Officials seek grant to aid Harrison Co. Courthouse security woes
by Jim Fisher

    The Harrison County Courthouse may be getting a facelift designed to allay some security concerns raised by magistrates recently.
    An attack last month on a Morgan County magistrate heightened courthouse workers' fears about the lack of security measures in place in the Harrison County Courthouse correctional center annex.
    However, county and planning commissions have taken the first step toward securing the magistrate's offices, as well as the entire courthouse, said Terry Schulte, director of the planning commission.
    Schulte wrote a grant proposal that will be reviewed by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services in April.
The grant is for $79,593 and would pay for increased security measures on all ground floor and sub-ground floor levels, she said.  About a quarter of the money would be used to construct a wheelchair ramp in the front of the building.
    "The plan for the courthouse  security project is to do exactly what the U.S. Marshal's survey suggested in 1995," Schulte said.
If the grant money is secured, the Main Street entrance to the courthouse would become the primary public access, she said, and would be outfitted with a metal detector and an X-ray  machine.
    The county would assign three Harrison County Sheriff's deputies to man the front entrance, Schulte said.
Additionally, the plan calls for a metal detector and another deputy to be stationed at the Washington Avenue entrance to the correctional center, she said.
    The two Third Street doors would be designated as employees-only entrances and the Court Street door would be used only as an emergency exit.
    The garage doors would be secured at all times, she said, and the elevator would be secured with a card swipe.
"This is a fairly decent approach when you weigh the public  access and security for the judicial system," Schulte said.
"Some people have been concerned because they think we will be limiting the public's access to the building, but we really won't be," Schulte said. "What we want is to increase the security for the judges, law master and the magistrates," Schulte said.
    The plans for the project will also have to be reviewed by the state Historic Preservation Office because federal funds are being used, Schulte said. The Harrison County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
However, the plans call for glass enclosures at the Main Street entrance, so nothing will be radically changed, she said.

DOH crews trying to clear secondary roads
by Jim Fisher

    Division of Highways road crews battled waves of snow during the day Tuesday and into the night, trying to keep roads clear for travelers.
    It was tough, however. The biggest problems revolved around the secondary roads, said Mike Scott, Harrison County DOH superintendent. "We can't seem to get off the primaries," he said Tuesday afternoon.
    "Every time we get a primary road cleared, the snows build up and we have to plow it again. Some of the people on the secondary roads are getting kind of antsy because we just can't get to them yet."
    Just a month after those infamous groundhogs predicted spring was right around the corner, a band of solid, steady snow showers swung through the area Tuesday morning and dumped about 6 inches of glistening, powdery snow. The powder quickly turned to slush Tuesday afternoon as temperatures rose slightly, but the snow continued to fall. Another bundle of snow showers is expected to hit North Central West Virginia today.
    Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Charleston say we could get another 1 to 3 inches before the day ends.
School in Harrison and Taylor counties was canceled for a second day today.
    In general, North Central West Virginia experienced the worst of the storm Tuesday, said Mark Bloomer of the weather service. Most counties had between 4 and 6 inches, with the higher elevations experiencing up to 8 inches.
    The weather started to have  an effect on commuter air travel by early Tuesday afternoon,  as USAir at Benedum Airport in Bridgeport was forced to cancel two flights and delay most others.
    Customer service representatives were asking people to call USAir's main booking line and re-book flights, said Hugh McKane, with USAir. Most passengers are business customers, he said.
    "Everything is still scheduled right now," he said Tuesday afternoon. "It's hard to say if we will need to cancel any later flights. We'll just have to wait and see what the weather does."
    Slick roads kept towing and wrecking businesses in high demand. Dozens of cars slid into ditches and a few tractor trailers overturned.
    Riggs Exxon Service-Center in Bridgeport towed eight cars and one tractor trailer in less than 6 hours, said manager Tim McGinnis. Mt. State Towing in Clarksburg pulled stranded motorists out of ditches on the way to tow even more cars and overturned tractor trailers. "This probably tops it all," said Tony Scardina, mechanic at Cain's Towing in Clarksburg.
    Area residents Monday stocked up on snow shovels, snow blowers, salt, calcium, sleds and windshield wiper fluid for their cars. But few people braved the weather Tuesday for any more supplies, said Paul Christafore, manager of Sandy's Hardware & Home Center in Nutter Fort.
    Time Warner Cable was just glad the snow itself was fluffy and light. Heavier, wet snow can down cable lines and shut off service to thousands of customers. "We have no widespread outages," said Dale Pollard, technical operations manager. "We've been pretty lucky."
    The same situation helped maintain power service for much of North Central West Virginia, said Allen Staggers, spokesman for Allegheny Power Co.
    About 20 people in the region were without power, Staggers said. About 14 of those people were without power in Clarksburg because a car ran into a utility pole, downing a power line.
    The late winter snowstorm struck late Monday night and early Tuesday, prompting officials in 39 of the state's 55 counties to close schools for the day. West Virginia University, Fairmont State and Glenville State also canceled classes Tuesday.

Document signed by Patrick Henry found in Harrison Courthouse
by Troy Graham

    There it was, a simple document buried under a pile of otherwise insignificant papers in the basement of the Harrison County Courthouse.
    The document itself would have been noteworthy only for its age if it were not for the signature at the bottom: Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia. Yes, that Patrick Henry. The "give me liberty or give me death" Patrick Henry.
    The document, a true hidden treasure, had lain in obscurity in the basement for who knows how long. It was only discovered after Harrison County commissioners ordered crews to inventory all the records in the courthouse.
No one is really sure what the document is.
    Most of it is handwritten in the flowery script of the day, but it appears to be  some sort of a deed, dealing with a land transfer.
But the date on the paper, 1786, and the "P. Henry" signature are unmistakable. Henry was governor of Virginia, which then included present-day West Virginia, in 1786.
    The document, adorned with a wax seal of the state of Virginia, was unearthed by two archivists hired to survey the mounds of documents that had accumulated in the courthouse.
    The commissioners ordered an inventory after a pressing need surfaced to find additional space and meet fire code regulations in the record rooms.
    Some insignificant records will be thrown out; some will be converted to microfilm, and others will be moved to storage outside the courthouse.
    The public criticized the Marion County Commission last year for simply throwing out boxes of old records without examining them first. Harrison commissioners vowed not to make the same mistake.
    "Thank God we didn't do like other counties and just throw stuff away," said commission President Tom Keeley. "We're absolutely dedicated to preserving any historical documents."
    The commission will have to decide what to do with the find. It will have to be authenticated, but there is little doubt that the signature is genuine.
    The document will complement a similar find several years ago of a document signed by George Washington. That document is in safe keeping in  a bank safe deposit box. The Patrick Henry paper will most likely join it there. The commissioners vowed to find a way to display both of them for public viewing.
    Henry was known as a fiery orator in Colonial America. He is largely remembered in history books for his speech urging the arming of the Virginia militia on the verge of the Revolutionary War. "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death," he said.


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