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Public hearing continued for Gerrardstown quarry project

April 28, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Residents who did not have the opportunity to voice their opinion about a quarry project proposed in Gerrardstown earlier this month may attend a public forum on May 6 to share their views, state officials announced this week.

The continuation of the Department of Environmental Protection's "informal conference" for North Mountain Shale's quarry permit was allowed because of confusion over the purpose of the sign-in sheet used at the DEP's April 14 meeting, the agency said in a news release.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Comfort Inn at 1872 Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg just off exit 16E of Interstate 81.

After concluding the April 14 meeting at Mountain Ridge Intermediate School near Gerrardstown, the facilitator was then made aware that at least one individual was not given the opportunity to speak, officials had said. At least 500 people attended the meeting in the school's dining area, which has a capacity of 492 people, according to DEP spokesperson Kathy Cosco and Berkeley County Schools.

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"On the sign-in sheet, there was a column in which the person signing in was to indicate that 'Yes' he or she did wish to speak, or 'No' he or she did not. Several people did not mark anything in that column, so it was presumed that they did not wish to make a comment at the meeting," Cosco said in a news release.

Because of the confusion, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman declared that the conference would be continued.

"We want to make sure that those who wanted to speak, but who did not get the opportunity to do so, have the ability to have their comments entered into the record for this permit application," Huffman said.

Those who signed the sheet without marking anything in the comment column were sent letters specifically inviting them to the May 6 continuation of the conference.

Because the meeting is a continuation of the previous meeting, those who wish to speak will have three minutes to enter their comments into the public record, which is the same amount of time given to those who spoke on April 14.

The public comment period is still open and written comments will continue to be accepted until the close of the meeting on May 6.

Leading quarry opponent Wendy Hudock said Wednesday that she was "frustrated and disappointed" residents were not given the opportunity to speak at the first meeting since they made special arrangements to attend.

"We hope the DEP realizes it is extremely inconvenient for citizens to make arrangements to travel far across (the county) at the 6 p.m. dinner hour to attend another hearing that should have been handled properly the first time," Hudock said.

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