Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gateway Greenspace Update!

July 28, 2009

You may have noticed the concrete crushing going on this week at the greenspace project. This is one of the sustainable practices we have incorporated into the project. The rock crushing has eliminated the need to dump this material into the area landfill and is being used as fill for the site.

Comments by Susie Salisbury. Photo by Mike Aeiker.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Metro Government Forum Q&A

As presented by the Kanawha County Commission

1. Will each council representative have equal voice – one vote per representative? Or would it be based on population?
The council representatives will be elected in districts that would be established based on equal populations. Thus, each vote will represent about the same number of people. The size of the district will be decided via the Charter Review Committee that will be appointed once a resolution is passed by the Commission and City of Charleston or a petition is signed by 25% of the voters of Kanawha County and 25% of the voters of the City of Charleston requesting that Metro Government be evaluated.

2. How would Metro Government affect volunteer fire departments?
Fire protection in the unincorporated areas would remain unchanged as the Metro Bill excludes Volunteer Fire Departments.

3. I believe that most people in Kanawha County are opposed to “Metro Government.” Why don’t you have opponents of Metro Government in this so-called “forum?”
Although there were no direct opponents on the forum board, there were those who have reservations about certain aspects of a Metro Government consolidation. The purpose of the forum was not to push the concept of Metro Government on the residents of Kanawha County but to explore the idea of Metro Government for Kanawha County together to decide if it would be a beneficial change to the county. The forum was advertised in the newspaper and all citizens were invited to attend whether they were for or against the idea. The purpose of the forum was to hear from the two Governmental Entities as to how Metro Government would affect these areas.

4. How do you deal with the personality issues—trust of leaders who come and go with elections?
With every government organization there will always be differences of opinion and personality clashes. Under the Metro Government, there would be a council that will represent all areas of the county based on districts. Hopefully, this would provide a voice for every part of the county, large or small, so that issues could be resolved and compromises could be made to satisfy all residents.

5. I have done some research comparing the demographics (specifically population and population density) of Louisville-Jefferson Metro and Charleston and Kanawha County, WV. In short, they are vastly different. Why is Louisville-Jefferson Metro used as a model for the merging process, when it bears so little in common with Charleston and Kanawha County? Why, not, instead find a model that more closely resembles Charleston and Kanawha County?
The Louisville-Jefferson model has been the one most explored by Kanawha County and Charleston because the Louisville top officials have been very open to letting us explore their model. It may or may not serve as the plan for Kanawha County. Metro Government consolidations are flexible and may be adjusted to fit the needs of each county-city system. Kanawha County is reviewing all Metro Government Plans throughout the United States as will the Charter Review Committee before making specific decisions.

6. What happens to the elected Sheriff’s position?
This is a question that would have to be determined through the Charter Review Committee process. There is currently not an answer to this question. However, once the Charter Review Committee is installed, then they will be required to have public meetings and this question that can be discussed during those meetings.

7. Eastern Kanawha County has been ignored for years. Why should these voters approve or agree to another form of government and empty promises?
The Kanawha County Commission has supported the Eastern Part of Kanawha County through many projects that it has helped fund through Coal Severance Dollars as well as General Fund Dollars. The Commission has worked with the municipalities and unincorporated areas of Kanawha County to improve the area by providing fire hydrants and supporting water projects in this area.
All parts of the county will have a voice on the Metro Council. The Metro Council will be divided among districts of the County. Those districts will have representatives from the Eastern part of the County.

8. After Metro Government is established, will municipalities still be able to annex surrounding areas into their towns?
This will be another question that will need to be decided by the Charter Review Committee. The public will have the opportunity to provide input regarding the Charter during public hearings.

9. If we are pushing Metro Government, why not expand the current County Commission to 15 persons?
This is another question that will need to be determined via the Charter Review Committee. However, in order to increase the number of Commissioners, state code would have to be changed as currently Kanawha County is only permitted to have no more than 5 Commissioners.
10. Can’t most of the economic/efficiency benefits of Metro be achieved by intergovernmental agreements? If so, why merge?
Yes, many economic and efficiency benefits can be realized by intergovernmental agreements; however, there are many other benefits than just efficiency. Metro Government by its nature offers a more effective business climate than the current structure. The creation of Intergovernmental Agreements does not eliminate the duplication of services that is seen with having two governments.

