ROMNEY — The current surge in Covid cases hit a record high last week, the Hampshire County Development Authority Board of Directors learned at last Wednesday’s meeting. 

The meeting began with a public hearing on an ordinance authorizing the cleanup of the old Hampshire Memorial Hospital site to prepare for construction of a new elementary school. No members of the public appeared to comment on the ordinance. 

The ordinance was read for the 3rd time and passed by the Board. The cleanup will be funded with a loan from the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, to be repaid after the sale of the School Street properties the Board of Education is trading to the Development Authority for the old hospital site. 

An update on plans for the new schools from Superintendent Jeff Pancione had been on the agenda, but Pancione was unable to attend the meeting. Development Authority Executive Director Eileen Johnson reported that new plans include running buses through the Romney Business Park to the new West Elementary School. Access to the school will be gated and not available to parents. 

Health Department director Tamitha Wilkins announced the 40 new cases of Covid confirmed last Tuesday were the highest number in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. She added the new cases come from “everywhere in the county.” 

The health Department is still doing contract tracing, Wilkins said, but added: “We’re back to being a mobile society again.” 

There is not much the Health Department can do if someone with Covid reports having shopped at a dollar store or Food Lion. 

She noted some cases come from outside Hampshire County, as people travel, children from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind and the Potomac Center go home for visits, and local students come home from college. 

The county jail also affects Hampshire County’s statistics, since the inmates are considered county residents. One recent outbreak at the jail was brought under control, but they now are dealing with another. 

Wilkins noted that the rising number of vaccinated people contracting Covid shows immunity from the initial 2 shots is waning, and boosters are needed. The health department gave 3 rounds of boosters at the Hope Christian Church in Augusta, and now offers them at the health department building once or twice a week. 

They get a lot of calls about 1st-time vaccinations, some from parents with teenage children, and began vaccinating children aged 5-11 the previous week. They do young children 10 at a time, given special safety precautions. 

Wilkins reported the county’s vaccination rate has risen to 42%, and reminded everyone that free Covid testing is available weekdays from 10-5 in the Hampshire Memorial Hospital parking lot. 

There are test kits available at pharmacies too, though these kits are not FDA-approved, which means the CDC does not recognize the results and the Health Department can’t either. 

In other business, Johnson announced an Open House at Taggart Hall from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 11, the Saturday of Christmas in Romney. Fort Mill Ridge will be holding a silent auction, proceeds of which will be used for repairs on Taggart Hall, including repairs to the roof. 

Development Authority marketing committee chair Rebecca Hott recommended the authority begin marketing available properties through Loopnet, an online marketplace for commercial properties that has been growing in popularity during the pandemic — up from 7 million to 11 million users. 

The Development Authority’s contract with Loopnet will allow for showcasing up to 4 properties. Hott said the marketing committee has the money in their budget for a $4,000 contract, and in her opinion, they “can’t afford not to do it.” 

Beginning Jan. 1, the Loopnet contract will be used to market the School Street properties that the Board of Education is trading for the old hospital site. Development Authority Board Chair Greg Bohrer suggested marketing tech park rentals too. 

Johnson reported that Galehead Development will go ahead with plans for a solar farm off Ford Hill Road after receiving its PSC site certification. She is also talking with a prospect about setting up a licensed daycare center and community grocery, and reported that the Curative Growth cannabis dispensary has closed on a property on Sunrise Summit, in the back of the building where Jill’s Barber Shop is. o

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