View Full Version : Huntington Development News
September 3rd, 2007, 10:43 PM
Huntington, WV Skyline (http://www.flickr.com/photos/38753332@N03/3563817885/) by wvfunnyman (http://www.flickr.com/people/38753332@N03/), on Flickr
Splitting this from the West Virginia thread since it has gained momentum...
Part one of the series on efforts to increase the number of people living in downtown Huntington.
Downtown living gains popularity (http://www.heralddispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070902/NEWS01/709020313/1001/NEWS10)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, The Herald-Dispatch [Htgn], September 2, 2007
Byron and Lynn Clercx are ideal downtown tenants: hardworking professionals without children. They rent a loft apartment across 4th Avenue across from the Cabell County Courthouse and adore it. A few times a week, they walk around downtown to appreciate the architecture of the city, meet new and old faces, and visit a new business (at least one a week). It's within walking distance of work, eateries, and Pullman Square, and a five minute drive to the grocery store.
The downtown living lifestyle is becoming even more appealing as Huntington continues to gradually revitalize its downtown. Turning the downtown into a thriving residential neighborhood is a slow process, but the city is taking gradual steps in that direction.
The Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone has done a market study on who possible tenants might be and researched the kinds of changes the downtown needs to be more resident-friendly. It has also worked to expand the downtown's historic district so that developers who put in condos and lofts within the district can get tax credits.
The potential size of the market is about 458 units in the downtown without affecting the existing market. Based on a $5,000 market analysis paid for by the Empowerment Zone office, it has concluded that the best tenants would be young professionals without children and retirees. Young professionals flow into the area for jobs at Marshall University and its health care centers, and might likely flow out again if they aren't looking to invest in a large home. The retirees and empty-nesters no longer want the maintenance worries of a house.
So far, there is a handful of developers putting in these types of dwellings. One instance of this is the ongoing work on the St. James Building, which is owned by a Florida developer and has sold almost 30 custom condos with more to go.
Commodore Holding, comprised of five young professionals in the Huntington community, has four loft apartments under construction in the old Keen Jewelers building along the renovated 9th Street corridor. It is within a block of Pullman Square.
And there is the Love's Hardware lofts, being planned by Gary and Nancy Pommerenck. The designs for the lofts that will go in above the hardware store is being worked on currently; it is located adjacent to Pullman Square at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue.
But more housing developments won't occur unless a balance of commerce, activity, entertainment, and a safe, pedestrian-friendly environment are achieved. Currently, the city has reengineered 9th Street to two-way traffic and has improved lighting there, which makes it more commerce and pedestrian friendly. It is now working on improving sidewalks, lighting, and parking along 3rd Avenue. Work will begin soon on phase one of the 4th Avenue streetscape project, which will involve the reduction of the road from four- to two-lanes, and the addition of bike lanes, new lights, traffic signals, and sidewalks.
Public art will also add to the attraction of downtown, and could create a sense of continuity in different parts of town, from the east end to the west, on the south side and in the downtown area.
Parking needs to be addressed as well, which includes dedicated garages for residents, and general cleanup work. One site for parking includes the city's annex building next to city hall, which is currently abandoned. A Community Development Block Grant will pay for asbestos abatement, and the building will then be demolished.
Downtown grocers might be introduced at a later date if the population hits a critical mass.
September 4th, 2007, 06:53 AM
Part one of the series on efforts to increase the number of people living in downtown Huntington.
Downtown progress evident (http://www.heralddispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070903/NEWS01/709030335)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman The Herald-Dispatch [Htgn], September, 3, 2007
Progress is happening in Huntington, and measures that will draw in more residents will be a slow process that may take five to ten years. Real estate records show that between January and August 2006, 12 residential units were sold in the downtown. During the same months of 2007, 22 were sold.
The St. James Building at 10th Street and 4th Avenue is the leader in renovating older space in Huntington, marketing one- and two-bedroom custom condos for prices that range from $100,000 to well over $200,000. In the first year and a half, 27 of its 53 units have been sold, making it the biggest contributor to the city's revitalization effort. In the first six months of the year, only two had sold, but picked up after the rooftop deck was and lobby refurbishment was completed. The roughly 100-year-old, 12-story building was bought by Swiss Capital Group of Florida in 2005, and the sale office opened in 2006. The first five floors are commercial space, and the sixth floor and up are residences, complete with a library, fitness center, sauna, spa and rooftop garden.
Elsewhere, Commodore Holding has sold three of four units for the upper two stories of 9th Street Flats. It is located in the old Keen Jewelers store, and the first floor will be retail/office space. The lofts are custom-built with a minimum of two bedrooms, and designed in the Soho- or Bohemian-style, with large windows, exposed brick and duct work and hardwood floors. Work is slated for completion in November.
Adjacent to Pullman Square, Gary Pommerenck is hoping to have some lofts completed above Love's Hardware next year. He has been working with the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone on efforts to increase the size of the city's historic district as a way of attaining tax credits. As a result, the district is two times larger and his building is the only building on the north side of 3rd Avenue within that district. Gary is in the final phase of getting financing arranged -- which began two years ago. When complete, the building will have four two-bedroom lofts and three one-bedroom lofts.
September 20th, 2007, 07:40 PM
Attorney questions focus of Kinetic Park
By Bryan Chambers, The Herald-Dispatch, August 20, 2007
A local attorney questioned the Huntington Municipal Development Authority about whether the tenants coming into Kinetic Park are setting the wrong tone for future development.
The 96-acre Kinetic Park was originally envisioned as a research park -- a nucleus of technology-based companies. A large hill was leveled for $9 million om grants and $7.5 million in loans. The upper portion of the park was to hold office and research buildings, while the lower level was to hold retail stores and restaurants. The focus in the late 1990s was technology-related companies -- but the dot-com bubble burst. The focus of late has been biotechnology and health care companies.
The top part of Kinetic Park is holding some businesses -- but not what was originally intended. Huntington Dermatology, relocating from another part of Huntington, will be opening soon. And gynecologist Allan Chamberlain will be expanding his practice in a new one-story building.
The financing package for Kinetic Park restricts the types of businesses that can locate on the upper level. A $1 million grant from the federal Economic Development Association requires that any businesses there must be technology-based.
September 20th, 2007, 09:33 PM
New retailer picks Pullman (http://www.heralddispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070919/NEWS01/709190325)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, The Herald-Dispatch, September 19, 2007
Pullman Square is gaining a new retail tenant. Pullman Square developer Bill Dargusch announced Tuesday that Chico's, a women's retailer, will move into the downtown enterainment complex. It has not yet signed a lease, but it will occupy a space below Max and Erma's, and is the first major women's retail chain to take a chance in the development. The announcement was made at a working women's luncheon at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.
The women were there to discuss women and retail, organized by Women 2 Women, a subcommittee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. Those that attended included the general manager and CEO of the Transit Authority, and Deneene Chafin, the owner of three independent women shops at Pullman - Inspired, Runway Coulture and Heels.
Some of the questions raised at the luncheon included what Metropolitian Partners was doing to draw in retailers, if they would draw in shops geared towards men, why there are no public restrooms, and if there are plans to expand towards the Ohio River and towards 4th Avenue. Research so far has indicated that a healthy downtown mix includes a third of enterainment, including movies, theatrical and other productions and comedy clubs, a third on restaurants, and a third on retail. Restaurants generate the most visitor count and dollar spent on a typical development.
For most retailers, they won't gamble on a chance for a development like Pullman -- which is still in an experimental phase. Many have been burned in development projects that date to the 1980s, but Chico's is one that is likely to break the barrier. Chico's is a speciality retailer of "private branded, sophisticated, casual-to-dressy clothing, intimates, complementary accessories, and other non-clothing gift items." It operates 958 stores under the name of Chico's, White House/Black Market and Soma Intimates.
Chafin encouraged members of the audience to start their own businesses. Small businesses can react more quickly to change than the larger chains, she pointed out. And she recommended targeting the younger crowd. Give them what they want, and they'll stay in Huntington after they graduate from college, Chafin said
September 21st, 2007, 08:53 PM
Revitalization project continues downtown
By christian Alexandersen, The Herald-Dispatch, September 13, 2007
Construction continues along 3rd Avenue as Huntington renovates the streetscape to a three-block stretch of road in the downtown.
The third phase of construction is ongoing from 10th to 13th streets along 3rd Avenue, and consists of replacing sidewalks, installing decorative street lighting, introducing various landscape elements, creating more parking, and paving and striping the road. The last major phase is continuing and should be complete by November. Already, 45 angled parking spaces have been created on 3rd Avenue to alleviate parking congestion downtown.
The project is being financed federally by the National Empowerment Fund and the Community Development Block Grant, as well as locally with Tax increment Financing bonds.
The downtown revitalization project on 3rd Avenue began in 2005. So far, two phases have allowed the city to convert a four-lane one-way road into a two-way road and develop 9th Street. The project has stimulated growth in the area, with seven new businesses locating along the throughfare where vacant businesses loomed for decades. Pullman Square should also take credit, as the city is working with private building owners to convert their properties to other uses and restore their appearances to what they originally were.
Every element of the third phase has been approved by the city except for the paving. The city is also working to create a pedestrian archway across 3rd Avenue located midway between 12th and 13th streets, and create a gateway entrance to the center of downtown.
October 23rd, 2007, 04:43 AM
Riverfront area in need of repair (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1233873548)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald Dispatch, October 20, 2007
The Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District sees a more vibrant riverfront park, with historical artwork along running and walking trails that line the banks of the Ohio River. They see a raised walkway over the floodwall and Veterans Memorial Boulevard to Pullman Square, and a clearing of the brush and trees for a better view of the Robert C. Byrd Bridge. They also see welcome signs, a little pizzazz on the floodwall, a river and rail museum, and a skate park.
The park was created 30 years ago when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a three-phase development project that became Harris Riverfront Park. Over the course of 20 years, a marina area, an amphitheater and docking area, restrooms, and parking was added. But much of the infrastructure today is over 25 years old and is showing its age. The amphitheater has been submerged in water many times and as a result, there are rough, uneven patches along the seating area. The restrooms have aged and are now locked on a daily basis due to vandalism; they are also far too small for large events, such as Rib Fest, X-Fest and Huntington Symphony Orchestra concerts.
The tree-covered walkways have also become home to vagrants in the community. The city recently cleared what was known as "Tent City" from the riverbanks, but security issues still remain at the park. The park is also all but inaccessible from downtown -- Veterans Memorial Boulevard acts as a bypass of the downtown and there is no pedestrian control or traffic signal at the lone entrance to the park.
"After the 1937 flood and decision... to build a floodwall, what had been front door to city of Huntington became the back door. When the floodwall and war occurred, so many people turned their back on the river, and it became a place people didn't want to be around."
-Jerry Sutphin, a river historian and one-time employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For a while, after new paths and a playground was completed, it drew visitors on a daily basis and became a setting for the once popular summertime Regatta. But the crowds began thinning and the annual event was canceled. And today, the riverfront goes by almost unnoticed.
The riverbank holds a diverse storyline. In 1937, a record flood left 6,000 homeless, as waters ravaged the city's downtown and neighborhoods. In the 1940s, the Corps of Engineers completed an 11-mile floodwall to prevent future catastrophes. But the riverfront was all but ignored, just a convenient and free parking area near a paper plant.
But in the late 1970s, the city of Huntington struck up an agreement with the Corps. The city would maintain and manage a park if the Corps would construct it along the riverbank. Over the course of 20 years, a marina, amphitheater, pathway, docking facilities and parking was constructed. The park district was put in charge of the facility.
But the facility aged -- quickly, due to the floods that ravage the property.
Today, the Corps owns the 24 acres that makes up the park, leasing the property to the city. The city owns the floodwall and leases the park, and is in charge of maintaining both. Event planning for the facility is left up to SMG, which manages the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and the riverfront park for the city. Today, eight annual events are held at the park.
One strength of the park is that the floodwall acts as a great way to secure the park for ticket sales. The amphitheater is also a great asset, and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra has added air-conditioned dressing rooms and sound panels to improve the quality of acts and performances. The facility can host 6,000 to 7,000 people -- about the size of the arena.
But the floodwall acts as a visual barrier to the park. And the restrooms are minimal -- 30 portable toilets were brought in for X-Fest for 2007.
Currently, $800,000 is needed to upgrade the park from the standpoint of infrastructure.
Huntington Police patrol the park on a regular basis, and the bike patrol combs through the paths sometimes as well. The 10th Street entrance is now closed between 10 PM and 6 AM daily, although the 11th Street entrance remains open to traffic to and from Holderby's Landing restaurant. The closing of the entrance and the eradication of Tent City has cut down on the complaints about the park -- especially since aggressive panhandlers and homeless people were detracting from the park's atmosphere. Fights amongst homeless were an almost daily occurrence, and it was a very intimidating environment.
October 23rd, 2007, 04:47 AM
How come they don't call Virginia East Virginia?
October 23rd, 2007, 04:54 AM
Facts about Harris Riverfront Park (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1119735434)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald Dispatch, October 21, 2007
Timeline of the park's construction: (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District)
1977: The first phase of the park was completed, including a boat launch ramp, a comfort station, a designated marina area and a parking lot. The city of Huntington conveyed the property to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the cost share requirements of the Federal Water Project Recreation Act (Public Law 89-72).
1983: The second phase was completed, including an amphitheater, one additional comfort station, green space, lower walkway and associated parking areas.
1997: The final phase was completed, including parking areas, a comfort station, green space, handicap fishing access and large excursion vessel docking area, water, sewer and electrical access for large vessels and bus parking.
$6,631,700: Total estimated cost for all three phases. All three phases were a 50-50 cost share so the city of Huntington would have been responsible for $3,315,850. The city’s match was in the form of cash, real estate value and work in-kind credits.
Floodwall history: The Flood Control Act of 1937 authorized construction of local flood protection projects, and the Huntington levee and floodwall system was selected for immediate construction. From 1882 to 1937, Huntington was flooded 23 times.
$18 million: The cost of damages as a result of the 1937 flood. The entire business district was flooded up to the first floor generally. All public utilities were disrupted, and all roads and railroads in and out of the city were blocked. Five lost their lives.
1938-1943: The floodwall was constructed at a cost of $7.1 million. The floodwall has reduced flood damages to the city by over $238 million.
20 feet: The height of the floodwall at 10th Street. It was designed to the height of the record 1937 flood, plus three feet. The flood of 1937 crested at 69 feet, and would have been 17 feet on the wall if it had existed at the time.
24,000 feet: Length of the earthen levees.
36,900 feet: Length of the concrete flood wall.
60,900/11.5 miles: Total length of the floodwall.
The gates, designed to protect the downtown area, have been raised at least 12 times since the floodwall's completion. The installation of the gates only occur at a stage of 51 feet, according to the Operation & Maintenance Manual for the floodwall project.
April 16, 1948 — 61.6 feet
Feb. 3 1950 — 56.62 feet
Dec. 9, 1950 — 53.1 feet
Jan. 30, 1952 — 54.29 feet
March 7, 1955 — 59.54 feet
May 9, 1958 — 55.32 feet
March 1, 1962 — 55.7 feet
March 9, 1963 — 54.9 feet
March 13, 1965 — 54.8 feet
Feb. 28 1979 — 53.85 feet
Jan. 2, 1991 — 51.7 feet
March 5 1997 — 57.5 feet
November 9th, 2007, 07:40 PM
New dorms to put freshmen right at home (http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/2007110547/New-dorms-to-put-freshmen-right-at-home/)
Kelly L. Holleran, Daily Mail [Charleston], November 5, 2007
What used to be a softball field, a track and 20th Street Baptist Church are now the skeletons of what will become two residence halls that will house 784 students.
What is now a swamp of thick mud on the corner of 20th Street and Fifth Avenue will become a state-of-the-art campus recreation center.
Those who are seniors in high schools right now will be the first students to live in the residence halls next year.
The total project is the largest in Marshall University’s history, costing $94 million in private funds. The private funding system makes Marshall unique in the state.
The university selected the Alabama-based firm Capstone Management to underwrite bonds to pay for the building projects. Capstone is overseeing construction and operation of the new buildings until Marshall can pay off the bond debt using revenue generated from the facilities.
After a 30-year payment period, when Marshall pays off the project bonds, ownership of the facilities will revert to the university.
The project has been in the planning stages for nearly 10 years.
When university officials first considered building new dorms and a new recreation center, they wanted to be sure it would meet student approval.
So they went to the students for help.
In the spring of 1999, they e-mailed all Marshall students asking if they were in favor of a new recreation center.
An overwhelming majority — 81 percent of students — voted for the new center, which will include a rock wall, a pool and an indoor track.
At first glance, the project may appear to be in its beginning stages.
But it is taking shape quickly.
Construction workers for the company Mascaro began work on the residence halls May 11, and they hope to have them finished by Aug. 1.
The recreation center should be completed by January 2009.
Workers have worked hastily at the site near Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards stadium. Already, passersby can see the four-story frame of the residence halls.
Inside the buildings, workers are dividing the vast space into rooms.
The outline of two long hallways, perpendicular to each other, is easy to distinguish.
Dozens of bedrooms line the hallways. Each bedroom measures 13 feet 10 inches by 11 feet 7 inches.
For every two students, there will be a small bathroom with shower, sink and toilet attached to the room.
Only freshmen will be allowed to live in the residence halls, something that incoming students find exciting, said Jean Gilman, director of recruitment for Marshall University.
Showing the dorms to prospective students can be tricky, because the buildings are not completed.
Gilman said when students tour the campus, they are shown renditions of what the dorms will look like when they are completed. They are also shown other dorms so they have an idea of what to expect, she said.
The new residence halls will have features students will not be able to find in other dorms across campus.
There will be a large common area that includes a vending machine area, a television and a game section. The halls also will include a large seminar room, a conference room and a theater with stadium seating.
In recent years, students were given cell phones to use. Now, only those who ask for the phones will be given an optional cell phone plan.
“We’re finding as cell phone usage becomes more common, most high school students are coming to Marshall with a cell phone,” Bissett said. “Really the expense of having a cell phone for every person when they already have one just wasn’t cost effective, especially when students were turning them back in still in the box.”
Each floor in the new residence halls will have a landline phone.
Students living in the new halls will eat either at Harless Dining Center, which is about two blocks away and in the Commons area, or at the Towers cafeteria right next door to the new dorms.
Students will pay $2,425 per semester to live in the residence halls.
“The main reason we’re doing this is to attract first-time freshmen to Marshall, not just from West Virginia, but from other states as well,” said Bill Bissett, senior vice president for communications at Marshall. “In learning what 15- to 17-year-olds’ expectations are and what their parents’ expectations are when they arrive at a college campus, we believe these buildings meet those expectations.”
As well as providing about 300 new jobs to students, the new buildings may help to increase a waning freshmen class at Marshall, Bissett said.
Already, it seems to be working. First-time freshmen enrollment increased by 9 percent this year, from 1,549 last year to 1,686 this year.
With an increased number of students living on campus, Marshall’s retention and graduation rates may climb, as research has shown in the past, Bissett said.
“Marshall University is like all higher education institutions — we are judged at how well we do at retention and graduation rates,” he said.
School officials are still pursuing naming rights of residence halls and the campus recreation center.
They are also undecided on whether the two new halls will be co-ed or single sex.
Whatever their decision, students on campus are eager to see the new buildings erected, especially the recreation center.
“The student recreation center has been on the radar for a long time,” Bissett said. “A lot of students are excited about that.”
November 9th, 2007, 07:58 PM
BTW, Huntington News Network is just a blog. Nothing more.
"Frankie D's Italian Chophouse" Good to Go (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/071109-seaton-localfrankies.html)
Dave Denti's New Venture Will Feature Steak and Italian Food; Jumbotron on the Roof
By Tony Seaton, Huntington News Network, November 8, 2007
"It's a done deal, it's signed... I'm rollin'," said Max and Erma's owner Dave Denti. He has it in writing even, in the form of the final version of a negotiated lease that he has now signed and sent to Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners of Columbus, the operators of Pullman Square.
What Denti's rolling in is the now finalized final touches to his latest venture in Pullman Square dining, Frankie D's Italian Chophouse. Named for his father, the restaurant will initially be open only for dinner, partly to gauge its impact on its sibling restaurant, right across the way.
It will be a causal-themed steakhouse, but with a unique element. That's the "Italian" part of the name. One entree on the menu has been dubbed the "Cardiologist Special." It's an 18oz., 'cowboy cut' rib eye steak with a side of Fettuccini Alfredo.
Bill Dargusch said Thursday morning he didn't yet have the signed lease from Denti, but that it probably is in his lawyer's hands, and if Denti wants, "Obviously it's no headache, he can get in there today."
Where he'll be getting into, is the remaining empty storefront on the second level of Pullman Square, right above Empire Books, and adjacent to his existing restaurant.
The two restaurants will have adjoining outdoor dining areas, but Frankie D's will also have pull down shades and an awning that will allow for more climate control than has been available heretofore for outdoor diners at Max and Erma's.
Summer heat and blazing sunshine caused some diners who wanted outdoor seating at Max and Erma's to opt out of outside, so Frankie D's was designed by Denti's architect, Wally Wilkes, of Edward Tucker Architects, to preclude that problem.
Dave Denti did want to start the final work Thursday, in fact he says he wished he'd been where he was Thursday, in terms of the negotiating, planning, signing, etc., process, a month ago. "I really wanted to be able to pick up the extra revenue," (of the upcoming holidays,) he said. But, instead he had scheduled meetings with the bank, his builder, and his "equipment guy." Nonetheless the process was on the move for real, finally, and Denti was at least relieved, if not ecstatic.
Denti had originally planned to be open about the time the new Chico's women's clothing store opens in the space just below Max and Erma's, on November 19th., but now Denti says he's looking at February 1st at the earliest. "I'll know better after this week, but I'll be working pretty quick towards it," he said.
Thursday afternoon more Pullman Square news appeared on the horizon which affects not only the entire Pullman Square development, and downtown, for that matter, but, also the same spot as Frankie D's Chophouse...because it's going to be on its roof.
The much anticipated, heard and speculated about, seen, even, in animated form on Huntington News, the "PullmanTron" or jumbotron, much like the one at Joan C. Edwards stadium, only bigger, newer, brighter, shinier, etc., is a definite deal now.
It's going to cost Pullman upwards of $280,000 to build and install, and will then be run by an as-yet-unnamed partner company, which will own it, and lease out to other businesses and/or anyone with the money to purchase available space, and time, as it will be a constantly changing sign, much like the existing, smaller one across from Marshall's stadium in the 2200 block of 3rd Ave. It will also have video capability, according to sources.
"We are going forward with it and it'll be a great piece to finish that little puzzle there," said Dave Brudy, of DRB Group, LLC, the leasing agent/partner of Metropolitan Partners for the sign, referring to Pullman Square. "It's way past due."
The sign will have four "core" clients,and the ad space they control will be the most expensive and be seen the most times. Cabell Huntington Hospital is already slated to be the exclusive medical presence. Other businesses will be able to purchase one of the eight-second time slots, much like buying TV advertising time, for as little as $600 a month for 360 "full rotations" or views, a day.
That's to fulfill a goal espoused by Dave Brudy, of DRB Group, LLC, the leasing agent/partner of Metropolitan Partners for the sign, to keep the sign affordable for smaller clients. Brudy says prices are subject to change, and they won't include special events such as ChiliFest, Hot Dog Days, or any other 'fest' that closes 3rd.Ave., but the sign will offer "PSAs" or Public Service Announcement "availabilities." .
"That's the way it should be at Pullman Square," said Brudy of the sign,"I mean, Pullman Square is there for the masses of Huntington, it's not there for the elite...let's open it; let's let John's Pizza Shop be able to buy a month for $1,500."
The jumbotron will also be unusual in that it's won't be run or owned by Pullman Square. "It isn't something that's an advertising venture at Pullman Square, it is actually a revenue generating center for people... it's not like throwing your money into a hole saying, 'I want to put my name on the scoreboard,' you're buying the scoreboard," Brudy said of the ultimate partner who will own and run the sign, "this is something that you share in the profits, or equally share in the profits, so it's not like you're throwing your money away, and when it's paid back, you're still getting money the rest of your life,"
"This is something that you had... (when the sign was originally planned) Ma and Pa can still get in." (afford to advertise on the jumbotron,)."I won't have it any other way," said Brudy. "Absolutely not. Without the little people in the world, and we're all little people, you're nothing."
Originally planned to be both built and run by Paris Signs, the maker of some 90% of the signs on storefronts in Pullman Square, that's now less likely. DRB Group's Brudy said, "I won't comment on that, but we'll of course work with the people of Huntington first, before we would go outside of Huntington."
Meanwhile...back at Moe's Southwest Grill...Barb Wood was inside her former digs Thursday, scope-ing, and scheming to reclaim her piece of the Pullman puzzle before the holidays kick in for real.
November 16th, 2007, 04:02 AM
Art plans could help improve riverfront (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1036976732)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, The Herald-Dispatch, November 12, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- If the Young Professionals Committee has anything to do with it, the floodwall at the 10th Street entrance to Harris Riverfront Park will no longer be a drab gray when next summer rolls around.
The YPC, a subcommittee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, has secured $18,000 from the Cabell County Commission and hopes for another $18,000 from Huntington City Council. It will use that money to purchase its first slabs of concrete art, said Chris Tatum, assistant county manager who is community affairs liaison for the YPC.
The concrete art would be created by a company called Concrete ARTFORMS out of Charleston and designed by Marshall University art students.
Jonathan Cox, associate professor of art at Marshall and coordinator of the sculpture department, said he plans to have students in his 3-D design class and his beginning sculpture class create some possibilities for their final project of the semester. He also may have students in his spring semester classes work up some ideas for their first project.
"I think Huntington deserves to have some stimulating and energizing public art," Cox said. "There are so many available spaces and possibilities for it, it will be great to see more of it appear."
He pointed out that the Vietnam Memorial in Washington was designed in 1981 by an art student from Yale, Maya Lin.
"I have no idea what the budget would be, but I hope (the student who comes up with the winning design) will have the opportunity to make some money," Cox said. "Art for free is a flawed concept."
He also hopes the student could be involved in the actual making of the project.
"It will be great learning, from a design point of view, but the civic involvement will be wonderful," he said.
The Young Professionals got the project started as a way to continue the beautification of Pullman Square.
"Our goal was more or less to enhance the Pullman Square area so that it's not just a drab floodwall," Tatum said. "I think we're going to get some interesting ideas."
Tatum said the YPC estimated each panel of concrete art could cost $15,000 to $17,000 and that with about 21 panels needed, the total project could be about $360,000. The good thing about concrete art, he said, is that while looking great, it's also low-maintenance. There's a sealant over the artwork that makes it easy to clean off dirt and graffiti.
He hopes that once the community sees how much it adds to the downtown, local businesses will be willing to sponsor additional concrete art panels. Plaques with the names of the contributors could be placed on the donated panels, Tatum said.
Artist Jim Moore of Concrete ARTFORMS (www.concreteartforms.com) has worked with concrete art for 22 years and done projects for cities across the United States. The work has included not only panels for floodwalls but wall art for universities, parks, schools and other facilities. He's never worked with Huntington, but he'd like to. Taking children's classes at the Huntington Museum of Art during the summers was how he got interested in art.
"I grew up in Huntington and I particularly would like to see something nice happen there," Moore said.
He's looking forward to seeing what Marshall students come up with. Moore said he'd like to have some meetings, and he envisions that the final product may be a combination of an art student's design and some of his thoughts.
"We may hit on something that's absolutely phenomenal that would put Huntington on the map," Moore said. "All kinds of things could be done there.
"Beautifying the city will do nothing but enhance the city and make it more interesting for outside investors to come in."
He likes the idea of celebrating history at the riverfront.
"We need to build Huntington's past up to lead toward the future," he said.
He just cautions the community to be patient. It could take years to get the floodwall completed and looking as great as it can.
Cox also has done a number of public art projects. Two in the works now are a 19-foot sculpture for the College of Creative Art at West Virginia University, as well as some wall sculptures and a 24-foot stainless steel piece for the police station in Richmond, Va.
"Most things like this, they issue a call to artists and publicize the opportunity, and artists respond," Cox said.
They ask for an RFQ, a request for qualifications. Artists then submit examples of their work and resumes, and a design committee will narrow the field and then request a proposal. Cox was asked to go to Richmond and do a slide presentation to describe his proposal and give examples of his work.
"With public art, one of the exciting things to me is the art itself reaches people who will perhaps never venture into a gallery or museum," he said. "It's right in the flow of life. I like that."
He suggests the city set up a committee that could identify sites for public art projects. Once a budget is established, the committee could follow that systematic process and spice up the city.
"Art can be a very stimulating element, as far as the vitality of downtown," Cox said. "We've all seen how Huntington has responded to Pullman Square and the reinvigoration of the city, and I think a lot can be done with the riverfront. I hope that can be developed further. There are a lot of options.
"I don't know how the funding would come about for these things, but there's usually money for a good idea. I do know that."
November 16th, 2007, 06:32 PM
Hospital's staff pleased with tower (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1524961857)
By Bill Rosenberger, The Herald-Dispatch, November 15, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- Hundreds of Cabell Huntington Hospital employees on Wednesday and Thursday got a sneak peek at the new North Tower. And it was overwhelmingly a hit with them.
"I'm very proud of it, and the community will be very proud of it," dietitian Susan Hale said.
Members of the community will get their chance to see the new tower today, when a "grand opening" that involves a ceremony and open house takes place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Hale, a 25-year hospital employee, will work in the new intensive care unit on the fourth floor with colleagues Libby Saunders and Vallery Rice.
All three said the most important thing is that patients will feel more comfortable with the larger rooms and a soothing atmosphere.
"The rooms look like hotel rooms," said Rice, who just started at Cabell Huntington Hospital last week. "It will make their stay better, because who wants to be in the hospital."
Hospital President and CEO Brent A. Marsteller said community members will be the ones who will truly benefit from the expansion.
"Our focus is always on our patients and how we can serve them better," he said. "In many cases, a hospital stay is a trying time for patients and their families. Now we hope to make them more comfortable by offering them brand new, state-of-the-art rooms and waiting areas with all the amenities they need."
The $85 million, five-story tower took about two years to construct. It includes neonatal intensive care unit rooms, oncology patient rooms, intensive care unit rooms, labor and delivery rooms, post-surgical patient rooms and a first-floor emergency room complete with trauma care, X-ray, triage and exam rooms.
In all, there are more than 100 additional patient rooms spanning four floors. The hospital is putting the finishing touches on the North Tower, as equipment and furniture are still arriving. Most of the tower will open within the next couple of months.
November 18th, 2007, 05:32 AM
Shopping Downtown First (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/071117-rutherford-localshoppingdowntown.html)
Remember Glories Past, Discover New Glamour
By Tony Rutherford, Huntington News Network, November 17, 2007
Huntington, WV (HNN) - No longer the premiere destination for gift shopping, most older downtowns have seen their vast array of department stores, clothing shops, shoe fitters, furniture displays, music stores and record album (remember those?) retailers, as well as their soda fountains, movie theatres, and entertainment venues go the way of the dodo bird in recent times.
As the shopping season begins, you are warmly invited to let curiosity get the best of you by wandering Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues and 9th Street in Downtown Huntington. True, names such as J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Bradshaw Diehl, Anderson Newcomb, Stone and Thomas, McCroys, H.L. Green, S.S. Kresgee, O.J. Morrison, Star Furniture, Capitol Furniture, Nassar's, and Kurzmann’s will be missing. Davidson's Records, Opus One, Sights and Sounds, National Record Mart, Nick's News, The Pied Piper, Kenney Music, Marie's Dress Shop, The Smart Shop, Dunhill’s, Foard and Harwood and Amsbury’s also will not be found, but bring along one of the older, (older than 30-something,) folks you know and let them give you a verbal tour of Huntington’s Yesteryear.
Meantime, the nostalgic reflection and visitation of the site of the "We Are Marshall" movie set will place you at or near both new and old merchants, including Bliss, George H. Wright, Wender’s and the Village Collection, as well as George’s Tailoring, Diane’s Merle Norman (and wigs) inside the historic Galleria (a.k.a. Huntington Arcade), and T.K. Dodrill jewelers.
As you near Pullman Square, you’ll pass Funky Friends, Le Cooke Store, (where Smart Shop used to live,) the newly opened Pet Palace, the unique Downtown Depot, and C.H. Reushlein's next to its historic clock. Nearby Mack and Dave’s offers jewelry, musical instruments, music lessons, hunting gear, electronics, and appliances.
Then, in Pullman Square, you’ll find Edible Arrangements, Empire Books, Inspired, Heels, Runway Couture, and Chico’s (opening Monday, November 19th,) along the square, as well as restaurants from Max and Erma’s to Nicky D's Italian Chophouse, (also opening soon,) on the second level, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Uno Chicago Grill, Philly Cheesesteak, and this month Moe’s Southwest Grill returns to the down low,(seven former employees have been rehired.)
Nearby, the Marshall Hall of Fame Café, Rio Grande, Woody's Surfside Cafe, Arthur’s, Rocco’s, Quizno’s, Jim’s Spaghetti House, and another old favorite, Chili Willis, beckon.
Your final ‘destination’ could be the only theatre in 50 miles with digital projection and a 3-D showing of the updating and re-inventing of the epic English middle-ages poem, “Beowulf,” which tells of heroes, demons and dragons. The 16-screen Marquee Cinema Pullman will digitally show all of the season’s first run gifts from Hollywood, like “Fred Claus,” “Enchanted,” the “National Treasure” sequel, “The Last Man on Earth” and “The Golden Compass”, among others.
However, no one should forget the old gal on Fourth Avenue. The Keith Albee closed as a movie theatre, but reopened as a performing arts center with the partitions removed from the auditorium in time to host the “We Are Marshall” premiere.
Home now to the Huntington Symphony, Appalachian Film Festival, and Marshall Artists Series, the Artists Series has a melodious musical line up for 2008. And tickets to a live Broadway show on stage at the Keith would be cool stocking stuffers. The MAS line up includes “Movin Out,” “The Producers,” and “Hairspray,” as well as the classic “Little Women.”
November 18th, 2007, 05:34 AM
Cabell Huntington Hospital Unveils New Patient Tower (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/071116-seaton-localchhpatienttower.html)
Largest Non-Government Building Project Ever in Huntington
By Tony Seaton, Huntington News Network, November 16, 2007
Cabell Huntington Hospital showed off its newest addition to members of the public, office holders, and those responsible for making the $85 million dollar building a reality Friday morning.
Cabell Huntington's President and CEO Brent Marsteller said at the dedication and ribbon cutting that he considers the building such an advancement over the existing facility that it's almost a "brand new hospital."
