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Shrimp farm has big plan for Hampshire
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ROMNEY — America’s favorite seafood — shrimp — will be farmed in Capon Bridge if business plans presented at last Wednesday’s Hampshire County Development Authority meeting are implemented.

Plans to raise Pacific white shrimp in the Capon Bridge Technology Park were presented by A. J. Shapiro, CEO of Aquabanq Fish Farms LLC, a land-based aquaculture business headquartered in Sheridan, Wyo. 

The company is interested in constructing a facility on 6 to 10 acres, with potential for eventually expanding to 25 acres. Aquabanq also plans eventually to develop similar facilities in other states.

Implementing the plan will require hiring a dozen full-time employees by early next year, the lowest paid of whom would be farmworkers earning $34,000 annually.

After a year, the workforce should expand to 30 full-time employees — 50 if they add a processing plant.

Shapiro noted that one advantage of farming shrimp is that they grow fast, with extra jumbo shrimp requiring 4 months to reach market size. The company could produce as much as 275,000 pounds of shrimp a year in each of their 2 planned production units.

Other advantages of raising shrimp locally rather than importing it from Asia include reducing transportation costs, increasing food quality, bettering sustainability and enhancing food safety. Imported shrimp can take 6 months to reach the consumer, Shapiro said — and the longer it takes, the greater the danger of that food quality and safety becoming compromised along the way.

The company will use an advanced filtration system to ensure a constant supply of purified and oxygenated water flowing through their production tanks, with no discharge of pollutants into the environment. Shapiro said there would be no antibiotics or hormones and no pollutants — just a “fully traceable, natural U. S. product.”

Shapiro said they had originally investigated constructing a facility for salmon farming, but could not find anyone in West Virginia who could build such a facility for them.

He added that shrimp grow at very low density compared to fish — more like an aquarium, which makes it easier in some respects than fish farming. They have 8 to 9 hours to react if something goes wrong in the production unit, as compared to 23 minutes when farming densely packed fish.

Shapiro listed several endorsements the company will seek for its facility, including Best Aquaculture Practices certification from the Global Seafood Alliance. Their proximity to markets reduces the farm’s carbon footprint due to easier transportation, and they will use solar power for heating.

The Hampshire County location appeals to Aquabanq because a “farm-to-market” shrimp facility here will be well placed to deliver fresh shrimp to New York City and other East Coast markets. Reduced transportation costs should allow sales at $6-7 a pound of shrimp of a size that normally costs around $12 a pound. 

In return, said Shapiro, their land-based aquaculture system will benefit the local community and offer good-paying jobs at their production facility, as well as needing a lot of service providers from the local community.


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‘Better and better’
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Riverfest honors Cacapon waters, the importance of art in our community

That’s how Tim Reese described last weekend’s inaugural Cacapon Riverfest in Capon Bridge.

A few other words the Friend of the Cacapon used were “amazing,” “financially successful” and “dynamite.”

In other words, the event was a win for The River House, the Friends of the Cacapon and Hampshire County as a whole.

“It was just amazing,” Reese said. “Our partners…really came together with The River House to make something that I think was really special because it incorporated the river celebration with educational activities, and music and excellent food.”

 Reese said the event had 3 main themes: the river, the environment and the arts. The goal of the festival was to marry the 3 themes, which Reese called a rousing success since 1,102 people flocked to the arts venue on the river to check it out.

“We were targeting a population that cares about the river,” he added. “They may not consider themselves ‘environmentalists,’ but if you love the river, you are an environmentalist.”

The event was 1 of 3 big functions bringing attention to the Bridge this weekend, with Saturday bringing Family Frontier Day to Fort Edwards and Relay for Life rocking the fire hall grounds. Originally, Reese thought that the other events would draw away from Riverfest, but as Saturday rolled on, the opposite was the case.

“What I think it did was we cross-fertilized each other,” he explained. “We had people going over there, and people coming here.” Some re-enactors even stopped by Riverfest in their traditional garb to check it out.

“Having more happening got different people from different audiences coming into town,” he said. “I think it worked because it was kind of intimate.”

The festival has actually been in the making for 3 years; in 2019, Reese began working with then-TRH-executive-director Jo Murray to plan the event, but Covid-19 hit and scrambled the plan. Since then, planning has been ongoing, and it just got “better and better,” he said.

Now, 3 summers later, the Cacapon finally got the festival it deserved.

Honoring the river and its role in the ecosystem meshed beautifully, colorfully and musically with the arts-forward mission of The River House, and Reese said that was his vision for the event.

