by James Fisher
PHILIPPI -- Barbour County commissioners on Monday approved a request from Junior town officials to annex U.S. Route 250 from the town's border to the Randolph County line.
The request and approval was made in anticipation of the town receiving a lucrative contract from the state to provide sewage service to the new Tygart Valley Regional Jail, which will be built in Randolph County near the intersection of U.S. 250 and U.S. 33.
The move was the latest in what seems to be shaping up as a fight between Junior and Elkins for the sewage contract.
In November, the Randolph County Commission authorized Elkins to handle the project, although Charlotte Lane, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, has said the final decision is not one the local governing body can make.
Lane has said any municipal utility that wants to be considered for the contract will have to file an application with the state PSC and officials from that office will make the determination.
Junior officials filed an application Nov. 21 to extend the municipal system into the area of U.S. 33 and the Barbour County line and also to upgrade the facility. At the time, Elkins Mayor Jimmy Hammond said the city had until Nov. 24 to choose an engineer to conduct preliminary studies of the project area.
Hammond was out of the office this week and City Clerk Phil Graziani said he had no direct involvement with the plan and was unsure if an engineer has been chosen.
Monday's decision by the Barbour County Commission puts Junior one step closer to being approved for the project, commission president Eddie Canterbury said.
"I think as far as the process goes, Junior is far ahead of Elkins," he said. "Regional Jail Authority folks have favored Junior from the beginning and I think it just makes sense."
Junior is little more than one mile from the site, he said, while Elkins is about eight miles.
The land between Junior and the site is prime for development, both in Barbour and Randolph counties, while the terrain between Elkins and the site is unsuitable for new construction, he said.
"I know there have been some discussions between our development authority and some developers about possibly doing something out there," he said. "I truly think that once the infrastructure is in place, you will see new development."
In addition to the regional jail, Junior officials are anticipating providing sewage for the new Perdue Farms hatchery being located in that area.
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at email@example.com.