The building has state-of-the-art everything and its new emergency department doubles the size of that important part of the hospital. The rooms are almost hotel-like in their size and amenities, such as flat panel TVs and large bathrooms. And they have good food, according to one speaker.
The building is 100 feet tall with nearly 175,000 square feet of floor space, and features patient rooms that all have large windows. Some rooms even include extra beds for family members who will be allowed to stay overnight in some instances. The new rooms increase the size of the hospital to 303 full-time staffed beds. There are also three new trauma rooms, 38 new intensive care rooms, and 18 new oncology rooms.
The keynote speaker was former White House press secretary and cancer survivor, Tony Snow, "an informed consumer when it comes to health care," he said, and he held the audience in rapt attention as he sang the praises of the new facility. His background as a former Fox News host shone through as he spoke without notes for about 15 minutes on the chilly, if sunny, morning.
Snow told the audience he'd been in town for a couple days and that he was excited for the community and that he himself was excited to be a part of the ceremony. "this is a seed for other buildings and efforts to come," Snow said. He said the building, is "not only an act of commitment, it's not only an act of giving, it's not only concrete and steel, it's not only two years and ten days after the ground-breaking- suddenly you've got a new facility... nope! The most important thing is this is an act of love," he said. "The only thing that matters in all of our lives, when we cast everything else aside is love, and to be here is part of a celebration of that, to see it manifested in a new $85 million dollar building...it's really special."
One of the most talked about and sure to be enjoyed features of the new facility: all rooms are private. "Private rooms are a critical part of this whole new building and that was the (plan from the) start. The whole planning was 'we're going to have private rooms,'" said hospital president and CEO Brent Marsteller.
Cabell Huntington recently has renewed its emphasis on stopping the spread of drug resistant bacteria inside the hospital with a program called "FIFO," for 'Foam In, Foam Out,' meaning, use the antibiotic foam dispensed in every patient room upon entering or leaving. Marsteller said the new private room design also emphasizes germ control. "Besides the fact that when I'm sick, I don't want to share storage with someone else, there are medical reasons too, with the infections that are going around, this is critical to keeping that under control."
Marsteller said the entire hospital will be 100% private rooms within the year.
The new North Patient Tower is on the cutting edge with its computer technology, and not a moment too soon, according to Marsteller. "One of the things that we've seen is health care has lagged behind the rest of the world, and other industries, in automation. Now we're starting to catch up, quickly, and we built this building with that in mind so we can accommodate what we're doing now, and in the future," Marsteller said. "We just went through a computer conversion, so that we're moving towards a completely paperless system; this building was designed to help accommodate that."
On the subject of health, President Bush recently said, "people have access to health care in America...you just go to an emergency room." To that, Marsteller said, "that comment was unfortunately right on target, it's not a good comment, but it's right on target. There are 50 million people who don't have insurance in this country, they're under-insured or have no insurance. They have health care, they have access to it, they just come to any hospital in the country, hospitals cannot turn people away, they treat people regardless of their ability to pay. So, they come here, get the care and then we eat it, and pass it on to paying patients. It's the worst kind of indirect tax."
Marsteller said that recognizing that, the addition of the new patient tower doubled the size of their emergency department. "We see 55,000 patients a year, so we have a tremendously active ER, so we're trying to look towards the future, but also trying to accommodate what business we have now," Marsteller said.
"Our commitment is to our patients, and this new hospital is clear evidence of that commitment," he said.
November 18th, 2007, 05:35 AM
City to start work on plan for riverfront (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x896778857)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, November 16, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- The city of Huntington will start working on a 10-year master plan early next year for Harris Riverfront Park.
Mayor David Felinton and Administration and Finance Director Brandi Jones made the announcement Friday at the beginning of a stakeholders meeting to talk about the long-term needs of the park.
"We need a master plan so we don't make improvements that don't go anywhere. We need everything to connect," Felinton said. "It's a beautiful riverfront with a lot of potential. Its design is good, but it reflects a different time."
The master plan will reflect the redevelopment of the downtown and the increase in residential development, Felinton said.
It's too early to determine whether the city will write the master plan or whether it will hire a consulting firm to do it, Jones said. Regardless of who's in charge, they will have plenty of ideas to consider if the stakeholders who attended the meeting have their way.
During the hourlong brainstorming session, government officials, business owners and residents talked about infrastructure improvements for the park and how they would like to see it used in the future. The only rule was that money was not an issue. At least for now.
Jim McClelland, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, said running and biking trails should be the top recreational need for the park.
"The concept of connecting the park to other parks with hiking and biking trails needs to be implemented," he said.
David Duffield, a Huntington attorney and owner of Holderby's Landing, a restaurant and bar located on the eastern end of the riverfront, said there should be a floodwall mural that depicts the historical and cultural impact that the Ohio River has had on Huntington. The idea generated most of the discussion during the meeting.
Michele Craig, executive director of the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission, agreed that the floodwall needs some color, but said murals require ongoing maintenance.
"Remember that every element you choose for the park should be able to endure the elements and be low maintenance," she said. "And low maintenance doesn't mean no maintenance. Whatever you choose, there is a budget to follow."
Duffield also said the eastern end of the park is ripe for condominium development. The bottom two or three floors of the condos would be used for parking, which not only would alleviate concerns about flooding, but also would give residents a better view of the river.
"I've had several friends tell me they would like to buy one," he said.
With some detailed planning, condominiums on the riverfront are doable, said Mike Worley, chief planning officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington office. He said the Corps, which owns the 24-acre park, is open to any suggestion or idea.
"The only absolute for us is that you are not going to take down the floodwall," he said.
However, the floodwall entrances to the park could be widened, or an additional entrance could be carved out, Worley said.
Worley also suggested that Huntington partner with other cities that have riverfront parks and form a heritage trail of sorts for riverboats.
Other ideas mentioned during the meeting included water taxis, fountains and more events at the park such as blues and jazz festivals.
There will be one more stakeholders meeting in January before the city begins work on the master plan, Jones said. The master plan process will include several public hearings as well as a survey component, she said.
November 20th, 2007, 06:09 AM
Chico's opens at Pullman Square (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/business/x2124705099)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, November 19, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- Chico's is now open at Pullman Square.
The women's clothing retailer is located beneath Max & Erma's and offers a variety of casual, professional and dressy clothing targeting women about 30 and older.
It's the first national women's retailer to open at Pullman.
"We'll be a catalyst," store manager Ann Hughes said. "I think Chico's will help make Pullman Square a destination for shopping as well as everything else."
A ribbon-cutting took place at 10 a.m. Monday with Hughes, district manager Linda Jacobs and Verna Gibson of Huntington, who has been a member of the Chico's board of directors since the company went public in 1993.
The store hosted an invitation-only party on Sunday. Proceeds of the party will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington, which indicates how active the store will be in the community, said Gibson, former CEO of The Limited who started her retail career in Huntington.
If the reaction of the guests at Sunday's party was any indication, it will be a successful Chico's location, Gibson said.
"Women of Huntington have great taste and like to dress nicely," she said. Whether you're looking for preppy items or some sparkle, the shop has a great selection, she added.
Chico's appeals to women of all sizes, whether they're size zero and don't want to look like a kid, or whether they have some curves, Gibson said.
"We appeal to real women," she said. "We're all beautiful."
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The opening of Chico's, plans for Franky D's Italian Chop House on the second floor and a new Community Trust Bank under construction leaves about 8,000 square feet left to be occupied at the 140,000-square-foot entertainment complex, said Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners, which leases space to businesses at Pullman.
"Other retailers are already looking at it," Dargusch said.
Dr. Joseph Touma, who has developed buildings across 3rd Avenue from Pullman Square, expressed excitement about Pullman's growing success.
"With this boost and Chico's here, I'm so optimistic," he said. "I really believe this will be a powerful thing that will help with the development of downtown Huntington."
December 12th, 2007, 03:31 PM
Plan unveiled for Ritter Park playground (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x178660890)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, December 11, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- After two years of planning and fundraising, the new playground at Ritter Park is one step closer.
Matthew Plecity with the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architecture firm based in Pittsburgh said at the public meeting held at the Room with a View on Tuesday that the Ritter Park Island Playground Project may start as soon as the spring.
With features like climbing boulders, a zip line, bongos, a hammock and a slide, Plecity said the new playground will be a state-of-the-art project.
To protect kids on the playground, Plecity said they are considering using a combination of rubberized and artificial turf surfaces. Building materials for the elements are also intended to be safe for rough and tumble kids. The playground will be located in the area adjacent to the current playground in Ritter Park.
Conceptually, Plecity said, they wanted to create an island for "runaway kids," with each area being appealing to everyone. Instead of including typical playground equipment, the new island will includes elements more often found in New York. Plecity noted that the design for the island was modeled after a park in Portland, Ore.
James L. McClelland, director of the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District, said accessibility to all of the playground areas was crucial when developing the plans. All areas and activities in the playground island are accessible to everyone.
"It is a universal design that provides activities for all different age levels and physical abilities," Plecity said. "We didn't specifically design activities for people in wheelchairs, but activities that can be enjoyed by everyone."
Beth McClelland, chairman of the project, said though the design will bring an interesting and fun playground to kids in the area, it will also benefit the city as a whole.
"When people consider moving to a new city they look at schools, neighborhoods and parks," she said. "This playground island gives one more reason for people with children to move to Huntington."
She also noted that the new playground may also boost physical activity for children in a state where obesity is rampant. With items like climbing boulders, Beth McClelland believed it will be a very popular spot for kids.
Beth McClelland said fundraising activities have brought $248,000 to the project with an additional $23,000 from an endowment fund. More money is expected to be raised before they break ground. The estimated total project cost is $322,580.
December 14th, 2007, 02:36 AM
Intensive care units open in new North Tower (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x813235637)
By Bill Rosenberger, Herald-Dispatch, December 12, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- Although it took two years to build the new North Tower at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the most critical moments take place this morning when 15 patients are transferred into the new fourth-floor adult intensive care unit.
Nurse manager Dennie Letcher said at least 35 people from the night and day shifts will start the process at 6 a.m. and hope to be completed by 8:30 a.m. But, she admitted, it won't be easy.
"They are more critically ill and have to have more equipment moved with them," Letcher said.
Once they are moved, though, the patients should feel much more comfortable. The rooms are twice the size and feature large windows. Instead of a traditional headwall, each room has two columns, providing functional support for monitors, ventilators and other equipment required for treatment.
The fourth floor has 38 total rooms, 20 for ICU patients and 18 for cardiac ICU and surgical ICU patients. Until today, those three ICUs were housed on three separate floors. Now they share one floor. That, said the clinical coordinator for the surgical and cardiac ICU, ultimately means better care.
"I think there's a coordinated effort to meet all the needs of the critically ill," Leshia Chinn said. "And being in close proximity will help us do that."
Chinn also said the entire ICU shares doctors, so being on the same floor enables them to check on patients more often and in a more orderly fashion.
The ICU treats medically ill patients, such as a senior citizen with pneumonia, while the cardiac ICU takes patients with heart problems.
The surgical ICU takes patients with either severe trauma or those who need critical care monitoring after surgery. Even those distinctions are fairly new. The ICU separated in 2004, Letcher said.
Nearly 100 employees work in the combined intensive care units.
This is the second of a three-phase transition to opening the floors of the North Tower. The emergency room, trauma center and second-floor post-surgical unit opened the last week of November. The labor and delivery and neonatal floors are scheduled to open in mid-January.
December 30th, 2007, 07:40 AM
Broken streetlights a problem for city (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1797146818)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, December 28, 2007
HUNTINGTON -- Revitalization has taken downtown Huntington by storm, but you might have trouble seeing it at night.
Numerous streetlights in the downtown's core business district are not working, and city officials are giving a number of possible explanations, one of which is that they do not check the lights on a regular basis.
The Herald-Dispatch sent out reporters Thursday night to see how many streetlights were out between 3rd and 5th avenues and 8th and 11th streets. According to the results, about one in four are not working in the survey area.
There are two types of streetlights in this area. One is a square-shaped light that sits on the end of a tall, brown pole. These lights, known to city officials as "shoebox" lights, date back to urban renewal efforts in the 1970s and are maintained by the city.
The other type is a black, antique-looking light that lines 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. These newer lights have been put up in the past three years as part of streetscaping work in the downtown. Maintaining them is a joint effort of Pullman Square and the city, Public Works Director Chuck Cornett said.
Of the 143 shoebox lights in the survey area, 52, or 36 percent, are not working. By contrast, only two of the 79 newer lights are out.
The shoebox lights that are not working are scattered across the survey area, though there are a few concentrated pockets. For instance, half of the 14 lights on 5th Avenue between 10th and 11th streets are out, while three of the four lights at the intersection of 8th Street and 3rd Avenue are not working. Also, pedestrians walking down 10th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues will find themselves in the dark, as five of the eight streetlights are out.
There could be several reasons for the malfunctioning lights, Cornett said. One possibility is that power lines were damaged by utility and construction crews digging underground. Another is that the power grid that controls street lights in the downtown has short circuited, he said.
"If it's a case of malfunctioning streetlights that are scattered across the whole area, that tells me there are burnt-out bulbs," Cornett said. "That's a problem on our part."
Cornett said the Public Works Department would begin looking into the matter immediately. The department does not perform a routine maintenance check on streetlights, but that will soon change, Mayor David Felinton said.
"It's pretty clear that we do need to have a regular maintenance check to get the status of these lights," he said. "How often that check will occur, I will let Mr. Cornett and Public Works make that determination."
A lack of sufficient lighting in the downtown has caught the attention of others. Deron Runyon, tax and loan manager for the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone, noticed the light outages recently and began conducting his own survey of the downtown area. He said he hopes to eventually share the information with city officials so they can get to the root of the problem.
"I think it all goes back to regular maintenance," Runyon said. "The city should either do a regular maintenance check on these lights or hire (American Electric Power) to do it.
"In terms of security and safety, the downtown shouldn't be any different than the mall. If you went to the mall and half of the lights in the parking lot were out, you would think something was wrong."
The Empowerment Zone will circulate a petition among property owners in early January to gauge interest in creating a business improvement district. Property owners in the district would assess a tax on themselves in return for maintenance and security services, among other things. Property owners would decide how to spend the money. If there is enough support for such a district and City Council approves it, property owners could use their tax money on enhanced lighting, Runyon said.
January 3rd, 2008, 09:11 AM
January 3rd, 2008, 05:37 PM
My photos of Htgn are here: http://urbanup.net/index.php?q=cities&p=5&photos=1
I have renderings saved to my HD and plan to upload them when I get back to my main computer in a few days (I'm currently on the road all over the place) of the new Patient Tower.
January 7th, 2008, 03:42 AM
Riverfront park plans advance (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1748116974)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, January 5, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- New committees were formed and city officials spelled out plans to seek federal money as more plans were laid Saturday to improve Harris Riverfront Park.
At a meeting involving city and community representatives, three committee chairmen were selected to lead efforts to increase volunteer efforts, bring in new recreational activities and beautify the park.
Robin Howell was named the landscaping committee chair, James Bowen was named the recreation committee chair and Jan Petties was named the playground committee chair.
They are now responsible for gathering information on what can be done to improve the park in their respective areas. Among new ideas discussed were creating a removable wall along the river, planting different shrubs and flowers and refurbishing the playground.
Saturday's meeting was the latest of several that have been held since October, when The Herald-Dispatch and WSAZ NewsChannel 3 hosted a community forum to gather input on ideas for developing Huntington's riverfront. Afterward, a group of community members pledged their time and ideas to bring the riverfront back to life.
At Saturday's meeting, Howell, a Huntington resident, said adding a few rose gardens and flower patches could add a lot to Harris Riverfront Park.
"Beautiful flowers add color and also attract attention and develop tourism," Howell said. "Hopefully we can add a few gardens at the park and move throughout the city with them."
Bowen, with the Adopt Your Block organization, suggested areas in the park be dedicated for recreational activities. The public, Bowen said, would enjoy having spaces reserved for horseshoes, bocce ball and cornhole. Mayor David Felinton said the city could benefit greatly from the recreational sites and they also should be affordable.
"I'm excited about the new ideas because a lot of them can be done reasonably and inexpensively. The ideas (discussed) aren't things that are going to break the bank," Felinton said.
In order for the city to receive additional money to carry out future plans, Felinton said the city will meet with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, and Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd this week.
With the help of politicians and community members, the mayor said he believes a lot can be accomplished.
Felinton added that the committee is moving the riverfront forward by providing new ideas with different perspectives.
"There's only so much government can do. It's exciting when people roll up their sleeves and make things happen," he said.
Currently there are several small projects in the works that will serve to beautify the park. Through a $1,000 donation the city has recently purchased several flags that will be hung in the park. Also several benches have been removed and are being refurbished in time for spring.
Felinton said the committee will continue to meet once a month.
The city plans to develop a 10-year master plan for improving the park and will have a stakeholders meeting in January before the city begins work on the master plan. The master plan process will include several public hearings as well as a survey component, according to Brandi Jones, the city's director of administration and finance.
January 7th, 2008, 06:55 PM
'People don't want to go home' (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/200801064)
Cabell Huntington Hospital’s $85 million patient tower opens
By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette, January 7, 2007
^The 174,580-square-foot building — designed by Atlanta architects and built by a Columbus, Ohio, construction company — has four elevators and 228 rooms with windows. The tower is attached to the original hospital, which opened in 1956.
HUNTINGTON — Richard Cremeans figures he’s been admitted to hospitals at least 15 times during his life.
The 58-year-old Chesapeake, Ohio, resident says he’s never had a more comfortable stay than last week at Cabell Huntington Hospital’s new $85 million North Patient Tower.
Where to start? There’s a flat-screen television. Floor-to-ceiling window that allows sunlight to stream in. European-style bathroom. Sofa-sleeper. Storage space everywhere.
Cremeans’ private room was large enough to house a huddle of doctors and a gaggle of grandkids.
“If you’re going to be in the hospital, you may as well be comfortable,” said Cremeans, who stayed at Cabell Huntington eight days because of a blood clot in his leg. “This is the most comfortable hospital I’ve ever been in. The rooms are so accommodating.”
Perhaps his wife, Delora, summed it up best: “It’s almost like a hotel-type setting.”
The five-story, mostly privately funded North Patient Tower, which took two years to build, opened at the end of November.
The hospital’s emergency and trauma unit takes up the first floor. The second floor houses 38 patient beds — with 10 beds dedicated to people recovering from bariatric surgery.
The fourth floor includes the hospital’s regular, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.
The third floor — for labor and delivery — and fifth floor — neonatal intensive care unit — are expected to open by the end of this month.
Extra beds are being added in all the intensive care units.
“There is an increase in the need for intensive care because patients who come to the hospital are sicker and require a more intense level of care,” said Dr. David Denning, chairman of Marshall University School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.
The 174,580-square-foot building — designed by Atlanta architects and built by a Columbus, Ohio, construction company — has four elevators and 228 rooms with windows. The tower is attached to the original hospital, which opened in 1956.
More than 90 percent of Cabell Huntington’s rooms are expected to be private within the next two years.
The building also was designed with nurses in mind. On the second floor, there are four nurses’ stations.
Every patient room has a small window through which nurses can check on patients at night without entering and disturbing them. There’s a computer positioned between every two rooms. Also, there are cabinets for medications, clean sheets and laundry hampers that can be accessed from outside and inside patient rooms.
“Housekeeping only has to go in to mop the floor and empty the trash,” said Marsha Stack, nurse manager on North Patient Tower’s second floor. “My patient-satisfaction scores have zoomed. People don’t want to go home.”
The hallways are wide enough to play a game of touch football, patients joke, and the rooms feature “breakaway” doors, which swing open wide for easier transport of patients.
The tower’s designers also added special touches for patients’ families. There are “Starbucks-style” waiting rooms and “nutrition centers” with cabinets stocked with snacks and refrigerators filled with juices.
The rooms — even those in intensive care — have large windows that allow ample sunlight to enter.
“To have the light, it’s kind of therapeutic,” said Delora Cremeans.
The rooms are surprisingly quiet. Hallways are carpeted. Patients say they can’t hear the emergency helicopters that land on a pad beside the hospital.
Robert Cremeans said his hospital stay wasn’t just enjoyable because of the fresh paint, sparkling floors and spacious accommodations. He said hospital staff — from nurses to housekeepers — provided first-class service.
“You feel like the people around you care,” Cremeans said. “They never leave a room without saying, ‘If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.’”
January 13th, 2008, 02:21 AM
Talk about screwing Marshall over! WVU is receiving much funds in the record budget, while MU only receives pennies in comparison. I wonder if this has to do with Manchin's daughter's MBA being proven a fake at WVU?
Research plan pegs $15 million for Marshall (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x347335321)
By Ben Fields, Herald-Dispatch, January 11, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University's cut of a proposed $50 million state endowment for research will be 30 percent, or $15 million, if the school can match the funding, according to President Stephen Kopp.
The money was announced by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin in his State of the State address Wednesday.
Kopp said the proposal breaks down with 70 percent, or $35 million, going to West Virginia University and the rest going to Marshall.
However, to get the funding, both schools are required to match their portion of the endowment with private donations within five years.
If one school fails to do so, the other could get a portion of that school's allotment if it exceeds its own responsibility in private donations, Kopp explained in an interview Thursday.
"It's an incentive for both schools to surpass their goal in terms of private funds," Kopp said.
The endowment is one part of an initiative unveiled by Manchin on Wednesday called "Bucks for Jobs," the overall goal of which is to create and keep jobs in West Virginia.
The $50 million is expected to come from a projected $290 million budget surplus, though the plan must still be approved by the Legislature before it becomes a reality.
Money would not be paid to the universities from the endowment itself, but from the interest earned from the principal amount, meaning the funding could potentially continue in the future.
"It's a self-sustaining model that could continue year after year," Kopp said.
Kopp said the funding will help establish the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR), a plan he has envisioned for some time.
Though he initially said the MIIR program would require about $25 million from the state and $10 million from private sources, Kopp said the governor's plan also would put Marshall where it needs to be to make the institute a reality.
"You're talking about $15 million from the state, and then another $15 million in private funds," he said. "When you consider the $5 million ... we received from the state last year ... we're getting pretty close."
Kopp said he isn't worried about meeting the demand for private donations to match the state money, pointing to Marshall's "The Bridge" campaign, which has raised more than $8 million for capital projects at the university in a matter of months.
As for what the MIIR would do, Kopp sees it as a non-profit subsidiary of the university where specialized professors can work year-round on research projects. After a time, the research scientists would be responsible for funding half of their own salary through grants they obtain, which would free up more money to hire more researchers. Plus, the research itself is expected to create new business through commercial applications of research findings.
"It's been projected that within the first decade, this would create 1,100 new jobs," Kopp said. "In the second decade, you're looking at 3,400 new jobs."
He said the institute wouldn't conflict with the research mission of the university, and that "the two enterprises will co-mingle."
"It's a tremendous opportunity for undergraduate students to get involved in research," he said. "The point is, we're increasing the capacity for undergraduate students to do that, and we're not doing it at the expense of the quality of our undergraduate programs."
If Manchin's endowment plan is approved, Kopp said Marshall could have the MIIR running within a year.
"The key is to get the people on board to do it," he said. "We've been pursuing several very key (research scientists). We haven't landed any yet, but it only takes one and then more will come.
"I think within the next two-to-three years you will see some very major changes."
January 25th, 2008, 03:32 AM
MU student center fountain to be moved today (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2119340534)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-DispatchJanuary 23, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- The fountain that stands on the plaza of the Marshall University Memorial Student Center in remembrance of the 75 victims of the 1970 plane crash will be moved this afternoon in preparation for a series of structural and aesthetic makeovers.
Mark Cutlip, director of the university's Physical Plant Department, said several local companies will be involved in the renovation project that includes concrete repairs, decorative granite additions, support enhancements and repairs to the fountain's foundation. Between 2 and 3 p.m., a crane will relocate the fountain 40 feet from its current location so repairs can be performed.
The plane crash monument located in Spring Hill Cemetery also will receive a makeover, Cutlip said. The steps leading to the monument and surrounding benches will be upgraded and made safer and more accessible.
The projects are expected to cost $200,000 and be completed by the first week of April.
"The memorial is the most significant thing we have on campus because of (the plane crash's) impact on the school and the community," Cutlip said. "It's important we keep it maintained because all take great pride in these monuments."
The Marshall University Foundation will be in charge of fundraising efforts to cover the cost of the projects.
Cutlip said the idea for the renovations came in early 2007, when a structural engineer determined that the base of the fountain could be potentially unstable. After 36 years, Cutlip said, some improvements were needed.
The fountain, installed in 1972, stands more than 13 feet high and weighs 6,500 pounds and was created by sculptor Harry Bertoia. Cutlip said none of the artistic elements, including the oxidation of the copper, will be removed or negatively affected.
To support the renovation project, contact Kristi Arrowood, director of special projects for the Marshall University Foundation, at (304) 696-3505.
January 29th, 2008, 02:20 AM
Major Renovations Begin on Marshall Plane Crash Memorials (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/080125-staff-planecrashmemorial.html)
Student Center Fountain, Cemetery Monument Get Upgrades
Huntingtonnews.net, January 25, 2008
Huntington, WV (HNN) – Renovations on the fountain that stands on the plaza of the Marshall University Memorial Student Center in remembrance of the 75 victims of the 1970 plane crash began in a big way this week.
On Thursday afternoon, workers used a 350-ton crane, a smaller crane and two tractor trailers of other heavy equipment to carefully lift the fountain and rest it on a temporary platform east of the student plaza so a new foundation can be built.
“A year ago, we had a structural engineer inspect the fountain and he said we probably had 18 months until it would become unstable,” said Mark Cutlip, director of the university’s Physical Plant Department. “The base of the fountain is in very bad shape.”
In 1972, when the fountain was installed, the spray of water went all the way to the top. Through the years, damage has occurred to the water pump, which also will be upgraded, Cutlip said. The sculpture part of the fountain already has undergone restorations to damaged surface areas. The fountain pool has received a high-pressure water cleaning compliments of Veolia Environmental Services.
Another monument to the victims of the crash is located in Spring Hill Cemetery on the common grave of six players. The steps leading to the monument and surrounding benches will be upgraded and made safer and more accessible.
Planners anticipate that both the fountain and the cemetery projects will be complete by the first week of April. The renovation project’s estimated cost is $200,000.
The Marshall University Foundation, with support and help from a committee of family members of the crash victims, alumni and several former Marshall football players, will spearhead fundraising efforts to cover the costs of the renovations.
“Because of the significance of the fountain, the cemetery memorial and what they both mean to all of us, we want to keep them in good working order and beautiful for years to come,” said Ron Area, CEO of the foundation.
To support the renovation project, contact Kristi Arrowood, director of special projects for the Marshall University Foundation, at 304.696.3505.
The crash on Saturday, Nov. 14, 1970, occurred when a DC-9 jetliner returning Marshall home from its football game at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., clipped some treetops just short of Tri-State Airport and went down. Seventy-five members of the football team, coaching staff and community were killed. Every year the fountain is turned off on that day during a ceremony hosted by the Student Government Association.
More than 13 feet high and weighing 6,500 pounds, the fountain was created by sculptor Harry Bertoia. It was his hope that the fountain would "commemorate the living - rather than death - on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging so as to express upward growth, immortality and eternality."
The bronze plaque bears this inscription: "They shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever, and this memorial records their loss to the university and to the community."
January 29th, 2008, 04:29 AM
Councilman wants school to stay in city (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1454726333)
By Bryan Chambers, The Herald-Dispatch, January 27, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- When you take a school out of a community, it loses its support and pride from neighbors, Huntington City Councilman Jim Insco says.
That's why Insco is sponsoring a resolution at tonight's council meeting that requests that the Cabell County Board of Education keep a planned consolidated middle school within city limits.
Insco's resolution refers to the Board of Education's plans to build a new school on land surrounding the Cabell County Career Technical Center, which is outside city limits. The school would consolidate Beverly Hills and Enslow middle schools.
The school board must submit a proposal to the state School Building Authority by December.
Insco has said his concerns about the new school are not limited to whether it will be located within city limits. He also has noted that the Board of Education has no redevelopment plans for the existing schools.
Cabell County Schools Superintendent William Smith released a statement Friday saying the issue comes down to a lack of available land inside city limits.
"While the Board is not opposed to a new middle school building inside the Huntington City limits, I, the administrative team and the Board of Education have explored the possibility of enough available land suitable for a middle school within the city and have found none," he said.
City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 800 5th Ave. Here's a look at other items on the agenda:
February 17th, 2008, 04:31 PM
Larry E. Ellis Architect, Inc. hits 30-year milestone (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x112302794)
By Colin Thorn, Herald-Dispatch, February 16, 2008
HUNTINGTON — Most architects are known for their extensive blueprints and drafts on paper, but Larry E. Ellis Architect, Inc. has been using the city of Huntington as a blueprint for 30 years.
The Huntington-based architectural firm is responsible for designing or renovating many familiar buildings in Huntington and the Tri-State. Local landmarks such as the Huntington Renaissance Center (formerly Huntington High), the YMCA May Building on 10th Ave., Ceredo City Hall and Huntington Medical Plaza were either designed or renovated by Ellis. Forming the business in 1978, Larry Ellis measures his success in the architecture industry by his experience in the field.
“It isn’t often that one hits a 30-year milestone in business or anything else,” Ellis said.“I’m still going and it is unlikely I’ll ever quit this profession.”
According to Ellis, the architecture industry has undergone drastic changes with the invention of computer-aided design/drafting, commonly referred to as CAD. Ellis’ firm has been using CAD production for more than 15 years.
“It helps us quite a bit. Changes can be made much more easily and everything is more legible with a computer,” Ellis said. “Years ago, all drafting was done by hand, with pencil or ink on paper, then on cloth, then on mylar. We still use paper or mylar medium, but with ink lines applied via electronic plotters or printers.”
Smaller architectural firms like Ellis’ make use of hired consultants when planning projects. Mechanical, electrical and structural engineers are often utilized, making projects a collaborative effort. Ellis says he also works closely with interior designers at times to discuss space planning. Oftentimes, the interior designer will be hired by the architectural firm and also have contracts with the owner of the structure.
Since architectural firms make use of consultants, smaller firms like Ellis’ often do not regularly has large staffs. Ellis says the number of employees has been as high as 15 people, but he keeps about five workers, which he says is common.
“Local firms must seek work elsewhere just to support very small staffs,” Ellis said. “I rarely need more than a few people in order to handle the available local work load.”
Benjy Steele is the former owner of Benjy’s Harley-Davidson, which is now Charlie’s Harley Davidson. Steele worked with Ellis extensively during the designing and building of the motorcycle shop’s inception and additions. Upon finishing the project in 2005, Steele called Ellis for an addition to his personal home.
“He’s the only guy I’ve ever worked with that had 20/20 vision down the road. Everything was detailed,” said Steele. “Any of my crazy ideas, he just got out his magic crayons and made it perfect.”
In addition to operating his architectural firm, Ellis started a residential subdivision 15 years ago. Pleasant Valley Estates is a 105-acre, 75-home site located one mile from I-64 on 5th Street. He has already sold out Phase A and B and started selling the 55 acres of Phase C. Although Ellis said most architects don’t do this because it is an “arduous task,” he describes it as a hobby turned mainstream.
According to Jack Jones, former director of the Huntington YMCA, Ellis has taken part in four or five renovation projects with the YMCA over the past 30 years which expanded one location to three. Jones said one of the main concerns of the renovations of the May building location on 10th Avenue was that the building was originally a church. The main goal was to preserve the historical structure, yet create a modern design for the interior. Although they met through business, Jones says he still maintains a great relationship with Ellis and they talk all the time.
“He should be proud and Huntington should be pretty appreciative of the contribution he’s made,” said Jones. “Larry is an honest, respected professional, a loyal friend, and a great husband, father and grandfather. That is a pretty good legacy.”
February 17th, 2008, 04:33 PM
Board to seek options for school site (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1846659833)
By Bill Rosenberger, Herald-Dispatch, February 16, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Some community members are unhappy. The city doesn't approve. But Cabell County Schools officials say there's no other choice.
The point of contention is where to put a new consolidated school to replace Enslow and Beverly Hills middle schools.
Everyone will have their say Thursday night when Huntington city officials, neighborhood associations and parents head to the Cabell County Board of Education building to share their opinions and offer suggestions.
Superintendent William Smith said the meeting should help lead to an eventual outcome for a problem school officials have been trying to solve for the past two years.
School administrators' answer has always turned up the same: The two schools must be consolidated and the only piece of property they feel is feasible is on the roughly 50 acres of property they own off Norway Avenue that already includes the Cabell County Career Technology Center. That property is not inside Huntington.
Smith said the community either isn't listening or won't accept that.
"We want the community to know we have searched for the past two years," Smith said.
The school board has taken no votes on the issue.
At the meeting Thursday, people will be able to sign up to speak about where to put the school, and the board will listen to all ideas offered, Smith said. Then the board will take a short recess, come back and ask questions, weigh pros and cons and derive which, if any, ideas they might look into further. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Board of Education building, 2850 5th Ave.
The Huntington City Council has passed a resolution opposing construction of a middle school outside city limits. Council member Jim Insco, who pushed for the resolution, said he understands the need to consolidate the two schools, both housed in buildings that are outdated and non-compliant with modern laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Everybody wants a new school, and we know the importance of it," Insco said. "But let's keep it in the city."
Insco has suggested the Veterans Memorial Field House and its adjoining field. But without adding neighboring property along with it, the school would have to sit on just 3.35 acres of land next to 5th Avenue and its four lanes of traffic.
The state's School Building Authority, which is the entity the school board will be petitioning for funds to build a new middle school, recommends a middle school have 11 usable acres, plus an extra acre for every 100 students above 600. With enrollment projections at just above 700, Assistant Superintendent Mike O'Dell said a minimum of 12 acres is needed.
However, he said the SBA will grant waivers for schools built in cities on smaller plots of land. But SBA money cannot be used to purchase land or demolish buildings that are on the land. The SBA also has to approve the site, a fairly new stipulation in the guidelines, he said.
The Field House is owned and operated by Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and would have to enter into a deal with the school board for the property, which was originally given to the park district by the school board in September 1999.
Director Jim McClelland said as of Wednesday, no one from the city or Cabell County Schools had contacted him about that possibility and wouldn't speculate on whether a deal could be done. He did, however, admit that the Field House is lucky to break even and can often be a financial burden.
"It's tough to break even, but we use it for a lot of activities," McClelland said. "I would like to hold onto it. Whether we can over the long run, I don't know."
Consolidation also is needed to get SBA money, school officials say, because Enslow's small student population does not meet state size requirements for receiving money. And consolidation is the only way the school board can truly fulfill the promise it made to both communities when they were left out of the bond money plan that currently is paying for construction of several other schools. Smith said giving the students the school they need and deserve means consolidation and may also mean building the school outside of city limits.
