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Kathy Mattea to tour former Jefferson Co. jail

May 30, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- Country music star Kathy Mattea will tour the newly renovated former Jefferson County Jail in Charles Town on July 18 and participate in a panel discussion about the project, an official with the event told county officials Thursday.

Mattea is a West Virginia native who maintains an interest in state issues. She recently made a trip to the Charleston, W.Va., area to learn more about mountaintop removal mining in that region, said Doug Estepp, who was involved in the effort to save the former Jefferson County Jail.

Estepp said he was interested in having Mattea visit Charles Town to see the renovated jail, and he contacted an organization that was sponsoring a Mattea performance July 18 in Woodstock, Va., in an attempt to reach the singer.

Estepp said he received a response within a week or two, and Mattea agreed to visit Charles Town.

Mattea will arrive in her tour bus at 10 a.m. July 18 for the tour of the jail at the corner of George and Liberty streets. A short panel discussion will follow the tour and Estepp talked with the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday morning about having a podium set up on the steps of the former jail.

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It is believed that county offices will be moved into the building by July 18, so Estepp and the commissioners talked about conducting the event so it will not interrupt government operations.

Mattea is expected to stay at the former jail until about noon, Estepp said.

The county commission at one time considered demolishing the former county jail, but a group of people including Estepp - who called themselves the Jefferson County Alliance to Save Our Heritage - worked to save the structure.

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.

The commission later decided against razing the jail and looked to use the facility to create needed county government office space. The renovation costs exceeded $2 million.

The Jefferson County Circuit Clerk's Office and family court - both of which are across the street in another court facility - will be moved into the former jail, officials said.

Circuit Clerk Patsy Noland said Thursday she hopes to move her office into the old jail June 11.

An official dedication of the renovated building is slated for Sept. 20, Commission President Frances Morgan said.

Morgan on Thursday praised people in the county who are always willing to volunteer their time on projects like the former jail. Two events are scheduled to celebrate the renovated facility, Morgan said.

"And I think it's just wonderful," Morgan said.

Mattea officials could not confirm the July 18 Charles Town appearance Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the International Music Network, which is the booking agent for Mattea, said she did not see the July 18 event on Mattea's calendar. It's possible the event is not showing up on the schedule yet, Megan Tunstill said.

Tunstill referred further questions to another Mattea agent, who could not be reached Thursday.

Mattea is a Grammy-winning singer who grew up near Charleston. On her new CD, titled "Coal," Mattea pays tribute to her home state.

Mattea's other hit songs include "18 Wheels and A Dozen Roses" and "Where've You Been."

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