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Ruling clears way for work on old Jefferson Co. jail

January 23, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Despite concerns from a preservation group about how the process of restoring the old Jefferson County Jail was proceeding, a judge agreed Monday to lift an injunction protecting the historic building.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. heard from an attorney that the last stage in a historical review process for the jail was a letter from a state agency signing off on plans for the building.

Steptoe said it appears that letter is coming soon and that the injunction could be lifted when the letter is received by the Jefferson County Commission.

The commission at one time considered demolishing the jail at the corner of George and Liberty streets, but Jefferson County Alliance to Save Our Heritage spearheaded an effort to save the structure.

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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.

About six years ago, Steptoe issued an injunction that halted demolition of the jail until the state Division of Culture and History could review the matter.

Although the commission later decided against razing the jail, the commission had to go before Steptoe to get the injunction lifted to start a renovation of the jail, officials said.

A mix of uses are planned for the jail, including much-needed government office space, but the county "can't remove a nail" until the injunction is lifted, Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brandon Sims told Steptoe on Monday.

Jim Whipple, a member of Jefferson County Alliance to Save Our Heritage, said last week in a county commission meeting that his group would argue that the injunction should not be lifted because a citizens advisory commission that was supposed to give input on the jail's use was not consulted.

Commission member Dale Manuel testified Monday in a hearing before Steptoe that anyone had a right to review the plans for the jail.

Manuel, however, said he did not know if any correspondence was sent to the citizens advisory committee about the jail plans.

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