Leaders from Highlawn and Walnut Hills also have taken issue with the school district's proposed location, saying that would be a detriment to the communities that have been home to Enslow and Beverly Hills middle schools for more than 50 years.
Not only do they believe their neighborhoods would lose value, but they also don't want to be stuck with vacant buildings.
"We could end up with a vacant building, and that could attract any number of things," said Stacy McChesney, president of the Highlawn Neighborhood Association. "That affects our quality of life and our property values."
McChesney, who has lived in the neighborhood with her husband for 13 years, doesn't have any children but said she has a vested interest in Enslow Middle School just like the rest of the community does.
"The association has a mission to maintain and preserve the Highlawn neighborhood, and that includes Enslow," she said. "We attend concerts, sponsor students so they can go to shows, and I'm getting ready to put together a 'Litter Gitter' program for the school."
She also is concerned about transportation issues related to putting what would amount to be the third-largest middle school in the county near the Technology Center. Route 60, she said, already is congested in the mornings and afternoons and adding bus and school employee traffic to the mix wouldn't be healthy.
In addition, McChesney doesn't believe consolidation is even necessary or will have the desired effect.
"Parents want to know, 'Will it actually give my child a better education?' " she said. "If you are taking them out of a neighborhood and leaving a vacant building ... how will that affect quality of life."
She also wonders why Cabell County Schools doesn't upgrade the school through grants and loans. Smith countered that it doesn't make sense to invest in a school that is nearly 100 years old and would likely have to be replaced within 20 years anyway.
If consolidation is imminent, McChesney said, the Enslow building could be turned into a magnet school or apartments for local artists.
Ray Browning, president of the Walnut Hills Action Team, a neighborhood that sends its kids to Beverly Hills Middle School, has similar concerns.
"(Residents) are not at all happy because the board of education wants to move the school out of the community," Browning said. "If it is gone, you really don't have a community."
Smith said both communities still will have elementary schools, which he said will preserve the neighborhoods' value.
The Walnut Hills Action Team approved a resolution Feb. 12 supporting a new middle school on Rotary Park property. But that idea already has been ruled out by the school board based on a number of issues, including unstable land.
Land scarce in the city
The inability to locate a large tract of land inside city limits points to a larger problem. From an economic development standpoint, Huntington is not that attractive because there is no land to build upon, said Jerry McDonald, president of the Huntington Area Development Council.
"This area has many advantages, but unfortunately, we're not blessed with good topography," McDonald said. "We've gone outside the city (to find land that can be developed)."
He, like most everyone, wants to see a new middle school built inside the city. But after meeting with school officials last spring, he concluded there weren't large enough plots of land to house the school.
"We talked about every option and even had aerials made," he said. "If you can find 10 acres of fairly flat land in the city, I don't know where it is."
Smith hopes people realize that the primary issue is not about property values or empty schools -- which school officials promise won't be left vacant. It's about building a new school that provides students with an up-to-date facility that enhances their learning experience, he said.
"I think it's got to be the best place for kids," Smith said. "Twenty years from now, I don't want the community saying, 'What were they thinking.'
"We don't want to put it in Huntington just for the sake of being in the city," Smith added.
February 17th, 2008, 04:34 PM
HMA trails to close for renovations (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x627524600)
Herald-Dispatch, February 15, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Starting Monday, the Huntington Museum of Art trails will be closed.
That temporary inconvenience is a good thing, because it means that work is beginning on the third and final phase of the museum's trails improvement project. The first two phases were completed over past summers with the aid of AmeriCorps and other volunteers.
The third phase entails more substantial upgrades to the existing trails such as bridge replacements and improvements as well as increasing run-off control and safety factors. It will also involve moving the existing trailhead and completely redeveloping it.
The new trailhead will be located close to the McCoy Road entrance to the museum and will involve a sensory butterfly garden, a quarter-mile long, accessible, sensory trail funded in part by the Teubert Foundation for the Blind and a new primitive trail connecting to the existing trails. The new garden will be named the Steelman Butterfly Garden in honor and memory of the family of Nada Steelman, a longtime volunteer, docent and supporter of the museum, who is now deceased. The new primitive trail will be named the Dr. Raymond L. Busbee Connector. Dr. Busbee has been involved for many years as a volunteer for the museum trails system.
The museum's trails will be closed for these renovations by Hager Construction, which was awarded the bid on the project. The existing trails will reopen as soon as the work on that section is completed. It is anticipated that the remaining work will be completed in May.
This project includes funding from the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways. Other support comes from the Teubert Foundation for the Blind, the Foundation for the Tri-State Community, the Mansbach Foundation, the American Foundation for the Blind, In Memory of Othel Rogers by Rose Marie Riter, Mrs. Nada Steelman, and the Estate of Lucile Martin.
For more information on the nature trail systems at HMA, visit www.hmoa.org or call (304) 529-2701.
February 26th, 2008, 02:16 AM
Findings of recent study help bring more renovations to historic theater (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1615409893)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, Feburary 22, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- With the findings of a study now in hand, a local foundation is prioritizing what improvements will come next at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in downtown Huntington.
David Tyson, co-president of the Keith-Albee Foundation, said a number of renovations need to be addressed, as pointed out in the $75,000 study by theater design specialists Sachs Morgan Studio, based in New York. The nine-month study, funded by the Marshall University Foundation, covered every aspect of the theater, Tyson said.
The historic vaudeville theater at 924 4th Ave. has had new life breathed into it following the "We Are Marshall" movie premiere in December 2006 that raised $200,000 for structural and aesthetic improvements. Some work already has been done, and the theater has been the site of numerous productions in recent months, with more scheduled.
The study's suggestions focused on improvements to help the theater bring in newer, larger shows and provide a rewarding experience for the audience, said Roger Morgan, Sachs Morgan's director of design. Since the theater originally was intended for vaudeville shows, the stage is small compared to stages at other theaters and larger arenas, he said.
"When sound movies were introduced, it changed everything. Stages used to support small vaudeville acts or a silent movie with an orchestra, but it's not big enough for today's musicals that need more space," Morgan said.
Making the suggested stage-area improvements, Tyson said, is part of the foundation's long-term plan.
Tyson and Morgan both declined to release a copy of the study.
When studying the theater, Morgan said, every room was measured and evaluated, and that determined that a number of rooms were not being used to their full potential. The "animal room," for example, originally was for storing and washing animals used in vaudeville acts but has not been used by the theater for years, he said.
Already, the foundation has taken some of Sachs Morgan Studio's advice. Removing the concession stands from the lobby has created a larger space for event-goers, a suggestion listed in the study. Morgan said more space can be utilized by absorbing some of the space used by surrounding storefronts and the parking lot next door. Tyson said the foundation is looking at all options for expanding the theater's space.
According to Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, co-president of the foundation, $140,000 was used to improve the backstage rigging system. The improvements, he said, have allowed the theater to host larger shows. When it receives the necessary funds, the foundation is interested in replacing the theater's roof and making improvements to the outside sign.
Other work that's been done includes recarpeting the lobby entrance and ceiling and bathroom repairs.
The main concern now, the foundation leadership said, is to keep the community involved with the renovations and keep booking a variety of programs during the renovation efforts. Tyson said the foundation has been able to meet operational costs and keep renovations moving forward. Money from the shows will cover operational costs as well as help with renovation costs, Tyson said.
In preparing for long-term operations, Tyson said a number of shows have been scheduled in the next few months. The Keith-Albee recently hosted comedian Brian Regan and the Billy Joel-inspired play "Movin' Out." Shows, including several plays, have been planned through April.
In February alone, the Keith-Albee hosted the play "The Producers" and comedian Martin Short. The Spring International Film Festival began Friday and runs through Feb. 28.
Tyson plans that through a number of fundraising events, including the Feb. 17 movie memorabilia auction, the foundation will be able to fund the multimillion dollar renovation project.
"Our goal is to keep the theater actively used by the community," Tyson said. "We want to keep the theater operational while we make updates. We are preparing for the long term but meeting the needs of the short term."
"The things we've done have been well received, and we don't plan on making any decisions without the support of the community," Plymale said.
February 26th, 2008, 02:17 AM
A look at the Keith-Albee (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1615409897)
The Herald-Dispatch, February 22, 2008
MAY 7, 1928: Huntington theater owners A.B. and S.J. Hyman opened their new "$2 million dollar temple of amusement," the Keith-Albee Theatre. The opening night's program included long-since-forgotten comic star Reginald Denny in a film titled "Good Morning, Judge," a Pathe newsreel and five acts of vaudeville. The theater, which took 14 months to complete, was named for the theatrical families of the Keith-Orpheum circuit and the Albees, who had recently acquired the Orpheum chain of theater enterprises.
1920s and '30s: The theater hosts several vaudeville shows.
1930s: The concession stand is added.
1939: Marshall Artists Series begins shows at the Keith.
1950s: The Keith-Albee's large Wurlitzer Model 240 organ that played to silent movies when the theater opened in 1928 was removed after live music had fallen out of style.
JUNE 25, 1969: "The Bridge at Remagen" premieres at the Keith-Albee. Then-Rep. Ken Hechler and other dignitaries wrote their signatures in cement in the front theater. In July 1975, the concrete was removed to install a curb for a bus stop. The movie was based on a book written by Hechler about a World War II battle for the German bridge over the Rhine River.
1976: The building is broken up into four movie theaters -- seating 1,800, 225, 225 and 120 people respectively.
MAY 1978: The Keith-Albee Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary with two vaudeville shows and Charlie Chaplin in the silent film "The Gold Rush" with live piano accompaniment.
1988: Dustin Hoffman comes to the theater for the premiere of "Rain Man." Hoffman's character from the movie was partly based on Joseph Sullivan, a Huntington man who has autism.
JUNE 1997: Digital Theatre Stereo is installed. DTS allowed for optimum reproduction of voices and sound effects with hardly any background noise.
FEB. 5, 2001: An early morning electrical fire damaged the H.K. Kauffmann Jewelry Repair Center in downtown Huntington's Keith-Albee Theatre building. The theater suffered smoke damage. Shows resumed Feb. 9 in the smaller theaters. The main auditorium reopened in May 2001.
APRIL 2001: Steel points are installed into the ceiling of the historic theater to improve the sound for Marshall Artists Series patrons.
NOVEMBER 2004: Robert Edmunds, a professor of communication studies at Marshall University, and the Huntington Theatre Organ Project Inc. start installing a 1927 Wurlitzer Model EX pipe organ from a private collector in Indiana.
NOV. 19, 2004: Marquee Cinemas opens at Pullman Square.
SEPT. 1, 2005: The state of West Virginia commits $60,000 in its fiscal 2006 budget to the Marshall Artists Series to help it support the operational costs of presenting shows at the Keith-Albee Theatre.
JAN. 6, 2006: The Camelot Theater, the second-oldest of the three downtown cinemas operated by the Greater Huntington Theatre Corp., closes.
FEB. 1, 2006: Greater Huntington Theatre Corp. hands over the Keith-Albee to the Marshall University Foundation.
SUMMER 2006: Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Inc., a nonprofit corporation is formed to maintain and operate the theater.
SEPT. 16, 2006: The first of many volunteer work stations to turn the four-theater complex into a performing arts center begins. Volunteers eventually remove the dividers that separated the main theater into three theaters and the snack bar in the lobby.
DEC. 12, 2006: "We Are Marshall" movie premiere held at performing arts center and raises $200,000 for renovations.
March 18th, 2008, 03:29 PM
Firm will take a look at airport's parking problems (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x427272532)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, March 16, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Now that Tri-State Airport sees thousands more passengers coming and going every year, it has some new challenges, parking being the biggest.
The airport's passenger traffic increased 62 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to data released by the Tri-State Airport Authority. Much of the success, Airport Director Larry Salyers has said, can be attributed to Allegiant Air service's Florida destinations.
To determine what it would take to accommodate the increase in vehicles at the airport, the Kyova Interstate Planning Commission has hired an engineering consulting firm to look at the feasibility of an intermodal facility. Meanwhile, local business representatives from Huntington, Ashland and Lawrence County, Ohio, visited Washington this month to jointly lobby for federal support.
"It's a very exciting opportunity," said Michele Craig, executive director of the planning commission. "It's an incredibly good problem to have, but we need to act quickly so people using the airport don't become frustrated with the parking situation."
The study is going to look at what's happening now at the airport, as far as vehicles and freight coming and going, Craig said. A separate building would be constructed for freight, but current freight activity at the airport will be looked at in this study, she said.
"The center itself will be viewed as one that will handle taxis, buses, automobiles and motor coaches for tours," she said. "We're also looking at, very importantly, handicap accessibility."
The airport is used by travelers to and from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, so it's in the interest of all three states to work toward solutions, said Jim Booten, president of the Airport Authority and chairman of the planning commission.
The $100,000 feasibility study is funded through the planning commission with contributions from the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ashland Alliance.
In fact, representatives from those three bodies -- which have joined for lobbying purposes to form a Tri-State Chamber -- visited Washington this month to talk with government officials about the need for an intermodal center at Tri-State Airport.
Mark Bugher of Huntington, Bill Dingus of Lawrence County and Jim Purgerson of Ashland visited with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio; and U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky. The also met with representatives from the offices of Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio.
Representatives from Rockefeller's office said that according to passenger statistics, Tri-State Airport is the fastest-growing airport in the country, Bugher said.
Funding for an intermodal center will take several sources, which could include federal transportation dollars and federal aviation dollars, he said, so it's important to have a strong lobby with the three states working together. It's one thing for each chamber leader to visit the federal officials from their respective states, but it's totally different to get all their attention at once, Bugher said.
"These other congressmen are also on board, and this project takes on a lot more strength now that we have that support," he said. "Partnerships like this (among the Tri-State agencies) are just critical. They attract attention."
The feasibility study is intended to determine travel demand, traffic flow, the size and number of spaces required and the configuration of space needed to accommodate cars, buses, taxis and tour buses. There will be a site evaluation to determine where it would be located. And a financial strategy is to be included in the project, which has a completion goal of spring 2009.
In the meantime, the airport has recently come up with an alternate solution for parking, by grading away some of the hillside to add more spaces, Craig said.
March 27th, 2008, 03:24 PM
Fountain returns to renovated pool (http://www.dailyindependent.com/local/local_story_086213224.html)
By Mike James, The Independent, March 26, 2008
HUNTINGTON — The tulip-shaped memorial fountain that is a centerpiece of Marshall University’s campus returned Wednesday to its permanent spot after extensive repairs to the pool and plumbing system.
A smattering of spectators, mostly university officials, watched and snapped pictures as workers moved the 6,500 pound, copper and bronze sculpture into position.
Moving the fountain took about 20 minutes from the time workers removed the final bolt holding it to a temporary base until they rebolted it and released tension on the webbing that cradled it under a giant crane.
Previous to the move, other workers wiped down the polished granite facing on the pool with soapy rags and squeegees.
The granite on the renovated pool is brown on the outside to blend with the brick paving stones on the plaza, and a dark greenish color inside.
“It looks terrific and once the water is back on it will be even better,” said Don Van Horn, dean of Marshall’s College of Fine Arts. “It’s a major improvement over what we had.”
The original concrete structure was painted swimming-pool blue inside and was in imminent danger of collapse by the time renovations started early this year.
The dark green granite complements the patina of the fountain, where the blue had clashed, said Van Horn.
Once filled, the pool will better reflect the fountain, he said.
The renovation, done by Marshall workers, included new wiring, pump and pipes in addition to the granite facing, said physical plant director Mark Cutlip.
Moving the fountain took a 350-ton crane and a platoon of workers who guided the sculpture around trees and then lowered it gently over a thicket of bolts.
The fountain will be turned on in a dedication ceremony April 9, Cutlip said.
Originally installed in 1972, the fountain remains an important part of campus culture 36 years later, said dean of student affairs Steve Hensley.
“It’s the center of campus,” he said. “You hear people say, ‘I’ll see you at the fountain.’”
The fountain commemorates the 75, including members of the football team, coaching staff and community, who were killed in a 1970 plane crash.
One widely held belief about the sculpture, that there is one rod with a rounded tip for each of the 75 who died in the crash, isn’t true, Hensley said.
Harry Bertoia, the sculptor, heard the statement and reportedly said, “Wouldn’t that have been a good idea,” Hensley said. In reality, there are quite a few more jets in the fountain.
Though most students at Marshall weren’t born until years after the crash, the tragedy continues to resonate with them, Hensley said.
“They all realize they were people their age, people much like them,” he said. “They live in the same buildings and walk the same grounds.”
March 30th, 2008, 04:12 PM
Downtown Walking Tour a stroll through the past (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x427531784)
By Dave Lavender, Herald-Dispatch, March 29, 2008
"You know it's bad to ride all the time, you ought to walk some time, Sometimes you ride you might miss something, You might walk along the street and walk over a $100 bill you don't know. Instead of riding in your Cadillac, ride, ride, ride, walk sometime. Walking was before riding. We must learn to walk. This is my home right in Huntington, West Virginia, and I walked them mountains until it was pitiful, and I kept on walking and walking until I got where I am today... Just get up and start to walk."
-- Huntington native, "Diamond Teeth" Mary Smith McClain, the legendary blues singer who played The White House and Chicago Blues Festival before passing away in 2000.
On Dec. 13, I got an almost cryptic e-mail from Ed Dawson, our executive editor, that was filled with numbers, streets, building names and specific directions.
Either Ed was moonlighting as an Indiana Jones and passing on directions to the Temple of Doom or he was sending a subtle hint that after talking about it for several years, it was prime time for the paper to put together a downtown walking tour of Huntington.
The latter was the case, and after a couple months of procrastination, followed by feverish research, and more than a few beads of sweat, today we unveil a historic walking tour of downtown Huntington that begins and ends at Pullman Square.
Taking about 45 minutes to an hour to complete, the almost three-mile walk takes folks into Huntington's Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Since there are 59 buildings of historic and architectural importance in that 315 acres, we had to whittle that down to about 40 points of interest.
To research our walk we took out a monster stack of now overdue books from the Cabell County Library including Jim Casto's "Huntington: An Illustrated History," Doris Miller's "a Centennial History of Huntington, W.Va.," George Seldon Wallace's "Huntington Through Seventy-Five Years," and Don Daniel McMillian's "Huntington: Image of America Series," and "Huntington: The Edwardian Age's Modern Movement."
Editorial Page Editor Jim Ross also found the priceless 1985 bound report by The Cabell County Landmark Commission's "A Survey of Downtown Huntington, West Virginia."
Some of the great features along the walk include contemporary art works such as "Continuous Ascent," the steel sculpture made by the good folks at Special Metals, which also made the heat-resistant alloys that coated Apollo XI for man's first moon walk.
And, of course, the Collis P. Huntington statue made by Gutzon Borglum, who three years after completing the Huntington statue started on another work of art -- Mount Rushmore, a work of art that consumed him from 1927 until his death in 1941.
We've also pointed out some of Huntington's architectural treasures such as the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center and just across 4th Avenue, the grand former hotel, the Frederick Hotel that took 3.7 million bricks to build.
There is also Huntington's stunning Avenue of Churches along 5th Avenue and the copper-domed Cabell County Courthouse.
We've pointed out some fascinating trivia, pop culture and legends that range from a downtown garage being paid for with a suitcase full of cash, to a city that has been a "blaze" with Hollywood connections for quite some time.
We also point out some of the on-going restoration projects from Old Main Corridor and Pullman Square to the streetscape makeover along 3rd Avenue.
To make the walk accessible to as many people as possible, we have a map printed inside today's Life section.
That map and tour will also be available for download as a PDF file on our Web site at www.herald-dispatch.com.
Also available is a podcast that has audio and visual elements. People with iPods or MP3 players can download the podcast that includes deeper descriptions, some cool streams of local music, and photos taken along the way.
The tour will also be available in an upcoming brochure that will be distributed around town.
If you think time stands still in Huntington, just ask the historic Reuschlein's Clock, time is on the move, and now, after a long winter, hopefully, so are we.
Enjoy the walk.
April 1st, 2008, 02:36 PM
Two businesses set to open at Pullman
Mar 31, 2008 @ 10:45 PM
By JEAN TARBETT HARDIMAN
HUNTINGTON -- Two new businesses will open this month at Pullman Square in downtown Huntington.
Community Trust Bank plans to open Wednesday, April 2, in the newly constructed, green-painted building at the corner of 10th Street and 3rd Avenue. Franky D's Italian Chophouse is scheduled to open Tuesday, April 15, on an upper floor of the square, across from Max & Erma's.
The bank will have a soft opening this week and a grand opening on or about May 2, said Matt Cummings, market president for Community Trust's Advantage Valley Market.
Community Trust Bank is the largest Kentucky-based bank holding company, according to the bank's Web site (www.ctbi.com). It will be the sixth branch in West Virginia.
Personal banking, business banking and brokerage are among its types of services. Cummings touted its trust department and its local decision-making. The branch is expected to have six to eight employees, officials said when the bank was announced.
"It's a challenge with larger institutions, but our bank allows local markets to make decisions that benefit local clients," Cummings said.
The new building was designed by Meleca Architecture of Columbus, Ohio. Construction was done by Bailey Construction Inc. of Huntington.
"I think we did a pretty awesome job myself," said Larry Jones, the bank's Northeast Region president. "It's a great facility."
"I feel like we're going to do well," he said. "There's plenty of business to go around, I think. We do have some customers in the area already."
Bank officials are enthusiastic about the Pullman Square location.
"We're invigorated every time we walk through the square," Cummings said. "We had a management team here last week, and they were elated. You could see they wanted to go shopping."
The bank is one of two businesses that will occupy that building, said Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners, which leases space to businesses in Pullman Square.
The second likely will be a retailer, though Dargusch said he has no official announcement to make yet. A company has signed a letter of intent, and a lease is in the works, he said.
Another retail company has signed a letter of intent to occupy a spot next to Cold Stone Creamery, Dargusch said.
Meanwhile, Dave Denti, the owner of Max & Erma's, is looking forward to opening his second Pullman venture, Franky D's.
The interior of the restaurant -- which will be a steakhouse that also offers Italian fare -- is about 90 percent complete, he said.
"We're just finishing work there right now -- finishing tile work on the floors and hanging paintings. The computer system is going in," Denti said.
He praised Paris Signs for the work it's done at the restaurant. All the contractors were local, he said. Bailey Construction did Franky D's as well as the new bank.
The restaurant was named by Denti's 14-year-old son, Derek, and named after Denti's father. It will have a lot of pictures of his father, Denti said. "My father looks like Tony Soprano," he said.
Franky D's will be the kind of place where you can get a side of fettuccine with your ribeye. "The cardiologists will love us," he said.
"It's a one-off restaurant, and there's going to be a lot of culinary flair to it," Denti said. "If there's something you want that's not on the menu, you'll need to ask. I have chefs with a lot of background that can do a lot of amazing dishes. The menu won't be huge, so we can control it and make sure it's produced perfect."
The restaurant will offer more than 100 bottles of wine, Denti said.
It will be casual and have outdoor seating for about 40. It will have a private dining room, called the Wine Room, for special meetings and parties.
The restaurant will not be open for lunch, so not to compete too much with his first Pullman restaurant, Max & Erma's. He plans to use the additional outdoor seating at Franky D's for the Max & Erma's lunch crowd.
"I'm rolling dice on it," Denti said. "One of the big factors on it was, if I didn't do it, Dargusch was going to put somebody in who was going to compete against me anyway. At least this way I can control it, like with the lunch scenario."
April 2nd, 2008, 05:16 AM
Comment sought on 5th Avenue bridge plan (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1105040521)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, March 31, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Now that an environmental assessment has been finished, the West Virginia Division of Highways is seeking public comment for the 5th Avenue Guyandotte Bridge replacement project.
A workshop-format meeting to go over the latest plans for a new bridge is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in Guyandotte Elementary School's gymnasium, 605 5th Ave.
Interested people then will have until May 22 to submit written comments to Greg Bailey, director, Engineering Division, West Virginia Division of Highways, Capitol Complex Building 5, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, WV 25305-0430.
In January, Project Manager Ben Savage said the environmental assessment pushed the bridge's scheduled opening from 2009 to mid- to late 2010. The project has been on hold for more than eight months.
The bridge, which spans the Guyandotte River, was closed in January 2007 because the combination of deterioration and erosion made it unable to carry daily traffic loads safely, said Ben Hark, head of the Division of Highways' Environmental Section.
Hark said the Federal Highway Administration approved the site following a yearlong environmental assessment looking at a number of issues associated with replacing the structure. The assessment, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, looked at the project's impact on the economy, environment, wildlife, residents and businesses.
At the April 22 meeting, Hark said the public will have the opportunity to ask questions about the bridge designs and the new bridge alternatives.
Since the last public meeting about the project, several new bridge alternatives have been added, including a girder bridge, one of the most common and most basic bridge designs.
This will be the last chance for the public to comment on the project, he said.
"The meeting gives the public an opportunity to speak about the issues they're concerned about. We will take all comments into consideration," Hark said.
Before construction can begin, Hark said several state and federal agencies will be consulted. The bridge must comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations that ensure safe navigation through the Guyandotte River, as well as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations that stipulate the bridge's proximity to the flood wall, he said.
For more information on the environmental assessment, call the West Virginia Division of Highways at (304) 558-2885.
April 3rd, 2008, 06:53 AM
The bank may look nice, but its drive through in the heart of Pullman Square... is SERIOUSLY detracting from the ambience of the project. I actually prefer the black wall they had up!
Dave Denti's Domain Doubles; Frankie's Comes to Pullman (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/080402-seaton-localpullman.html)
By Tony Seaton, HuntingtonNews.Net, April, 2 2008
Huntington, WV (HNN) -- Dave Denti, owner of the wildly successful Max and Erma's on the second floor of Pullman Square, is finally about to launch his much-anticipated second foray into the gastronomical goings on in downtown, during what, for all intents and purposes promises to be the final stage of build-out at the downtown within a downtown that Pullman Square has become since Marquee Cinemas opened there in Huntington November 19, 2004.
Frankie D's Italian Chophouse will open on April 15, 2008 after a Monday charity function to benefit those afflicted with autism. That night will serve as a 'soft open' Denti says, during which he and his new staff will work to ''get our feet under us and see where we're at."
Anybody who's been to Max and Erma's, which consistently ranks in the top five among the chain's 100-something stores nationwide, probably can believe it when Denti says, "we work really, really, really--you wouldn't believe how hard we work," with their people to achieve the level of service that they achieve there.
And Denti says he will ''kill myself" to bring that same experience to Frankie D's. We'll have much more on the inner workings of Denti's philosophy of building successful restaurants by empowering workers, treating them right, letting them make good wages, employing the Golden Rule and how amazingly pleased he says he finds himself about the quality work and workers that built his new restaurant. This Columbus native has high praise for Huntington in general. More on that tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, Community Trust Bank has its soft open and we'll incorporate that event into the next story. The bank is the key tenant in the final phase of ''Building Eight'' as the structure that rose from the are behind the 'black wall' was known.
Another tenant in that building has not been officially named but Huntington News has it on good authority that the erstwhile 'Queen of Pullman,'' Denene Chafin, owner of Inspired, Runway Couture and Heel is set to announce the coming of a men's clothing store that will have a mix of clothing similar to that found in The Buckle at Huntington Mall. Stay tuned.
April 7th, 2008, 07:32 PM
Residents look to Morgantown for long-range plan (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1804468659)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, April 6, 2008
MORGANTOWN -- A group of area residents looking to create a long-range plan for Huntington say there are many lessons that can be learned from the process Morgantown has gone through.
The Huntington group traveled to Morgantown on Thursday to learn more about how that city was able to overcome negative attitudes, egos and self-promoting interests to develop a community plan that plotted its progress through 2020.
Huntington received a $50,000 grant in January from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to develop a long-range community plan. The group that traveled to Morgantown now is determining how it will gather community input and how the plan will be carried out once it is put together.
"We're using this plan to create a level of thinking that's very difficult to obtain," said Ostie Mathisen, vice president of First State Bank. "We want to help Huntington for the sake of helping Huntington. We don't want to create a process by which there is a power buildup."
Joining Mathisen on the trip to Morgantown were Anne Durham, president of Mountainside Media; Huntington Economic Development Director Bill Toney; Tom Scarr, an attorney with Jenkins Fenstermaker; Chuck Lawrence, pastor of Christ Temple Church; Tom Pressman, vice president of Strictly Business Computer Systems; and Gary Bunn, a Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District commissioner.
The group visited with Matt Cybulski, who is outreach manager for the Community Visions Foundation. The nonprofit organization teaches the long-term planning model that Morgantown used to other West Virginia communities.
Morgantown's plan was birthed in the late 1980s when former Gov. Gaston Caperton mentioned in a speech that the city needed to be the flagship city for long-term planning in the state, Cybulski said. Two officials with the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce took those words to heart and went to work immediately, he said.
But the process was not easy.
"Folks were less than pleased about how things were in Morgantown," Cybulski said. "They felt there was potential, but at the same time, they hadn't seen many positives."
The chamber of commerce started by going to the local newspaper to publish community surveys that residents could fill out, Cybulski said. With those responses, the chamber approached city and local governments and asked how they could help accomplish residents' requests, he said.
From there, several town hall meetings were scheduled and many more stakeholders, such as school districts, recreation groups, health care facilities and West Virginia University, were brought on board, he said.
"The people began to feel like they were the ones in control through this process," Cybulski said. "By taking the survey responses and expanding on them during town hall meetings, people said, 'OK, at least they are listening to us.' "
However Huntington goes about putting its plan together, the process should involve stakeholders who form a steering committee, Cybulski said. But residents have to be the driving force behind the plan, he said.
During the trip, the Huntington group also went to Star City, a town next to Morgantown with a population of about 1,300. Star City has used the same long-term planning model that Morgantown used to develop its riverfront.
The project has been in the works for 12 years and still has a long way to go, Star City Mayor Allen Sharp said.
The riverfront park now has a playground and JFK memorial. A paved bike trail that was once a rail line also runs through the area. But there are also plans for mixed-use development such as restaurants, office space and retail stores. And right behind the riverfront, a row of townhomes is being built.
The private development will likely come once infrastructure upgrades -- widening roads, burying power lines and upgrading lighting -- are completed, Sharp said. The West Virginia Development Office recently granted Star City's application for a tax increment financing district to make the infrastructure improvements around the riverfront.
Sharp said that if there's any lesson that Huntington could learn from his town's success, it's that citizens have been engaged in the process since its inception. He also said Huntington should capitalize on the resources that Marshall University offers.
West Virginia University students studying architecture and engineering helped Star City with its riverfront models, maps and master plan. Sharp estimates their work has saved the city as much as $400,000.
April 10th, 2008, 04:14 AM
Redeveloping blighted areas focus of meeting (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x445833836)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, April 8, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- A proposal to quicken the process of demolishing abandoned buildings and returning the property to productive use garnered the most attention Tuesday from a committee that will decide whether Huntington qualifies for certain home rule legislation.
City officials also asked the panel during the two-hour meeting to let them capture fire insurance claim proceeds to tear down dilapidated buildings, enact laws to get more aggressive with collecting delinquent fees and overhaul Huntington's tax structure.
The proposed tax overhaul would include repealing the $2-a-week user fee, reducing the business and occupation tax, and implementing a 1 percent occupation tax.
Huntington is one of four cities seeking home rule powers under a five-year pilot program that the Legislature created last year. Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport also have submitted plans. The state panel charged with reviewing the cities' plans must decide by June 30 which ones will participate and whether they need to alter their proposals to conform to state law. All four cities could be selected.
If a city is selected to participate in the pilot program, its governing body still must adopt local ordinances to enact each of its home rule proposals.
Like the plans submitted by Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport, Huntington's plan focuses on reversing the effects of abandoned housing.
"With an aging housing stock, residential profiles drop, blight sets in and drug-related crimes take over," said Charles Holley, Huntington's director of development and planning. "It's taking an increasing amount of public dollars to stop that cycle. Once we break it, then we can look at true neighborhood revitalization."
Holley laid out a detailed plan to establish a "fast-track" land bank authority by which the city would take ownership of rundown properties that are not sold at county tax lien sales and return them to productive use within two years. The proposal is modeled after a land bank authority in Flint, Mich.
Under the current county tax lien sale process, property is put up for auction if the taxes on it are delinquent for the previous year. At the sale, people bid on the tax lien, or the tax debt on the property, not the property itself.
If a lien is purchased at a tax sale, the original property owner has 18 months to pay the taxes plus 1 percent interest per month. That money, including the interest, is then given to the lien holder.
If the original property owner, however, fails to pay the taxes within 18 months, the lien holder has the option of taking title of the property or forfeiting his or her bid and returning the property to the original property owner.
Holley said the process attracts real estate investors looking to make money off the interest. In the meantime, the property continues to decay.
"You're looking at these properties being tied up three-and-a-half years under the current process," Holley said. "It's one of the largest contributing factors we can point to for slum and blight in our neighborhoods."
To prevent more government bureaucracy, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority would act as the city's land bank agency, Holley said. The land that the authority took ownership of would be used for new housing developments or donated to adjacent property owners to use as side yards.
The land bank would be self-sufficient, Holley said. As many as 250 pieces of abandoned property could be acquired over the course of the home rule pilot program. It would result in a savings of $437,000 in demolition costs, generate a $70 million increase in property values and pump an additional $346,000 into the county's delinquent tax sales fund, Holley said.
Panel members appeared to support the land bank concept, but had a few concerns about the county's role.
"The county has a process it has to follow in state statute, but this proposal disrupts that," said panelist Chris Fletcher. "I don't disagree that a solution to this problem needs to occur, but I'm lost on how the county will be impacted by this."
Panel members did not take issue with a companion proposal requiring insurance companies to place a portion of the proceeds from a fire insurance claim in an escrow account.
If the owner pays to tear down a fire-damaged property within a certain amount of time, the money in the escrow account would be returned to the owner. But if the owner walks away, the city would use the money in the account to pay for demolition.
Holley said when a structure is gutted by fire, it's common practice for the property owner to pocket the insurance claim check and leave the city to pay for the cleanup and neighbors to deal with problems that arise from living next to a charred structure.
About 42 percent of the 70 structures that caught fire in Huntington last year and needed to be demolished or required major renovations had insurance, Holley said.
"However, I can count on one hand the property owners who stepped forward and used their insurance claim proceeds to tear down the buildings," he said. "That leaves us to spend public money to take care of private concerns."
The proposal could save $1 million in demolition costs over the course of the five-year home rule program, as well as increase property values by $4 million and generate $321,000 in delinquent fees and taxes, Holley said.
