Skip to main content
A01 A01
Low bid to rehab bridge $7.2M
  • Updated

Capon Bridge should see work begin soon on the green bridge that carries U.S. 50 across the Cacapon River.

The Department of Highways has bids in hand for the rehabilitation of the bridge. The contract was one of 20 let on Nov. 9.

Three construction companies have bid on the project, with a low bid of $7,166,000 — over $2 million less than the other bids submitted — coming from Triton Construction Inc. of St. Albans.

Triton Contract Administrator Jessica Raines has confirmed Triton submitted the low bid, but said the DOH takes about 2 weeks after bids are let to complete its review of bids and supporting documentation, before awarding a contract.

The other bids are $9.45 million from Clearwater Construction Inc. and $9.84 million from Orders Construction Co. Inc.

Plans to replace the bridge were 1st announced in the fall of 2016. Signs at the bridge had warned for years that trucks and buses should cross one at a time, and the DOH estimated the bridge was deteriorating so badly that it would be closed in 20 years.

Built in 1933 to carry U.S. 50 across the Cacapon, the bridge was renamed the Cpl. Rex Sherman Bridge at Capon Bridge’s Founders Day Festival in 2015, in honor of a Romney native and recent HHS graduate who died a hero in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star.

At a public hearing held at the Capon Bridge Elementary School on April 5, 2017, the DOH had recommended replacing the bridge with a simple concrete span like the U.S. 50 bridge across the South Branch west of Romney.

Estimates at the time calculated the cost of repairing the old bridge to be $700,000 cheaper than the $4,200,000 to build a new bridge. However, the DOH favored building a new bridge because it should last almost twice as long — 75 years for a new concrete span, as compared to 40 years for the renovated old bridge.

Presented with a choice between the 2, the public overwhelmingly backed rehabilitation of the existing bridge. Of the 362 written comments submitted to the DOH, some at the meeting and some sent by mail, only 2 favored constructing a new bridge.

DOH consultant Jason Shade of the engineering firm Modjeski and Masters reported at the hearing that the bridge’s floor beams are so badly deteriorated that rehabilitation of the bridge will require removing and replacing the entire bridge floor.

This will make it possible to preserve the bridge’s steel superstructure — important to the town because the West Virginia Statewide Historic Bridge Survey completed in 2015 found the bridge eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, based on its design and construction techniques. Repairs to the bridge deck will not affect the bridge’s eligibility so long as its superstructure is preserved.

A temporary bridge must be constructed to carry traffic across the river while the bridge deck is replaced. The plan is to install the temporary bridge just north of the current bridge.

Work should begin sometime next year, with the 1st step being the demolition of the old Ford and Fordson Garage building on the west bank of the river, a building currently occupied by the Fireside Church, to make way for construction of the temporary bridge.

Judge’s hearing set for Feb. 23
  • Updated

Click here to view the statement of chargegs: 

Judge Carter Williams will have the chance to defend himself early next year against misconduct charges leveled against him from a summer evening traffic stop.

His case goes before the Judicial Hearing Board at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at Martinsburg’s Berkeley County Judicial Center.

Williams could be suspended without pay and even lose his law license.

What the 1st-term judge has to say on his behalf should be known by the end of this month. He has 30 days to respond to the 24-page formal statement of charges that the Judicial Investigation Commission filed with the State Supreme Court on Oct. 22.

On Feb. 23, he will face a 9-member board that consists of 3 circuit judges, a senior status judge, a family court judge, a magistrate and 3 public members, all appointed by the State Supreme Court.

The appointed family court judge is Glen Stotler, who has recused himself because he serves in Hampshire County alongside Williams.

Stotler’s 23rd Family Court district includes Hampshire, Mineral and Morgan counties. The 22nd Judicial Circuit that Williams serves along with Charles Carl includes Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties.

The Judicial Hearing Board, the Judicial Investigation Commission and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which will present the case against Williams on Feb. 23, are separate parts of the State Supreme Court’s oversight of judicial and legal affairs in West Virginia.

The hearing board will decide findings of fact and interpret the law, but at the end of the day it can only make recommendations to the State Supreme Court on disciplinary action if it upholds any of the charges.

The consequences Williams faces for judicial misconduct include admonishment, public reprimand or censure, fines or unpaid suspension for up to a year on each violation of the code.

In addition, the 10 charges include alleged violations of professional conduct. Those carry separate penalties that can include suspension of Williams’ law license for up to 5 years.

The outcome won’t be known on Feb. 23. The hearing board has 60 days to make its recommendations, then the parties have 30 days to file objections.

