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Schools to build West, Central 1st
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Capon Bridge Elementary gym will go up early too

Pancione said constructing the 2 schools at the same time would minimize disruption, moving students “all at once, rather than piecemeal.”

The authority was successful in getting approval of Hampshire County’s school bonds onto the state School Building Authority’s agenda in December, and the SBA gave its approval for issuing $20 million worth of bonds — a necessary step before bond sales can take place.

Had the SBA decision been delayed to April, it could have delayed the project a year, said Development Authority board chair Greg Bohrer.

“Now we’ve sort of got a clear pathway,” said Pancione.

The bonds should be offered for sale in April.

Before construction of the West school can begin, the old hospital building in Romney must be demolished and the site cleaned up. Application will be made for state Community Development Block Grant funds for the demolition, with a final public hearing on the grant application to be held this Thursday.

Authority Executive Director Eileen Johnson will drive to Charleston to hand-deliver the application to get it there by the Jan.29 deadline. She said Hampshire might know by late June whether it will receive the grant.

Thrasher Group project engineer Patricia Escoriaza estimated demolition should take 60 days, after an estimated 45 days for asbestos abatement. A mandatory pre-bid meeting for contractors was scheduled for later Jan. 20, with bids due Feb. 2. Escoriaza asked development board members to “keep their fingers crossed,” predicting they would get 3 competing bids.

Johnson said the contract should be awarded at the next authority board meeting, scheduled for Feb. 17.

Authority board members and members of the county school board toured the Romney Elementary and old hospital sites at the end of the meeting. Pancione said that while the rest of the Romney Elementary campus will be traded to the authority for the hospital property, the school system’s administrative offices will remain where they are for now.

In other business, county broadband coordinator Aaron Cox discussed progress with the Capon Bridge project, noting that they were encountering “issues” largely involving the reluctance of landowners to grant right-of-way, even when the telephone poles on which the county’s fiber optic cable would be strung were already installed on their property.

Cox said they were finishing up the project, installing fiber optic on Whitaker Loop, Capon School Street and Tannery Row. They are also looking at grants for the next round of broadband expansion.

He noted that the Federal Communication Commission is still deciding whether to allow Frontier to remain the provider designated to supply 65% of the county with fiber to home broadband service over the next 6 years.

Escoriaza reported the Capon Bridge Technology Park industrial road project should be finished by the end of April, with the scheduled completion date moved back to April 21 from April 15, as they work to complete installation of utilities.

Johnson reported some interest in buying property from people moving here and wanting to bring their businesses with them, including a bed-and-breakfast operator as well as a locomotive repair and maintenance facility. She has shown them vacant space in the Romney Business Park and they are also talking to local realtors.

Johnson also said that Shadow Works, a manufacturer of sports apparel offering protection against punctures, abrasion and flame, has faced declining orders due to Covid and is no longer seeking to buy property here, as they were last fall.

Instead, the company is looking for leased space in which they might expand on a temporary basis.

The meeting included an executive session for discussion of legal matters tied to existing contracts, at which no decisions were made.

Woman, 94, dies in fire
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ROMNEY — A 94-year-old woman died in an apparently accidental fire at her Grassy Lick Road home early Saturday morning.

Shirley Craver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 911 call indicated the house could be occupied, but the 3 a.m. fire was burning so hot and fast that firefighters had to call off an initial search for victims until the blaze was contained.

“We tried to get in the back part of the house, myself and one of my captains,” Romney Fire Chief G.T. Parsons said. “We were able to search the part of the house that didn’t burn, but we couldn’t make it any farther.”

Deteriorating fire conditions and an exploding propane tank forced firefighters out of the house temporarily. 

“Once the fire was knocked down, an extensive secondary search began,” Parsons said in a press release Saturday. That’s when Shirley Craver, the house’s sole occupant, was discovered.

When she was located, operations halted until Medical Examiner Chris Guynn arrived. Fire crews didn’t wind up operations for 8 hours.

On Tuesday, the family thanked those who fought the fire.

“The family wishes to express their most heartfelt appreciation to all the volunteers that responded to fight the fire and also to those that backed them up throughout the area,” Terry Craver of Romney said. “Also, our deepest gratitude to all those lifting the family in prayer, the phone calls, messages, cards, and food. Your generosity throughout our most difficult time will never be forgotten.”

It’s only the 2nd fatal fire in Hampshire County in the last 7 years — almost to the day.

On Jan. 25, 2014, New Creek Fire Chief Dustin Amtower was passing through Romney in the early morning when he spotted smoke behind the 7-Eleven on Main Street.

Amtower rescued one resident and a dog from a two-flat, but the resident of the upstairs apartment, Wayne Levon Method, 74, died from his injuries.

Both the state fire marshal’s office and Parsons said the cause of Saturday’s fire was probably accidental.

Regardless of the cause, Parsons once again stressed the importance of having working smoke detectors in residences.

“Fire detectors weren’t sounding when we arrived, but that might have been due to the fire conditions,” he said.

Fire crews were dispatched to 5867 Grassy Lick Road at 3:11 a.m. Saturday from Romney, Augusta, Slanesville, Levels, Springfield Valley and Fort Ashby. Crews from New Creek, Burlington and North River Valley provided backups to the crews on the scene.

The Hampshire EMS and Guynn also responded to the fire.

The state fire marshal’s office said the blaze remains under investigation.

KENNY VOIT, 1932-2021: ‘Just a funny guy’
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Voit celebrated as a ‘pillar of Main Street’

Some say he sold them their 1st car. Some recall his love for bluegrass music. Some remember how he did business, but whatever the story, it’s always told with a smile.

“My brother was a character,” chuckled Dot Calvert, Kenny’s younger sister. “He had the best stories ever. He was just a funny guy, a great personality.”