11. How will the merger effect unincorporated areas? Will there be a municipal tax on real and personal property? Sewage—will it be provided?
Metro Government will give the unincorporated areas of Kanawha County a louder voice as well as the tools and support they need to take action. As the Honorable State Senator Brooks McCabe said during the forum, the state law that allows Metro Government precludes officials from altering the existing tax structures—there will not be a municipal tax on real and personal property. The areas of Kanawha County that did not have sewage prior to the onset of Metro Government will continue to use septic facilities, until grants can be obtained to upgrade systems.

12. Mayor Abramson - Did you/Do you have any smaller communities that refused to merge? If so, what problems?
As this was a question asked to Mayor Abramson regarding Louisville we have asked his staff to prepare a response and will post the response once it is available.

13. In planning Metro in Kanawha County, how many unincorporated residents are on the planning committee? Are they all Charleston residents?
The Metro Government Statute determines the persons appointed to the Charter Review Committee. By State Code a Charter Review Committee considering County/City Consolidation must include:
(1) Two government officials or their designees from the Principal City appointed by the governing body of the principal city;
(2) Two County Commissioners or their designees from the affected County appointed by the County Commission
(3) Two or three public members, including one from an unincorporated area, elected by the other members to make the number of the charter review committee members and odd number

14. Mayor Abramson, could you please share your experience of unity or working from 1 voice to help a large employer in your area to obtain employees for their “night shift” including the educational opportunities that you created—in other words, your UPS project?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested that his staff prepare a response and will post it once it is available.

15. How will the current unincorporated areas of the county be affected with respect to such areas as taxation (i.e., B&O tax) and zoning?
As the Honorable State Senator Brooks McCabe said during the forum, the state law that allows Metro Government precludes officials from altering the existing tax structures. Therefore the unincorporated areas will pay the same taxes they pay currently. Zoning is an issue that would have to be determined by the Charter Review Committee.

16. You said that police, firefighters, etc. were not laid off. What positions were made redundant by the consolidation? What did the city of Louisville do for those persons who were out of a job following the consolidation?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to respond and will post the answer when it is available.

17. What about police and fire protection in an unincorporated area? What happens if the benefits don’t occur as promised? Is this permanent?
Fire protection for the unincorporated areas would remain the same as the Metro Bill excludes Volunteer Fire Departments. Police Protection would be reviewed by the Charter Review Committee and recommendations would be made through the proposed charter.
The Metro Government Statute states that the Charter Review Committee will determine, “the method by which a consolidated local government may dissolve after existing for a minimum of six years.” Therefore, Metro Government does not have to be permanent.

18. What about representation on city council for unincorporated areas?
The Metro Council will be made up of members of districts throughout the County. It has suggested that each district represent 8,000 to 10,000 citizens. Therefore all of the unincorporated areas would have at least one representative on the Metro Council.

19. What happens to the employees who lose their jobs due to duplicate positions?
We are awaiting information from Mayor Abramsons staff to explain how they handled duplicate positions. Once we have received their information we will post their response.

20. Mayor Abramson, looking back, what would you have done differently to make the election of Metro Government happen sooner?
This was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have asked his staff to prepare a response and will post as soon as it is received.

21. Are the 26 elected representatives from single-member districts? Isn’t 26 too many?
The number of elected representatives on the Metro Council has not been fully resolved. The Charter Review Committee will determine the number of districts and the number of representatives for the Council.

22. Mayor Abramson, how were you able to NOT lay off people in the categories mentioned? Were there other layoffs?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

23. Mayor, did you develop a severance package or accelerated retirement, etc.?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

24. Mayor Abramson, how did you negotiate the overlap in the top key positions?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

25. What affect has Metro Government had on annexation of suburban cities of industrial entities in unincorporated areas?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

26. Explain the process of making pre-merger-election estimates of financial savings, and how accurate these estimates have proven.
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

27. I understand that South Charleston is opposed to Metro Government. So if the merger occurs, would South Charleston be part of the Metro or not?
Yes, South Charleston would be part of the Metro Government. However, they would still be able to maintain their own identity by offering their own services and by retaining their mayor and city council. They also would have a representative on the Metro Council.