If Williams or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel objects or if the Supreme Court doesn’t agree with the recommendations, then a hearing before the full court will be scheduled.

Williams was stopped when Moorefield Police Officer Deavonta Johnson saw him with a cellphone in his hand behind the wheel on July 11.

Williams, as recorded on Johnson’s bodycam, reacted badly and identified himself as a judge right from the start.

The 55-year-old judge called Johnson’s supervisor during the stop and, over the course of the evening, called the supervisor a 2nd time, called Moorefield’s police chief at home, called the former police chief and stopped by the mayor’s house.

He repeatedly referred to Johnson, who is African-American, as “your boy” to the policeman’s supervisors.

The stop revealed that Williams was driving on an expired license.

Over the next few days, Hardy County Prosecutor Isaac See became involved along with Carl, the 22nd Circuit’s chief judge, and retired judge Donald Cookman.

When Williams was told that the case was being referred to the Judicial Investigation Board, he said he wanted the opportunity to report himself to the board, which he did on July 15, the same day the Judicial Disciplinary Committee filed an ethics complaint against him.

Around that time, Moorefield Police Chief Stephen Riggleman prepared a ticket charging Williams with improper use of a cellphone and driving without a valid license.

Williams negotiated a plea deal with See to plead no contest to the license charge. In exchange, the cellphone charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charge could be refiled. Williams was fined $30 and court costs.

The Judicial Investigation Commission filed a report July 30 seeking Williams’ suspension without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary matter.

The Supreme Court deferred ruling on the suspension without pay in an Aug. 3 order.

The court said Williams is prohibited from hearing any matter involving the Moorefield Police Department or it officers until the complaints are settled. The Aug. 3 order noted that Williams agreed to no longer preside over criminal cases in Hardy County.

He switched assignments with Carl, taking on criminal cases in Hampshire County and civil cases in Hardy. Carl now hears civil cases in Hampshire and criminal cases in Hardy.

On Sept. 30, the State Supreme Court issued an order finding probable cause and ordered the matter remanded to the Judicial Investigation Commission. That order led to the formal statement of charges filed Oct. 22.

The investigation uncovered 5 other traffic brushes Williams had with either Moorefield police or West Virginia State Police between 2019 and mid-2021. They included not wearing a seatbelt and expired car tags.

Mr. Universe
  • Updated

Engineer Sincell has hand in developing powerful space telescope

Well, not really, but it’s pretty close.   

Sincell, a Garrett County native and current Romney resident, is a member of a team that has been working with NASA to develop the James Webb Space Telescope, an ultra-powerful tool that NASA can use to get a better look at “what’s out there.”  

Ever hear of the Hubble telescope?

Well, JWST is a higher-resolution advancement to the science of space telescopes, and Sincell has been working to prepare the telescope for its projected launch date, Dec. 18.

“JWST is the most powerful space telescope ever developed,” Sincell explained, “in terms of its ability to see through dust and debris in the universe to observe things otherwise hidden from our view.”

Sincell has worked on 3 other spacecraft projects, making JWST the big number 4. This telescope was originally projected to launch in 2008, but because of rescheduling and the overall complexity of the machinery, the launch date was pushed until the end of 2021, just a month away.

Once the telescope is launched into space, it’ll travel for a month to “L2,” or “LaGrangian Point #2,” which, Sincell explained, is about a million miles out from Earth, opposite the side of the sun. At this location, because of the way gravity works, it will be “parked” and stay there, traveling with the Earth around the sun at about 70,000 miles per hour without the need of fuel.

If you’re no rocket scientist, but you’ve heard of the Hubble telescope, Sincell explained the difference between JWST and its predecessor.

Firstly, the Hubble uses a single ground-glass lens to magnify mostly visible light.

“JWST uses 18 reflective mirrors that all focus the light, mostly infrared, onto a 19th mirror to get to the detectors,” Sincell described. “The JWST mirrors can all be adjusted individually to finely tune the focus of each one into alignment with the others.”

Simply said, the JWST will result in higher-resolution images, and is “infinitely adjustable,” Sincell added, “hopefully making service unnecessary.”

Sincell is technically an electrical engineer with this project, and his job was to figure out how many wires had to pass through the warm-to-cold interface on the spacecraft itself.

“I developed a giant Excel spreadsheet that documented every wire, its function, material, electrical and thermal parameters, length, weight and its from-to pathway,” he detailed. “It turns out there are 2,661 wires crossing the warm-to-cold interface, and they’re probably the most studied wires of any project in history.”

