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Riverton VP says water deal 'very close'

November 14, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The vice president of Riverton Corp. told state legislators and Blairton residents Sunday that he believes the two sides are "very close" to a solution to provide water to Blairton residents.

The tiny village of a few dozen homes sits on land owned by the company, but the residents own the homes. Riverton says it wants to stop providing water.

After repeated requests by Blairton representatives for someone from Riverton to show his face at the West Virginia Legislature's public hearing on proposed quarry legislation Sunday, Riverton Vice President Bruce D. Jolly became the last person to take the podium.

Jolly said Riverton was not a "robber baron" as it has been portrayed since the firm gave Blairton's 44 residents notice four years ago that it intended to get out of the water business.

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"We have said many times we have no plans for the land and no plans to turn off the water," said Jolly of Winchester, Va.

With the help of Berkeley County leadership, Riverton is working on a solution that calls for "significant contributions" by the firm, including money, Jolly said before leaving the podium.

After being asked to return to the podium to further explain the proposed solution, Jolly said details had not been made public yet because negotiations were still going on behind closed doors.

The solution would involve a local public service district, Jolly said.

When asked if Riverton wanted to evict the residents, Jolly said the firm had "absolutely no plans or thoughts" to do so. Through mediation, the firm has agreed to do nothing for five years, he said.

When a state legislator asked Jolly if only 30 days notice was required to evict residents, Jolly said that was true, but there were no plans to evict them.

"For at least five years," the legislator added.

State legislators at the interim meetings, held Sunday at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center, agreed to add the Blairton quarry to a tour of quarries they will take this afternoon.

During the two-hour public hearing, several residents from around the state, including some from Blairton, expressed concern for noise and air pollution from quarries and concerns about the quality and availability of their water.

State legislators are considering two versions of quarry legislation to update laws that are about 20 years old.

One version would exempt expansions of existing quarries from the permit process while the other would not, said Del. Larry V. Faircloth, R-Berkeley.

The proposed law also calls for a 100-foot buffer between quarry mining operations and homes, but Faircloth has proposed the buffer be extended to 1,000 feet.

One hundred feet is about the distance from the front to the back of the auditorium in which the meeting was held, said lobbyist Rick Eades with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group.

Before adjourning, legislators agreed to add a Jefferson County amendment proposed by Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.

If the proposal becomes law, the amendment would allow Jefferson County to prevent new quarries in certain areas set by zoning.

Currently, quarries are exempt from zoning such as Jefferson County's.

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