28. How will unincorporated areas be represented in the Metro Government?
The Metro Council will be made up of members of districts throughout the County. It has suggested that each district represent 8,000 to 10,000 citizens. Therefore all of the unincorporated areas would have at least one representative on the Metro Council.

29. If it is true that assimilated businesses in non-Metro areas would not pay B&O taxes, there appears to be an inequity as the non-payer would be receiving the same services and opportunities as a paying business. Please comment.
Rural or suburban areas of the County that would become part of the newly formed Metro government would not be subject to B&O taxes. As discussed at the CommUNITY Forum, taxes would not change for any of the citizens or businesses. It is misleading to say that suburban businesses would receive the same services as urban business; in fact, each area would receive the same services they were receiving before Metro government. The Louisville model divides the Metro area into an Urban Service District and a Suburban Service District, each maintaining the services it had prior to Metro government.

30. Mayor Abramson, it seems that in one of the lessons you learned in your efforts which succeeded on the 4th try, you spoke very clearly today about the importance of citizens in this process. You had a four-legged approach: business, political, government, and citizens/voters. No matter what the threshold percentage is, you still have to have enough voters who say yes to pass it. Our approach doesn’t seem yet to have a clear citizen involvement strategy. I.E. We are holding a public forum at 10 AM when most citizens can’t come. We held an invitation only event for politicians, government, and business leaders but not citizen leaders at a time when they could attend. Citizen confidence and trust is essential. What lessons did you learn? What thoughts do you have to help us do our process in a way that promotes citizen trust and confidence in the process so they will at least give it a full hearing for a vote?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

31. Have you seen any reductions or cost savings for Metro pensions and retirement plans in Louisville, the same problems that are now bankrupting most WV cities and towns?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

32. Has the Metro model assisted in freeing up money for city and town makeovers to attract more people to downtown living?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available.

33. How much of the suburban cities’ budgets becomes designated to the Metro Government budget?
As this was a question directed to Mayor Abramson, we have requested his staff to prepare a response and we will post it as soon as it is available. Further, this would be a decision of the Charter Review Committee.

34. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro changed from 60 square miles to an area consisting of 386 square miles for a difference of 326 square miles. For comparison, Charleston/Kanawha Metro will be 524.99 square miles larger with a population of 493,927 less than the Louisville/Jefferson Metro Government. How will you provide all the services required with this much difference?
The Louisville model divides the Metro area into an Urban Service District and a Suburban Service District. Each District receives the same services they were receiving before Metro government. This would also hold true for Charleston/Kanawha County Metro, with the caveat that the Charter Review Committee has the ability to tailor the Metro government Charter to best fit the desires of the community.

35. Once Metro Government occurs, will law enforcement be handled by the Charleston Metro Police Department or the Kanawha County Metro Sheriff’s office? Who will lead the law enforcement—police or sheriff?
This will be a decision made by the Charter Review Committee.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gateway Greenspace Update
July 21, 2009

The back retaining wall is complete. Today, Order's Construction installed the first phase of filter fabric and French drains.

Comments and photo by Susie Salisbury

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009


Governor joins CDI IT Solutions officials to announce growth plans

Contact: Matt Turner, 304-558-2000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Joe Manchin and Mark Balawejder, senior vice president of CDI IT Solutions, today announced that the Philadelphia, Pa., based information technology company will expand its service center operations in Cross Lanes. CDI IT Solutions provides technical service desk support to its client base throughout the country.

“I’m delighted that CDI has made the decision to expand its business operations here in West Virginia,” said Gov. Joe Manchin. “I am confident that the quality work force that this state has to offer will assist CDI’s future growth and will serve its customers well. Growing our technology sector job opportunities is important and I know that CDI’s investment will play an important role in allowing that to continue,” said the governor.

CDI has been successful in growing its service desk through the addition of projects with new clients as well as expanded engagements with current clients. The majority of support is being delivered from the West Virginia facility and CDI has significantly increased its capacity at the site. The Cross Lanes service center has become the cornerstone of CDI’s offsite delivery channel, further cementing the company’s dedication to West Virginia as an IT support destination.