Kenny was always up for a laugh and found the humor in everything. The last 20 years saw him working, with no plan to retire, at Voit’s on West Main Street in Romney. He was still there, working away, even a month before his passing. When he passed away on Jan. 24 from his heart disease, stories about him were flying left and right.

The Romney Fire Company celebrated Kenny as a lifetime member, calling him a “pillar of Main Street.”

He had a hand in everything: the Romney Volunteer Fire Department, the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the VFW, the Romney Town Council and more.

He was also a director on the FNB Bank board, appointed in 1976 and served until his retirement in 2014, said FNB president and CEO Travis Delaplain.

“Kenny was a resource to the bank with his knowledge of Hampshire County, experience in real estate and passion for automobiles,” Delaplain commented. “Kenny will be missed by the FNB Bank family, our community and me.”

 Kenny, born and raised in Slanesville, was a mainstay of the community right from the beginning: family oriented, business minded and full of love for Hampshire County. When he joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, he was stationed for 18 months in Germany.

While there, he wrote a letter in 1951 to the editor of the Hampshire Review.

That letter was to ask the Review to continue sending newspapers overseas to the boys in Germany, who wanted to keep up with the goings-on in Hampshire County.

“I had no idea the Review sent stuff to the boys,” said Calvert, who found the letter recently. “For the boys that were serving, that was a touch of home. Even though the papers came 2 weeks late, it was a touch of home.”

That was how connected Kenny felt to his community.

His humor and his stories set him apart. Through his auto business he met all kinds of people, and he shared his stories with them all.

“He talked to everyone,” Calvert recalled. “I don’t know anyone that has met him that doesn’t have a Kenny Voit story. And you can retell those stories, but no one can tell them like him.”

Many folks flocked to Facebook to post tributes to the Romney icon, sharing stories, memories and photos.

Teresa Dillon, Kenny’s niece, called him “one of a kind.”

“Kenny was the best storyteller, the best Santa Claus and a wonderful uncle,” she wrote. “We will all miss our patriarch.”

Judy Riffle Judy remarked that she would miss Kenny’s stories.

“It was always nice to stop by his garage in town and reminisce,” she said. “We enjoyed seeing him around the community and catching up, or hearing one of his stories as it brightened my day.”

With over 65 years in business in Romney and a bright presence as a leader of the Voit family, Kenny made an impact on his community, and that community will remember his stories.

For Kenny’s complete obituary, turn to page 3A.

State takes over vaccine sign-up
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A new week is bringing a new plan for vaccinating West Virginians against Covid-19.

Out is the regional model that Gov. Jim Justice ordered a couple of weeks ago, a plan that had Hampshire, Hardy, Grant and Mineral counties all sending residents to Moorefield’s National Guard Armory for their vaccinations.

Now the vaccinations are returning to individual counties, but the state is taking control of scheduling.

Any West Virginia resident age 65 or older can sign up for the vaccine in 1 of 2 ways:

• Visit vaccinate.wv.gov.

• Call 1-833-734-0965 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays.

The County Health department is no longer scheduling appointments, although anyone who had already signed up locally is being added to the state list.

County Health Director Stephanie Shoemaker said details are being ironed out daily. The new plan, she said, starts next Monday.

“I don’t know what that means as far as amount of dosages,” she said, although she expects the state to continue to distribute doses based on the population of each county.

She called the regional clinics very successful.

“We have been able to vaccinate 500 people a day by pulling together,” she said, extending thanks to the department’s volunteers, the county’s Office of Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s office and Hampshire Memorial Hospital for their assistance.

She noted that E.A. Hawse Health Center in Baker partnered with the 4 county health departments to run the clinics.

Justice announced the new statewide scheduling and return to county distribution last Thursday.

West Virginia became the 1st state in the nation to utilize the digital vaccination scheduling system by Everbridge when it launched Monday morning.

“Now, they are going to help us coordinate vaccines as we get them from the federal government,” Gov. Justice said. “This system gives you the ability to put your information in directly and helps us coordinate, when vaccines are available, to notify you when and where to come to get your vaccine.”

On the 1st day, Justice said, more than 62,000 people signed up.

He said the model takes pressure off the individual county health departments.

West Virginia continues to set the pace nationally for vaccinating residents. At the end of last week, 87.7 percent of the doses sent to the state had been administered. The national average is less than half that.

Covid claims 4 more lives
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Covid-19’s grip on Hampshire County remained firm over the past week, claiming 4 more lives, spreading at a slightly faster pace and keeping the high school closed.

Twenty-five residents have now died from virus – 1 in the 1st 8 months of the pandemic and the other 24 in the last 2 months.

The Health Department announced 2 deaths Sunday and 2 more Monday. The agency does not provide the names of the deceased.

The toll includes:

• A 75-year-old woman from Augusta,

• An 87-year-old man from Green Spring,

• A 78-year-old man from Romney and

• A 74-year-old man from Romney.

Ten new cases confirmed Monday bring the county’s active cases up to 126. Four people are hospitalized with the virus.

The county had dropped below 100 active cases a week ago for the 1st time since Thanksgiving.

The county has had 1,382 confirmed cases and 25 deaths.

Hampshire’s positivity rate dropped enough late last week to move the county to Orange Status on the state’s 5-color map. Orange would have been enough to allow students to return to Hampshire High School, but by Saturday the map was back to red and all students in the county remained on remote instruction Monday and Tuesday, although elementary students remained home those days because of weather conditions.

Gov. Jim Justice ordered all students through 8th grade back to the classrooms earlier this month. Hampshire’s plan, along with many other counties, is to bring half those students back on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays.

High schools are supposed to be teaching in the classrooms unless the county’s status is red on Saturday’s DHHR map.