“It was a targeted festival that grew the movement of protecting the river, and grew the movement that arts are important,” he pointed out. “And so on those levels, not only was it financially successful, but a lot of fun, too.”

High-energy, local music performances, food from Gig’s BBQ and 3 Fires Pizza (which sold out Saturday evening), kids’ activities, rock-skipping contests, beautiful weather and more made the weekend at TRH a vibrant one. Reese also credited the many volunteers that helped the event run smoothly.

“We must have had 30 volunteers working and helping and smiling, making it by and large pretty stress-free,” he said.

He added that next year’s Cacapon Riverfest is scheduled for June 16 and 17 (“We’ve got our eyes set on a couple of dynamite performers next year.”), so mark those calendars and “hope for weather like this again.”


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Williams gets his day in court
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Judge testifies, apologizes

Hearing 1st step toward Supreme Court ruling

But that final say won’t come until fall — and could drag into next year.

Williams, a 22nd Circuit jurist had his day in court last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Berkeley County Judicial Center in front of a 9-member Judicial Hearing Board.

The board 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. Judge Michael Lorenson of the 23rd Circuit was the only board member in the courtroom. The rest were connected via the Internet.

The hearing board will decide findings of fact and interpret the law, making recommendations to the State Supreme Court on disciplinary action if it upholds any of the charges.

Despite a life dedicated to the law, Williams allowed his driver’s license and registration to expire, but continued to drive, and on different instances failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and failed to wear a seatbelt.

In addition, on 2 occasions he apparently walked out of the Moorefield Walmart without paying for the items he purchased. He returned and paid for the items when notified. Videos of Williams at the Walmart self-checkout shown at the hearing showed him talking to people and being distracted.

The Judicial Investigation Commission originally filed charges against Williams in October concerning a traffic stop last July 11 by Moorefield policeman Deavonta Johnson. Johnson testified that he had observed the judge with a cell phone in his hand while behind the wheel.

On the 1st day of the hearings, Johnson’s body cam video of the incident was shown. The body cam footage was available on YouTube. Williams argues with Johnson, claiming he could not be charged because he was merely holding the cell phone, not speaking on it.

During the traffic stop, Williams called Lt. Melody Burrows, who was the commanding officer on duty at the time of the traffic stop, twice, complaining about the fact that he was pulled over and Johnson didn’t know the details of the cell phone statute.

Burrows told Johnson at the time to not write Williams a ticket and let him leave and he drove off. Burrows testified that she did not know Williams’ drivers license was expired.

Williams made numerous phone calls after the stop. That night he drove to the home of Moorefield Mayor Carol Zuper. Zuper testified that the judge was upset. She reported he said she needed to straighten the “boys” in the police department up.

She said boys was not a racial term, saying when you’re an older person you refer to younger people as boys or girls.  The state’s counsel, Teresa Tarr, had pressed Zuper, Johnson, and Moorefield Police Chief Stephen Riggleman, who also spoke with Williams the night of the traffic stop, and was there to testify, about using the term “boy.”

Johnson, who is African-American, couldn’t remember being called boy and Riggleman echoed Zuper’s opinion that he thought the comment referred to the relative youth of his department, not anything racial. The body cam recording was indistinct as to whether Williams said boy or son.

Williams’ lawyer Mike Benninger of Morgantown asked State Police Corporal Eric Vaubel about Williams’ behavior, in light of the judge’s demonstrated anger on the body cam video, when Vaubel gave him a warning about his registration being expired.

Vaubel said the judge was polite and courteous. Both overdue documents and fees associated with them were paid by Williams.

Judge Charles Carl of the 22nd Circuit testified that Williams behavior at the traffic stop “was out of character” and not how he acts in court. Benninger asked him if he felt the traffic stop incident might jeopardize the integrity of the judicial system. Carl said no and he supports Williams.

“He just had a bad day,” Carl said.

But the racial accusations against Williams continued to be made into Day 2 of the hearing. Benninger fought against them by having Pastor Daniel Sterns of the New Dale Church in Baker testify. The pastor, who is African American, said he had known Williams his whole life and would even let him preach to his congregation when he was unable to do so.

The pastor said the judge’s anger demonstrated in the body cam video “was not his finest moment” and added the judge was extremely remorseful. He said the incident had humbled the judge and put him in a better place.

Also on the 2nd day of the hearings Williams testified. He said after Johnson’s testimony the day before he apologized to him face to face for his behavior on the video. He stated his behavior was “unbecoming as a human being.”