The city's home rule plan also includes several specific proposals for strengthening collection efforts, one of which would allow the city to file statutory liens against delinquent accounts.
The city's only option now is to get a judgment lien in court, city attorney Scott McClure said. Statutory liens take less time to file and are less expensive, he said.
The city also wants to require that delinquent fees be paid before property is transferred, that municipal taxes and fees be collected along with delinquent property taxes and that interest and penalties be tacked onto delinquent accounts to encourage timely payment.
The changes could generate an additional $2 million to $3 million in revenue during the course of the pilot program, according to the plan.
The proposal that figures to be the most controversial if Huntington's home rule plan is approved is implementing a 1 percent occupation tax.
The new tax would allow the city to repeal the $2-a-week user fee and reduce the business and occupation tax. Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research projects a 1 percent occupation tax would generate between $8 million and $11 million. City officials did not indicate how much the business and occupation tax would be reduced.
An occupation tax is a tax on earnings (wages, salaries and commissions) related to a job or profession.
Jones said the reason for the request is not to place additional tax burdens on the citizens of the city, but to create a fairer way for the city to raise revenue. The tax change would most likely be revenue-neutral, she said.
The user fee should be repealed because everyone pays the same amount regardless of income, Jones said. She also noted that the business and occupation tax, which is a tax on a business' gross revenue and the largest source of revenue for West Virginia cities, was repealed by the state in the 1980s because it is viewed as anti-business.
Mark Muchow, deputy revenue secretary for the state, said that because Huntington is a border community, some people could be double taxed if it implements an occupation tax. Ashland, for example, has a payroll tax.
"This area of the country is big on local income taxes. Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland all have them," he said. "Huntington would have to coordinate with its surrounding communities in other states to ensure you don't have any double taxation issues.
"Besides that, an occupation tax is a reasonably good revenue choice, given that surrounding states have local income-based taxes at the municipal level."
April 15th, 2008, 02:46 PM
Plans for downtown tax district progress (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1771772204)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, April 14, 2008
Map of the proposed district (http://media.herald-dispatch.com/advertising/pdf/140408-0415_BID_map.pdf)
HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone is moving forward in pursuit of a business improvement district for downtown Huntington, but it has downsized the district since last fall.
Right now, organizers have signatures from owners representing more than 50 percent of the assessed value in the proposed district, which is mostly the south side of 3rd Avenue and part of 9th Street. It has a handful more property owners to approach before it plans to take the petition to the city of Huntington for approval.
A business improvement district is an area in which property owners pay an extra tax for additional cleanup and security services outside their buildings. If the city approves the district, the cleanliness and sense of security that make Pullman Square such a pedestrian-friendly environment would extend further into downtown, backers of the proposed district say.
"With Pullman doing so well and us being a half a block away, we need to run with it," said Kirk Dodrill, owner of T.K. Dodrill Jewelers at 321 9th St. "Pullman is well-lit, clean and safe, and that's the first thing we need over here. ... If that's all we get out of this, I think that's worth it. Some people say these are the city's duties, and I understand that, but it's not happening."
In a perfect world, tenants or property owners could maintain and secure their own sidewalks, but it's not a perfect world, said Liza Caldwell, who owns a few properties in the district. And from the accounts she's heard from other cities that have BID districts, they're an excellent economic stimulus.
Caldwell admitted that she didn't think property owners were ready to take this on several years ago, but now the time has come, she said.
"In light of changes over the past five years, we've had such a wonderful economic turn-around," she said. Things are moving forward at a nice pace and this is the time for the BID."
Included in the proposed district are properties on the south side of 3rd Avenue, across from Pullman Square, between 8th Street and 10th Street. Also included is a portion of 9th Street up to 4 1/2 alley, with a few adjacent properties on 4th Avenue.
The district is the original size that was proposed, though property owners at one point had hoped that it would be more of a block shape between 3rd and 5th avenues and 8th and 10th streets, said Cathy Burns, executive director of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone. The Empowerment Zone is working with downtown property owners on putting the business improvement district together.
"When you get to 5th Avenue, one whole block is public and nonprofits -- City Hall and the area owned by the library," said Deron Runyon, loan and tax manager for the Empowerment Zone. "Those agencies could not be taxed, so we started taking them out of it. The goal is to get a higher participation rate. You can pass it with (just over) 50 percent, but you want a higher participation rate. ... Those property owners will make up the committee, so you want them to be enthusiastic about this process."
So far, owners representing about 66 percent of the assessed value of the property in the district are on board. Burns said she hasn't yet reached some of the property owners, but intends to this week.
If City Council approves the district, it would be run by a seven-member board, at least four of whom would be property owners. It can then go forth and add other properties, so long as they are adjacent to the district, keeping it continuous.
Any property owners who are contiguous and want to join, "Give us a call," Burns said. She's thinking it could someday extend onto 4th Avenue if possible.
Burns said it has yet to be determined which organizations would handle the cleanup and patrolling around the properties. Pullman, which is owned by Metropolitan Partners of Columbus, Ohio, contracts with Chesley Brown International for its security and has Global Management Solutions heading up the maintenance.
Caldwell said she's looking forward to being able to collectively contract services like snow removal from the sidewalks. She hopes eventually it will extend to new Christmas decorations and other beautification efforts.
Dodrill said that, after being in business for 25 years in Huntington, it's exciting to see businesses getting together. There's a good feeling about downtown right now, he said. People are excited about what's new and what's coming in, and there's a short window for downtown businesses to take advantage of that excitement, he said.
He especially wants better lighting so that it doesn't seem so dark as you walk across 3rd Avenue from Pullman Square.
"I'm just here to improve what we have and make it nicer for my customers," Dodrill said. "It's not a lot of money, and we control the money. It doesn't go into the city budget, so we can decide what to do with it.
"...If we get it cleaned up, maybe these empty buildings will fill up, and there will be store lights -- that helps, too."
April 16th, 2008, 02:16 PM
Demolition to begin today on Ratcliff Place (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x99367472)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, April 15, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Demolition will begin today on Ratcliff Place, which has stood empty since its interior was destroyed in a fire in January 2007.
Owners Dr. William and Dr. Chris Ratcliff, both optometrists and brothers who run Tri-State Eyecare, will rebuild at the site. The new structure will have two stories and house the eye care business only.
It will be smaller than the current structure, which housed other businesses that rented space there. "It won't be as tall, but will be size-appropriate for that space," Chris Ratcliff said.
Tri-State Eyecare is currently operating in renovated office space inside Huntington Bank, a few doors down on 5th Avenue. Other businesses that were located in the burned building -- Huntington Quarterly Magazine and Duffield & Lovejoy law firm -- have relocated as well. The magazine is run through publisher Jack Houvouras' residence, and the law firm is at 522 9th St.
The building burned Jan. 10, 2007, after cigarette butts ignited on the roof, a fire marshal determined after an investigation. They likely were carried there by a bird, he said. The stucco-style building had been renovated by the Ratcliff brothers in the early 1990s and opened in 1994, as an effort toward downtown revitalization.
Demolition has been a long time coming because the Ratcliff brothers had several details to work out with insurance and redevelopment costs before they knew what would be done with the property. They didn't want to tear it down and leave it empty for a lengthy period of time because it has a basement, and a hole in the ground would pose a safety risk.
Demolition is being done by Master Mechanical, which did the Emmons apartments and Cammack school demolition projects. The process should take a month or so, Chris Ratcliff said. After the building comes down, crews will prepare the site for construction to start, including filling in the basement and seeding the plot.
Right now, Architectural Planning and Design of Huntington is working on designing the new facility, and construction is expected to begin this summer, Chris Ratcliff said. The brothers have not yet announced who the contractor will be.
While they've been doing preparation for several months, they're excited to finally see some physical improvements.
"That corner has been an eyesore for way too long, and we're ready to get things moving in a more positive direction," Chris Ratcliff said.
May 1st, 2008, 04:14 PM
This would be an innovative program that would help redevelop many abandoned properties that litter the city...
City officials check out Paducah’s creative development for inspiration (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1657954939)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, April 29, 2008
PADUCAH, Ky. — When Bill Renzulli bowed out of the medical field six years ago so he could open an art studio, Paducah, Ky., wasn’t the first place that came to mind.
But because of its focus on the arts and a re-emerging downtown, the Ohio River town with a population of 26,000 caught Renzulli’s eye. Since the city began a relocation program aimed at cleaning up one of its most blighted neighborhoods, more than 70 artists have followed Renzulli’s lead.
Could a similar relocation program work in Huntington? A delegation of city officials, business people and community members went to Paducah last week to find out.
“Rather than sitting back and reacting, Paducah not only identified the problem and went on the attack, but they got creative in doing it,” said Tom Pressman, vice president of Strictly Business Computer Systems. “Could something similar happen here? I think so, because for the first time in the many years I’ve been here I feel more of the kind of energy that it will take to do something like that.”
Pressman was joined on the trip by Mayor David Felinton; Administration and Finance Director Brandi Jones; Economic Development Director Bill Toney; Development and Planning Director Charles Holley; Chuck Lawrence, pastor of Christ Temple Church; Ostie Mathisen, vice president of First State Bank; and Anne Durham, president of Mountainside Media.
Huntington received a $50,000 grant in January from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to develop a long-range community plan. The grant paid for the Paducah trip.
Paducah developed its artist relocation program in 2001. The city used general fund money to buy dilapidated homes in Lowertown, one of its oldest and most rundown neighborhoods. It then either gave away the property or sold it at minimal cost to any artist willing to move there. The city also partnered with a local bank to provide artists the financing they needed to renovate their new homes.
“The bank would loan the assessed value of the property plus all of the rehabilitation costs, which typically was 200 to 300 percent of the property’s value at the time,” said Steve Ervin, planning director for the city of Paducah. “That was a huge incentive.”
Renzulli was the second artist to buy a house in Lowertown. For many artists that came after him, the draw was the opportunity to own a home, he said. The city’s dedication to the arts and aggressive approach to community development were enough incentive for him.
“This town lives a lot larger than what it really is,” Renzulli said. “We’ve got our own symphony orchestra and a $40 million performing arts center that was built just a few years ago.”
Nearly $30 million has been invested by the dozens of artists and other people who have moved to Lowertown since its resurgence. Renzulli, for example, bought his house for $15,000, but spent another $250,000 to renovate it.
The city has bought 66 pieces of property. Only three have not been sold and renovated, Ervin said. Another 30 or so properties have been demolished and new homes have been built in their place.
“We have a community of transplants who have taken their creative energy and invested millions of dollars to revitalize what was one of our worst neighborhoods at one time,” Ervin said.
Any community that tries to replicate Paducah’s program must first saturate a neighborhood with police and code enforcement officers, Ervin said. That sends a message to drug dealers and slumlords that the city means business about changing the neighborhood, Ervin said.
Public-private partnerships are the recurring theme to Paducah’s progress, Jones said. Without assistance from local banks and investments from artists, the relocation program never would have succeeded, she said.
“They used the term ‘we’ so much to the point that you knew it was this body of people who shared the same vision and went for it,” Jones said. “It’s something that Huntington needs to learn.”
In addition to learning about the artist relocation program, the Huntington delegation also took a tour of Paducah’s downtown, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Huntington’s, Jones said.
Architecturally, the buildings in Paducah are strikingly similar, and it has a floodwall that the city has turned into an asset, she said. Paducah has allowed artists to paint murals on the floodwall depicting the city’s history and has widened openings to make the Ohio River more visible from the downtown.
“There are a lot of core elements in Paducah and Huntington that are the same, but you can see what Paducah has done successfully,” she said. “Their floodwall actually looks like it was built to display art rather than protect the community and obstruct the view of the river from the downtown. That’s just one of the small things that can be replicated here.”
May 4th, 2008, 03:45 AM
Pullman Square up for sale on Web site (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/breaking/x996195379)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, May 1, 2008
HUNTINGTON — Pullman Square is up for sale, according to a the online real estate Web site Loopnet.com.
The price is set at $27.56 million for the entertainment and retail center, which opened in 2004 on 3rd Avenue.
According to the Web site, 94 percent of the space at the square is leased to 18 tenants, and just 4 percent of the leases will expire in the next seven years.
It’s been up for sale for about 90 days, said Vickie Shaffer, CEO of the Tri-State Transit Authority, which was instrumental in providing the federal funding to build Pullman Square and which owns much of the square. It leases it to Metropolitan Partners of Columbus, which developed and manages it.
Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners could not be reached for comment. But Shaffer said the fact that it’s being sold is a good sign.
“Their investment for Pullman Square was never meant for permanent ownership,” Shaffer said. “They wanted to develop and sell it and make money. The fact that they can do that means they’re all grown up.”
As far as the public is concerned, a sale shouldn’t change a thing, Shaffer said. The hope is that it will be purchased by another company that specializes in operating an entertainment center, and that company will continue to develop it, make money on it as well, and sell it again.
That type of development is not meant for permanent ownership, Shaffer said. And she expects it will be sold to a buyer from outside this region.
“No one in this region has exprience in how to operate this type of commercial entertainment center and make it profitable,” Shaffer said. “It’s an art.”
Things should remain the same for business owners at Pullman as well, Shaffer said, and at least one business owner there indicated confidence that commerce will continue as usual.
Deneene Chafin, owner of Inspired, Runway Courture and Heels, was not surprised to hear Pullman is up for sale. “That was one of my questions when I signed leases,” she said. “Metropolitan is about building and selling — that’s what they do.
“Your contract is your contract, whether it’s sold or bought,” Chafin said. “Whoever becomes the new landlord will get the leases as they are.”
She doesn’t foresee an adverse effect on business or the square.
“Anybody who can afford to buy the complex is going to take good care of the complex, or they wouldn’t invest the money to do that,” she said.
Business has been fantastic so far for Chafin.
“I have no complaints. My business is consistent and has been very consistent,” she said. “When you have the movie theater, it’s a big draw for Huntington as a whole, and the great restaurants down here. Business will go on as usual.”
Pullman has thus far done what it was intended to do, spark economic development downtown, said Cathy Burns, Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone, which also secured federal funds for the Pullman construction.
“It has generated traffic. It has generated excitement,” Burns said. “There’s no doubt it has fulfilled a lot of the expectations we had.”
There are a few things she’d still like to see, like a young men’s clothing store, but “It is definitely a place where people love to gather,” Burns said.
“It’s a great community space, and so many downtowns have lost that,” Burns continued. “For me personally, I’m thrilled because I have teenage daughters who are having a downtown experience. I grew up going to downtown Charleston and Huntington for shopping and movies.”
There’s a generation that missed that experience as development moved outwards from the cities, she said.
Take a look around the downtown, and the development is spreading, Shaffer pointed out.
“Look at 3rd Avenue. Look at 9th Street. Look at 4th Avenue,” Shaffer said. “They’re all healthier than they were four years ago. And people like to come downtown again, and that’s exciting.”
May 18th, 2008, 06:06 AM
Peanut Shoppe officially sold to new ownership (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/business/x1631173313)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, May 14, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- The Peanut Shoppe will officially have new ownership after this weekend.
After nine years, the Myers family has sold the shop to Frederick Hightower of Huntington so that owner Doug Myers can do some more fishing in his retirement and so the family can focus more on opening a second Pita Pit franchise.
"I've always enjoyed going in there, so I thought it would be something good to keep going," Hightower said. "Doug -- he's a great guy."
Under Hightower's ownership, the store located at 941 4th Ave. will continue selling its current products -- nuts, candies, tins and party trays.
"We're going to keep everything that's there, and add some chocolate chip cookies, brownies and maybe some gourmet chocolates that you might find at some finer places," Hightower said. "It's actually a really fun place. Come on down."
He lives in Huntington and is pastor at All Nations Church in Charleston, which has helped with the purchase.
"I'm in a partnership with our church, and we thought it would be a good fundraiser and help supplement our church and provide some jobs and things," Hightower said.
The shop will retain the current employees through the sale, he said.
Doug Myers' sons, Nathan and Stetson, run the Pita Pit at 1216 4th Ave., with a little help from their parents. The family is now working toward opening a second location in Teays Valley.
May 21st, 2008, 03:23 PM
Construction on schedule for dorms, engineering, rec centers (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x733544771)
The Herald-Dispatch, May 20, 2008
Construction continues on schedule for two new dorms, a new engineering building and a student recreation center at Marshall University.
Mascaro Construction is on schedule with the residence halls and recreation facility along 20th Street. The residence halls should be open by August, while the recreation facility is expected to be open by February 2009. Those facilities are part of an $82 million project.
The 80,000-square-foot student dorms will provide 780 beds in two buildings, according to the construction company's Web site.
The recreation center will be 121,000 square feet and house swimming pools, a running track, basketball courts, a climbing wall and racquetball courts. The facility also will be equipped with a wide range of exercise equipment, including treadmills, step machines and weight machines.
The engineering building, which is being constructed along 3rd Avenue, is expected to open by mid-August. Huntington-based Hager Construction is the contractor on that $4 million project.
All three building projects are within their estimated budget, Bill Bissett, Marshall's vice president for communications, said Monday.
May 23rd, 2008, 08:21 AM
Home Rule enables cities to take more control of their cities, and allows them the advantage of being able to, for example, create land banks -- something that many other states have been able to do for years. The West Virginia government, in general, is vastly inefficient and it's sad it has taken this long to get this passed.
Huntington's Home Rule Approved by Panel (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/080521-rutheford-rule.html)
By Tony Rutherford, Huntingtonnews.net, May 21, 2008
Huntington, WV (HNN) --– A legislative panel has approved Huntington's participation in the pilot home rule program established by the W.Va. Legislature. The plan includes tougher collection measures for city fees , establishment of a land bank, and the ability to require insurance companies to withhold a portion of fire insurance proceeds from the insured until the property is, if necessary, demolished.
The plan would permit the city to levy a 1% occupation, or income tax. As proposed, this would replace the user fee and a portion of the B & O tax.
Implementation of these measures are not automatic, Huntington City Council must approve each measure. The occupation tax will be the most controversal.
June 4th, 2008, 04:19 AM
New group aims to enhance downtown area (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x1752598907)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, The Herald-Dispatch, June 2, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Come downtown on Saturday, June 28, and you'll find 9th Street teeming with kids and their parents, some making sidewalk art, others taking mini drawing lessons and yet others having works of art painted on their faces.
That's the hope of downtown businesses and organizations that are coming together this summer to create new downtown events and expand existing events to draw more folks to town and get more downtown businesses involved.
The first new planned event is called CAFÉ! (Children's Art Festival Extravaganza) and will be along 9th Street.
The "Downtown Live" committee is a group of volunteers from the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City of Huntington, Cabell County, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Marshall University, Pullman Square, Tri-State Transit Authority, the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone, as well as several downtown property and business owners.
"Pullman Square was completed, and then everyone felt good, but we realized, 'That's great, but now what?'" said downtown property owner Lake Polan of Allied Realty, the chairman of the committee. "You can't sit back and assume everything is done. In talking to tenants and others active downtown, we realized there was still a need."
He said there are basically two aims of the group: to coordinate downtown activities better so that a broader base of downtown businesses will be involved and to develop new activities that will bring more foot traffic downtown.
Businesses want to better capitalize on the draw of Pullman Square, the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and existing downtown concerts and festivals, said Mark Bugher, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber.
There needs to be some coordination so that more businesses will offer specials and activities to coincide with big concerts or athletic events at the arena, or to go along with blockbuster movie debuts at Marquee Cinemas, he said.
Then there are the yearly attractions already planned for downtown, such as the weekly Summer Concert Series, which begins Thursday at Pullman Square, the Huntington Symphony Orchestra's Picnic with the Pops concerts and Ribfest at Harris Riverfront Park, and the Hot Dog Festival and Chili Festival, which both bring 3rd Avenue to life.
This was the advice of a consultant hired by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to suggest ways to expand visitation to the community, Bugher said. Morgantown had done the same thing.
"I think the CVB, moving forward, will probably take this up, but that's not going to happen this year," Bugher said.
The CVB right now is busy. It needs to hire a new director to replace Gerry Krueger, complete a study on what needs to be done to draw visitors to downtown Huntington and implement a new strategic plan, Bugher said.
"But others of us were saying, 'Why do we have to wait a year? Let's try that now,' " Bugher said.
The kids arts festival was a good fit because of all the community support in the arts -- from the museum, Marshall and the school system, Bugher said. Anything that can bring families together is usually a hit, he said.
"For the first (event), we wanted to try something a little different, but I think we'll be helping existing events more than creating new ones. ...It's easier to expand something that's already happened."
The new group is very enthusiastic, Bugher said.
Along with Bugher and Polan, members of the new committee include John Self of the Marshall Hall of Fame Café; Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners, which owns Pullman Square; Dr. Joe Touma; Renee Maass; Ron Smith of Chili Willi's; Joe Beter of Jewell City Seafood; Paul Davis of TTA; Matt Cummings of Community Trust Bank; Liza Caldwell of Dingus-Rum Properties; and Nate Randolph of Edward Tucker Architects.
Government and other agency representatives include West Virginia Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell; Brandi Jacobs-Jones, director of administration and finance of the City of Huntington; Chris Tatum, assistant county manager of Cabell County; Leah Edwards of Marshall University; and Cathy Burns and Deron Runyon of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone.
Initial private funding and resources for "Downtown Live" is being provided by Allied Realty, Hall of Fame Café and the Chamber of Commerce. Additional sponsors and funding will be sought from both the public and private sectors as events are developed, according to a release from the Chamber.
Chamber member liaison Michaele Craig will provide staff support for the group.
For more information about the committee, contact Bugher at the Chamber at 304-525-5131. To learn more about the children's art event, contact Polan at Allied Realty at 304-523-2131.
June 4th, 2008, 02:40 PM
WV Fire Marshal: New Frame Dorms Safer Than Home; Sprinklers, Alarms, Containment Prevent Routine Causes … But Nothing Protects Against Major Catastrophic Occurrence (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/080603-rutherford-columnsfiresafety.html)
By Tony Rutherford, HuntingtonNews.Net, June 3, 2008
Frame interior construction has prompted occasional queries about fire at the two new Marshall University dormitories now under construction. However, according to State Fire Marshall Rudy Raynes, who has observed their progress approximately every other week, “from a fire protection standpoint, the students that will be staying at the [new] Marshall dorms are safer at the Marshall dorms than they would be staying at home.”
Homes usually do not have sprinkler systems, may or may not have a fire alarm system, but about 70% of West Virginia residences have smoke detectors. “It is estimated,” Raynes said, “that only 60% of them work.”
[See the URL for the rest of the article.]
June 4th, 2008, 02:45 PM
Old Main Corridor work planned (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x686829838/Old-Main-Corridor-work-planned)
Jun 03, 2008 @ 11:13 PM
By CHRISTIAN ALEXANDERSEN
Click here for a look at the Old Main Corridor Project.
Click here for another look at the project.
HUNTINGTON -- The City of Huntington plans to begin two construction projects to improve the Old Main Corridor after the final public meeting Tuesday with a group of architects that designed the changes.
Charles Holley, Huntington's director of planning and development, said the city has received funding for and will begin construction on two projects on 4th Avenue. One will be between 8th and 10th Streets and is now scheduled to be done by year's end. The other is between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard and is expected to start next spring.
Both projects include improvements to the "hardscape" and landscape and are meant to draw more people down 4th Avenue from Marshall University to the downtown.
That section of 4th Avenue is called the Old Main Corridor because it links Marshall University and its historic Old Main area of campus to the core of downtown Huntington.
Since last year, the American Institute of Architects' West Virginia Chapter, in partnership with Huntington city officials and the Chapter's Livable Communities Committee, have met with architects, business owners, property owners and Marshall University personnel to generate design ideas for improving the Old Main Corridor.
After three public meetings, the committee on Tuesday presented conceptual drawings of the ideas developed from the forums.
Planned improvements include increased lighting, traffic pattern changes, surveillance cameras and sidewalk restoration and extension. While the improvement projects are similar, Holley noted several important differences between the two.
The two-block project starting at 8th Street is meant to create an outdoor plaza that showcases the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center and other historic buildings in downtown Huntington. The area, Holley said, will promote outdoor shopping and eating, pedestrian traffic and increased business opportunities.
"We want to create outdoor areas when you can sit outside, work on your laptop and enjoy the streetscape," he said.
Soon, Holley noted, the downtown will have wireless Internet capabilities after the city installs the new video surveillance system in Harris Riverfront Park. The cameras are set up to emit a wireless Internet signal that enables people to access the Internet near the cameras. The city, he said, plans to expand the signal, and the surveillance system, all the way down 4th Avenue to Hal Greer.
Holley said the 8th Street project is expected to cost about $800,000, which will be covered under several grants. Holley said the city has raised $850,000 from the Community Development Block Grant, Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone and Tax-Increment Financing proceeds.
Huntington Mayor David Felinton said the project is slated to begin in the next few months and be completed by the year's end.
The second project is from 14th Street to Hal Greer. It also will be the beginning of a dedicated bike lane along 4th Avenue, thus turning 4th Avenue partly into a three-lane street. Holley said the city is working with the state Division of Highways to develop the safest way to construct the bike lane.
Holley said officials have yet to determine how far the bike lane will extend into the downtown area and whether it will be one lane or two.
Holley said the city also is considering raising, texturing and coloring the center, turning-lane on 4th Avenue. This, he said, will force people to slow down while turning. Parallel parking will remain on 4th Avenue but the city plans to have angled parking for several of the side streets along the corridor. The sidewalks also will widened to 12 feet.
The construction between 14th Street and Hal Greer will cost about $500,000, he said. Most of the money, $340,000, comes from the state's Transportation Enhancement Program along with an additional $100,000 from a Community Development Block Grant.
The city hopes to begin construction on that segment next spring.
All of the grants and funds associated with the projects already have been approved, Holley said.
Though there were concerns from the public that the city was not going to pursue some of the projects, city officials assured those in attendance that they are already moving forward with the revitalization efforts.
"We're not going to put this on the back burner somewhere; we're going to be implementing these ideas," Holley said.
"Within a matter of weeks and months, some of the ideas expressed at these meetings will be happening," Felinton said. "There are a few projects that can be done without much money."
The city is also awaiting approval for a $500,000 Transportation Enhancement grant application for continuing the Old Main Corridor construction between 14th and 12th streets.
June 6th, 2008, 01:47 PM
Huntington faced with prioritizing enhancement ideas for 4th Avenue (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x686830076/Huntington-faced-with-prioritizing-enhancement-ideas-for-4th-Avenue)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, June 4, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- While the City of Huntington has two major construction projects planned to improve the Old Main Corridor, city officials have a number of smaller design elements they plan to integrate eventually into 4th Avenue from Hal Greer Boulevard to 6th Street.
Charles Holley, Huntington's director of planning and development, said the ideas came from three public meetings over the last year with professional architects, Marshall University personnel, 4th Avenue business and property owners and residents.
Holley said the city has received funding for and will begin construction on two projects on 4th Avenue. One will be between 8th and 10th Streets and is now scheduled to be done by year's end. The other is between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard and is expected to start next spring.
Holley said the idea to connect the university to the downtown through 4th Avenue was Mayor David Felinton's idea when he first took office.
"Now that the plans are coming together, you can really visualize what the corridor will look like," Felinton said.
Though the city would like to implement all of the concepts developed from the meetings, Holley said officials will first have to prioritize the projects and determine the timeline and costs. While the city is unsure they will implement all of the elements, Holley said they are considering all of the ones discussed at the meetings.
The architects involved with the Old Main Corridor project suggested archways across the street. Phoebe Patton Randolph, with the American Institute of Architects' West Virginia Chapter's Livable Communities Committee, said the archways could be fitted with exposed lights to better illuminate the road and sidewalks, thus taking care of security and lighting issues.
While the city can also hang banners and notify the public of upcoming events, Randolph said the archways bring the scale of the street down to the human scale. Instead of feeling overpowered by the grand scale of the area, Randolph said the archways enclose the streets and make the area more inviting.
Though their implementation is not included in the two scheduled city projects, Holley said the city would like to mesh Marshall University's architecture with the rest of 4th Avenue. This can be achieved, he said, by bordering vacant and parking lots with brick-and-iron fences similar to those on Marshall's campus.
"There's a real sense of divide between the Marshall University campus and the Old Main Corridor. We need to remove that divide," Holley said. "Right now, when you leave Marshal University, you really leave Marshall University."
"There needs to be a meshing between the corridor and Marshall," Randolph said. "We want to promote the historic corridor, but that doesn't exclude the inclusion of modern design and architecture."
Holley said the city is also considering raising, texturing and coloring a new center, turning-lane on 4th Avenue. This, he said, will force people to slow down while turning onto side streets. Parallel parking will remain on 4th Avenue, but the city plans to have angled parking for several of the side streets along the corridor.
The safe, pedestrian-friendly environment created by the improvements, he said, will foster development along the corridor.
City officials and design experts stressed the importance of upper-story development along 4th Avenue. Randolph said the spaces above many of the shops are perfect opportunities for residential and commercial spaces.
Holley said the city also is planning to implement public art. The city has already begun publicly advertising for artists to become involved in the project from 8th to 10th streets on 4th Avenue. Sidewalk paintings, glass blocks in the sidewalks and statues are among the elements being considered.
The projects between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard and 8th and 10th streets' scheduled projects include improvements to the "hardscape" and landscape and are meant to draw more people down 4th Avenue from Marshall University to the downtown. Holley said the projects will serve as a model for the improvements to be made for the rest of the corridor.
Holley said the 8th Street project is expected to cost about $800,000, which will be covered under several grants. Holley said the city has raised $850,000 from the Community Development Block Grant, Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone and Tax-Increment Financing proceeds.
The construction between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard will cost about $500,000, he said. Most of the money, $340,000, comes from the state's Transportation Enhancement Program along with an additional $100,000 from a Community Development Block Grant.
The city is also awaiting approval for a $500,000 Transportation Enhancement grant application for continuing the Old Main Corridor construction between 12th and 14th streets.
These are projects planned within the next year along 4th Avenue:
From 8th to 10th streets
* What: Widening and repairing sidewalks, installing a surveillance system with wireless Internet capabilities, increased lighting and creating an outdoor plaza.
* Cost: About $800,000, which will be covered under several grants.
* Schedule: To start in August and be done by year's end.
From 14th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard
* What: Building one or two bike lanes, widening the sidewalks to 12 feet, installing a surveillance system with wireless Internet capabilities and increased lighting. The city is still working on the details of the project.
* Cost: About $500,000. Most of the money, $340,000, comes from the state's Transportation Enhancement Program along with an additional $100,000 from a Community Development Block Grant.
* Schedule: To start next spring.
SOURCE: Charles Holley, Huntington's director of development and planning.
June 14th, 2008, 05:35 AM
See also --
Business owners have mixed opinions on 4th Avenue changes (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x988039958/Business-owners-mixed-on-proposed-4th-Ave-changes)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, June 12, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- The city's plan to revitalize the Old Main Corridor from 8th to 10th streets along 4th Avenue has gotten mixed reviews by business owners who are concerned the construction will hurt their businesses.
Charles Holley, Huntington's director of planning and development, said next week the city will request bids for the 4th Avenue construction. The project will include widening the traffic lanes, new sidewalks, new brick and concrete elements, new crosswalks and new landscape.
Construction is scheduled to start in the next few months and be finished by the year's end.
The biggest change will be a new traffic pattern on 4th Avenue. Holley said the two-block section of road will be reduced from four lanes to three lanes, with one of those a center turning lane. Some store owners expressed concerns that the new pattern will negatively affect their businesses.
Vicki Rosenberg, owner of Village Collection at 4th Avenue and 9th Street, said she is concerned her customers will be unable to enter her shop with street closings. She hoped the entire street will not be closed during construction.
"Any kind of street construction will hurt businesses," she said. "I want to make sure the street stays open and the city doesn't close down the whole street. You've got to make sure people can get to your business."
Bill Moore, manager of the George H. Wright's clothing shop at 10th Street and 4th Avenue, had a more positive outlook on the construction.
"Everything's regressed in the last few years, so I think the changes will be good," Moore said.
Moore views the construction as a positive improvement for the downtown and welcomes the change wholeheartedly. He hoped, however, the new traffic change doesn't affect the driving conditions downtown. Wide driving lanes and easy motoring are good characteristics of the downtown, he said.
Holley said the highlight of the design, by Stantec of Charleston, is between 9th and 10th streets. The design showcases the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center and other historic buildings in downtown Huntington.
"The idea was to feature the Keith Albee and draw attention to it," Holley said. "(Changing the traffic pattern) makes an area to drop off people and creates a public gathering space. There's a lot of nice architecture in the downtown and we'd like to showcase it."
Directly in front of the Keith Albee, the number of traffic lanes will be reduced to one in each direction, with no center turning lane. That area also will feature brick and iron hardscape elements, a brick-lined crosswalk, brick benches and several sections designated for trees, shrubs and flowers.
Pete Cooper, owner of the Old Village Roaster next to the Keith Albee, said he also is concerned about the traffic change but believes the construction will do more help than harm.
"Operating during the construction time will be a bit difficult, but we do need the upgrades on 4th Avenue. We've needed them for the last 30 years," Cooper said. "Once it's done, it's going to be a great improvement for Huntington."
The city plans to extend the sidewalks to create an outdoor plaza environment that allows for businesses to hold sidewalk sales and for cafes to have outdoor dining. The area, Holley said, will promote outdoor shopping and eating, pedestrian traffic and increased business opportunities.
When complete, Cooper hopes to put tables and an awning outside so customers can enjoy their fresh-brewed coffee on the sidewalk.
Deron Runyon, loan and tax manager for the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone , said 4th Avenue shop owners received information about the construction and the conceptual plans. However, none of the businesses owners interviewed said they received information about the construction.
Holley said the city is moving forward with the project but plans to make some changes before it goes to construction.
Holley said the ideas for the project came from three public meetings over the last year with professional architects, Marshall University personnel, 4th Avenue business and property owners and residents. The city is in negotiations to secure an antique clock for the area, he said. Although the section will be losing two traffic lanes, Holley said parking spaces will not be affected.
Major improvements also are planned on 4th Avenue between 8th to 9th streets. Holley said that section soon will receive a mid-block crosswalk from the Evny nightclub to the city-controlled parking lot at the corner of 8th Street and 4th Avenue.
The section also will receive ornamental lighting, improved sidewalks and new landscape. Holley said a number of landscape elements will be integrated into the area in front and around the city-controlled parking lot.
The project is expected to cost about $800,000, which will be covered under several grants, Holley said. The city has raised $850,000 from the Community Development Block Grant, Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone and Tax-Increment Financing, he said.
Another two-block project along the Old Main Corridor between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard is expected to start next spring and cost about $500,000. That section of 4th Avenue is called the Old Main Corridor because it links Marshall University and its historic Old Main area of campus to the core of downtown Huntington.
