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Jail decision delayed

January 12, 2001

Jail decision delayed



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


CHARLES TOWN, W. Va. - The former Jefferson County jail has at least one more week of life.

After a nearly daylong hearing Friday, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Steptoe, Jr. said he would rule by late next week on an injunction blocking demolition of the 82-year-old facility next to the County Courthouse.

County citizens Carol Gallant and Jim Whipple hired Clarksburg attorney Tom Michael to argue for the injunction. Although witnesses he called testified to the historical nature of the building and possible future uses, his key argument to avoid immediate demolition was legal.

Because the jail is on the National Register of Historic Places, Michael argued if any state or federal money is used along with county money to demolish the structure it must go through a historical review process by the state. He said video lottery money, horse and dog racking money and money related to coal, gas and oil comes from the state and is put in the county's general fund, which would be used to demolish the building.

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"If state money is used, it will trigger the state review process," said Marc Homa, structural historical with the state Division of Culture and History.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Thompson argued the commission's action was not subject to an injunction by the judge. He also argued none of the money for demolition came from the state.

"It's not appropriated by the state," he said. "It the counties' money. It's just divvied up by the state."

Commissioners want to demolish the building and put up offices. Those who want to save it say it is architecturally significant and also historically significant because of a treason trial for a United Mine Workers union official in 1922.

"This is our last chance" to save the building, Michael said.

Even if his side prevails, the commissioners could tear it down after they went through the review process, he said.

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