The engineer added that the spacecraft has passed its electrical and thermal requirements as best as the Earth-bound can test.

“Our confidence in this aspect of the design is high,” he pointed out.

The telescope will launch from French Guiana (in South America), since the French are supplying the rocket for the telescope. It’s already at the launch location, and has been tested to the most comprehensive extent possible.

With the launch date fast approaching, Sincell said he and the rest of the developers are “thrilled” the project has gotten to this point.

“Of the 3 other spacecraft projects with which I’ve been involved, only 2 of them succeeded in their intended missions,” he explained. “This highlights the ever-present possibility of failure, and (JWST) is no exception in this regard. We’re all pushing for success. We’ll know in less than 2 months, hopefully.”

The engineer said he spent a lot of time as a youth in Garrett County, Md. playing with clocks, motors, switch boards, train layouts and other machinery, experimenting with electricity.

“Once I got a superior math education in high school at Southern Garrett, learned to write well at Potomac State and went on to an electrical engineering degree at WVU, I was destined to do what I’ve been able to accomplish,” he mused. “A lot of it has been less by design than simple luck, being where I’ve been at various points in my life, but I’ve been blessed with the skillset needed to be useful in this line of work.”

Sincell’s next project will be working to support the Roman Space Telescope, a machine that isn’t quite as complicated as JWST, is still a “worthy project.”

He’s been living in Hampshire County since 1999, when he moved from Philadelphia to Springfield, but is now “happily” a Romney resident.

“I came (to Romney) for weeks every summer to spend memorable times with my cousins,” he recalled. “Garrett County is a great place to grow up, too, but I liked here even better, and am pleased to live here now.”

State OKs solar farm
  • Updated

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved the plan for the county’s 1st solar farm, coming to Augusta.

The agency on Monday said it had granted a siting certificate to Capon Bridge Solar LLC for a “solar exempt wholesale electric generating facility.”

Galehead Development plans to build a $17 million, 20-megawatt solar farm on 80 acres straddling Ford Hill Road. The banks of solar arrays will be just south of the fairgrounds on the east and the new central elementary school on the west.

The Commission did not receive any protests to the application. Letters of support came from both state senators, Delegate Ruth Rowan, Romney Mayor Beverly Keadle, Capon Bridge entrepreneur Tim Reese and Spring Valley Farm and Orchard owner Eli Cook.

The West Virginia Building and Constructional Trades Council of the AFL-CIO intervened in the case, securing an agreement with Capon Bridge Solar to work with it in construction of the facility.

Construction should provide approximately 23 local and 45 statewide jobs.

Galehead refers to the installation as the Capon Bridge Solar Farm, despite its Augusta location, because the project was originally planned for Capon Bridge. When the firm found using Capon Bridge’s local substation to transfer power to the grid would not be cost-effective, they sought a new location for the project.

Galehead has an agreement to supply the power it generates to Potomac Edison. The electricity produced should be sufficient to power approximately 3,400 households annually. The panels degrade at a rate of half a percent a year, making this a long-term commitment, Galehead said.

Still to be negotiated are payments to the county commission above and beyond the property taxes the operation will generate.

Boosters open to everyone
  • Updated

CHARLESTON — West Virginia is joining other states in allowing all adults to get coronavirus booster shots, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.

Justice has been pushing the booster shots since they became available for anyone already fully vaccinated, although the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ website has posted federal guidelines for the extra shots. Justice clarified his position at a news conference Monday.

“I think that is absolutely the message that I’ve been trying to get out to people,” Justice said. “I absolutely believe that if you’re 18 years of age, you can get your booster shot.”

California, Colorado and New Mexico previously gave the go-ahead for all adults to get Covid-19 boosters.

Federal guidelines recommend boosters only for those over 65 and younger people with certain underlying health conditions or whose jobs are high risk for the virus.

West Virginia has the nation’s 3rd-oldest population with nearly 20% of its 1.79 million residents over age 65. The state also eclipses most others in the percentage of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

“West Virginia is known to have a lot of residents of high comorbidities,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer. “So most of our population would qualify. I would agree that anyone who needs to get their booster shot needs to go out there and get it.”

Covid-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia have dropped considerably since peaking at 1,012 in late September.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 41% of West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 49% have had at least one dose. The CDC says the state’s rate of about 89,000 doses administered per 100,000 population is the nation’s worst.

Officials with West Virginia’s coronavirus task force claim that the state’s percentage is actually higher and that the CDC reports only part of the data.