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City leaders vow to fight effort to move state agencies out of

by Davin White

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- City, county and state representatives vowed Thursday to fight the state's plans to move the local office of the Department of Health and Human Resources, if the move takes the agency out of downtown Clarksburg.

A number of officials spoke against the proposed move during Clarksburg City Council's regular meeting.

Sen. Joseph Minard, Del. Frank Angotti and Del. Sam Cann, all D-Harrison, said the office is vital in protecting business, provided by people associated with the DHHR office or its clients, to downtown Clarksburg.

They also said that the proposed new state office building will likely have other agencies on the move. State agencies in the Davis Building as well as the state tax office on West Pike Street could be affected, causing as many as 200 jobs to leave the downtown area.

"This is the service center of our county," Cann said. "We need to keep it (the office) here."

Minard said council has the ability of condemnation and eminent domain and should take steps to keep the office downtown.

"It has to come from here (city council)," Minard said. "I just want it downtown, where I think it belongs."

He added that with the growing loss of retailers and other businesses, government entities is "all we have" in downtown Clarksburg.

A lengthy study won't be beneficial in this situation, action must be taken soon, Minard said.

Angotti agreed with Minard's opinion.

"I don't think we can drag our feet," Angotti said.

Also agreeing with the state representatives were Harrison County Commissioners Roger Diaz and Jim Smith.

Smith called such state mandates, like this one to move the office, "atrocious." He said people in Charleston shouldn't decide what is best for this area.

Diaz said Clarksburg residents need to voice their opinion to Gov. Bob Wise, who has the authority to make the final decision in the matter.

"Harrison County was very good to the governor," Diaz said. "The governor needs to be good to Harrison County."

Council members Margaret Bailey, Terry Greaver and Mayor David Kates also voiced their dissatisfaction.

"We can no longer let Clarksburg become a ghost city," Kates said during his final meeting as mayor.

While Kates will remain on council, he has chosen not to seek re-election to the city's highest elected office. A new mayor will be elected by council on July 1.

The outgoing mayor, an ordained minister, thanked members of his church, council members and others in attendance for their support during his tenure as mayor.

Despite the problems brought up during Thursday's meeting, Kates chose to look at them as opportunities. He said "these are great days here in Clarksburg," because he saw so many people, like those who spoke out Thursday night, caring about their community.

In other news, Council:

n Listened to citizens concerned about weight limit problems during construction of a water tank on Second Street. City consultant Larry Rine said Natgun, the contracting firm in charge of construction, was given by the city a plan which outlines safety measures, traffic flow problems and permanent and temporary repairs to be made by Natgun.

n Accepted a plan to establish a system of two-hour and ten-hour parking in downtown Clarksburg. City Manager Tom Vidovich said the intent of the plan was to "free up parking downtown," so more people can come in and out of the area.

n Accepted a plan to increase the cost of a loading zone permit from $2 to $10, and require the permits to be renewed annually.

Staff writer Davin White can be reached at 626-1448.

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