“Nearly four years ago we selected Cross Lanes as the location for our new IT service center based on the available IT resources in the area and those being educated at the local universities and technical schools,” Balawejder said. “Additionally, the state of West Virginia provided a welcoming business environment and reasonable cost structure for doing business which set the stage for a successful relationship between our company and the state. We have consistently increased headcount at the service center and remain committed to long-term growth in West Virginia.”

For more information about CDI IT Solutions, visit

West Virginia Municipal League 40th Annual Conference

The West Virginia Municipal League 's (WVML)40th Annual Conference will be held here in Charleston, WV. The conference will be held at the Charleston Marriott August 4-7, 2009.

In order to make this a successful event and to showcase our community and business partners, the Host Cities Committee is working very hard to find partners. WVML wants to take this opportunity to offer your company or organization the following vendor/sponsor information on this year’s event. All contributions will be accepted as advertisement before, during, and after the event.

Exhibitor – If you would like to place an exhibit in the Exhibitors Hall, the cost per exhibitor is $450.00. The welcoming reception and party are being planned in this area to give you maximum exposure to the participating city officials.

Sponsor – Enclosed is a sponsor list of activities for the conference. Please indicate if you are sponsoring an event from the enclosed list. Any amount is acceptable and the more costly events are usually co-sponsored by 3-5 corporations.

Prize Donation – Any type of prize, whether if is a gift certificate or an appropriate product, will be recognized in our program and newsletter as well as displayed throughout the conference.

Golf Tournament – The tournament will be held on Wednesday, August 5. Your sponsor participation may be either a monetary contribution, providing small items for each golfer’s grab bag, or sponsoring a hole on the course.

If you would like to participate in this event as an exhibitor, sponsor or golfer, please contact Ms. Kathy Burton at the WV Municipal League office by phoning 1-800-344-7702 or (304)342-5564. As always, your company or organization will be listed in our program as well as our Conference newsletter.

The WV Municipal League consists of city officials from 232 cities, towns, and villages across the state. Your support and advertising for your company is greatly appreciated and much needed to showcase the area. Should you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact Lisa Dooley, at 304-342-5564 on issues on the Conference or Mayor Danny Jones on Charleston related issues. We look forward to partnering with you to make this event a mutually successful one for both business and local government.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

TRG Customer Solutions now hiring:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College will offer a Real Estate Pre-License 90 hour course beginning July 30, 2009.

This workshop provides the 90 hours of instruction required by the West Virginia Real Estate Commission prior to sitting for the WV Real Estate Salesperson Exam. The course includes: real estate principles and practice, real estate law, real estate finance, and real estate appraisal. Students must successfully complete this course in order to apply to the WV Real Estate Commission to take the state Salesperson Exam.

Joe Miller, President of Old Colony Realtors, will be the instructor for this course. He brings over 34 years of practical experience, both as a salesperson and as a broker, to the classroom and has been active in local and national real estate organizations. He currently supervises real estate agents in Kanawha, Putnam, and Jackson Counties. He also holds the following certifications: Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB), Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI), and Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR).

This workshop is scheduled for July 30th through September 12th, 2009. The classes will meet Thursdays, 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Fridays, 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. All classes will be held in Room 112 of Cole Complex, Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, located in Institute, West Virginia. This course completes in time for the West Virginia Real Estate Exam on October 9th.

The registration fee is $495, which provides 90 hours of instruction, parking, textbook, study guide, and on-line study questions. This course has been approved for the West Virginia Higher Education Adult Part Time Student (HEAPS) Grant Program. Funding is based upon economic need and availability of remaining funds. Call immediately for information and HEAPS application if you think you may be eligible.

Register on-line at, (select Workshops and Seminars). You may also call 304-766-5113 or e-mail to register. Members of Charleston Area Alliance, South Charleston Chamber of Commerce, or Putnam Chamber of Commerce receive a five percent discount. For information on other programs offered by the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, visit our web site at


Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College will offer a Human Resource Certification Preparation workshop beginning on August 13, 2009.