The project calls for widened sidewalks, the same traffic pattern scheduled on the 8th- to 10th-streets project and increased lighting.
July 3rd, 2008, 06:03 AM
Age, upkeep raise doubts about flood protection (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102939519/Age-upkeep-raise-doubts-about-flood-protection)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, June 28, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Steve Riggs doesn't have to give you a tour of Huntington's floodwall and its 17 pump stations to express his concerns about their aging condition.
In his cramped office at the floodwall division on 3rd Avenue, he picks up a dusty, black book, its binding tattered from almost 65 years of use.
The book is not a relic that Riggs keeps around the office to remind himself how his predecessors once ran things. It's the current operating manual for the Fourpole Creek and Krauts Creek pump stations, which protect thousands of homes and businesses in the creek basins from flooding.
"You can see by the yellowing of the pages that it looks like the Constitution," says Riggs, the floodwall superintendent.
With floodwaters breaching and infiltrating levees along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, Riggs and others are beginning to wonder if Huntington's floodwall and its pump stations can withstand a severe flood.
Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which inspects the floodwall annually, acknowledge there are wear-and-tear issues. But they remain confident the floodwall and its pump stations would respond sufficiently when called upon.
"There was no condition that I observed that could be reasonably expected to preclude the project from functioning during the next flood event," Corps program manager Dave Humphreys said last week regarding his most recent inspection of the floodwall in August 2007.
City officials who maintain the floodwall, however, aren't so sure.
"People have to understand that we're living in a Tupperware bowl and we're pumping it out with equipment that was commissioned in the 1940s," says Chuck Cornett, Huntington's public works director. "It's the most important piece of infrastructure in this town, but it's the most neglected."
The floodwall, earthen levee and pump stations were built by the Corps of Engineers during the five years that followed the 1937 flood, which crested in Huntington at 69.45 feet. Flood stage is 50 feet.
Cornett's and Riggs' apprehensions center on the pump stations' outdated parts and what they say is a lack of preventive maintenance. The floodwall division has nine employees, including Riggs. Two of the workers are dedicated to maintaining Harris Riverfront Park, while another four are responsible for mowing the four-and-a-half-mile long earthen levee most of the year.
"We don't have enough people to do a routine check on everything like it should be," Riggs said.
Riggs cited an incident in March as an example of why the pump stations need more attention. The Fourpole Creek pump station was inoperable for more than a week because a switch that prevents high-voltage levels from damaging the motors broke.
"We probably could have operated the pumps without the switch if we needed to, but it would have been really scary," Riggs said. "We would be running a real high risk of damaging the motors."
The pump stations worry Carolyn Chambers, whose Enslow Park home is in the Fourpole Creek basin.
"We talk about these pump stations all the time, and the city has been telling us for years that they are fine," she said. "Anyone who lives over here has that in the back of their mind during a hard rain."
Asked how confident he is that the pump stations would operate at their full capacity during a severe flood, Cornett responded, "I'm not answering that question."
Cornett also is concerned about the preparedness of city workers to install aluminum flood gates in the floodwall's openings. The floodwall has 45 gate openings, but 15 are currently closed for various reasons, Riggs said. The last time the city had to install flood gates because of high water was in 1997.
Seventy-two aluminum beams were stolen in late 2003 and weren't replaced until 2005. Riggs said the floodwall division now conducts routine checks at the storage houses where the beams are kept. The storage houses also have been fortified.
Asked how he would characterize the city's preparedness to close the gate openings during a flood, Cornett said, "We're prepared to panic. If the river starts coming up, we'll start responding. We'll have our workers and equipment ready and hope for the best."
Though the floodwall division only has nine employees, there is a call-out list containing the names of 52 workers from other city departments who would help install flood gates. However, they have little or no training with installing the gates.
Federal law requires the city conduct a closure exercise at each gate opening at least once every three years, but the Corps of Engineers does not have authority to impose fines if the city does not do it, said Peggy Noel, chief public affairs officer for the Corps' Huntington District office.
Riggs said the city has not performed a closure exercise in the 18 months that he has been floodwall superintendent. It's likely been several years since the last exercise was conducted, Riggs said. When he took over the position of superintendent, the "cherry picker" vehicle that's needed to install aluminum beams on the top of the flood gate openings was broken down. It has since been repaired, he said.
Riggs said he hopes to have a closure exercise sometime this fall.
"It's not brain surgery to put up the gates, but it requires a lot of labor," Riggs said. "It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."
Tougher inspections coming
Concerns about the floodwall have caught the attention of Jim Ashworth, a retired civil engineer who worked at the Corps of Engineers' Huntington District office for 30 years. He now works part time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a mitigation officer and is a member of the Huntington Sanitary Board.
"There's always a high level of despair in the towns I have visited that have been hit by flooding," Ashworth said. "With a town like Huntington that has shrunk economically, it would shrink even faster if it was damaged by flooding.
"It wouldn't be the straw that broke the camel's back. It would be the bale of hay that broke the camel's back."
The floodwall needs to be addressed from two angles, Ashworth said. First, there should be a detailed analysis of the floodwall and its pump stations to reveal deficiencies and the costs associated with fixing them, he said. Secondly, more money needs to be earmarked for the floodwall division's budget, he said. The division's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $576,479.
"The city is collecting money for floodwall protection through the municipal fee, but it's rolled into the general fund like everything else and has lost its identity," Ashworth said. "We just can't continue to let year-by-year political decisions govern how much money we put into our infrastructure."
The Corps gave the floodwall a rating of "minimally acceptable" during its last walk-through inspection in August 2007. That means it has minor deficiencies that will not seriously impair its functionality during the next flood, said Humphreys, the Corps program manager who inspected the floodwall.
"The annual inspection is like a quick trip to the doctor," Humphreys said. "It involves visiting all of the pump stations, looking at the floodwall joints and the condition of the concrete and checking for vegetation encroachment, sediment cracking and erosion."
The Corps is expected to conduct more rigorous inspections of the floodwall every five years beginning in 2011. The five-year inspections will be in addition to the annual inspections.
"The five-year inspections will consist of hydrological, electrical, structural, mechanical and geotechnical engineers who will study the floodwall and the levee in detail and assess any conditions that may be problematic," said Steve Spagna, levee safety program manager for the Corps' Huntington District office.
The five-year inspections are part of a nationwide effort of the Corps to inventory flood-reduction projects and assess their condition, Spagna said.
The floodwall is not the only flood-reduction project that the Corps has built to protect Huntington, Noel said. Since the historic 1937 flood, the Corps has built 39 flood-reduction dams upriver from Huntington on tributaries of the Ohio River in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
"We are providing basically a 500-year protection," Noel said. "That means on any given day, you have a one-in-500 chance that you will be flooded."
But those figures refer to the depth of the '37 event and the floodwall was designed to protect Huntington from floodwaters that go 3 feet higher. That, Noel says, decreases the odds of a flood on any given day to one in 1,000.
"However, there is no guaranteed safety," Noel said. "Floodwalls and levees reduce risk, not eliminate. We cannot control Mother Nature, and if the water exceeds the design capacity of the project, the risk for flooding exists."
Floodwall facts (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102939521/Floodwall-facts)
Herald-Dispatch, June 28, 2008
CONSTRUCTION: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on Huntington's floodwall in August 1938. It was turned over to the city for operation and maintenance in December 1943. The project cost $7.1 million.
LENGTH: The concrete wall is seven miles long. The earthen levee, which runs from the West End through Westmoreland, is four-and-a-half miles long.
HEIGHT: The floodwall varies between 15 and 20 feet. It reaches three feet higher than the 69.45-foot deluge of 1937.
FEATURES: The floodwall has 53 pumps at 17 pump stations that can suck 1.4 million gallons of water per minute out of the city and release it into the Ohio River. It also has 45 gate openings, though 15 are closed now. The remaining 30 openings would have to be closed manually during a severe flood.
PROTECTION: The floodwall was designed to protect more than 7,000 acres from flooding. The Corps of Engineers estimates it has prevented $230 million in damages.
INSPECTIONS: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an annual walk-through inspection of the floodwall. It received a rating of "minimally acceptable" last year, meaning it has minor deficiencies that will not seriously impair its functionality during the next flood. The Corps is expected to conduct more rigorous inspections every five years beginning in 2011. The five-year inspections will be in addition to the annual inspections.
DID YOU KNOW: Because of U.S. involvement in World War II, construction on all civil works projects except those vital to the war effort were discontinued in 1942. Work on the Huntington floodwall continued because of Inco's top secret work on the Manhattan Project.
As it turns out, the wall did protect Inco in March 1945 -- when the river reached a crest of 59.86 feet -- and several times since as well. But the 1945 date was critical because the plant was just wrapping up its work on the atomic bomb, which President Truman used for the first time five months later to shorten World War II.
July 3rd, 2008, 06:04 AM
New bus route bustling (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102940533/New-bus-route-bustling)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, July 1, 2008
IRONTON -- Brenda Turner got on the TTA Tuesday in Ironton. She took it to Ironton Hills Plaza, and then right to Huntington to buy a monthly bus pass.
"I pay $35 for a monthly pass, and I go anywhere I want, any time," she said. "You can't fill your tank up with gas for that."
On her way back from Huntington, she went to the bank and then stopped at Wendy's before catching the bus to get back home.
She plans to use the bus often for errands and doctor's appointments. She and other Lawrence County residents now have the same opportunity for the first time in about 35 years.
Tuesday marked the inaugural rides for the TTA's Lawrence County bus service, with a few different routes. One runs from Proctorville into Huntington and back. One runs from Huntington through Chesapeake and South Point to Ironton and back. There's also a downtown Ironton route, and another route will go from Ironton into Russell and Ashland when the Ironton-Russell bridge reopens in a few months after an expansion project.
Turner said she is looking forward to that route opening so she can get to doctor's appointments without depending too heavily on neighbors and friends.
Meanwhile, several other potential bus riders have been calling the TTA and hopping onto the buses to ask drivers questions and pick up bus route schedules.
"Our telephone has been ringing off the hook with people asking for route schedules," said Paul Davis , TTA's general manager. "So far, everything has been great. The buses have been on time on our schedules. The timing points are correct."
Curt Hodges, a driver who makes Ironton and Proctorville-to-Huntington routes, said it was pretty steady for the first day.
"It's not heavy, but word is getting out," Hodges said Tuesday afternoon. "A lot of people are asking questions."
Lawrence County residents seem very enthusiastic about the new service, he said.
"Everybody was waving today as we went by," Hodges said. "They're excited that it's in service now."
The trips are free this week and next week, and basic fare will be $1 after that, with increases depending on the distance traveled.
TTA is partnering with the Lawrence County Port Authority and the Lawrence County Community Action Organization to provide the bus routes.
TTA is working on a new Web site that features the Lawrence County bus schedules, which should be ready in upcoming weeks at www.tta-wv.com, Davis said. In the meantime, Lawrence County residents can get the schedules on a bus. They can hop on at one of the Lawrence County bus stops, marked with signs, or even flag down a bus to pick one up, TTA chief executive officer Vickie Shaffer said. They also can pick one up on any of the Cabell County buses, or at the TTA Center on 4th Avenue in Huntington.
July 7th, 2008, 07:07 AM
Eateries struggle in stalling economy (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102942821/Eateries-struggle-in-stalling-economy)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, The Herald-Dispatch, July 6, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Nathan and Stetson Myers have a rule about owning their own restaurant: Always walk in the door with a smile on your face.
"Energy comes from the top and trickles down," said Nathan Myers, who runs the Pita Pit on 4th Avenue with his younger brother and the help of their parents.
And that's more important than ever in tough economic times. The Myers family opened the restaurant just last year and have managed to survive and gain a foothold in a the downtown Huntington market at a time when some restaurants are making changes to survive, and others are closing their doors.
There's a lot of uncertainty for many restaurant owners. While restaurant operators are squeezed by increasing costs, so are customers. It's hard to tell where eating out is going to fit into their entertainment choices and their budgets.
"It's scary in this economy," Nathan Myers said. "We know that fuel costs affect everything, like food and plastics," he said. "And what do you have in restaurants? Food and plastics."
The fledgling Pita Pit franchise is holding strong, and the Myers family is negotiating to purchase the building it's in to strengthen its position financially.
Meanwhile, three downtown restaurants have closed in the past two weeks -- Arthur's, Boston Beanery and Quiznos.
David Seman, owner of the Boston Beanery chain, blamed the faltering economy for the closing of two area Beanery restaurants last week -- the store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Huntington, as well as the store on Greenup Avenue in Ashland. He said both franchises are up for sale, and that having more localized ownership might be a good move in these tight financial times. Boston Beanery is based in Morgantown and has five remaining restaurants in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The downtown Quiznos sub sandwich shop on 4th Avenue closed June 26. Franchisee Duane Mills declined comment on the restaurant's closing, but said the spot won't be empty for long. "There is a new restaurant that's going to open in that location," he said, though he declined to give details.
Representatives of Arthur's could not be reached for comment.
Bowincal on 9th Street also closed earlier this year.
It's a time full of questions for restaurant owners, even the ones who have been around a while, said Ron Smith, owner of Chili Willi's on 4th Avenue. He's been in business for more than 25 years and said that although his Tex-Mex style restaurant has weathered three recessions so far, this one is different.
"It's hard to predict what's going to happen because of the dynamics now," Smith said. "People still want to be entertained, but how will they be entertained?"
Some folks might decide to skip their vacations and entertain themselves in town this year, but it's hard to say.
"I think we're all in kind of uncharted waters right now," Smith said. "There isn't a single restaurant not affected by this. If they tell you they haven't been, they're lying."
Both Smith and the Myers brothers said their restaurants' positions are probably improved by the fact that they offer a more casual dining experience with lower prices. Some people who might normally go out for an expensive meal may opt to scale down these days, rather than eliminate eating out from their choices, Nathan Myers said.
But there's no question that some people are cutting back, said Gulshan Kumar, manager of Nawab Indian Cuisine on 4th Avenue.
"Before, some people would drive an hour and a half to eat here, and they aren't doing that," he said. "Some people who came twice a week are now coming once a week."
It helps that Nawab offers the only Indian food in town, Kumar said. "So we don't have problems (with direct competition) from other restaurants."
Nawab may have to look at some menu changes in the future, but it hasn't so far.
Smith said Chili Willi's will have some menu changes later this month. It's not a matter of raising prices, but figuring out which menu items aren't selling and taking that burden off the cook staff.
The most important thing is not to skimp on quality and service, Smith said. That's what keeps loyal customers.
"In our business, 80 percent of your business is done with 40 percent of your customers," Smith said. "That's how important customer loyalty is and why you can't do a quick fix."
Who will survive?
Take a look at the number of new restaurants that have recently opened downtown, and you might get the full picture of why some businesses don't make it, said Mark Bugher, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"The restaurant business is a very volatile business anyway. Restaurants open and close all the time everywhere," Bugher said.
There are all kinds of dynamics in the business to consider, from the service and menu to the location to the financial plan, and there's a high failure rate with small businesses on top of that, he said.
"Overall, there's an upturn in the good restaurants," Bugher said. "In a very competitive restaurant market like we have here, you're going to end up with a lot of good restaurants that survive -- not that the others weren't good restaurants, but there was a piece of their plan that apparently was missing. I don't have any idea what that is. The service was good, and the food was good.
"There's a lot of reasons small businesses don't make it, and often it's because they don't have the financial backing to get up and running because it takes a while. Hopefully, they'll reopen under new management."
Just within the past year or so, Bennie's Cheesesteak, Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries and Frankie D's opened at Pullman Square. Uno Chicago Grill and Moe's Southwest Grill also reopened at Pullman in that time, after a bumpy start at both franchises.
Smith said the restaurant business can easily get saturated in Huntington. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, but the pie hasn't gotten any bigger in recent years while the number of establishments has. The number of companies that have down-sized or moved outside the downtown hasn't helped, he said.
"Some of what's happened to (the downtown restaurant trade) has to do with the leadership not holding on to the office pool," Smith said.
Bugher said chain restaurants and Pullman Square shouldn't be blamed for the closing of independent establishments. There are several examples of independent restaurants outside of Pullman that have weathered the economic storms in Huntington. Bugher cited a few examples in Chili Willi's, Jewel City Seafood on 4th Avenue and Savannah's on 6th Avenue.
"It's difficult for independent operators," Bugher said. "They're going up against national chains with national media advertising, but they have a lot of uniqueness. There's room for both, and it's healthy to have a mix of that."
Huntington has some good restaurants that are constantly changing and adapting to the market, he said. And as the retail market improves downtown and more housing is developed in the downtown district, it will be easier for restaurants to thrive, he said.
"The good news to me is people want to open businesses in downtown Huntington," Bugher said. "That's positive -- it's seen as a good place to open up a business."
The Myers brothers said they see a bright future for the city. They're looking forward to the revitalization project along 4th Avenue, scheduled to begin next spring near their store.
"We're very optimistic about what we can do in the city of Huntington because we think it has so much potential," Nathan Myers said.
July 8th, 2008, 11:51 PM
W.Va. hospital 'an accident waiting to happen' (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/statenews/200807070274)
Charleston Daily Mail, July 7, 2008
One of West Virginia's two state-run psychiatric hospitals is badly overcrowded and understaffed, according to a new report, and an oversight agency wants the problem fixed within 90 days.
A report completed last week by the Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health found that Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington is routinely overcrowded, with three patients often sharing a single room, occasionally with no bathroom.
"Staff believe that the hospital, when it is over-bedded, is an accident waiting to happen,'' concludes the report, written by David Sudbeck, the state ombudsman for behavioral health.
Sudbeck's report was compiled after two June visits to the hospital and interviews with patients and staff. It paints a picture of a facility where patients cannot shower and shave every day, where crowded conditions have provoked patients to lash out and where staff morale is "very low and fatalistic.''
The report recommends ending the practice of "over-bedding'' -- adding patients beyond the hospital's licensed capacity of 90 -- within 90 days. It also recommends the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which oversees the hospital, re-examine its practice of hiring temporary workers and requiring full-time employees to work occasional double shifts.
Overcrowding is a routine problem for Bateman and William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston, the state's other acute care psychiatric hospital. The two have a combined capacity of 240 beds, but a count last month found 379 patients between them.
Patients can be diverted to private hospitals, but Sudbeck's report finds this does not significantly alleviate overcrowding, as private hospitals "cherrypick'' which patients they'll accept.
Bateman staffers said nearby private hospitals "will not take patients who are showing aggression at the time of admission,'' the report says.
The crowded conditions have led to frustration among patients, with staff reporting more physical altercations, including one that happened during one of Sudbeck's visits.
The patient, who was restrained after attacking a staff member, "was agitated because he did not have any space to put his personal belongings,'' the report says.
The report describes patients in rooms with no bathrooms, with the patients relying on staffers to unlock nearby restrooms. Patients complained about not having enough time to shave or shower every day, and about uncomfortable cots eight inches off the floor.
Staff members complained about working two eight-hour shifts in a row on days when there aren't enough employees to meet minimum requirements. They also said 90-day temporary employees don't provide much relief, and often don't know how to work with difficult or aggressive patients.
The Department of Health and Human Resources did not immediately comment Monday. The agency has 20 days to respond to the ombudsman's report.
A call to Bateman Hospital Monday was not immediately returned.
Some lawmakers and state health officials have said overcrowding could be relieved by a third hospital just for so-called forensic patients. Those are patients whose commitment is linked to the criminal justice system, including people found mentally unfit to stand trial.
The ombudsman's report recommends the state evaluate the benefits of such a facility.
July 8th, 2008, 11:57 PM
Hospital given 90 days to fix overcrowding (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102943051/Hospital-given-90-days-to-correct-overcrowding)
Herald-Dispatch, July 07, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital is overcrowded and understaffed, and an oversight agency wants the problem fixed within 90 days.
The hospital, located at 1530 Norway Ave. in Huntington, is one of two state-run psychiatric hospitals in West Virginia.
A report completed last week by the Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health found that the hospital is routinely overcrowded, with three patients often sharing a single room, occasionally with no bathroom.
"Staff believe that the hospital, when it is over-bedded, is an accident waiting to happen," concluded the report, written by David Sudbeck, the state ombudsman for behavioral health.
The hospital announced on its Web site last year that it would expand from a 90-bed to a 110-bed acute care mental health facility starting in March 2007. Chief Executive Officer Mary Beth Carlisle deferred comment on the status of that project to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, whose spokesperson John Law could not be reached by The Herald-Dispatch.
Sudbeck's report was compiled after two June visits to the hospital and interviews with patients and staff. It paints a picture of a facility where patients cannot shower and shave every day, where crowded conditions have provoked patients to lash out and where staff morale is "very low and fatalistic."
The report recommends ending the practice of "over-bedding" -- adding patients beyond the hospital's licensed capacity of 90 -- within 90 days. It also recommends the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which oversees the hospital, re-examine its practice of hiring temporary workers and requiring full-time employees to work occasional double shifts.
Overcrowding is a routine problem for Bateman as well as William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston, the state's other acute care psychiatric hospital. The two have a combined capacity of 240 beds, but a count last month found 379 patients between them.
Patients can be diverted to private hospitals, but Sudbeck's report finds this does not significantly alleviate overcrowding, as private hospitals "cherrypick" which patients they'll accept.
Bateman staffers said nearby private hospitals "will not take patients who are showing aggression at the time of admission," the report said.
The crowded conditions have led to frustration among patients, with staff reporting more physical altercations, including one that happened during one of Sudbeck's visits.
The patient, who was restrained after attacking a staff member, "was agitated because he did not have any space to put his personal belongings," the report said.
The report describes patients in rooms with no bathrooms, with the patients relying on staffers to unlock nearby restrooms. Patients complained about not having enough time to shave or shower every day, and about uncomfortable cots eight inches off the floor.
Staff members complained about working two eight-hour shifts in a row on days when there aren't enough employees to meet minimum requirements. They also said 90-day temporary employees don't provide much relief, and often don't know how to work with difficult or aggressive patients.
The agency has 20 days to respond to the ombudsman's report. Law told the Associated Press on Monday that he hadn't reviewed the report yet, but hospital overcrowding is a familiar problem.
"The over-bedding issue is one we've had for quite some time, and it's something we're working to resolve," Law said.
The fact that the problem is familiar means solutions should have been tried by now, said Delegate Don Perdue, chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
"The dynamic is not changing," the Wayne County Democrat said. "I think we've already passed the tipping point. We have to take action."
Perdue wants to see staff salaries at Bateman and Sharpe increased as soon as possible to get more workers in the hospitals. Long-term solutions could include building a third hospital, he said.
Some lawmakers and state health officials have said overcrowding could be relieved by a third hospital just for so-called forensic patients. Those are patients whose commitment is linked to the criminal justice system, including people found mentally unfit to stand trial.
The ombudsman's report recommends the state evaluate the benefits of such a facility.
The Huntington hospital was established in 1897 and became the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in 1999, according to its Web site. It was formerly called the Home for Incurables and Huntington State Hospital.
The hospital became a 90-bed facility in 1990. It has provided treatment, education and referral services for dually diagnosed mentally ill substance abuse patients since 1997.
It's named after Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, who was the first African-American named to a high-ranking office in West Virginia government. She served as director of the Department of Mental Health for 15 years and also became the first black woman to serve as vice president of the American Psychiatric Association.
Mitchell-Bateman became chair of the psychiatry department of Marshall University's medical school in 1977.
July 10th, 2008, 01:28 PM
Hospital problems are 'not surprising' by some (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102943297/Hospital-problems-not-surprising)
By Laura Wilcox, Herald-Dispatch, July 8, 2008
Map of hospital (http://media.herald-dispatch.com/advertising/pdf/080708-0709_mental_MAP.pdf)
Electronic copy of over-bedding report (http://media.herald-dispatch.com/advertising/pdf/080708-0709_OVERBEDDINGREPORT.pdf)
HUNTINGTON -- Few seem surprised by last week's report that Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital is badly overcrowded, but officials say there is no quick fix to the problem.
There were 117 patients in the state-run psychiatric hospital during last month's visit by David G. Sudbeck, ombudsman for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The hospital's licensed capacity is 90.
Sudbeck's visit was in response to complaints made in April, May and June by Bateman patients and staff and numerous advocate agencies.
"This has been a problem that we knew about and have been working on for as long as I can remember," said John Law, spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
The department has 20 days from the July 3 report to respond to the recommendations, which include the gradual movement or diversion of patients over 90 days.
Law said the department will continue to review the report and likely will talk with legislators about what happens next.
"We're certainly trying to reduce the census at Bateman and have been for a long time. There is, however, no magic wand," Law said.
Bateman Chief Executive Officer Mary Beth Carlisle declined to comment, saying all information must come from Law.
The report makes several other recommendations, including that the department should meet with area hospitals to negotiate a contract to meet the needs of patients seeking treatment, re-evaluate the practice of employing 90-day temporary employees, and determine if a separate facility for patients linked to the criminal justice system is warranted.
Bateman announced on its Web site last year that it would expand from a 90-bed to a 110-bed acute care mental health facility starting in March 2007.
Staff at West Virginia Advocates have been told renovation at Bateman would accommodate 20 more clients, but construction appeared to be halted, according to executive director Clarice Hausch. West Virginia Advocates works on behalf of psychiatric patients and providers and monitors Bateman and William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston, the state's other acute care psychiatric hospital.
Law was unsure Tuesday whether any renovation was occurring.
Some Bateman patients are currently sleeping in visitor rooms and seclusion rooms at Bateman because of the overcrowding, according to complaints.
A seclusion room is meant for dangerous patients who need to be separated, Hausch said.
"This is not OK," Hausch said.
Sudbeck's report also indicates that some rooms designed for two people have a third person in them. One woman who has spent three years at Bateman complained she could not use the privacy curtain in her bedroom because a third bed in the room blocks it.
Another man in a makeshift room without curtains had a toilet accident witnessed by Sudbeck and others during his visit.
"The event unfolded in clear view of patients and staff," Sudbeck reported.
Hausch said the crowded conditions make it impossible for some patients in wheelchairs to even get to the bathroom. Patients try to get up to use the rest room and fall.
She said crowding has been an issue for a long time, but it has become much worse in the past two years. She said diverting patients to area hospitals can be difficult and expensive.
Diversion beds can cost $500 to $1,000 per day, per patient, she said.
"You're talking about a lot of money here that's being spent at community-based hospitals for people who have been committed, and at the same time we don't have money for community services that would keep people out of the hospital," Hausch said. "It's a situation that absolutely has to change."
Law said Bateman can't exactly control its admissions as other hospitals do because it must accommodate court orders when a patient is involuntarily committed.
Hausch said she understands the difficulty.
"When they get somebody admitted to their facility because there are no more diversion beds available, they have to find somewhere to put them," she said. "This is not the way the staff at the hospitals wanted it to be either."
Hausch said West Virginia Advocates believes the high number of committed is partly a reflection of inadequate community-based mental health services. More services would prevent some people from having to be committed, she said.
She said a lack of accessible, affordable housing and inadequate discharge support also keeps people in the hospital. She said a number of staff at the state hospital have reported they can't discharge patients because they can't find them housing or appropriate community-based services.
Hausch said communities and state government need to work together to recognize the mental health issue.
"When communities don't work collaboratively with state government to make sure the services are there, then you wind up with situations like hospital overcrowding," she said.
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital is located at 1530 Norway Ave. in Huntington.
July 10th, 2008, 01:31 PM
Namesake hospital's condition worries Mildred Bateman (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200807090242)
Pioneering doctor sad to see deterioration in mental health care after decades of improvement
By Jake Stump, Charleston Daily Mail, July 9, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- The pioneering doctor who has one of the state's two overcrowded psychiatric hospitals named after her said it's "saddening" to see the quality of mental health care in West Virginia worsening.
An oversight agency, the Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health, recently released a report detailing overcrowding and understaffing woes at the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington. The report found that the 90-bed hospital housed 117 patients one day in June, and several patients complained about the lack of privacy and accessible bathrooms.
The hospital is named after Dr. Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, the first black woman to serve in a high-ranking office in West Virginia state government. She became director of the Department of Mental Health in 1962.
Bateman worked as a staff physician in the 1940s at Lakin State Hospital, a former black hospital for the mentally ill in West Virginia. She later became the hospital's clinical director and superintendent, and has since served in many roles as a teacher, psychiatrist and administrator.
Gov. Cecil Underwood recognized her efforts in the mental health field and changed the name of Huntington State Hospital to Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in 1999.
Bateman, 86, who currently serves on the hospital's advisory board, said conditions at today's psychiatric facilities aren't the worst she's ever seen. But they're certainly distressing, she said.
"In another sense, it is worse because we know what needs to be done," Bateman said. "It's really saddening to see it go in a reverse direction."
Lakin State Hospital, too, was overcrowded and understaffed when she started working there about 60 years ago. Bateman recalls patients of all ages, from epileptic children to elderly stroke victims who ideally belonged in nursing homes, packed into the facility. Treatments at the time ranged from electrical shock to hydrotherapy.
Eventually, advanced medicine and therapies bettered the conditions at psychiatric hospitals nationwide, and patients were treated in a more humane manner.
But Bateman said she has noticed a gradual deterioration in patient care quality in recent years.
Health officials have expected forthcoming help in addressing these situations, but so far no improvements have really been made, she said.
"It really comes down to everybody," Bateman said. "The DHHR is making an effort. They were in the process of developing long-range plans, but they're not coming along fast enough to relieve the immediate crunch."
The ombudsman's report states that several patients at Bateman Hospital were located in rooms without a bathroom. The only available bathroom to those patients was locked and could be opened only by a staff person.
David Sudbeck, the state's court-ordered behavioral health ombudsman, noted he witnessed a patient experience a toileting accident in clear view of other patients and staff.
Patients also complained about the beds, which are essentially cots, being extremely uncomfortable. Sudbeck wrote that a metal rod protrudes from the middle of the cots, which are only eight inches from the floor.
Staff also told Sudbeck the facility ran out of milk one day and it was not replaced. There are not enough wheelchairs to accommodate every non-ambulatory patient, the report states.
Three patients are assigned to some rooms, and one staffer told Sudbeck "people are just on top of each other."
Sudbeck has recommended the state fix the hospital's problems within 90 days. But a similar report conducted by Sudbeck in 2006 led to zero improvements.
"The problem has just gotten worse," Sudbeck said Tuesday. "When you look at Bateman in 2006, they were one over capacity at 91. Now there are over 117 patients there, and as many as 121 last week."
Department of Health and Human Resources spokesman John Law said he hadn't reviewed the report yet, but he acknowledged that hospital overcrowding was a familiar problem in the state.
As a member of the hospital board, Bateman said officials at the hospital level are doing their best to work around the inadequate funding and resources.
"We have to use rooms that weren't originally planned as patient rooms," Bateman said. "Those conditions are going to be there until additional beds can be provided. Bateman Hospital, as a unit, has been redone and remodeled over the years and was considered one of the best, in that regard. You wouldn't know that now."
The hospital was established in 1897 as the Home for Incurables. It is currently the second oldest hospital in the state.
An expansion from a 90-bed to 110-bed facility was supposed to start in March 2007, but no progress has been made.
The other acute-care psychiatric hospital is the William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston. It, too, has a recent history of overcrowding.
Bateman said the root of the problem can be traced to a cutback in community services and placement resources for mentally ill patients. It's been like a domino effect, she said.
"Mental health centers have been swamped and they're not able to keep up with their own needs, as far as providing emergency and crisis services in the community, " Bateman said. "The whole system needs closely scrutinized in order to get back some of those resources that existed at one point."
The overcrowding problem can also be attributed to a rise in mental illness cases in the state, she said.
If no action is taken, Bateman predicts conditions will get worse.
"As the economy gets worse, we're going to see more problems," she said. "With lack of jobs and so on, people will come under emotional distress, resulting in an increase in need for services."
Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, said hospital employees have contacted her for a year complaining about the situation there.
She and other delegates in the Huntington area want to tour the facility soon. Sobonya said the hospital has reached a "crisis level."
Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, who chairs the House Health and Human Resources Committee, said the blame shouldn't rest with any particular group since the problems have carried on from administration to administration.
"I don't condemn (the DHHR) for what we've seen," Perdue said. "It's been a problem over several administrations. How it got past under our noses, I don't know."
Perdue said he supports building a third psychiatric facility, which would house only forensics patients. Those patients are linked to the criminal justice system and include people found mentally unfit to stand trial.
There are about 95 forensics patients at both facilities right now, Perdue said.
But even that expansion wouldn't be enough, he said.
The ombudsman has also wants the DHHR to reevaluate the practice of employing 90-day temporary staff and to hold meetings with at least five private hospitals and request they accept all psychiatric patients when Bateman is full.
July 14th, 2008, 06:23 AM
Land, financing challenges for MU baseball stadium (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2102944789/Land-financing-challenges-for-MU-baseball-stadium)
By Ben Fields and Grant Traylor, Herald-Dispatch, July 12, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- With success comes expectation.
And no one knows that better right now than the officials in administration and athletics at Marshall University.
On the heels of Marshall baseball's first 30-win season in the program's 102-year history, capped by a trip to the finals in the vaunted Conference USA tournament, some fans are wondering why the Thundering Herd doesn't have a place to call home on-campus.
Marshall played its home games this year at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, as well as high school ball fields as far away as Lawrence County, Ky.
The university is in the midst of more than $100 million in projects at the moment, including new residence halls, a student recreation center, a new engineering facility, and an alumni association center. Not to mention a $2 million softball field that opened in March and will be expanded in stages.
A baseball field is part of the university's plan for capital projects through 2013, but whether or not it will actually happen by then is another question.
"You're talking about a $6 to $12 million facility with no revenue attached to it, with no funding in place and a location that doesn't exist," said MU president Stephen Kopp. "And do you expect to saddle students with the cost of all of that? I think it would be hard to justify."
Right now, students pay $250 in fees rolled into their tuition for capital projects. That will increase by another $150 next year when the recreation center is complete. But most of the other projects under way are privately funded through money raised by the Marshall Foundation.
The university has actively campaigned this year, through a program called "The Bridge," for private funding for the new engineering building, softball field and foundation and alumni association center.
"We're still in the midst of The Bridge campaign right now," said Bill Bissett, Kopp's chief of staff. "Is a private campaign for baseball possible? Yes. But it's obviously something we'd have to look at after we're done with this campaign."
Money and land have been the two words blocking advancement of a new baseball field for some time.
The land that is available isn't cheap, and some of it might not even be viable. Many of the sites near campus that would provide the eight to 10 acres required for a baseball field -- more than twice the land needed for the softball facility -- are industrial wastelands that would have to be studied for contamination and then cleaned up well before turf, dirt and chalk-lines could go down.
"It's not that we're not working on it," Kopp said. "Just drive around here and look. We have to be very careful with these land issues."
