers will be among those hired to fill the remaining 27 officer positions and 40 administrative and support jobs.
"We're still looking for quality people," Bowen said.
That is something Earl Daugherty, county Chamber of Commerce president, and Ora Ash, a county commissioner, were glad to hear.
"Right now we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state," Ash said. "But we're feeling really good about some of our people getting these jobs."
The county has been working for several months, offering Opportunity Council training classes to prepare residents for the state civil service examination and other types of job applications.
Nicholson said he attended two sessions prior to applying at the jail.
Daugherty suspects other forms of development will not be fully realized for some time.
For example, the construction of the jail led to the complete renovation of the county seat's sewer system. That could help draw new business.
Grants and jail funds paid to extend sewer and water lines from West Union to the jail, close to the Ritchie County line.
Nearly 80 homes also got water service, although the high-pressure sewer lines did not allow for any residential tap-ins.
The city's sewage plant and lines were redone, predominantly with loans.
Jim Hall, director of Region VI Planning and Development, said the project came in at about $1.5 million. The city's monthly payment on a 40-year loan is nearly $10,000.
Etta Stadler, city recorder, said jail service fees will pay for about one-third of those loan costs.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.