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Three Harpers Ferry town employees dismissed

May 18, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- Saying it was a "difficult decision," Harpers Ferry Mayor Jim Addy said Monday that three of the town's 13 employees were asked to leave because of "irregularities" with their work.

Addy declined to name the workers, their positions or what the irregularities were.

One was from the office and one from the water plant, Addy said. One of the three was a longtime employee, he said.

Addy said the decision was not for budgetary reasons.

"It's going to hurt the town and put a strain on the employees that are left," he said.

Addy said he plans to replace two of the three employees -- one will be full time and one will be part time.

Harpers Ferry, a town with a population of around 325 residents, has an annual operating budget of about $400,000, the mayor said.

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"There is no discretionary money," he said.

The police department, with a chief and three full-time officers plus some part-timers, also operates on $400,000 a year. The department also covers the town of Bolivar. It receives about $80,000 a year from the federal government because of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Addy said the town's water system also has an annual budget of $400,000. The water and public sewer systems each have about 800 customers. Both have lines that extend beyond the town's corporate limits.

Addy has said that Harpers Ferry needs the proposed Hilltop House resort project, a plan that calls for razing the historic landmark that has been sitting on the bluff over the Potomac River since the 1880s.

SWaN Investors, a private equity group in Leesburg, Va., and developer of the project, has already spent about $10 million, including buying the old hotel and several nearby properties. The developers want to build a 179-room, high-end resort hotel and amenities.

Addy said at a public status report on the project in November that Harpers Ferry won't survive without the development.

"It has no money. The future of the town depends on Hilltop," he said.

He said Monday that he will ask Matt Ward, the town's liaison with SWaN, to ask company officials to consider reducing the number of rooms from 179 to "under 150."

Residents on Ridge Avenue, where Hilltop sits, want a smaller project than the one proposed, Addy said.

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