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Man claims panel not consulted about jail design

January 19, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - After being off the radar for some time, issues surrounding the renovation of the former Jefferson County Jail arose again Thursday.

A member of a group that fought to save the jail from the wrecking ball said a committee supposed to give input on the jail's use was not consulted about the building's design.

As a result, Jim Whipple said, an attorney representing his group will argue Monday afternoon in Jefferson County Circuit Court that an injunction in place to protect the jail from demolition should not be lifted until it is determined how the Jefferson County Commission plans to use the jail.

Whipple told the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday that he is disappointed how the county has proceeded with jail renovation plans.

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"I think there is a huge disconnect between the county commissioners and its citizens that it was elected to serve," Whipple said.

Commissioner Greg Corliss disagreed with Whipple's comments that the citizen advisory committee was not consulted. The committee has been present when the project architect has been outlining plans for the building, Corliss said.

The commission had considered demolishing the jail, and Whipple's organization - Jefferson County Alliance to Save Our Heritage - worked to save the structure at the corner of George and Liberty streets.

Advocates of saving the jail said it should be preserved because of its architecture and because of a series of trials that were held in Charles Town in 1922 for miners involved in a labor uprising referred to as the Battle of Blair Mountain in southern West Virginia.

Whipple said a citizens advisory committee that was formed by the commission to give input on uses of the jail was scheduled to give a report on its findings next month.

Past discussions about the jail have focused on how to designate part of the building to tell its history, Whipple said.

The commission has planned to use the jail for office space, but Corliss said there are plans to have an area near the entrance dedicated to telling the history of the building.

The commission agreed Thursday to hold a meeting to inform the public about the county's plans for the building. Corliss, the only commissioner to vote against the meeting, said he did not want to be in a position of considering changes for uses of the jail after planning has been done on its use.

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