The six module curriculum has been designed by subject matter experts from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and will be taught Betty McHale, a local instructor committed to the Human Resource field and who has earned the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. The program includes application exercises that develop specific human resource competencies and decision-making skills that are tested on the Human Resource Certification Institute’s (HRCI) Certification exam.

The six modules covered in the course include Strategic Management, Workforce Planning and Employment, Human Resource Development, Compensation and Benefits, Employee and Labor Relations, and Occupational Health, Safety, and Security. In addition, the preparation course will include a summery session that provides a comprehensive review of the materials covered in each of the six subject matter modules just prior to the exam.

The program is designed for HR professionals planning to take either the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification exam, or the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification exam. Others that may benefit from this course include individuals needing recertification credits, HR practitioners seeking to advance their careers, experienced managers who are new to HR, and mid-level managers pursuing a career change or promotion.

By attending this course, participants receive the benefits of an experienced instructor, interaction with peers, and a structured classroom environment that enhances learning and helps individuals stay on track. Participants will share real-world experience with other HR professionals that can improve their workplace effectiveness immediately.

KVCTC has been recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Holmes Corporation for achieving high pass rates for students that participated in the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) Learning System Preparation course.

The workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the following eight Thursdays: Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10, 24, Oct. 8, 22, Nov. 12, & Dec. 10, 2009. Classes will be held in room 112 of the Cole Complex, on the campus of Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, located in Institute, West Virginia.

The registration fee of $1099 provides six SHRM Learning System Manuals, a Learning System CD ROM, access to the on-line SHRM Learning System Resource Center, practice tests including over 1500 questions, instructor handouts, 48 hours of classroom instruction, and parking on campus.

This program is approved for the Higher Education Adult Part-Time Students program (HEAPS). Individuals interested in applying for this funding should call 304-766-5113 immediately to obtain an application.

Register on-line at, (select Workshops and Seminars). You may also call 304-766-5113 or e-mail to register. Members of Charleston Area Alliance, South Charleston Chamber of Commerce, or Putnam Chamber of Commerce receive a five percent discount. For information on other programs offered by the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, visit our web site at


Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College (formerly WV State Community & Technical College) invites the public to attend an open seminar regarding the Lean and Six Sigma Blended e-Learning System on July 28th. Seminar participants will have the opportunity to meet local college instructors, representatives from the online training partner, and satisfied clients who have completed this training.

This unique training program is a blend of Lean principles and Six Sigma methodologies. Lean training focuses on the ability to identify waste, reduce it, and aggressively pursue elimination of non-value added activities while Six Sigma is a management methodology that is driven by data and focuses on projects that will produce measurable business results. Combining these two approaches provides a training program that teaches the skills to successfully drive business results in both service and manufacturing industries.

The program offered at Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College takes advantage of e-Learning while providing significant classroom instruction. Classroom time is significantly reduced by the use of interactive online modules developed by The Quality Group. These modules cover the basic Lean and Six Sigma concepts to reinforce the classroom instruction. Online training provides flexibility so students can learn anywhere/anytime, accommodates different learning styles, and results in a significant reduction in time away from the job. Since this training accelerates learning, it results in faster deployment and a greater return on the training investment.

Approximately 50 percent of the instruction is provided in the classroom. Instructors Dr. Joseph Kusimo and Dr. Fernando Cervallos-Cando each have several years of firsthand experience as Black Belt project managers at Union Carbide and DOW Chemical. They bring their first hand understanding and application of Lean and Six Sigma principles into the classroom as they interface with students in teaching these methodologies and guiding the development of student projects. Dr. Kusimo states that Lean and Six Sigma principles are so basic in their nature that they can be applied across many disciplines and industries from production to sales departments and from government to health care industries.

Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College has trained over 40 Green Belt and 14 Black Belt students since instigating the program in 2007. Participants in the seminar will have the opportunity to meet former participants in the blended e-learning Lean and Six Sigma training program. Representatives from the Quality Group will also be present to answer individual questions about the blended e-learning training system.
The seminar will be held from 8:30 to noon on Tuesday, July 28th in Room 112 of the Cole Complex on campus in Institute. Individuals that register by July 24th will receive a free online training module. Interested individuals may register by calling 304-766-5113 or online at, select: workshops and seminars.

