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If state pulls its DHHR offices out of downtown, potential dama

On Thursday, city, county and area leaders urged Clarksburg residents to fight state efforts to move the Department of Health and Human Resources out of the downtown Clarksburg area.

Speaking before a packed room during a Clarksburg City Council meeting, they told residents to contact Gov. Bob Wise's office and other state officials.

They said if that office and other state agencies leave the downtown area for a new building elsewhere, the city would be devastated.

More than 200 jobs would be moved to a new area. Those people, as well as the clients of these state agencies, make up a major portion of those who frequent downtown shops, restaurants and other businesses.

News of this possible move should make everyone take notice, even if you live elsewhere in the state.

The Clarksburg situation isn't unique. There are other downtowns facing similar problems like lack of parking and older buildings not designed for present-day needs.

What could happen in Clarksburg has happened elsewhere, and will likely continue to happen until our leaders decide to get serious about urban renewal.

West Virginia is an aging state in more ways than the median age of its residents. What downtown area in the state doesn't have older buildings?

Clarksburg has plenty. And obviously, the buildings are difficult to sell or rent. One look downtown proves that.

But are downtown business districts a lost cause?

Not necessarily.

Downtown property owners must be willing to renovate, demolish or sell at reasonable market value.

City, county, state and national leaders must provide the financial impetus to make urban renewal a reality, not a political catch phrase conveniently pulled out at election time.

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison, a life-long city resident, said the time to act is now. We couldn't agree more.

City, county and state representatives must work together to start a downtown urban renewal project immediately. And they must have the help of Gov. Wise's administration to make it happen.

State officials say the move is necessary to provide better service to clients. They say there's no parking, and the current building is no longer adequate.

That may be true.

But we question the need to move the office out of the downtown area as we walk past the rows of vacant buildings and empty lots that populate the downtown area.

We are all for better service for area residents. But we believe the downtown area can provide that if the state, city and county work together.

If the state pulls its offices out of downtown Clarksburg, the potential damage far outweighs the potential gain.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of both the Exponent and Telegram editorial boards.

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