Since 2005, the university has been paying $15,000 to $20,000 per year to rent Appalachian Power Park. That doesn't include the cost of bringing the team of 35 players plus coaches and staff to Charleston, and putting everyone up in a hotel for a weekend series. The university also spent around $200,000 to make improvements to the field at the Kennedy Center.
Kopp said he believes these expenses pale in comparison to the cost of a new ball park, and that playing at the minor league stadium in Charleston actually benefits the program.
"I have to say, what's wrong with playing in Charleston?" he said. "It gives us visibility and these teams from Conference USA come in and are really impressed with the facility."
In fact, Marshall's conference is one of the reasons fans would like to see a new field on-campus.
Conference USA is home to nationally-ranked, College World Series regulars Rice, and other high-profile baseball programs such as Houston, Southern Mississippi and Tulane.
Fellow C-USA school East Carolina University, which has demographics similar to Marshall, recently found a way to build a stadium.
All funds for the ECU project were raised privately through a capital campaign conducted by the Pirate Club, ECU's athletic fundraising arm. Once everything was done, Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium was an $11 million project, but only $1 million of that cost was geared toward excavating and field work, according to Tom McClellan, ECU's director for media relations.
MU baseball skipper Jeff Waggoner said Marshall needs a new field to seize the momentum the program is riding. He said he believes the university should take an approach similar to the softball field -- building an actual field first and then expanding.
"Everyone keeps talking about a $10 million facility, and they need to quit thinking like that," Waggoner said. "Just get us a nice field here and we can eventually build a stadium around it."
Waggoner has addressed the issue more than once. In an interview with The Herald-Dispatch in May, he talked about what an asset a new field could be for the university and the surrounding community.
"When you talk to most people, they enjoy baseball, but that atmosphere has faded because there isn't a team in the city," he said in that interview. "I think the city of Huntington would back a baseball team. Huntington is a baseball city.
"First of all, you take a nice spring day in April and bring in one of the best teams in the country like Rice. It's a great atmosphere that we'd love to see in Huntington."
But there's still the problem of finding the land.
Athletic Director Bob Marcum said he's been approached by numerous supporters of the program with suggestions for where the stadium could go, but most are not realistic.
"There's a saying in Texas that goes 'Big hat, no cattle,' " Marcum said. "We have a lot of people running around like that."
That doesn't mean Marcum doesn't want to find a solution.
"Everyone would like an on-campus stadium," he said.
Several places have been mentioned as possible sites, the most prominent being the parking lot across from ACF, which is located in between Third and Fifth Avenues on 23rd Street. Marcum said the university inquired, but was unsuccessful in its attempt to acquire the land.
"We laid a baseball field into that lot a long time ago and (ACF officials) simply said the land is not for sale," Marcum said. "That's a business decision that is made in St. Louis. It's not like there haven't been calls made. Once again, it's not a matter of finding a site, it's finding a site that's available and for sale."
Other sites that have been mentioned include property beside the Veterans Memorial Field House, which is currently occupied by Woody Williams Field and land down near the old Big Bear plaza on 29th street. Neither of which are feasible, according to Marcum.
July 22nd, 2008, 05:04 AM
Work to begin on Old Main Corridor (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1103453720/Work-to-begin-on-Old-Main-Corridor)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, July 19, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- After seven years of planning, work will soon begin on the Old Main Corridor.
Huntington officials opened contract bids Friday for the first phase of the project, which aims to provide a better link between Marshall University and the downtown on 4th Avenue through enhanced landscaping and lighting, bicycle lanes, public art and incentives for small-business owners.
The first phase will cover improvements between 8th and 10th streets. Hager Construction submitted the low bid of $997,197. Also submitting bids were C.J. Hughes Construction ($1,044,337) and Chapman Martin Excavating ($1,278,284).
The city has up to $1,050,000 in funding for the first phase, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning. The funding comes from tax-increment financing proceeds, the Community Development Block Grant program and the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone.
City officials will spend the next few days reviewing the bids to make sure they meet specifications. City Council then will vote on a contract. The contract proposal will appear on the agenda as the first reading of an ordinance for the council's July 28 meeting. Work could begin by late August, Holley said.
The centerpiece of the first phase is an outdoor plaza in front of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center and another plaza directly across 4th Avenue. A mid-block crosswalk will connect the two plazas. The area, Holley said, will promote outdoor shopping and eating and pedestrian traffic.
Plans also include reducing 4th Avenue to one lane each direction with a center turn lane at intersections, Holley said. Parallel parking will remain in the two-block stretch.
Each lane will be large enough to accommodate a bicycle lane, Holley said. Bicycle lanes won't be striped, however, until the Old Main Corridor is completed. The project is slated to stretch from Hal Greer Boulevard to 6th Street.
Filling underground storage areas in front of Club Envy and the Keith-Albee will be part of the first phase as well. There is a 15 foot by 30 foot room underneath the sidewalk in front of the Keith-Albee that is filled with coal 8 feet high, Holley said.
The room was used decades ago to store coal for the Keith-Albee's coal-fired heating system, he said. When urban renewal efforts began in the downtown in the 1970s, the room was sealed off but the coal was never removed.
The construction contract will be partnered with a contract for public art between 8th and 10th streets. Byron Clercx, chairman of Marshall's Department of Art and Design, submitted the lone bid of about $67,000 for the public art contract, Holley said. Work will involve custom-made park benches, bike racks and lighted medallions embedded in the sidewalk.
The next phase of work -- 14th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard -- will begin in spring 2009, Holley said. The city already has acquired funding for the work through the CDBG program and a state transportation grant.
July 30th, 2008, 03:07 AM
New Marshall dorms almost ready (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1356143420/New-dorms-almost-ready)
Herald-Dispatch, July 29, 2008
HUNTINGTON — They don’t have furniture, laundry machines or even names. Yet.
Almost all of that is changing, as what are currently known as Freshman North and Freshman South get that much closer to completion on Marshall University’s campus.
“They’ll be named and dedicated at a later date,” said Ron May, manager of project operations, standing in the foyer of Freshman South, which had been little more than a hole in the ground in May 2007. “We had a tight schedule, but really the drought last year helped us out. It was good for construction, bad for the climate.”
The two new dorms will have 812 beds between them, and each dorm room is furnished with a bathroom. Wireless routers hang from the ceilings to provide broadband access anywhere in the two, four-story buildings.
Each building also has classrooms, conference rooms and lecture halls/theaters that will help the freshmen living there make the transition into college life.
When talking about the dorms in an earlier interview, Marshall President Stephen Kopp referred to the concept as an experience that would immerse freshmen in college, with faculty living and working in the dorm to help make sure students adapt to college life and succeed. That, in turn, will help boost the university’s retention rates from the freshman to sophomore year, which are at about 75 percent at present.
Overall, the new dorms have cost $26 million to build, May said. That does not include the cost of furnishings, which has yet to be calculated.
Resident advisers will begin moving into the dorms in mid-August, and freshmen will move in on Aug. 22.
Marshall is also opening a new $4 million engineering building in August, and work continues on a student recreational center which will be complete in early 2009. Crews recently broke ground on a new building for the alumni association and Marshall University Foundation.
August 13th, 2008, 01:21 PM
Council voting on Old Main Corridor contracts (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2021816656/Council-voting-on-Old-Main-Corridor-contracts)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, August 10, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council will vote on two contracts this evening for a long-awaited improvement project in downtown Huntington.
The contracts are for the first phase of the Old Main Corridor, which aims to provide a better link between Marshall University and the downtown on 4th Avenue through enhanced landscaping and lighting, bicycle lanes, public art and incentives for small-business owners.
Hager Construction would be awarded a $997,197 construction contract that would be funded from tax-increment financing proceeds, the Community Development Block Grant program and the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone.
The second contract, which would not exceed $20,000, would be awarded to Byron Clercx, who is chairman of Marshall's Department of Art and Design. Clercx would provide consulting services on aesthetic enhancement projects within the corridor.
The centerpiece of the first phase is an outdoor plaza in front of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 924 4th Ave., and another plaza directly across the street. A mid-block crosswalk will connect the two plazas. The area is intended to promote outdoor shopping and eating and pedestrian traffic, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning.
Plans also include reducing 4th Avenue to one lane each direction with a center turn lane at intersections, Holley said. Parallel parking will remain in the two-block stretch.
Each lane will be large enough to accommodate a bicycle lane, Holley said. Bicycle lanes won't be striped, however, until the Old Main Corridor is completed. The overall project is slated to stretch from Hal Greer Boulevard to 6th Street.
Filling underground storage areas in front of Club Envy and the Keith-Albee will be part of the first phase as well. There is a 15-foot-by-30-foot room underneath the sidewalk in front of the Keith-Albee that is filled with coal 8 feet high, Holley said.
The next phase of work -- 14th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard -- will begin in spring 2009, Holley said. The city already has acquired funding for the work through the CDBG program and a state transportation grant.
The council meets at 7:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 800 5th Ave.
Also on the agenda for tonight's meeting is a resolution authorizing Mayor David Felinton to inquire about purchasing the old Navy Reserve building on Jackson Avenue between West 8th and 9th streets for the purpose of building a community center for the West End.
Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey wrote a letter last month to Council Chairwoman Mary Neely, urging that the city buy the building and use it for a community center.
August 15th, 2008, 04:11 AM
Removable floodwall is being considered (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2021816658/Removable-floodwall-could-showcase-citys-riverfront)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, August 10, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington city officials are exploring whether a section of "invisible floodwall" might be a practical way to showcase Harris Riverfront Park.
Bill Toney, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, is planning a trip with other city officials to Louisville, Ky., to see if its "invisible floodwall" would work in Huntington.
Advocates of a removable floodwall said it will bring more attention to the park and help connect downtown businesses to the riverfront. When erected, the removable floodwall provides ample protection from raging waters, but when it's down, there are few stationary objects to block the view and accessibility of the riverfront.
Toney said Mayor David Felinton and Charles Holley, director of planning and development, are prime candidates for the late-August trip. Felinton said construction of a removable could be part of the city's long-range plan, but the project will remain an idea only until costs are determined.
Felinton said there has been little work done by the city to determine if a removable floodwall is a good option for Huntington.
Besides opening up the park to the public, Toney said construction of a removable floodwall would allow part of the riverfront to be commercially developed. Though Felinton is open to the possibility of designating a portion of the riverfront for commercial development, he is wary of large-scale plans.
"I'm not in favor of building a big strip mall, but I believe there is a balance that can be achieved," Felinton said.
A so-called invisible floodwall is a removable barrier that is erected only when floodwaters reach dangerous levels. Flood Control America LLC built all three sections of removable floodwall in Louisville.
George Fryklund, chief executive officer of Flood Control America, said the sections in Louisville range from 60 to 770 feet wide. Depending on the location of the floodwall, the structure height varies from two to 18 feet.
The largest section of removable floodwall is directly behind Slugger Field, home to the Louisville Bats, a minor league baseball team and AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. There also are two, small street opening sections of removable floodwall, including one section near the Muhammad Ali Museum. Fryklund estimated the cost of the supplies and materials for the three projects to be between $500,000 and $600,000.
Since two of the projects were completed about 10 years ago, Fryklund said prices would be higher now.
The Slugger Field and Second Street sections were built in the late 1990s, and the section near the Muhammad Ali Museum was completed in 2003, Fryklund said. Though the removable portions are not very tall, Mike Humphrey, Louisville's flood protection administrator, said two portions are capable of handling Louisville's 500-year flood expectancy and the other is capable of handling the city's 100-year flood expectancy.
While there is added work involved with putting up and removing the wall when the threat of flooding rises and recedes, Humphrey said the city did not need additional staffing.
When floodwaters rise, steel posts are bolted into threaded plates built into the ground. Aluminum beams are then fastened between the posts to create an interlocking floodwall.
The removable sections that serve as street openings in Louisville are similar to the concrete floodwall openings at 10th and 12th streets in Huntington. Toney said installing either two separate street opening sections or a large section from both streets in Huntington could potentially do a lot to revitalize the riverfront.
"The more the riverfront is seen, the more it will be used," Toney said. "The park is already an asset to the city, but we can make it a bigger asset."
Robin Howell, an advocate of a removable floodwall and an independent candidate for mayor in the November election, said she hopes the city seriously looks into the option of opening up the riverfront. While other cities have developed their riverfront property into a thriving market for tourism and commerce, Howell said Huntington hasn't developed its riverfront to its full potential.
"The riverfront is an asset for the city, and we need to treat it like one," Howell said. "Other cities use the waterfront to attract tourists and business and commerce, and their waterfront property is very valuable."
In Louisville, Humphrey said the riverfront has been opened up greatly since the initial implementation of the invisible floodwall. The only downside of the removable floodwall, he said, is the amount of pieces needed for assembly.
"You have a lot better chance of a small leak because there are so many pieces," Humphrey said. "(The removable floodwall sections) have had the river hitting up against them and they've performed well. They haven't sustained any problems."
Careful planning and continual observation of the water levels prevents the city workers from having to install the barriers in a hurry. Humphrey said he is just as confident in the removable sections as he is about the approximate 29 miles of concrete and earthen levee floodwall sections in Louisville.
"Installing (the invisible floodwall) has made the process of closing the street openings a lot easier than the old system," Humphrey said. "With the old system, we used to have to lift 400- to 500-pound panels into position. It's a lot simpler now."
August 18th, 2008, 03:05 AM
City facing downturn in population (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x809654654/City-facing-downturn-in-population)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, August 17, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- As the 2010 Census nears, Huntington officials are starting to talk about their desire to keep the city's population above 50,000.
Falling below that number would only have a minimal effect, federal and state officials say, on the amount of funding that Huntington gets through state taxes and federal programs. But city officials say staying above the 50,000 benchmark is important for the city's image.
The upcoming Census also serves as a good time for decision-makers to come up with ways to increase, or at least stabilize, Huntington's population, business leaders say.
"Having a population under 50,000 might have a little bit of a psychological impact," said Jerry McDonald, president of the Huntington Area Development Council. "What's more important is that falling under 50,000 would continue the trend line of a declining population since 1950.
"Huntington has to draw a line in the sand, commit to not going below 50,000 or whatever number and develop a plan."
Huntington's population in the 2000 Census was 51,475, with the most recent Census estimate placing the number of people here at 48,982. Huntington's population peaked at 86,353 in 1950.
While falling below 50,000 people and overall population decline might play a role in how Huntington is perceived among its citizenry and the business world, it should have little effect on state and federal funding.
Huntington's largest source of federal funding is the Community Development Block Grant program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Chances are it has paid for the wailing fire engine that whizzes by you or the curb cuts in town that make navigating streets easier for people with disabilities. It also has brought millions to the city for operating community centers, housing rehabilitation and demolition, community policing, small business development and other community needs.
"It's a huge, huge factor for quality of life in this town," said Cal Kent, a Huntington city councilman and vice president for business and economic research at Marshall University. "I can't imagine where we would be without it."
For the past few years, there has been concern among community leaders that Huntington could lose all or a significant chunk of its CDBG funding if the population falls below 50,000, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning.
But Huntington is an entitlement community, meaning it can't lose all of its CDBG funding, he said. A CDBG entitlement community is one that has a population over 50,000 or is the central city of a metropolitan statistical area. Huntington is the central city of the Huntington-Ashland MSA.
Once a city is an entitlement community for two years in a row, it can never lose its entitlement status, said Stan Gimont, acting director of the Office of Block Grant Assistance, which administers the CDBG program. In addition, population is not even a factor in the funding formula used to determine Huntington's annual CDBG allocation, he said.
"It doesn't matter where Huntington's population goes when it comes to CDBG," Gimont said. "They can stop holding their breath. It's not a dire situation."
There are two funding formulas for CDBG entitlement communities, Gimont said. Communities get to use whichever formula gives them the most funding.
One is geared toward growing communities, because it uses factors such as population and housing overcrowding to determine funding levels, Gimont said. The formula Huntington and Charleston use is known as the "rust belt formula," Gimont said. It relies on poverty levels, pre-1940 housing and growth lag, which awards funding to cities that fail to grow at the rate of the national average.
"For a community that's shrinking, growth lag becomes an important factor in the amount of funding that Huntington gets," Gimont said.
Huntington's CDBG annual allocation has shrunk from $2.5 million to just above $2 million since 2004 because the federal program's funding has been cut 17 percent during that period, Gimont said. Dozens of cities also gain the status of entitlement communities every year, he said.
"No entitlement community can escape that," he said. "The pie's getting smaller, but we're having to serve more slices."
Population loss also has a minimal effect on the federal HOME program, which provides grants and interest-free loans to first-time home buyers. Huntington received almost $1 million from the program last year.
Once a community qualifies for HOME dollars, the funding cannot be taken away, said Maria Bynum, a HUD spokeswoman. Population is one of six factors that determines a community's funding level, she said, "but what really drives the formula is the percentage of people on poverty and the condition of rental property."
The only steady streams of state funding that flow into Huntington are the coal severance tax and oil and gas severance tax. Huntington is budgeted to receive more than $225,000 between the two taxes this year.
Three-fourths of the revenue generated by the two taxes goes to coal-producing counties, said Mark Muchow, deputy cabinet secretary for the Department of Revenue. The remaining revenue goes to non-producing counties and cities such as Cabell County and Huntington.
Revenue distribution is based on a city or county's population divided by the state population, Muchow said. Even though Huntington's population has shrunk, its share of revenue from severance taxes has increased in recent years because the price of coal, oil and natural gas has gone up, he said.
Kent said he's thankful for programs such as CDBG to help the city stay afloat during budget struggles.
"The only good thing about being poor is you get more money, which can help offset our population decline," he said. "But we can't rely on negative statistics such as poverty to bail us out forever."
To reverse the population trend, Huntington needs to create a more favorable environment for people to live here, Kent said.
"We need an environment that will keep people from moving outside the city to avoid paying fees," he said. "The other thing is we have to start concentrating on infrastructure issues. There are people who don't want to live in the city because of the condition of our roads."
McDonald and Mayor David Felinton say the key to turning around Huntington's population decline is improving the housing stock.
"We're the entertainment and banking center for the region, but what's missing is quality housing," McDonald said.
"People equate our population loss to losing jobs, and there's a truth to that," Felinton added. "But the key to stabilizing our population is housing."
August 18th, 2008, 03:07 AM
Unlike other states, West Virginia has virtually been unaffected by the housing meltdown (sans the eastern panhandle).
Newly renovated 9th Street Flats finished (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x809653896/Newly-renovated-9th-Street-Flats-finished)
Herald-Dispatch, August 15, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Commodore Holding LLC hosted an open house Thursday evening for its newly renovated condos, 9th Street Flats. The residential condominiums are located at 419 9th St., in the former Keen Jewelers building.
For more information, visit http://www.commodoreholding.com.
August 21st, 2008, 06:12 AM
State psychiatric hospital chief defends overcrowded facility (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808160638)
By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette, August 17, 2008
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - They once called this place the Home for the Incurables, a time when patients were shackled to beds and children sat all day in limp heaps on bare concrete floors.
The name was later changed to Huntington State Hospital. But a sign with the psychiatric hospital's original name remained outside the main entrance. The facility's employees eventually tore it down.
"They felt the families and patients would be offended," recalled Mary Beth Carlisle, chief executive officer of the facility, which was renamed Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in 1999. "We're very patient-centered here."
In recent weeks, Bateman has come under fire after the state's Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health released a scathing report about problems at the hospital - most caused by persistent overcrowding. The report declared Bateman "an accident waiting to happen."
Although the report upset many Bateman employees, Carlisle included, the CEO last week called the document's allegations "fair."
Carlisle led a tour of the 32-acre hospital complex last week at the Sunday Gazette-Mail's request. She said she's proud of the care offered at Bateman, but she acknowledged the hospital's chronic overcrowded conditions makes things difficult.
"We're slammed," Carlisle said. "All of the difficulties and challenges we face is because of the over census."
The facility, which opened in 1897 and once housed 1,800 patients, is now licensed for 90 beds.
One day last week, 104 patients were staying at Bateman. There are simply not enough places to put them, Carlisle said.
Rooms that usually house two people now must accommodate three. Some patients are forced to sleep on cots - hospital employees call them "rollaway beds" - just inches off the floor.
When patient rooms fill up, Bateman residents bunk up in small conference rooms without bathrooms. Patients must ask hospital employees to unlock hallway bathrooms that they use to wash up.
"This is a last resort," Carlisle said. "We have no choice."
Still, patient hygiene isn't compromised, she said.
A recent inspection by a state health facilities team didn't cite the hospital for failing to provide adequate bathing facilities.
"They didn't find any patients that weren't clean," said Carlisle, who took over Bateman four years ago.
The behavioral health ombudsman's report also blasted the hospital for forcing employees to work long hours, including back-to-back eight-hour shifts - a practice called "freezing."
That happens, Carlisle acknowledged.
The hospital has to have a specific number of workers on duty to meet state-mandated staffing levels. Those mandates help ensure that patients and hospital employees remain safe. The hospital won't compromise on safety, Carlisle said.
"I've got people who complain about the overtime, but we also have people who want the overtime," she said.
The hospital has had a difficult time filling vacancies. Employee wages at Bateman aren't competitive with nearby hospitals in Huntington, Kentucky and Ohio.
Not everyone's cut out to work with mentally ill patients, Carlisle said.
"We've had people come here to work and leave the next day," she said. "But we've had some stay for years."
Carlisle and the hospital's clinical director, Dr. Shahid Masood, said Bateman's overcrowding started several years ago after community-based mental health centers across the state were forced to slash programs in response to funding cuts.
Many group homes that housed people with mental illness were closed. Day treatment centers were eliminated.
With nowhere to turn for help, mentally ill patients "decompensate," become a danger to themselves and others, and wind up getting committed to a state hospital, Masood said.
"They're decompensating because of a lack of services in the community," the psychiatrist said. "There's no other option left but to come here."
The state ombudsman's report also criticized private psychiatric facilities for not accepting aggressive patients when Bateman and West Virginia's other state-run hospital - William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston - fill up.
Carlisle said that some of that criticism is unfair because many private hospitals aren't set up to handle difficult patients.
"If the patient is extremely dangerous, and if the private facility rejects them, we have no recourse but to take the patient," Carlisle said. "We get the very worst, sickest, most ill patients.
"Sometimes, they don't even give us a chance to divert them," she added. "The deputy shows up with them at the door."
Bateman also reserves 20 beds for "forensic patients," those convicted of crimes but sent by court order to a psychiatric hospital instead of jail.
"They tend to be here longer and harder to discharge," Carlisle said. "People aren't apt to want them back in their communities."
In recent weeks, state lawmakers have proposed building a third state-run hospital for court-ordered patients. Possible sites include the former West Virginia Rehabilitation Center in Institute, which closed last year.
Masood said every Bateman patient is assigned a treatment team made up of a physician, psychologist, nurse and social worker. The team meets with the patient five days a week.
The treatment protocol leads to fewer problems and complaints, Carlisle said.
"We really work hard not to use restraints and seclusion," she said.
Bateman patients take part in a slate of activities. There's an "Afternoon Therapeutic Mall" or ATM, during which patients attend art, music and anger-management classes, or just hang out in the hospital's library. There's also a "therapeutic garden" where residents grow tomatoes and strawberries.
Patients get four "fresh air" breaks each day, when they go outside to smoke and talk to one another.
The hospital also is building a "therapeutic apartment" complete with a bedroom and kitchen, where patients practice skills they'll need after being released.
More than half of Bateman patients stay for 90 days or more.
"Some have been here so long, they forget basic life skills," Masood said. "Their life is very structured here."
The hospital also is expanding to increase its total number of beds to 110. Construction is expected to start later this year.
"It's work in progress," Carlisle said. "We have an obligation to do something to help our patients."
August 22nd, 2008, 11:50 PM
Huntington-to-Charleston bus service coming (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1484856158/Huntington-to-Charleston-bus-service-coming-soon)
By Ben Fields, Herald-Dispatch, August 22, 2008
CHARLESTON — Bus service from Huntington to Charleston and back will begin within 90 to 120 days, according to Gov. Joe Manchin.
The purposed service would leave Pullman Square in Huntington at 6:45 a.m. and arrive at the State Capitol at 8:15 a.m. It would leave the State Capitol at 5:15 p.m. and return to downtown Huntington by 6:45 p.m. It would run Monday through Friday.
Manchin made the announcement Friday at a press conference in the Capitol.
“I think it’s going to be extremely successful,” Manchin said. “We are going to have true commuter service between Huntington and Charleston.”
The service will have between two and three stops in Huntington and Charleston, along with single stops at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville and the Crooked Creek Park and Ride in Putnam County.
One-way fare will be $4 from Huntington and $3 from Putnam County.
Vicki Shaffer, president and chief executive officer of the Tri-State Transit Authority, said the commuter service is traveling from Huntington to Charleston because traffic data suggested more commuters travel to Charleston for work.
“Obviously that trend reverses in the evening, when everyone is going the opposite way,” she said.
Funding for the project comes from a three-year grant, 80 percent of which comes from the federal government. The remaining 20 percent will come from state funds. The plan is pending final approval from the Tri-State Transit Authority and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority.
Shaffer said she does not anticipate any resistance in her agency.
August 25th, 2008, 02:31 AM
Huntington wants to ensure Old Main Corridor project goes smoothly (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage/x1846891503/Huntington-wants-to-ensure-Old-Main-Corridor-project-goes-smoothly)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, August 24, 2008
HUNTINGTON — The city hopes to minimize the impact on the downtown business community when the first phase of the Old Main Corridor project begins on 4th Avenue between 8th and 10th streets.
That first phase of the project, which overall aims to provide a better link between Marshall University and the downtown, is scheduled to begin in mid-September. Hager Construction was awarded the $997,197 construction contract to do the first phase. Several streetscape areas, including sidewalks and driving lanes, will be drastically changed.
Charles Holley, the city’s director of development and planning, said construction most likely will be done in half-block sections to minimize the disruption.
“We want to make sure we don’t disturb the businesses and that their customers always have access to the business doors,” Holley said. “Even if we have to build temporary bridges so customers can get through the construction and not get all muddy.”
A major part of the project includes reducing 4th Avenue to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane at intersections. It now has two lanes of traffic going both ways.
Holley said he understands the concerns of citizens about doing demolition and construction work on a highly traveled area, and plans to address them.
Once the work is complete, travelers will benefit from the increased lane width, Holley said. The traffic pattern change also will allow the city to build a dedicated bike path along both sides of 4th Avenue. Bicycle lanes won't be striped, however, until the entire Old Main Corridor project is completed.
Holley said the first phase of the project was designed to ensure the same number of parallel parking spots will still be available.
The centerpiece of the construction is an outdoor plaza in front of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 924 4th Ave., and another plaza directly across the street. A mid-block crosswalk will connect the two plazas. Holley said the area is intended to promote outdoor shopping, eating and pedestrian traffic.
Aside from Hager Construction’s work on the project, the Huntington City Council also awarded a second contract, which will not exceed $20,000, to Byron Clercx, chairman of Marshall's Department of Art and Design. Clercx will provide consulting services on aesthetic enhancement projects within the corridor.
The city is looking to develop a plan that includes using ornate features found inside the Keith-Albee on the outside plazas on 4th Avenue. Holley said the plan has been designed to highlight the architecture of the Keith-Albee. Clercx will be in charge of bringing the classic artwork and architecture of the surrounding buildings to the ground level.
Holley said the first phase of improvements to 4th Avenue, including artistic features and streetscape work, will be substantial.
“This is truly going to be a showcase project for the downtown that we’re going to continue all the way down 4th Avenue,” Holley said. “It’s a lot more than fixing a sidewalk or planting a tree, it’s a complete transformation for the area.”
The entire project will extend from Hal Greer Boulevard to 8th Street on 4th Avenue. The second phase of the Old Main Corridor project will be from 14th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard and is expected to start next spring.
August 26th, 2008, 02:21 AM
Inter-city bus plans speed up (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808230002)
By Rusty Marks, Charleston Daily Mail, August 23, 2008
Regularly scheduled commuter bus runs between Huntington and Charleston and back could start within six months, state officials said Friday.
Gov. Joe Manchin announced the inter-city bus plan at a press conference Friday morning. Manchin said state officials have been looking at ways to save state residents money on fuel bills, and the daily commuter runs are one of the ideas they came up with.
"I think it makes all the sense in the world," Manchin said.
State officials have been working with staff at the Tri-State Transit Authority in Huntington and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority in Charleston to figure out how to make the proposal work.
"We've discussed it seriously in the last couple of months, but it's certainly not a new idea," said Susan O'Connell, director of the state Division of Public Transit for the past 25 years. She said similar plans were discussed during the administration of former Gov. Cecil Underwood, but funding couldn't be found for the project.
"We feel that this is the best time, and the demand will be there," O'Connell said.
Under the plan, a TTA bus would leave Huntington at 6:45 a.m. on weekdays and arrive at the state Capitol in Charleston around 8:15 a.m., then turn around and head back to Huntington. In the evenings, a KRT bus would leave Charleston at 5:15 p.m. and arrive in Huntington around 6:45 p.m. before making a return trip.
The buses would make two or three stops in Huntington, a stop near the Barboursville Mall, a stop at the Crooked Creek Park and Ride in Putnam County and two or three stops in Charleston. Cost to ride the bus would be $4 one-way or $8 round-trip between Charleston and Huntington, or $3 one-way and $6 round-trip between Charleston and Putnam County.
Officials are already talking about ways to bring the cost to riders down. "If we can lower the fares, we're certainly going to do that," O'Connell said.
Manchin said the bus runs are one way to combat rising fuel prices. While he said Europeans have been dealing with high gas prices for a long time, Manchin said Europe has a well-developed and efficient mass transit system.
In America, he pointed out, Americans' love affair with the personal car edged out mass forms of transportation like streetcars and local rail service decades ago. "Basically, we dismantled our mass transit system," he said.
As gas prices began to rise, Manchin said, state officials started looking at ways to revive mass transit systems to save state residents money on fuel. Manchin said state officials have talked about reviving local rail service and even considered modifying buses to run on the railroad tracks.
"We're looking at anything and everything that makes even a little sense that we can explore," he said.
The inter-city bus service was an idea that could be implemented fairly quickly, he said. The project will be funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. O'Connell said 80 percent of the funding will come from the federal government and 20 percent from state funds.
O'Connell expects the project to cost about $200,000, including marketing and operating assistance to pay for fuel and salaries of drivers.
If the idea takes off, Manchin said the bus runs will help ease commuter congestion on Interstate 64 in the mornings and evenings. "I think it's going to be very successful," he said.
Assuming the details are approved by transportation officials in Cabell and Kanawha counties, buses could start running in 90 to 120 days.
Manchin said inter-city bus routes could be expanded to other parts of the state if the program is a success.
September 2nd, 2008, 02:51 AM
Officials plan trip to removable floodwall (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/homepage_feat2/x1724958458/Officials-plan-trip-to-removable-floodwall)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, September 1, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- City officials are planning a trip to Louisville, Ky., this week to see if a "removable floodwall" like the one there could help open up Harris Riverfront Park to downtown Huntington.
Scheduled to make the trip are Huntington Mayor David Felinton; Bill Toney, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority; and Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning.
Click for map of proposed floodwall
They will be looking at three removable floodwall sections that Flood Control America LLC built for installation in Louisville from 1998 to 2003.
The city is considering replacing concrete floodwall sections from the 10th to 12th street floodwall openings in front of the park with a removable floodwall. The removable barrier is erected only when waters reach levels that threaten flooding.
The section is along Huntington's Harris Riverfront Park and extends less than a quarter-mile, or 1,320 feet, and is about 16 feet high. The removable sections in Louisville range from 60 to 770 feet long and, depending on the location of the floodwall, vary from 2 to 18 feet in height.
Advocates of a removable floodwall said it will bring more attention to the park and help connect downtown businesses to the riverfront.
Toney said he also plans to meet in late September with staff from Flood Control America. He hopes when the engineers come to Huntington, they can suggest different building options to find the one most suitable for the city.
"I'd like to get them down here to get an idea of what is the easiest and most efficient way to do it," Toney said. "The technology is here, so we should consider if (a removable floodwall) would work here."
George Fryklund, chief executive officer of Flood Control America, said his company could fabricate and provide the city with the materials to cover the sections for less than $2 million. The estimate does not include demolition of the current wall and the concrete work needed for the foundation.
Flood Control America fabricates all the components for the removable floodwall but does not install any components. If the city purchased the floodwall, Fryklund said it would have to find a company to do the additional work. Most construction companies use the original concrete wall's foundation to secure the removable floodwall, he said.
If hired tomorrow, Fryklund said, his company could have the materials ready for a removable floodwall in four months. The process would include preparing engineering drawings, getting them approved by various government entities and fabricating the pieces. The process does not include the concrete work, which Fryklund said could take up to four months.
While each floodwall site is unique, Fryklund said the wall fabrication and installation process is the same.
"Each site, we run the new calculations, but it's the same thing we've done 150 times," Fryklund said.
The section in Huntington, he said, wouldn't be the largest the company has built. The largest removable floodwall was built in St. Paul, Minn., and it was about 3,500 feet along the Mississippi River.
Some in the community have said they are concerned that a wall about 1,320 feet long by 16 feet high would be too difficult to erect in an emergency. Fryklund said once the construction is done, the entire wall could be erected in three days by an eight-man crew. If potential flooding is expected to be minimal, Fryklund said floodwall workers can just put up a portion of floodwall to a certain height rather than the full height.
Though the city is considering constructing a removable floodwall, Felinton said it would be years before one could be installed while the city sorts out how it should be designed and locates the money for such a project.
Felinton said it is his goal to improve the downtown and open up the park to more visitors.
"The riverfront will serve a greater purpose in the years to come," he said. "Increasingly, more people are moving downtown. And when those people come downtown they need a back yard and a peaceful place to take time out of the day and relax."
Flood Control America fabricated a removable floodwall for East Grand Forks, Minn., between 2000 and 2001 following the devastating Red River Flood in 1997. Previously, the town used emergency earth levees that were moved into place when flood waters became dangerously high, said East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss.
Since the wall was installed, Stauss said, the benefits have been overwhelmingly positive. Stauss said the Army Corps of Engineers funded 90 percent of the project. East Grand Forks built a boardwalk in conjunction with the construction of the floodwall.
The riverfront now has five restaurants and a large upper-level dining hall that is used for private receptions. The riverfront view provided by the removable floodwall has opened up the riverfront to new businesses and to people traveling downtown, he said.
"We now have an amazing view of the river instead of staring at a concrete wall like we're in prison or looking at earth levees that aren't very attractive," Stauss said. "We were able to keep our downtown identity. I recommend this to (any town) that wants to give their downtown restaurants, businesses and people an attractive riverfront to look at."