Individuals interested in obtaining training may enroll in the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program beginning on September 9th and ending on October 14th. This class will meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 9:30. This evening program prepares individuals to become Lean and Six Sigma project team leaders. It is organized following the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology, covers Lean principles, and includes courses in Descriptive Statistics. Students will also complete a student project that directly focuses on applying the concepts to your work situation. There is no prerequisite.

A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program is scheduled for October 26 to December 16. This class will also meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 9:30. This program is designed for individuals that will lead Lean and Black Belt divisions and supervise multiple Green Belt projects. Students will complete a student project that directly focuses on applying the concepts to their individual work situation. Participants in the Lean Black Belt program must have successfully completed the Lean Green Belt program. Although there are no academic requirements, students should be comfortable with basic math and statistics concepts and will learn to apply them in data analysis in this training program.

Register on-line at You may also call 304-766-5113 or
e-mail to register. Members of Charleston Area Alliance, South Charleston Chamber of Commerce, or Putnam Chamber of Commerce receive a five percent discount. For information on other programs offered by the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, visit our web site at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

West Virginia Success Stories

Charleston native Jennifer Garner shows her West Virginia Pride.

photo by Ice-LCP-Arturo/X17 Online - July 8, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Miss ArtWalk this Thursday from 5-8pm!

Featured exhibits include an East Meets West Virginia exhibit at the Good News Mountaineer Garage gallery and a live performance art piece at the Purple Moon gallery:

More information and map available at :

Gateway Greenspace Update

July 13, 2009

In the first photo you can see that the construction crew for Orders Construction is checking the steel reinforcement in order to set the last section of concrete forms.

In the second photo you can see an offset in the first section of the concrete wall... this offset runs the full length of the wall and at various heights to allow for the placement of stone veneer on the face of the finished wall.

Photos and comments by Mike Aeiker

Friday, July 10, 2009

As appearing on on June 9, 2009

A CommUNITY Forum

(Charleston) There were lots of questions for a panel of metro government supporters at Wednesday's 'CommUNITY Forum' at the University of Charleston.

The guest speaker was Jerry Abramson, the mayor of Louisville. That city and the county enacted metro government back in 2003. Also on the panel Kanawha County's three commissioners, Kanawha County Senator Brooks McCabe, Charleston City Council member Marc Weintraub and Jack Rossi, the chairman of Charleston Area Alliance.

More than 100 people attended the forum. More than half filled out question cards, which were read to the panel that then responded.

Questions from the audience ranged from: would Charleston's user fee become countywide (the answer was 'no'), to would volunteer fire departments continue to operate as volunteer organizations (the answer was 'yes).

Amy Clendenin, with the Kanawha Valley Board of Realtors, attended the forum. She is in favor of moving toward a metro government but still had a few questions. "It's time for change. That's the only thing constant is change. And I'm keeping an open mind about all of this."

If Charleston merged with the county to form a metro government, it would bring together 15 cities and towns creating a population of 192,000. Currently Charleston's population is about 50,000.

After listening to Abramson's presentation and the answers the panel had to the questions posed by the audience, Clendenin said she sees metro government as a positive. "We've got to do something. It's only going to be better for consolidating on services as well as making us a bigger interest for businesses to come to this area. I think that's key."

Article below appearing in The Charleston Daily Mail, June 9, 2009

Mayor touts metro concept

by Cara Bailey
Daily Mail staff

The mayor of one city that has successfully transitioned to a system of metro government urged Kanawha County leaders to prepare for hesitation from their constituents over the idea. "It's a revolutionary thought to merge city and county governments," said Jerry Abramson, who has been mayor of Louisville for 20 years. "It doesn't come naturally to people. Change is not comfortable."

Abramson gave a presentation Wednesday morning at Geary Auditorium at the University of Charleston. About 175 people, including mayors from around the county, city council members and city and county employees, attended to hear him talk about the challenges and merits of metro government.

The Louisville-Jefferson area adopted metro government in 2000, after the fourth attempt to get voters to approve the idea. Between 2000 and 2003, seminars were conducted throughout the community so that people there might understand more about the concept, and it took effect in 2003.

