Growth keeps Ranson moving

March 15, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

Editor's note: This is the second story in a three-part series on growth in the Jefferson County, W.Va., community of Ranson.

RANSON, W.VA. - Ranson is a town on the move.

As the town has started to annex thousands of acres in areas that are expected to see significant growth in coming years, it has been preparing for its new businesses and residents.

New City Council chambers have been built, plans are under way to expand the police station and new equipment has been purchased for city workers.

For years, Ranson City Council members met in a corner room at the City Hall building at the corner of Third Avenue and Mildred Street.


It was a small meeting room, meaning it could easily be standing room only if a big crowd showed up.

City Manager David Mills said he remembers when groups of people would go into the chambers in "shifts."

One group would address the council, and when it was done, another group waiting in the hall would go in, Mills said.

City council members decided they needed modern council chambers.

The Ranson Police Department was moved out of half of the building in 2002, and the police headquarters was gutted.

In the space, construction crews built new council chambers.

It has sort of a colonial feel with its wainscoting and windows set in deep sills. Framed photographs documenting historical moments and landmarks in the city hang on the walls and there is seating for about 15 people.

The three-story brick building was built in 1893 and has had a variety of uses over the years, including as a post office and a school.

Because it was the first building in Ranson, council members believed it was important to renovate it, Mills said.

"A community is defined by its buildings," said Mills. "This is who we are."

Ranson has been attracting the attention of state and county officials because of a series of annexations covering about 3,800 acres.

Jefferson County officials complain that the annexations have created confusing boundaries and have interfered with their land-planning efforts.

Ranson officials defend the annexations, saying they are key to creating a strong economy.

Millions of dollars worth of commercial development is planned in the newly annexed areas, many of which were in Jefferson County's rural zone.

More work to be done

The city has spent $250,000 to renovate the building, and two more phases of work remain, including replacing all the windows in the building and painting it, Mills said.

In 2002, the Ranson Police Department moved to 700 Preston St., a former post office, which was renovated to give the police department six offices for police officers, a lobby area, a secretarial area, and rooms for processing, evidence and storage.

Expansion plans drawn up for the police department call for more office space and a municipal courtroom, Mills said.

Ranson Police Chief Bill Roper said he is comfortable with the growth plans for the annexed areas.

Under the plan, a certain number of officers will be added to the police department as phases of development get under way.

Roper said it is easier to deal with growth as it occurs rather than annexing areas that are already developed.

"It's a losing battle then," Roper said.

Ultimately, the police department plans to place a substation near the intersection of W.Va. 9 and Wiltshire Road, and another in the Cranes Lane area, he said.

The substations would have eight to 10 officers, Roper said.

Physical expansion of buildings is just part of the work city officials have undertaken to prepare for population growth.

Mills has reviewed all the city departments, such as planning and zoning, parks and recreation, and public works, to determine what kind of staffing might be needed in coming years.

As growth occurs, Mills said, he will go to the Ranson City Council with recommendations about new jobs.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the growth. We don't want to fall behind," Mills said.

Last year, the Ranson City Council passed a comprehensive plan that outlines other public services that might be needed because of growing population.

The 2000 Census counted 2,951 people in Ranson, but that number could rise to 18,000 people as growth occurs in the newly annexed areas, according to the comprehensive plan.

Highlights of the comprehensive plan included working with the City of Charles Town and the Jefferson County Development Authority to identify business park sites in the city; working with the West Virginia Department of Highways for road widening, intersection improvements and new highways; exploring establishment of a shuttle bus system from Ranson to one of the commuter train stations in Harriers Ferry, W.Va., or Duffields, W.Va.; exploring new recreation areas; and possibly identifying new school sites.

Wednesday: County officials ask the state for help in annexation control.

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