September 22nd, 2008, 04:04 PM
Group seeks new vision for city (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1769600875/Group-wants-to-forge-vision-for-Huntington)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, September 18, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- A group that wants to improve Huntington is looking for ideas from the public.
Community members who have joined an organization called "Create Huntington" are trying to put together a long-term plan for city improvements, and they want everyone to be involved.
Create Huntington wants to take ideas from different segments of the Huntington community -- Marshall University, business, government, nonprofits and residents -- and create a development plan. It wants to facilitate development, as well as coordinate efforts already under way in the community so the right hand knows what the left is doing.
A kickoff event is planned from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the conference room of the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, and all in Huntington are invited. At the event, members of the Create Huntington steering committee will explain what the organization is about, and then will take time for public input, eventually breaking the audience into groups for small-group discussions.
The kickoff event later will be followed by further community discussions in October to gather more input. The group also wants to conduct a survey and get feedback online.
It's an effort to harness the potential of the people of Huntington, said Anne Durham, president of Mountainside Media and a member of the steering committee. "What we need to improve Huntington is already here -- new ideas, new energy and, most importantly, vision," she said. "What is the community's vision?"
It's exciting to see all the things already happening in Huntington to help with development, she said. She stressed that while Create Huntington is in the process of becoming an official nonprofit organization, it won't ever be an organization of numerous paid employees. It will depend on community volunteers and be a support mechanism to help coordinate projects.
The initiative got some publicity earlier this year during a visit from Vaughn Grisham, a sociology professor and director of the McLean Institute for Community Development at the University of Mississippi. He stopped in Huntington to consult with Create Huntington leaders on a long-term plan for Huntington.
That visit alone sparked some new, or more coordinated, efforts, Durham said. One example is that several groups involved with cleaning up litter around Huntington have gotten together and formed the Create Huntington Green Team. This new group orchestrates the works of the different groups and makes sure they're not duplicating efforts.
"We had this meeting, and everybody talked about the ideas they'd have for community projects ... and in a lot of circumstances, the ball would drop," Durham said. In this case, though, e-mails went out and a lead person was appointed to step up and organize.
"We're just trying to keep the wheels turning and not let the wheels drop," she said.
In the way of funding, the city earlier this year received a $50,000 Benedum Foundation grant. It has been matched with a financial contribution from First State Bank and in-kind contributions from Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research and Mountainside Media. In addition to paying for Grisham's visit, the funds also have been used by city officials and business leaders to travel to Morgantown and Paducah, Ky., to learn about their community vision processes.
Consultant Bruce Decker, a Huntington native now based in Rochester, Pa., is on board to help with the process of turning ideas into a concrete plan. That plan is expected to encompass health, infrastructure, development resources, natural resources, culture, image and attitude, among other factors.
The next step is creating a private, nonprofit organization called the Create Huntington Foundation.
A lot of funding groups in the state have bought into this model, said Phoebe Randolph, a member of the steering committee and an architect with Edward Tucker Architects in Huntington.
"If you can fit into this, there's funding to be had," she said.
To learn more about Create Huntington, visit http://www.createhuntington.com. The Web site features a calendar and information about improvement projects going on in Huntington.
September 28th, 2008, 03:29 PM
Charleston-Huntington bus route gets federal funding (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x2081123381/Charleston-Huntington-bus-route-gets-federal-funding)
Herald-Dispatch, September 28, 2008
CHARLESTON -- The federal government is making a three-year commitment to a new public transit service between West Virginia's two largest cities.
The federal grant will pay 100 percent of the cost for a bus route between Huntington and Charleston the first year. There will be a matching requirement for the next two years, with the federal grant paying 80 percent of the costs and the state paying the rest.
The funds are through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which is overseen by the U.S Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.
The project is a joint effort between Charleston's Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority and Huntington's Tri-State Transportation Authority. KRT says the fare for the ride will be $4 each way.
The route is to begin on Jan. 1.
Charleston-Huntington bus trips to cost passengers $4 (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200809260189)
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, September 26, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A ride on the new public transit service from Charleston to Huntington is going to cost passengers $4 each way.
That's the word from Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority officials. They announced the price during a Kanawha County Commission meeting on Thursday.
The KRT and Huntington's Tri-State Transportation Authority are teaming up to provide the bus service.
It is expected to begin Jan. 1
At the meeting, County Commission President Kent Carper praised the transit officials for the plan.
"This is exactly the right thing to do," Carper said. "There's a lot of potential with this."
When asked by the commission if $4 would be enough to fund the project, KRT Director Denny Dawson simply replied "no."
"Buses don't make much money," Dawson said. "That's why we're federally subsidized."
The funds for the effort are coming from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program allocated by the state from the U.S Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.
The total cost of the new program has not been determined. The federal government has guaranteed a three-year commitment to the program.
The federal grant will pay 100 percent of the cost the first year, then in the following two years there will be a matching requirement. In those years, the federal grant will pay 80 percent of the costs with the state paying the remaining 20 percent.
Dawson said the KRT is looking at either leasing or buying a new bus for the service.
KRT officials have said they would get new motor coaches to give passengers more comfort on the longer ride.
Current KRT buses are made only for travel within the city.
Also at the meeting, Jay Goldman, a former Charleston mayor and real estate developer, said he's received two inquiries from interested parties regarding building a new hotel at the current location of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Goldman, who's been aiding the county in selling the property, declined to name the possible buyers.
The county and Charleston officials are looking at selling the property at 108 Lee St. to be used for a new, upscale downtown hotel.
Carper said a new hotel would be a big step for the downtown area.
"When will that building create new jobs or destination resort type activity?" Carper said. "Never. Unless you build a hotel there."
County officials want to put the health department property up for auction.
Carper said they would have to get more than the property's worth for the plans to flourish.
He estimates the property is worth around $2.5 million.
Commissioner Dave Hardy said only an auction would determine if there's interest or not in the property.
"The market is the ultimate test of everything," Hardy said. "We're not going to know until we put it up for auction."
September 28th, 2008, 03:30 PM
Old Main Corridor Project now under way (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x947592850/Old-Main-Corridor-Project-now-under-way)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, September 22, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Two projects near the Frederick Building have affected traffic patterns around 10th Street and 4th Avenue.
Streets have been roped off on both streets as the city gets its Old Main Corridor Project under way, and as restoration work continues at the Frederick Building.
This is the city's first phase of the Old Main Corridor Project. The entire project is intended to enhance 4th Avenue between 8th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard, and this first phase is between 8th and 10th streets.
The project "involves replacement of sidewalks, construction of two pedestrian plazas, all new street lighting similar to the Pullman Square area and repavement of 4th Avenue," said Bruce Gold, project manager with Hager Construction. Parking will be laid out differently to increase the number of parking spaces, but will not be angled, Gold said.
Crews started mobilizing last week and began construction work this week, breaking up sections of sidewalk.
For this first phase, "We'll try to get everything done before the winter shuts us down," he said. Sections of the road will be corded off for the safety of the public and the workers, he said. If it's possible, parking will be restored to an area after the sidewalk work has been completed.
Meanwhile, restorations continue on the Frederick Building, owned by John Hankins. On Monday, workers with Advanced Building Restorations were cleaning and painting the exterior of the building. Hankins did not return phone calls seeking information about the project.
September 30th, 2008, 01:51 PM
Construction on $30M center expected to be finished by February 2009 (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x890570887/Construction-on-30M-center-expected-to-be-finished-by-February-2009)
By Laura Wilcox, Herald-Dispatch, September 29, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Crews are working extra shifts in an effort to complete Marshall University's Student Recreation Center by February 2009.
Crews are currently putting in six 10-hour days each week to meet the deadline, said university spokesman Dave Wellman. The center is located at 20th Street and 5th Avenue.
Work on the center's swimming pool began Monday, Wellman said. Other ongoing work includes exterior masonry, drywall, painting, fireproofing, plumbing, sidewalks and installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
The Student Recreation Center will include a climbing wall, juice bar, racquetball courts, basketball courts, fitness center, group exercise rooms and three-lane jogging track.
Construction of the 123,000-square-foot facility began in September 2007 and costs $30 million.
Mascaro Construction of Pittsburgh is the contractor for the center. Marshall has worked with Mascaro on various other projects as well, including the new residence halls.
October 1st, 2008, 08:20 PM
Huntington's Old Main Corridor project (http://www.urbanup.net/index.php?cityID=2&ID=6), designed to link Marshall University to downtown via 4th Avenue, is now under construction after seven years of planning and much anticipation.
Modeled after other gateway corridors, including Columbus' Short North, Old Main will include new street lighting, the reduction of 4th Avenue from four- to two-lanes, the construction of bicycle lanes, the reconstruction of the sidewalks, the creation of two outdoor plazas at the Keith-Albee and the Frederick, and the installation of a Wireless Internet network.
Check out the Old Main Corridor page (http://www.urbanup.net/index.php?cityID=2&ID=6) for further information and renderings.
October 15th, 2008, 06:48 PM
What's awesome is that Huntington has a greater variety (and number, in a lot of cases) of stores and unique dining options than many bigger cities -- such as Lexington!
Toy store draws kids, parents to Pullman Square (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x735227320/Toy-store-draws-kids-parents-to-Pullman-Square)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, October 15, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Families now have another pit stop they can make when they go downtown for dinner or a movie -- Latta's Toy Station on 3rd Avenue, across from Pullman Square.
The shop had its official grand opening Tuesday at 943 3rd Ave., which is between Reuschlein Jewelers and Mug & Pia. But it had a soft opening on Sunday, and it's a success with the customers so far, said store manager Jack Mullarky.
"They love it -- I think it's going to do really well," said Mullarky, son of Mike Mullarky, the owner of both Latta's Toy Station and Latta's on 4th Avenue, which sells supplies for teachers and artists. "This is a specialty store with things that you can't find at Wal-Mart. It's what Pullman Square needed."
The new shop sells a variety of safe, quality, nonviolent toys for kids -- from rockets and magic sets to doll houses and kitchen sets. There's a section for infant toys, and Latta's Toy Station also will fill a niche in the community by selling toys that help with development, both for small children and special needs children.
Those include toys that improve dexterity and have various textures, such as putty, play foam, Gerti Balls (which bounce and help with grip) and puzzles that have knobs on each piece for easier grip. Some items also are helpful for adults undergoing therapy as they recover from a stroke.
Customers can keep an eye on the store's calendar as well, for it's planning to host special activities such as story time, puppet shows, magic shows, tea parties and the like. It even has a little castle-like stage set up for puppet shows.
Emily Nelson, the event coordinator of the toy shop, said that in planning events, she tried to keep it universal for the first month, and eventually will begin to plan events that target girls or boys, such as a tea party for girls, or a construction party for boys. She wants it to be a place where the whole family can come, but it's also about the kids. "I can't wait to see their faces," she said.
It's great to see an already successful business owner expand, said Mark Bugher, president and chief executive officer of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. After 75 years, Latta's is still thriving on 4th Avenue, and will continue to sell educational and art supplies. And it's nice that when Mike Mullarky decided to fill another niche he chose to, once again, invest in the downtown, Bugher said.
Plus it's another great-looking addition to 3rd Avenue, he said.
"This is what the downtown ought to look like -- unique shops with wide appeal," Bugher said. "It's very quaint."
October 16th, 2008, 03:33 AM
4th Avenue construction in full swing (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1735899230/4th-Avenue-construction-in-full-swing)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, October 15, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Construction continues on 4th Avenue as crews grind and pound away at the first phase of the city's Old Main Corridor Project.
Work now has extended down the south side of the 900 block and to all four corners of the 10th Street intersection, which are roped off for pedestrian safety.
The entire project is intended to enhance 4th Avenue between 8th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard, and this first phase is between 8th and 10th streets.
As a whole, the project involves replacement of sidewalks, construction of two pedestrian plazas, new street lighting similar to Pullman Square's and repavement of 4th Avenue, said Bruce Gold, project manager with Hager Construction. The project will narrow 4th Avenue to two lanes, with turning lanes.
Parking will be laid out differently to increase the number of parking spaces, but will not be angled, Gold said.
Work started about three weeks ago. But "It's not really on schedule because we've found subsurface difficulties that nobody planned for, and we've had to deal with them," Gold said. That includes a variety of issues. For example, previous engineers had indicated that one building's basement had a roof, but the roof turned out to be the sidewalk itself. So when the sidewalk was torn out, the basement was exposed.
That problem was dealt with as quickly as possible, Gold said, and will be easier to handle next time, should it come up with another building.
And other issues come up when you tear out sidewalks, like seeing disparity in height between roadways and the sidewalks, and making sure to meet federal guidelines for the grade of a handicap ramp. Such problems are all handled as quickly as possible, with the guidance of the city, he said.
Gold said the project is about a week and a half behind at this point. If weather permits and things fall in line from this point, the project could still meet its completion goal, which is before winter weather sets in. Otherwise, paving for this phase may have to wait until spring, he said.
Right now, work is focused on the south side of 4th Avenue, in the 900 block, and the 10th Street intersection. After that area is complete, workers reverse and go westward, skipping over the area in front of the Keith Albee (on the north and south sides of 4th Avenue) and will start at the Old Village Roaster and work westward toward 9th Street. Once that is complete, workers will start in front of Pet Palace and work westward on the south side of the 800 block of 4th Avenue, and then move to the north side of the 800 block of 4th Avenue.
Then work will move to the area in front of the Keith Albee, which will be a pedestrian plaza, with more room for the public to gather in front of the theater, and room for outdoor seating on the opposite side of the street, Gold said.
Designs for that area are still in the works, which is why workers will come back to that later. "It's hard to visualize, but there really is a plan to all of this," Gold said.
Meanwhile, restorations continue on the Frederick Building, owned by John Hankins.
All the construction work has affected businesses along 4th Avenue, but, "You live through it, and you forget it," said Bill Moore, manager of Wright's Clothiers at the corner of 4th Avenue and 10th Street. "I'd just as soon do it, get it over with, and six months from now, it's going to be really pretty."
Workers don't seem to waste any time, he said.
"We knew it was coming, so you just grin and bear it," he said. "A lot of people see (the sidewalk) taped off and they leave, but they come back. What you think you've lost now, you'll gain it back."
Sherry Houvouras, owner of City Kids & Co., looks forward to the final product but said she didn't realize how much, and how long, the construction would intimidate customers.
"Where we've had 4th Avenue closed, we've also have 10th Street entrance unable to be entered," she said. "We do have ambitious mothers and shoppers in our area who have said, 'I was going to get into that store no matter what,' so we appreciate everyone who has persevered."
One of the hardest things is the uncertainty of it all, and not being able to plan sales or know when everything will be back to normal.
"It's been tough, and then you deal with the economy," she said. "We all love progress and I look forward to it, but it has been a struggle."
October 21st, 2008, 02:33 PM
Keith-Albee continues improvements (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x309790988/Keith-Albee-continues-with-improvements)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, October 21, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Almost three years have passed since the Keith-Albee closed as a movie theater and work began to transform it into a performing arts center.
In that time, a number of changes have been made to turn the historic theater into a viable venue for Broadway shows, comedic acts and musical performances. Officials now responsible for the Keith-Albee point to the success of recent shows such as comedian Jim Gaffigan, who kicked off the Marshall Artists Series' 72nd season with a sellout, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group ZZ Top, which turned a profit for the performing arts center.
But if the Keith-Albee is going to sustain this success over the long haul, several key renovations need to be made, they say.
"We've proven we can run and maintain it," said Bob Plymale, co-president of the Keith-Albee Foundation. "Now we need to take it to the next level with a good, long-term business plan that involves several infrastructure improvements."
Over the past year or so, the foundation, with help from volunteers and private donations, has put in a new backstage pulley system at a cost of $140,000, updated the lighting and restored the lighted stars in the ceiling, added more lobby space by removing the old concession stand, installed new carpet in the lobby and added handicap-accessible and/or table-top seating in the area where the projectors used to be in the main theater. Those improvements have made the Keith-Albee available for a range of uses, said David Tyson, co-president of the Keith-Albee Foundation.
"From the use standpoint, I believe we are exceeding expectations," he said.
One major renovation that is a must over the next year is replacing the roof, Plymale said.
"Any time you have a building of that age, you have a number of holes and leaks that you have to patch," he said. "But we're at the point where we can't patch anymore."
Plymale said it could cost at least $600,000 to replace the roof. The foundation received a $150,000 grant two weeks ago from the state Division of Culture and History to help pay for a new roof, but it requires a local match. The foundation will begin seeking private donations for the project over the next few weeks, Plymale said.
Beyond fixing the roof, other improvements at the Keith-Albee will be dictated by funding and the schedule of performances, said Liza Caldwell, a foundation board member who is helping with the improvement plan.
"We are going to do a survey of the building (this) week so we can catalog everything that needs to be improved," she said. "From that point, we will begin to prioritize. We want to coordinate all these things so they don't impede on performances."
Caldwell already knows about some of the needed improvements. The electrical wiring, seating and curtains need to be replaced and the restrooms need to be upgraded. There also are plans to restore the marquee to its original look when the Keith-Albee opened in 1928, she said.
Another project will involve renovating the small theater that faces 4th Avenue in the building into a ticket office and catering area for receptions. Caldwell said the exterior stone wall that separates the Village Roaster and the main entrance of the Keith-Albee will be removed and a retail storefront for the ticket office will be built in its place.
"We're shooting to do everything in a five-year period," she said. "It's a monumental project, so we don't want to overextend or overwhelm ourselves."
One project that has been put on the backburner is enlarging the Keith-Albee's stage, Plymale said. It was originally built for vaudeville shows and is much smaller compared with stages at similar performing arts centers, according to Sachs Morgan Studio, a New York-based theater design company that was hired last year to make recommendations for improvement.
"It's something that we'll have to do long term, but it won't be easy," Plymale said. "The stage is 41/2 feet below the alley. If we tried to extend the stage back toward the alley, we would be displacing gas and sewer lines."
In addition to private donations, the Keith-Albee Foundation is in the process of hiring a grant writer and is working on creating historic and new market tax credits, Caldwell said. The historic tax credits will be syndicated with the new market credits and sold to investors. In turn, the investment money will be used to pay down the debt created by the renovations, she said.
October 27th, 2008, 03:45 AM
Create Huntington hosting meetings (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x221546963/Community-improvement-group-hosting-meetings)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, October 25, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- A group that wants to improve Huntington is seeking input this week through an online survey and four public meetings that will play a key role in the development of a strategic plan.
The online survey and meetings are sponsored by Create Huntington, which promotes itself as a group that empowers citizens to improve community livability so that the city is successful in the global economy.
It's an effort to harness the potential of Huntington residents and enhance their ability to control their own destiny, said Anne Durham, president of Mountainside Media. The company has helped promote Create Huntington's goals and designed its Web site, www.createhuntington.com.
"Everyone is looking for a time when Huntington will be so wealthy that we can do all of the things in the city that need to be done," Durham said. "But city governments are starving across the country. We have to find another way to get things done."
Create Huntington wants to take ideas from different segments of the Huntington community -- Marshall University, business, government and nonprofits, and residents -- to create the city's strategic plan. That's why it is hosting public meetings for each segment, Durham said.
After the strategic plan is developed, Durham said she envisions Create Huntington becoming a citizen-driven, apolitical organization that connects volunteers to civic projects and helps facilitate development. The group should achieve private, nonprofit status in the next few months, she said.
"It's a very new thing," Durham said. "I've been doing community development work for 15 years, and I've never seen anything like it."
Much of Create Huntington's work thus far has been funded with a $50,000 Benedum Foundation grant that the city received earlier this year. The grant has been matched with a financial contribution from First State Bank and in-kind contributions from Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research and Mountainside Media.
The grant has been used by city officials and business leaders to travel to Morgantown and Paducah, Ky., to learn about their community vision processes as well as hire Bruce Decker, a Mason County native and consultant with Collective Impact of Rochester, Pa.
A delegation of business leaders, city officials and residents also are planning a trip to Oxford and Tupelo, Miss., in early November to learn more about community development efforts there.
Decker, who lived in Huntington for 15 years, said his role is to take the ideas from the public meetings and online surveys and turn them into a concrete plan. It will address health, infrastructure, social capital, image and attitude, culture, quality of life and natural resources, among other factors, he said.
Decker also will analyze existing reports and long-term plans of other agencies.
"From all of the different data sources, we will prioritize and come up with some common themes that are important to the community and improvement strategies which it considers successful," he said.
The strategic plan will be released sometime in February 2009, Decker said.
November 21st, 2008, 01:46 PM
Marshall fitness complex getting into shape (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/statenews/200811200215)
New facility featuring four gyms, Olympic pool set to open in February
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, November 20, 2008
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall University is giving students a $30 million reason to avoid packing on the freshman 15.
The school is constructing a new campus recreation center featuring an Olympic-sized pool, four full-sized gymnasiums and a walking/jogging track.
The center also contains a variety of exercise equipment, including treadmills, weight machines and step machines.
The three-story, 123,000-square-foot building is under construction at the corner of 20th Street and Fifth Avenue, across from Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
It's scheduled to open in February.
Marshall President Stephen Kopp thinks the new fitness center will make the university more attractive to potential students.
"The development of the recreation center is vital to the creation of a destination campus environment for the Marshall University community. When new students visit our campus, they see we have state-of-the-art facilities right here, in many cases, next door to where they will reside," Kopp said.
"When they realize that Marshall has so much available to enrich them academically and personally, I believe that is when they really will consider Marshall University as their first choice for their college education experience."
Ronnie May, a project manager for construction at Marshall University, said work on the center began in September 2007.
May said the crews have been hard at work to open on the targeted date.
"We've got guys working 10 hours a day for six to seven days a week," May said. "It will be open in February."
The construction site is the former location of the 20th Street Baptist Church.
May said the church, with membership down, sold the property to the university in October 2006 for $1 million. Months later, the church was torn down and a groundbreaking was held.
There's a smaller student fitness facility in Gullickson Hall adjoining the Cam Henderson Center. It contains a weight room, various treadmills and other cardiovascular machines. May said that facility would remain open after the new center opens.
The construction is being funded through a partnership between Marshall and Capstone Development Corp., a firm based in Birmingham, Ala., that is underwriting bonds to pay for the university's building projects, including the recreation center and new residence halls located next door.
The total project cost is $94 million. The new dorms, called the First Year Freshman Residence Halls, opened in August and house 800 students.
Capstone is overseeing construction and operation of the new buildings until Marshall can pay off the bond debt using revenue generated from the facilities. After a 30-year payment period, when Marshall pays off the bonds, ownership of the facilities will revert to the university.
Students will swipe their Marshall identification cards at the front door to gain entry to the new center. The entry fee for the recreation center is to be included in tuition.
One of the highlights will be a 32-foot climbing wall.
The wall will be visible through windows facing 20th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Other features include a three-lane lap pool, a six-person whirlpool, juice bar and pro shop.
Kopp said he's excited about the recreation opportunities.
"It is going to be a magnet for people to gather and focus on wellness and fitness and have at their disposal everything from a climbing wall, juice bar, racquetball and basketball courts, to a fully equipped fitness center, group exercise rooms and a three-lane jogging track," Kopp said.
"When you really consider all it will offer, it is really quite impressive."
December 1st, 2008, 03:11 AM
The Hal Greer Blvd. underpass (West Virginia Route 10) badly needs a facelift. Many of its original light fixtures no longer function or no longer exist, and the concrete pavement is over 60 years old and shows the old streetcar rail!
Council approves facelift for Hal Greer underpass (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x59588447/Council-approves-facelift-for-Hal-Greer-underpass)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, November 29, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- An underpass along one of the city's main arteries will get a facelift in the near future.
Huntington City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday designating $18,000 of hotel/motel tax proceeds for improvements to the Hal Greer Boulevard underpass between 7th and 8th avenues. The work will include improvements to the walkway, increased lighting and aesthetic enhancements to the walls of the underpass.
The improvements are part of a larger project to spruce up the city's main arteries. That project also aims to provide uniform signs that direct motorists to destinations such as Ritter Park, the Huntington Museum of Art, Marshall University, the downtown, Pullman Square, Harris Riverfront Park, the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and public parking, said Cathy Burns, executive director of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone. The city and United Way of the River Cities have been working with the Empowerment Zone on the project for the past 18 months, she said.
The agencies are working on securing funding for the "wayfinder" signs, which will be placed at several intersections along Hal Greer Boulevard between Meadows Elementary School and 3rd Avenue, Burns said. Bulldog Creative Services created a logo to go on the signs to give them uniformity, she said.
"Our goal is to get one main artery done so the public can see the product," she said. "Then we'll move on to another artery and do the same thing."
[Snipped the remainder.]
December 1st, 2008, 03:12 AM
Land bank top priority in 2009 (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x59588949/Land-bank-top-priority-in-2009)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, November 29, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Mayor-elect Kim Wolfe says creating a land bank will be one of his first orders of business when his administration moves into City Hall on Jan. 1.
"I've always said it is a good idea because it puts the city on the fast track of acquiring abandoned homes and tearing them down," Wolfe said last week. "So is it a high priority? Absolutely."
Last year, city fire inspectors condemned 62 houses, found 111 that required major code improvements and identified 47 that had been damaged by fire. Dozens more have not been inspected yet or are a year or two more of neglect away from being classified as being in disrepair.
A land bank is one of the key components of Huntington's home-rule plan. A state panel in May chose Huntington and three other cities -- Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport -- to participate in a five-year, home-rule pilot program.
Currently, state law limits local governments on taxation, administrative and personnel issues. Home rule creates autonomy on the local level and restricts state interference.
In addition to a land bank, Huntington was authorized to implement a 1 percent occupation tax, change state law to capture fire insurance claim proceeds under certain circumstances and strengthen ordinances to collect delinquent fees. Thus far, the fire insurance ordinance is the only home-rule proposal that has been introduced and passed by City Council.
The land bank ordinance should be ready for City Council's consideration within a month of Wolfe taking office, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning, and Tom Bell, Wolfe's chief tax deputy at the Cabell County Sheriff's Department. Bell is expected to be a member of Wolfe's administration, but his role has not been defined yet.
Holley and Bell have been working together on the land bank model for more than a year after realizing the detrimental impact that the county's annual tax lien sale has on the city's housing stock.
Every year in early November, property tax liens are sold at the Cabell County Courthouse if the taxes on the property are delinquent for the previous year.
If a lien is purchased at a tax sale, the original property owner has 18 months to pay the delinquent taxes plus 1 percent interest per month if they want to redeem their property. That money, including the interest, is then given to the lien holder.
If the original property owner, however, fails to pay the taxes within 18 months, the lien holder has the option of taking title of the property or forfeiting his or her bid and returning the property to the original property owner. The interest earned after purchasing a lien attracts out-of-state real estate investors looking to make a quick profit, Bell said. In the meantime, the property continues to decay.
Other than a few issues, the land bank proposal is set, Holley said. He and Bell used a similar land bank program in Flint, Mich., as a model, but have tailored Huntington's program to address local problems.
Under the proposal, the city would be allowed to purchase all of the tax liens within city limits at the county's annual tax sale. Rather than an out-of-state real estate investor collecting interest on the property, that money would go to the city. The city would use the interest money to board up the property, cut the grass or demolish the property if it is on the city's unsafe buildings list.
"That's the immediate impact of the program," Holley said. "Once we buy the tax lien at the sale, we will infuse resources to clean up the property and make it look as respectable as possible."
The city then would place a lien on the property for the costs it incurred to clean it up, Bell said. The county would not allow the owner to redeem the property until the taxes and the city's lien are paid.
"This is a key element in my mind and an issue that we're still working on," Bell said. "The city can't afford to spend a bunch of money on the property and not collect until years later. The liens have to have the same stature as the property taxes."
If the owner chose not to redeem the property at the end of the 18-month period, the city would turn it over to the land bank authority, Holley said. Rather than creating another city board, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority could potentially serve as the land bank authority, he said. It has eminent domain powers and experience with neighborhood redevelopment projects on Artisan Avenue, he said.
"The land bank is the long-term impact in this equation," Holley said. "We could do a number of things with the property at that point. If the land bank receives a vacant lot, we could offer it to the homeowner next door for a minimal fee. We could give property to a developer if they agree to build a new home on it. We also could assemble lots over time that would become valuable for commercial development."
The process would benefit everyone involved, Holley said. The city would have the ability to take possession of dilapidated property. The county would sell all of its tax liens in the city. And residents would benefit through the removal of an eyesore in their neighborhood.
One hurdle that remains is securing a loan for the initial purchase of tax liens next year, Holley said. The land bank program would eventually become self-sufficient through the interest earned from the tax liens and the sale of property, he said.
The only drawback to the proposal is the two-and-a-half years it would take for the first pieces of dilapidated property to fall under control of the land bank authority. The next tax lien sale is a year away. And property owners would have 18 months after the sale to redeem their property from the city, just as they do now with the county.
Bell said the Legislature should shorten the time period given to property owners to pay their taxes, but Wolfe's administration will not be lobbying for the change anytime soon.
"That's a battle that would require a major effort and significant changes to state law. It's just not worth fighting at this time," Bell said. "I've talked to state officials about our current proposal. They believe it's workable, but going any further could cause a whole slew of problems."
December 10th, 2008, 06:26 AM
MU Rec Center opening soon (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/business/x592179776/MU-Rec-Center-opening-soon)
By Laura Wilcox, Herald-Dispatch, December 8, 2008
HUNTINGTON — Beginning Feb. 5, 2009, Marshall University students will have access to everything from treadmills to a climbing wall at the new Student Recreation Center on 5th Avenue.
The facility is designed primarily for students, but Marshall employees, alumni and affiliates will have the opportunity to purchase memberships, according to Steve Hensley, dean of student affairs. Hensley said a limited number of memberships will be available for alumni, and the number is dependent on student usage of the center.
“Our primary users are our students,” he said. “Students are concerned that other folks are going to compete with them for scarce space or resources.”
Memberships range in cost from $300 a year for students (fees included in tuition) to $744 a year for university affiliates, or entities involved with Marshall on a partnership or contractual basis for one or more specific initiatives.
Hensley said the facility will encourage students to adopt healthy habits they can follow their entire lives. He said having the center also gives students another reason to stay in town on weekends and become a greater part of the university community.
The center is all about fun, fitness and friendship, according to David Stewart, director of campus recreation at Marshall.
Stewart said the center’s opening has “perfect timing” considering recent negative reports about Huntington. Last month, the Associated Press published an article calling the Huntington area the “unhealthiest,” with high rates of obesity and other health problems.
“This venue will be a welcome facility to help our members become more fit and healthy,” he said.
Stewart said the center also will be a great resource for students studying exercise science, recreation or sports management.
“We’re going to have the best facility in West Virginia for our students to practice the skills they learn in the classroom,” he said.
The center will be another way for Marshall alumni to connect to the university, too, he said.
“It’s great for our alumni to watch the Thundering Herd in the stadium, but now they’ll have a chance to work out with other students,” Stewart said. “I think our alumni want that tie with the university, and we’re happy to provide it.”
While the center for the most part will not be open to the public, Hensley said it may be available to rent for activities such as birthday parties at times when it has less traffic. He said camps and special classes also might be offered.
While work continues at the center in areas like the basketball courts, Stewart said interviews are currently under way for staff.
He said the center will be the largest employer on campus, likely employing around 125 students.
The 123,000-square-foot, $30 million facility is located at 20th Street and 5th Avenue.
December 11th, 2008, 02:49 AM
Old news: fire guts building. Current news: owners demolish gutted building, adjoining historic brownstone in excellent condition to develop new condominiums and offices. Coming soon: Market forces force project to be canceled at the cost of historical structures.
Demolition, revitalization plans continue at Ratcliff Place (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x982915936/Demolition-revitalization-plans-continue-at-Ratcliff-Place)
By Laura Wilcox and Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, December 10, 2008
HUNTINGTON -- Demolition continues on a shared residential and commercial structure on 10th Street between 5th and 6th avenues in Huntington in preparation of future development, according to owner Dr. Bill Ratcliff.
Ratcliff said demolition should be complete by this week's end, and residential and commercial condominiums may be open as early as late spring.
He said the project will ultimately "dress up" the city and improve a main corridor for people traveling into downtown.
Ratcliff runs Tri-State Eyecare Center with his brother, Dr. Chris Ratcliff. The vacant property at 5th Avenue and 10th Street used to house their practices.
Ratcliff Place, as it was named, burned down Jan. 10, 2007, after cigarette butts ignited on the roof, a fire marshal determined after an investigation. They likely were carried there by a bird, he said.
Following the fire, Tri-State Eyecare relocated to a renovated office space inside Huntington Bank, a few doors down on 5th Avenue. Huntington Quarterly Magazine and Duffield & Lovejoy law firm, which were also located in the burned Ratcliff Place, also have relocated in Huntington.
In searching for ways to bring that corner of 10th Street "back to life," Bill Ratcliff said he and others witnessed some troubling activity in the area.
"We saw some deal drug deals happening and some things we knew we just couldn't continue to have," he said.
He and wife Susan Ratcliff were able to acquire the parking lot area behind their building as well and decided to invest in the revitalization project that would offer nicer housing downtown and new commercial property space.
Renovation to the structure along 10th Street is expected to be completed around late spring with the hope of beginning construction on the new eye care center also in spring, he said. The eyecare center will return to the corner of 10th Street and 5th Avenue.
He said new construction will take place on the north end of the current building where Archer's Flowers is currently located. He said Archer's will remain and the new facility will also house new parking and residential space as well as renovated commercial space.
The building will house three large condos with parking in a garage attached by a corridor so residents do not have to go outside to reach their vehicles.
Room for four more commercial tenants (in addition to Archer's) will be available on the ground floor of the building, he said.
One business Susan Ratcliff would like to see come into the space is Aveda Salons, an all-natural and eco-friendly business.
"We would really like to see that go in. I think it would be good for our community," she said.
Like her husband, Susan Ratcliff said the new construction and renovation along 10th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues will make the area more attractive as people travel in and out of Huntington.
Bill Ratcliff said residents should begin to see some of the building's transformation within the next couple of weeks, with new windows, a new roof and lighting in the works.
"By the first of the year, I think we'll really show that building come to a new life," he said.
December 19th, 2008, 05:23 PM
Huntington's unhealthy reputation could change (http://www.urbanup.net/index.php#73)
Authored by Sherman Cahal at UrbanUp on December 19, 2008
After being named the unhealthiest city in the nation on November 17, Huntington, West Virginia is aiming to change that with a 26-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1336043828/Funds-targeted-for-trail-system) system. It would extend west to east from Westmoreland (http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=38.401781,-82.508719&spn=0.009434,0.030899&z=16) to Guyandotte (http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=38.429034,-82.385659&spn=0.00943,0.030899&z=16), with north to south connectors. A portion of the trail is aligned with the floodwall, and segments would integrate into the downtown and Marshall University campus.
