Advertisement

Judge halts Jefferson County, W.Va., jail destruction

January 18, 2001

Judge halts Jefferson County, W.Va., jail destruction



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A judge on Wednesday temporarily halted the demolition of the old Jefferson County Jail until the state Division of Culture and History can review the matter.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. ruled that state law requires that when public money is used to tear down a historic structure, the historical review process must be conducted.

The jail at the corner of Liberty and George streets in Charles Town is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In a hearing before Steptoe Friday, an attorney representing two citizens hoping to stop the demolition said the review process must be conducted if any state or federal money is being used for the demolition.

Advertisement

Clarksburg attorney Tom Michael said video lottery money, money from horse and dog tracks 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.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson argued that none of the money used for the demolition will come from the state. Thompson said it is the county's money. "It's just divvied up by the state," Thompson said.

Steptoe disagreed, saying the commission is a "political subdivision of West Virginia state government."

Jefferson County Commission President James G. Knode said he assumes the County Commission will have to vote whether to have the historical review completed. Knode declined to say how he might vote.

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

Carol Galant and Jim Whipple, who filed for the injunction, could not be reached for comment.

During Friday's hearing, much time was devoted to whether the commissioners' decision to tear down the jail was appropriate. Steptoe said that is not an issue the court can address because that decision rests solely with the commissioners.

"The doctrine of the separation of powers forbids the judiciary from unsurping the commission's authority to make that decision," Steptoe wrote. "Bluntly stated, the proprietary of the decision to demolish the jail is, constitutionally speaking, none of the judiciary's business."

But the commission must still comply with state law in carrying out its decision, Steptoe said.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|