He sent letters of apology to the Moorefield Police Department and others. He said that he had been working a lot of cases back to back on the day of the police stop- he was suffering from stress. 

On the 3rd day of the hearing, procedures for how to move on were discussed. Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from both sides are due to the Judicial Hearing Board by Aug. 31. The recommended decision of the Hearing Board is due 60 days after briefs are submitted.

If the parties consent to the recommended decision, it is submitted for entry of an order consistent with the decision. If the Court or the parties do not agree to the Hearing Board decision, the matter will be set for briefing and oral argument before the full Supreme Court, which would then issue a decision.

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


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Romney voters back $2.50 fire fee
  • Updated

ROMNEY — It wasn’t quite landslide status, but 58.7% of Romney voters said last week that they support a $2.50 fee added to their town water-and-sewer bill to go for fire protection.

“I can’t thank the mayor and the council enough for asking the voters,” Fire Chief G.T. Parsons said Monday. “It’s going to be huge for us.”

Romney’s Town Council approved the increase last July, then rescinded it the same night and decided to ask voters in last week’s election if they were in favor of it.

The advisory referendum ended up 67-47 in favor of the fee, so now the town can start work on the ordinance again.

“We’ve just got to work through the process,” Mayor Beverly Keadle said.

As a revenue-generating measure, the authorizing ordinance has to receive 3 readings (and approvals each time) at Council, a public hearing and published notice in the Hampshire Review.

It’s a 2- or 3-month process that will begin with the July 11 Town Council meeting.

About 10 or 15% of Romney Fire Company’s calls occur within the town’s roughly 1-square mile limits, but Parsons has pointed out that fires in town can be bigger and more devastating — like the Feb. 26 blaze that consumed the Administration Building of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind and took a million gallons of water to douse.

Parsons also contends that the fire company does little things in town — whether school presentations or the proverbial rescuing a cat from a tree — that don’t show up in the call logs.

Town utility users already pay $10 a month in added fees for police, parks and recreation and streets. The last time the town added to the fee was in 2015 when the $2 street-fund fee was enacted.

Romney has between 900 and 1,000 water and sewer customers, so the $2.50 fee will generate $27,000 to $30,000 a year for the fire company.

Parsons sees the fee as a plus for fire safety and relief for the volunteers.

“That’s more dedicated revenue that we can count on vs. having to rely on fundraising,” he said.


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South Branch stage set for bluegrass
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13th annual music fest hits Wapocoma this Saturday

Dust off your hats and lawn chairs and treat your family to a day of music, food and fun, for only $5 per person (children 11 and under are free of charge). There will be a variety of food – think barbecue, Mill Creek Ruritan ham sandwiches, funnel cakes, shrimp and more.

And the food is just the beginning; there will be craft vendors, raffle opportunities and a “kid’s corner” filled with activities.

Oh, and music, of course. The center of the festival, Wapocoma stage, will host 6 bluegrass bands, 3 of which are fairly local and 3 of which are nationally-recognized groups – household names in the bluegrass community.

As far as local flavor, 1st up will be Centerfire, a Keyser group, then Fly Birds: a group of 4 women from Wardensville and Cumberland. Then, Blue Ridge Thunder will bring their sound to the stage, a group from the Shenandoah Valley.

The last 3 acts feature some bigger names: Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, Sideline and Appalachian Road Show.

Seth Mulder’s sound is a little more traditional, and Sideline has been a mainstay at the festival off-and-on for the last 10 years.

Appalachian Road Show’s 90-minute set will close out the live music, and is a little unique: they will tell Appalachian stories and weave them in with their music.

 “They kind of dress the part,” Cox said. “They honor the show, the people, the stories. There’s a story in there.”

The band also just received a major award in the bluegrass industry, Cox added, so they’re bringing their accolades to the Wapocoma stage.

Music will start at 11 a.m. and the festival will be wrapped up by 10 p.m.

Just when you think you have thoroughly enjoyed yourself, the night ends with a regionally-famous firework show at 9:30 p.m. – fireworks are not only a July 4th occasion.

The gates open at 9 a.m. for the early birds that love to catch their musical worms.

 

Cox has planned for a roped-off area where anyone can put up their own canopy. Wristbands will be provided upon arrival for easy access to and from the stage area. No pets, coolers or high-back chairs will be allowed, and compliance with CDC guidelines (social distancing, masks, etc.) is up to the attendee.

“I’m looking forward to it all coming together,” Cox said about the annual cheap, family-friendly festival. “It’s a community event…we try to give back what we get.”


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