Currently, $1.6 million has been requested to create the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (http://www.paulambrosetrailforhealth.org/) (PATH). Thus far, $340,000 has been pledged for the project
The name of the trail is derived from the late Paul Ambrose, a young doctor who was killed on American Airlines Flight 77 in the September 11, 2001 incident. At the time of his death, Paul was a senior clinical adviser for the surgeon general and was working on a project for rural health and obesity.
The Rahall Transportation Institute Foundation, in association with the City of Huntington and various community members, designed the trail system to incorporate many of Huntington's amenities and workplaces to allow citizens an alternate means of transportation.
Check out the official web-site (http://www.paulambrosetrailforhealth.org/) for maps, information and additional links.
January 7th, 2009, 03:19 PM
Bus service to Charleston begins (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1259837230/First-day-of-service-sees-full-load-on-buses)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, January 05, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Commuters using the new bus service connecting Huntington and Charleston that debuted on Monday said they enjoyed the ride, despite some first-day kinks.
The weekday-only service, called Intelligent Transit, was scheduled to leave Pullman Square at 6:40 a.m. and arrive at the State Capitol at 8 a.m., making stops in Barboursville and Putnam County along the way. But early delays made the bus about 20 minutes late Monday morning, according to Paul Davis, executive director of the Tri-State Transit Authority.
The bus service left Charleston around 5:15 p.m. and arrived a few minutes early in Pullman Square at 6:40 p.m.
Skip Gebhart, with the Higher Education Policy Commission, used the bus service both ways and said he got an hour's worth of work done before he got into the office thanks to the bus' wireless Internet.
"By the time I got in the office, I didn't know what to do," Gebhart joked. "(Because of the Wi-Fi) I got all my e-mailing done during what is normally an hour worth of dead time spent driving."
On the first day of service, Davis said the buses carried a full load, about 32 passengers, to and from Huntington. The service is a joint effort between the West Virginia Division of Public Transit, The Tri-State Transit Authority in Huntington and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority in Charleston.
Keith Spears, with the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts in Charleston, also took the bus both ways and echoed Gebhart's sentiments. After spending countless hours on the road commuting to Charleston, Spears said he's grateful to finally have a bus service that allows him to be the passenger on the way to work.
"It's a great opportunity to have other people do the driving in the morning," Spears said.
Davis said the main draw to using the new bus service is the money saved by commuters. Typically, Davis said, commuters have to pay for gas, parking and the daily wear-and-tear on a vehicle, but people can bypass those headaches by riding the bus.
"When gas reached $4 a gallon, it was a wake up call to people to look for alternate modes of transportation," Davis said. "We'll see more people turning to public transit to get to their destinations."
Though Gebhart and Spears said they enjoyed the Monday commute, both said using the bus service on Monday was an opportunity for them to determine if taking the bus every day is a viable solution to commuting. A number of current limitations will make daily bus travel an impossibility, they said.
"I would use the service more, but I have to travel a lot (for my job)," Spears said.
"Using the bus adds two hours of driving time to the commute," Gebhart said. "There's logistical issues with parking your car at Pullman Square, and there's another 10 to 15 minute commute back home."
Though he will not be able to use the service every day, Gebhart said he's happy to see there is finally a bus service from Huntington to Charleston.
"We've been separated for far too long by far too few miles," Gebhart said. "It's great to see the cities working together on this."
Though the bus service appeals to college students and professionals that need to commute between both cities, Davis said the service is a good conduit for increasing day visits.
Sherry Richards of Scott Depot, W.Va., took the bus from the Crooked Creek Park and Ride near Teays Valley, W.Va. for a day trip to Huntington and to try out the new service. She hoped with increasing bus usage, more bus stops at the Huntington Mall and surrounding areas would be implemented.
"I just wanted to come down and check out the bus service because I come to Huntington from time to time," Richards said. "After today, I'll use this service again."
Information on the new bus service from Huntington to Charleston
Fares: Free the first week, but normally $3 one way or $6 round trip. Riders in Putnam County can pay $2 for service from the Crooked Creek Park-and-Ride to either Huntington or Charleston. Value cards available in $30 and $40 denominations.
Here is the complete schedule:
6:40 a.m.: Depart Pullman Square.
6:45 a.m.: Stop at TTA Center.
7:05 a.m.: Stop at Merritts Creek Park-and-Ride.
7:30 a.m.: Stop at Crooked Creek Park-and-Ride.
7:50 a.m.: Stop at Charleston Transit Mall.
8 a.m.: Arrive at State Capitol Building No. 5.z
5:15 p.m.: Depart State Capitol Building No. 5.
5:30 p.m.: Stop at Charleston Transit Mall.
5:55 p.m.: Stop at Crooked Creek Park-and-Ride.
6:20 p.m.: Stop at Merritts Creek Park-and-Ride.
6:42 p.m.: Stop at Pullman Square.
6:45 p.m.: End at TTA Center
For more information about the bus schedule and routes, call 304-343-7586 in Charleston or 304-529-7433 in Huntington, or go to www.ridesmartwv.com.
January 24th, 2009, 03:20 AM
Committee to focus on metro gov't (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1223656832/Committee-to-focus-on-metro-govt)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, January 12, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Citing a need to focus more on long-term issues, Huntington City Council members unanimously approved a resolution Monday to begin discussing metro government.
"We have to start making decisions based on a forward-looking vision," said Councilman Steve Williams, the sponsor of the resolution. "I don't know if (metro government) makes sense to us, and I don't know if it makes sense to anyone in this room or community. But it does appear to me that we can't make an informed decision without talking about it."
Under the resolution, Council Chairman Jim Insco will appoint council members to serve on a committee to discuss merging governmental services and/or entities. The committee also will include participation from city employees and county officials as well as business, labor, education and community representatives. It will report its progress and findings to Mayor Kim Wolfe on a quarterly basis.
Williams said all three Cabell County commissioners are willing to discuss the topic with city officials. Wolfe also endorsed the formation of the committee, saying that previous mergers between the city and county, such as ambulance service and Cabell County 911, have worked well.
Two audience members asked Williams whether consolidation would lower taxes or improve services.
"We're a long, long way from answering those questions," he said. "If we don't discuss it, we'll never know."
The West Virginia Legislature passed a law in 2006 that allows county-county, city-city and city-county consolidation. Supporters of metro government contend that if some of the political boundaries were erased across the state, it would lessen competition among local governments and increase the state's chances of attracting large corporations.
January 26th, 2009, 01:29 AM
Park district may take control of Harris Riverfront Park (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/briefs/x1588158687/Park-district-may-take-control-of-Harris-Riverfront-Park)
The Herald-Dispatch, January 25, 2009
HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington might relinquish control of Harris Riverfront Park to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District.
Officials for both entities have said for the past several years that the park belongs in the hands of the park district, but talks to make that happen have never taken place. That will soon change, Mayor Kim Wolfe said last week.
“We just want the very best facilities we can have for the city,” he said. “We’re going to sit down at the table with the park board. If we feel like they can do a better job at a more feasible cost, then it’s something we have to strongly consider.”
The city has owned and maintained Harris Riverfront Park for about 20 years. Events are booked and handled by SMG, the same company that manages the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
The city has always owned the park, but took control of it in the late 1980s when its lease with the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District expired. Then Mayor Bobby Nelson chose not to renew the lease.
The park has slowly declined over the past decade as the city's financial crunch has worsened. Former Mayor David Felinton even admitted last year that, other than tidying up the park before an event, it is not much of a priority because of the city's limited resources.
Wolfe said he met with GHPRD Director Jim McClelland recently to talk about the condition of parks in the city. Both agreed there needed to be more dialogue about how Harris Riverfront Park should be managed, Wolfe said.
It costs the city approximately $100,000 to maintain the park. That includes equipment purchases and personnel costs.
Though discussions have not yet begun, it appears the city would retain ownership of the park but pay the park district an annual fee to maintain it.
“It just doesn’t make sense to duplicate park and recreation services when you already have an agency set up to do that,” McClelland said. “We’re one of the most underfunded park systems in the state, yet we have some of the best kept parks.”
The financial terms of the deal will partially depend on the short- and long-term needs of the park, McClelland said. Short-term needs include a new playground, new turf and continued recruitment of volunteer groups to beautify the park, he said.
“To the city’s credit, they have done a remarkable job at enhancing the floral culture of the park through volunteers,” McClelland said. “That’s a real asset that needs to be continued no matter who is operating the park.”
Long-term needs include an updated master plan that shows how the park could be better integrated into the downtown, McClelland said.
“One of the problems with the park is that it’s out of sight and out of mind with the floodwall blocking it from the downtown,” he said. “Any way we can allow the park to be more visible from the downtown side, the better off we will be.”
Peggy Noel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District office, said $75,000 for a new master plan of Harris Riverfront Park was included in a U.S. House of Representatives’ report last year. The funding, however, has yet to be appropriated, she said. The funding also would require a local match.
February 4th, 2009, 02:40 AM
Arena finding new success (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x376551263/Management-firms-contract-up-for-five-year-extension)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, February 02, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Five years ago, a contract extension for the company that manages the Big Sandy Superstore Arena would have been a hotly debated issue among Huntington officials.
The city was forced to give the arena almost $500,000 to keep the doors open, leading City Council members to ponder the idea of selling the facility to the highest bidder.
Now, any mention of the arena or its general manager, A.J. Boleski, by council members is usually smothered in praise.
"They have improved the quality of events as well as the continuity of events," Council Chairman Jim Insco said last week. "The arena is clean and the folks who work there are more than willing to help concert-goers. There's just nothing negative I can say about the establishment as far as performance goes."
Council members also are pleased that the arena's operating subsidy from the city has dwindled under Boleski's watch. The city, which was dealing with its own financial struggles, had to give the arena $488,468 during the 2004-2005 fiscal year. In 2006-2007, Boleski's first full fiscal year as general manager, the operating subsidy fell to $249,114. The arena needed only $56,321 from the city last year, a record low since private management took over operations of the arena in 1991.
Boleski hopes the turnaround results in council members authorizing a five-year contract extension with SMG, the company that has managed the arena since 2000. The council is expected to vote on the extension at its Feb. 9 meeting. The council's finance committee gave a favorable recommendation to the contract Friday.
Boleski is not hiding the fact that the arena has felt the pinch of the economic recession. The arena may host only 10 to 12 concerts by the end of this fiscal year (June 30). It hosted 15 concerts last fiscal year. Boleski also is predicting a total of 230 event days for this fiscal year, about 20 less than last year.
That means the arena may need all of the $164,000 subsidy that it is budgeted to receive from the city this year, he said. SMG already has cut its budget by trimming travel, printing and marketing costs.
"There just aren't as many shows out there touring because of the economy, which makes it harder to fill up our calendar" Boleski said. "We're also dealing with discretionary dollars. When people have to tighten their budget, entertainment is usually one of the last things they will spend their money on."
The arena has put a greater emphasis on attracting concerts since Boleski's arrival, booking performers such as Guns N' Roses, Willie Nelson and Kid Rock twice. There were only three concerts scheduled the year he came to Huntington.
But it's the locally promoted, annual events such as the World of Wheels, Toughman competition and Dogwood Arts and Crafts Festival that give him hope the arena will make it through the recession unscathed.
"In times like this, it's those events we rely heavily on," Boleski said.
Youth sporting events also are becoming an important market to the arena. It recently signed a three-year extension to host the state high school wrestling tournament with an option for a fourth year. It hosted the WSAZ high school wrestling tournament for the second consecutive year earlier this month. And in April, it will host the Spikefest Volleyball Tournament, a high school tournament that attracts about 90 teams from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
More than 250,000 people attended events at the arena and Harris Riverfront Park last fiscal year, Boleski said. Many events at the riverfront, such as the annual Rib and Music Festival, are coordinated by SMG. That translates into not only more business for area hotels and restaurants, but also more improvement projects at the arena.
The arena tacks a $1 surcharge onto most event tickets. Half of the money goes into a capital improvement fund. In the past three years, the arena has made about $800,000 in improvements such as new lighting, four large exhaust fans that improve air circulation during motorsports events and dressing room renovations.
Boleski also has begun lobbying City Council members to issue bonds to finance new seats at the 7,500-seat arena and equipment needed to bring a hockey team back to Huntington. New seats would cost about $3.6 million. The arena still has the machines that make ice from the Huntington Blizzard days, but it needs about $400,000 for a new zamboni, protective glass and a cover for the ice, he said.
The arena's success has paid off for Big Sandy Superstore as well. With more events comes more people being exposed to the furniture company's name. The 10-year, $1.5 million naming rights agreement expires in 2012 but has a five-year renewal clause that city officials believe will be exercised if Boleski and his staff keep raising the bar.
City Councilman Steve Williams made a tongue-in-cheek comment during Friday's finance committee meeting that he later said is reflective of the arena's turnaround.
"Everything I've heard and observed is that council would like to connect approval of SMG's contract extension to A.J. staying here forever," he said. "He and his staff have done such a good job integrating the arena into the community. It's not a big orange barn that sits there isolated from the rest of the city."
February 9th, 2009, 05:51 AM
MU's new rec center turns heads (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x376553423/MUs-new-rec-center-turns-heads)
By Bill Rosenberger, Herald-Dispatch, February 05, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University opened its new recreational center Thursday afternoon to throngs of students, staff and alumni.
Their responses to what they saw were generally the same.
"It's awesome. It's definitely a worthwhile investment," said alumna and Marshall employee Amy Saunders. "You're not going to be disappointed."
The new $30 million center took more than a year to construct, but the wait was worth it. It seems every one of the 123,000 square feet is filled with new equipment, lockers, pools, studios, courts and even a 40-foot climbing wall.
"They're all happy (the university) built it," said Dave Stewart, director of campus recreation. "So many fitness opportunities. We're tired of talking about it. We're ready (to be open)."
Students Chelsea Swain and Jessica Jacobs, who opted for the high-end Woodway treadmills, said the center may have been costly, but it was needed.
"We're a little behind the times," said Jacobs, who is a junior. "I think we're caught up. We deserve it; we're a large university."
The recreational center is the second major project to be completed at Marshall in the past eight months. Last August, the new first-year dorms opened. Combined, they could have an impact on recruitment and retention.
"It will obviously impact recruiting immediately," student body president Matt James said. "It will play a big role in retention. I'm happy to see our school grow. There's so much more potential."
The center, built on the previous site of 20th Street Baptist Church, is designed to provide and promote enjoyable, healthy programs in outstanding facilities, with superior service. It's promotional tag is "Fun, Fitness, Friendship, Forever."
"It will be the best in the state," Stewart told a waiting crowd of at least a few hundred. "This building is for you."
It features a four-court gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, badminton, dodge ball and pickleball. There is more than 17,000 square feet of fitness areas on the second and third floors, along with four fitness studios for yoga, spinning, belly dancing, kickboxing and aerobics.
The aquatics center features a three-lane lap pool, 20-person spa, a vortex pool and a leisure pool. There also are three racquetball courts, a 1/7-mile, three-lane track and a massage suite.
There are locker rooms for men, women and family, each handicap accessible with dozens of showers. There also are digital lockers for everyday use, along with lockers that can be rented by members. And all of the treadmills and elliptical machines have televisions and iPod attachments.
The center now serves as the largest employer on campus, with 125 students -- both graduate and undergraduate -- serving in a service or training capacity. Many of the students are enrolled in exercise science or sports and recreation courses.
Joe Troubetaris, a last-semester graduate student majoring in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation, is completing his studies while working in a number of different capacities at the rec center. He said there is plenty of free weight and strength-training equipment to go around, especially when compared with what students had in Gullickson Hall.
"No one will ever have to wait for cardio," Troubetaris said. "This is incredible what we can offer."
The dedication is scheduled tentatively for April. For complete information on the center, including membership categories, rates and policies, go to www.marshall.edu/rec, or call 304-696-4732.
April 14th, 2009, 04:31 AM
$50 million on the line for Marshall University (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x597054193/-50M-ON-THE-LINE-FOR-MARSHALL)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, April 10, 2009
CHARLESTON -- The state Senate's Education Committee revived legislation Thursday that could provide up to $55 million to Marshall University for various projects, including a biotechnology development center and applied engineering building along 3rd Avenue.
The Senate had passed two bills (SB 638 and SB 63) last week that devised a plan to provide up to $15 million in bonding capacity for higher education to use for improvement projects. Both pieces of legislation, however, are stalled in the House Finance Committee.
With the Legislature's regular session ending at midnight Saturday, the Senate Education Committee voted to inject the content of both stalled Senate bills into a House bill (HB 2961). That bill now is scheduled to go before the full Senate on second reading today.
One of the primary goals of the bonding legislation is to create a funding mechanism at the state level to pay for capital improvement projects on college campuses, said Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne. West Virginia is one of a few states in the country that still relies on student fees for such projects, he said.
That's partly why the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave West Virginia a grade of "F" for college affordability in 2006. The center estimated low- and middle-income students must pay 45 percent of their family income to attend a public four-year college or university.
At Marshall University, $430 out of a resident student's $4,360 annual tuition goes toward paying off bonds for capital improvement projects on campus, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission reported last year. Non-resident students pay $1,460 in capital improvement fees out of their $11,414 annual tuition.
That does not include an additional fee of $150 that was charged to all Marshall students this year for a new recreation center.
The $15 million in bonding capacity could generate anywhere from $215 million to $230 million for four-year institutions across the state, Plymale said.
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has compiled a list of projects that would be built with the new funding source. Marshall's list totals $63 million, though Plymale said it will probably have to be adjusted for the $50 million to $55 million that is now available in the bill.
The initial list includes:
$40 million for the biotechnology development center and applied engineering building. The building would be located next to the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center on 3rd Avenue.
$22 million for renovations and repairs to several academic buildings on campus. Of this amount, $9 million goes to Smith Hall.
$1 million to complete the third floor of the Forensic Science Center.
The funding measure is the four-year higher education equivalent of bonding legislation that was adopted last year for capital improvement projects at community and technical colleges, Plymale said.
April 17th, 2009, 05:23 PM
Byrd helps dedicate MU medical facility to late wife (http://dailymail.com/News/statenews/200904160823)
By Jake Stump, Daily Mail, April 17, 2009
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Sometimes tearful and at other times lively, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd was the man of the hour as he helped dedicate a new teaching and clinical center at Marshall University's medical school.
The facility, located on 15th Street, was officially unveiled Thursday as the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center, named after the senator's late, beloved wife.
Byrd, D-W.Va., arrived at the ceremony with a police escort to more than 100 dignitaries and medical students welcoming him with rock star applause.
A sport-utility vehicle transported Byrd to the event as The John Marshall Fife and Drum Corps band played. The senator, 91, remained in the back seat and waved to the crowd before the vehicle drove off, apparently to a rear entrance to the new building.
Reporters, photographers and spectators then were herded inside. About 20 minutes later, Byrd took the stage in a wheelchair and positioned himself behind a table.
He spoke of the continued need for high-quality health care in West Virginia, the potential of the new clinic and, of course, his dear wife.
"I am very moved by your gesture in naming this magnificent new center after my beloved dear wife, my childhood sweetheart, a coal miner's daughter, Erma," Byrd said gently.
"Your tribute to her on the program, noting that her concern for the education and well-being of others was central to her life, was right on target. Erma was a compassionate soul, and she devoted her entire life to caring for others. That was my Erma."
The school presented him with a small plaque bearing his wife's portrait. The larger version will be on display at the facility.
Kind words spoken about Erma Byrd caused the aging senator's eyes to water and his voice to grow somber.
Yet he showed vigor as he shouted parts of his speech with passion.
As the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd secured more than $22 million in federal funding for the construction of the facility.
The building has enabled the medical school to increase its class size by 50 percent. So far, 130 students have utilized the new center.
It is the primary teaching site for second-year medical students and home to the departments of internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine.
"Compassion is what this facility is all about," Byrd said. "George Eliot once asked, 'What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?' Within this center, you are teaching more medical students, training more residents, and providing expanded health care services, all with the goal of making life less difficult for the injured and ailing."
Charles McKown, dean of the Marshall School of Medicine, called Byrd the "heart and soul of the U.S. Congress" and said it was a great day for the Marshall community, with the spring sun out and the senator's presence.
Also making remarks were Marshall President Stephen Kopp and Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., whose district includes Huntington.
Rahall paid homage to Erma Byrd as he sat next to the senator.
"Since the beginning and surely until the end of times, it is our wives and mothers who often serve as our greatest healers and teachers," Rahall said. "Today we honor such a wife, such a mother, who taught and healed like mothers across West Virginia did this morning and every morning of their lives. She spent almost 69 years in one of the greatest enterprises we know today - making it possible for Robert C. Byrd to serve West Virginia.
"Look around here. Erma Byrd outdid herself."
Erma Byrd died in March 2006. She was 88.
She met her future husband while they both attended Mark Twain Grade School in Raleigh County. They married when they were 19 in 1937, at the height of the Depression.
The day after their wedding, he gave his bride his wallet, which contained several hundred dollars he had saved. Byrd made his wife the head of the family finances that day and the senator never carried a wallet over the years.
Erma Byrd was known for not seeking the limelight. She didn't give her first interview until 1982 - 30 years after her husband was first elected to Congress.
But those who knew her said she had a deep interest in improving areas such as health care and education.
Other namesakes include the Erma Byrd Gallery at the University of Charleston, the Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies at Wheeling-Jesuit University, and the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center at Concord University.
There also are scholarship programs at Marshall and West Virginia University named after her.
The new clinic at Marshall has provided for the expansion of the Diabetes Center and the state's only endocrinology training program with the recruitment of four fellowship-trained endocrinologists, according to a university press release. The gastroenterology section also has been expanded, allowing for the development of a specialized Digestive Diseases Center.
It has provided the students with more opportunity to practice, as well as giving them ready access to medical simulators. The facility serves as the hub for the Virtual Colonoscopy outreach program to southern West Virginia and its mobile medical unit.
Sen. Byrd's involvement in bettering Marshall's medical school dates back to 1973 when he amended an appropriations bill to create the school.
He has recently added nearly $4 million for Marshall to initiate the Genomic Research Institute, which will attempt to tackle diseases such as Alzheimer's, autism, Parkinson's, diabetes, and cancer.
"Good health is the greatest of all God's blessings," Byrd said.
"Perhaps the elusive cure for cancer or the common cold, or other medical miracles not even conceived at this time will be discovered right here at Marshall."
April 24th, 2009, 04:13 AM
Committee backs plan for park (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1875258518/Committee-backs-plan-for-Riverfront-Park-turnover)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, April 17, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- A proposal that relinquishes the city of Huntington's control of Harris Riverfront Park to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District won approval from a key City Council committee Friday.
The Finance Committee unanimously forwarded the proposal to the full council with a positive recommendation. The council now is expected to vote on the proposal at its April 27 meeting.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the city would give the park district $201,400 next fiscal year for maintaining the riverfront. That payment includes $25,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds so the park district could purchase new picnic tables, trash receptacles and drinking-water fountains.
The park district, meanwhile, would contribute $41,212, bringing the riverfront's total operating budget next year to $242,612.
The city now spends about $100,000 annually at the park. But that does not include an additional $82,000 that the city has spent this year on paying employees from other departments to help clean up after flooding at the park, Finance Director Deron Runyon said.
If the park district took control of the riverfront, that money, which is the equivalent of about 4,000 work hours, could be diverted to other city services, Runyon said.
Jim McClelland, executive director of the park district, said his agency is the appropriate agency to oversee the riverfront because maintaining parks and recreation services is its only mission.
"You want to see improvements with this agreement," he said. "You don't want the same thing. So we're going to put a lot of time and energy into it."
McClelland said more workers will be watching over the park than the city has committed. These also are employees who have expertise in managing park systems, he said.
As for maintenance, the park district will quickly repair benches, trash receptacles and water fountains if they are broken or vandalized, clean bathrooms daily and immediately pick up trash and wash mud off of walkways after flooding, McClelland said.
Later this fall, the park district will plow and reseed the main field at the riverfront and reseed it again in spring 2010, McClelland said. He also wants to develop a plan to build a new playground.
"I really believe if you give us a chance to do the job and a reasonable amount of time to do it, you will see an increase in maintenance and overall performance," McClelland told committee members.
May 5th, 2009, 05:42 AM
Closure of 4th Avenue to continue into next week (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1875265137/Closure-of-4th-Avenue-to-continue-into-next-week)
By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch, April 29, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- The 900 block of 4th Avenue will be shut down for at least the rest of this week, as work continues on the Old Main Corridor restoration project, and the closure may extend into the early part of next week.
It all depends on the weather, said Bruce Gold of Hager Construction, the project manager. And rain is forecast for a good part of this week.
On Monday, workers were doing decorative concrete work. They're putting in a cross walk between Frederick building complex and the entryway to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, which involves a lot of intricate work, Gold said.
"As soon as we finish, we cannot open the street. We have to wait at least three days after we finish," Gold said. He's hoping to finish up by Thursday or Friday so the street can open next Monday, but with the forecast, it's unlikely, he said.
As soon as the 900 block opens to traffic, workers will close the 800 block of 4th Avenue, and it will be shut down about 10 days, Gold said. Another cross walk is going in at the middle of that block as well, to encourage people not to jaywalk.
"When we get the 800 block finished, we're going to shut both blocks for two or three days to do the paving and the striping," he said. "Every bit of that is contingent upon the weather. None of the work remaining can be done in inclement weather."
Crews were shooting to have this segment of work finished by mid-April to early May, but the weather has not been cooperating, Gold said.
When it does get done with these portions of the project, hopefully in a few weeks, workers won't be seen for a while and it will appear as if they're finished, he said. But they're not. It's just that they have a long lead time on jobs that are a couple months away.
There will be some intricate work done with granite, which should get started this summer, and there will be square medallions and light panels installed on the edges of the sidewalk, about a month or so away, he said.
"We'll be coming back as they are available and installing those, but our presence on the avenue will not be anyway near the magnitude is has been," Gold said.
The entire project is intended to enhance 4th Avenue between 8th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard, and the first phase is between 8th and 10th streets. As a whole, the project involves replacement of sidewalks, construction of two pedestrian plazas, new street lighting similar to Pullman Square's and repavement of 4th Avenue.
June 9th, 2009, 05:51 AM
4th avenue work almost finished (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1984675720/4th-avenue-work-almost-finished)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, June 06, 2009
HUNTINGTON — After eight months of construction that forced sidewalk and road closings, 4th Avenue business owners between 8th and 10th streets say they are ready for a return to normalcy.
The initial phase of the Old Main Corridor neared completion in downtown Huntington on Friday as workers striped the roadway, put trash containers back in their places and packed up their tools and leftover materials.
All that’s left now is a few finishing touches, which will include the pouring of decorative concrete and 50 glass medallions provided by Blenko Glass that will be imbedded into the sidewalk and emit a bluish light.
Business owners say they hope they will see long-term benefits from the project, which aims to provide a better link between Marshall University and the downtown on 4th Avenue through enhanced landscaping and lighting, bicycle lanes and public art. But the short-term headaches haven’t been pleasant.
Click on the title above for the remainder of the article.
August 7th, 2009, 10:52 PM
City considers downtown corridor (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/business/x1532889188/City-hopes-to-spruce-up-area-between-Pullman-Square-and-Heritage-Station)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, August 02, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- City officials are planning to provide a safer, more inviting link between two key components of downtown Huntington -- Pullman Square and Heritage Station.
To do that, they are hoping to complete a variety of improvements to the 2 1/2 alleyway between 10th and 11th streets, the alley that runs behind Mac & Dave's store on 3rd Avenue.
The city has applied for a $200,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Stimulus Act to fund much of project. Increased lighting, new sidewalks and curbs, and installation of decorative panels are among the improvements slated for the alley to make it safe and appealing for pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
The alley would provide a connection to downtown Huntington's business community from the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, now located in Heritage Village. Heritage Village is a collection of shops and businesses at the old B&O railroad depot at Veterans Memorial Boulevard and 11th Street.
The visitors center is currently isolated from recent developments in the central business district, including retail, entertainment and dining a block away at Pullman Square, according to CVB Executive Director Tyson Compton. He said the corridor will serve as another way the downtown Huntington business community can be opened up to tourists stopping by the visitors bureau, which moved into Heritage Station this year.
"This is an attempt to bring two really important portions of downtown together," said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning.
That goal makes a lot of sense, said Bill Dargusch of Metropolitan Partners, a private company that partnered with the Tri-State Transit Authority to develop Pullman Square. Dargusch said he's in favor of a project that connects visitors to Pullman Square and wants to learn more about the city's plans.
Holley said Heritage Station was Huntington's Pullman Square of the 1970s. Its central location brought people downtown, but it began to lose patrons when several businesses proved unsuccessful.
Years later, Pullman Square opened, and there was a disconnect between Heritage Station and the rest of downtown, Holley said. The pedestrian corridor project is aimed at restoring Heritage Station to a more prominent role.
Holley said he's confident the grant will be approved because it follows the guidelines for shovel-ready construction projects, but if it falls through, the city would seek other forms of funding.
The alley currently has no sidewalk. Since the alley would remain open to vehicle traffic, Compton said, increasing lighting and constructing sidewalks would be among the major parts of the project.
The project calls for ornamental streetlights, fencing, benches and landscaping.
According to project renderings, brick columns and ornamental fences will be used along the newly constructed sidewalks. Trees also will line the area between the sidewalks and driving lane.
The city also is working with Appalachian Power to improve the look of its sub-station, which is at the northwest corner of 11th Street and 2 1/2 alley. Holley said the plan is to construct a brick and panel fence to screen the sub-station and enhance the new streetscape design.
The plan also calls for putting decorative panels inside the fence, Holley said. Themes emphasizing the Ohio River, the railroad and the role of coal in the national energy market could be used to decorate the fences.
"The alley has the opportunity to become interesting and appealing," Compton said. "The fence panels can depict virtually anything we want."
Holley said the city is considering using removable panels so that they can be changed throughout the year. The city also is considering using the removable panels along the ornamental fence that will stretch the entire length of the alley.
"I really like the idea of changing the panels out every six months or so," Holley said. "There'll always be something new to attract you down to the corridor."
Holley said the soonest the project can start is next spring.
The pedestrian corridor is part of a larger plan the city has to create a triangle of safe passages between Heritage Station, Pullman Square and Harris Riverfront Park. Holley said building better sidewalks and crosswalks to the riverfront is a short-term goal, but the city has larger plans for the future.
"We're hoping for an overhead corridor into Harris Riverfront Park," Holley said. "And we're considering putting a (traffic) signal on 10th Street (at Veterans Memorial Boulevard)."
August 11th, 2009, 10:07 PM
$25M OK'd for MU expansion (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x1562572805/Commission-OKs-25M-for-MU-expansion)
By Christian Alexandersen, Herald-Dispatch, August 10, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- A project that will provide several of Marshall University's departments with a new home has received a $25 million boost from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
The commission approved the funding Friday at its meeting in Charleston. According to a statement from Marshall President Stephen Kopp, the new facility is expected to house the university's College of Information Technology and Engineering, the departments of Mathematics and Computational Sciences and a Modeling and Digital Imaging Resource facility.
The complex is also expected to house the new West Virginia High School S.T.E.M. Academy, which will be a fully operational high school for grades 9 through 12. The Tri-State model school, a multi-state, multi-agency effort, will be for students demonstrating outstanding capabilities in science, technology, engineering and math.
The complex will also house Marshall's engineering and bioengineering research laboratories.
Marshall Chief of Staff Bill Bissett said early plans indicate the complex will be built between the Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories building and the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center. Bissett said the university hopes to secure additional funding for the complex.
"This construction was part of President Kopp's strategic vision for some time now," Bissett said. "In these difficult economic times, the support from everyone involved is greatly appreciated."
Bissett added, "Our goal is to take not only our engineering program, but also our research-based and high-tech programs at Marshall University to the next level."
The complex is still in its initial planning stages, but Bissett said he plans to release more information about the project soon.
Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said in a prepared release that funding for the project was the result of bonding legislation passed in the legislature's first special session in June. The funds must still be approved by Gov. Joe Manchin, Kopp said.
August 31st, 2009, 02:08 PM
Custom pieces installed in sidewalk in front of Keith-Albee (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x265519730/Custom-pieces-installed-in-sidewalk-in-front-of-Keith-Albee)
Herald-Dispatch, August 28, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Custom pieces of white, black and red granite were delivered to 4th Avenue in Huntington on Thursday to be installed in the sidewalk in front of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.
The granite pieces are part of the city's Old Main Corridor project along 4th Avenue between 8th and 10th streets. The project aims to provide a better link between Marshall University and the downtown.
Charles Holley, the city's director of planning and development, said the pieces were brought into the city and are being installed by Central Masonry Inc. out of Huntington.
Holley said a large piece of white granite has been etched and colored to match the stained glass ceiling in the historic theater. The piece will have red granite center with the initials "KA" etched into them. The outside and spokes of the piece will be made of black granite.
The installation should take a couple weeks, Holley said. As the Keith-Albee section is installed, Holley said the crew will be awaiting the arrival of the additional granite pieces to be installed in front of The Frederick building.
Holley said The Frederick's sidewalk will have the state seal and governor's seal etched into white granite and surrounded by black granite. All pieces are expected to be delivered and installed during the upcoming weeks.
November 24th, 2009, 04:31 AM
Council to vote on stimulus funding (http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x659355266/Council-to-vote-on-stimulus-funding)
By Bryan Chambers, Herald-Dispatch, November 22, 2009
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council will vote Monday evening to accept stimulus dollars that will be used to provide a safer, more inviting link between two key components of the downtown.
November 5th, 2010, 06:53 AM
October 21, 2010 @ 11:25 PM
DAVID E. MALLOY
HUNTINGTON -- The West Virginia Economic Development Authority on Thursday approved an additional $11.4 million in bonding authority for a baseball stadium for Marshall University and another $5.1 million for improvements to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
The authority, meeting in Charleston, has authorized $50 million thus far for the RiverPlace project proposed by developers Brad Burgess and Keith McGuire. The project has been in the works for about two years. It is proposed for about 50 acres a few blocks east of Marshall's campus between the Ohio River and 5th Avenue.
April 8th, 2011, 07:15 AM
April 06, 2011 @ 12:00 AM
HUNTINGTON -- Switzerland's ambassador to the United States, Manuel Sager, spent more than an hour Tuesday morning with research officials at Marshall University.
Sager was in town to attend the opening of a new facility near Lesage by Alcon, whose parent company is based in Switzerland. He wanted to find out more information about the university's research arm through the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
January 6th, 2012, 09:06 AM
This thread has languished for a while so *unsticky*.