Kanawha County is nowhere near that point yet.

Legislation was passed several years ago that would even allow counties and towns to experiment with merging government agencies and services. Just this spring, lawmakers reduced the number of votes - down to a 50 percent majority - necessary for the proposal to pass at Kanawha County's polls.

Now, officials are trying to find ways to get the word out to residents about what metro government might involve.

Several people at Wednesday's session said officials already have gone about it the wrong way.

Rand resident Mary Robinson, who is retired from BrickStreet Mutual Insurance, said that if leaders had really wanted many people to come to Wednesday's meeting they would have scheduled it later in the day when fewer people were at work (the session started at 9 a.m.).

"I came for the people in the area who couldn't take off work," Robinson said. "As far as we're concerned, no one came to us. Do we count? That's how we feel most of the time."

Abramson said six years after his area transitioned to metro government, questions still are being asked. But he said the government continues to strive to be transparent.

Abramson serves as "metro mayor" and works with 26 metro council members elected from various municipalities in the area.

Suburban cities continue to exist with their own governments, councils and tax systems, but each also has a member on the metro council.

During the change, about 7,000 positions in city and county governments were eliminated, Abramson said. He said most of those positions were vacant due to a hiring freeze that took place after metro government was approved. He said 70 people were laid off, but most were hired back.

Though the city of Louisville is a primary example used by officials in the Kanawha Valley, Abramson said metro government does not work exactly the same way in every area.

"The reality in local government and business is, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel," Abramson said. "You look at other communities and tailor the best application for you in terms of consolidating governments."

One benefit Abramson pointed out is that metro government makes it easier for new businesses and jobs to come into the area. Instead of having to go through a set of rules, permits and processes for the county and then a respective municipality, one body manages everything in the area.

"You speak with one voice," he said. "You have the same licensing, same permits, same requirements."

Abramson said the possibility of such cohesion is an important idea for residents to consider as they're trying to decide whether to accept metro government.

He said people must realize that they live in a community, not just their respective suburb, to make metro government a success.

"We are one community," is the mindset people need to have, he said. "We have more that draws us together than separates us."

Abramson flew in to Charleston Tuesday afternoon, when there was an invitation-only reception in his honor at the Clay Center.

Wednesday morning, he was joined for a question-and-answer session by Kanawha County Commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores, as well as Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, Charleston City Councilman Marc Weintraub, who heads the city's metro government committee, and Charleston Area Alliance Chairman Jack Rossi.

Below is a brief excerpt from that session. A full set of questions and answers can be found online at

• How will metro government effect the taxes paid by county residents, especially Business and Occupation taxes, which are currently not paid by those in the county?

Sen. Brooke McCabe: "The legislation allows everything to stay the same in the city and other area, by law. There are some fearful of metro government using the opportunity to expand taxes. That cannot happen. At the same time, the parallel is the taxes paid in principle cities, the dollars stay there and are used for those services. There are three levels: Charleston, municipalities and the county. All three are unchanged."

How much money will be saved by merging?

Commission President Kent Carper: "If you're going to do it to save a buck, don't do it. The real goal is to accommodate the community. Metro government creates a one-stop shop for economic development. However, it's common sense: if you consolidate and merge, there's savings."
• Will Charleston's user fee go countywide?

Councilman Marc Weintraub: "We don't actually know for certain what is going to happen, because we don't have a charter. But it's highly unlikely that the user fee will go outside the city limits, and go away inside city limits."

The population of the Kanawha-Charleston metro area could have a population of 190,000. Are there companies that have passed setting up in the area because of the current population?

Charleston Area Alliance Chairman Jack Rossi: "Yes. Many times we don't even know it. We are informed but don't know who these companies are."

• Why is Louisville being used as a model?

Carper: "Our staff is looking at every part of the country. We're going to steal from the best."

• If South Charleston, which has openly opposed metro government, joins, will it keep its identity and budget?

Commissioner Dave Hardy: "South Charleston will have the benefit of its own budget, but also a seat on the metro council that speaks with one voice for the whole area."

Why should eastern Kanawha County residents agree to another government and more empty promises?

McCabe: "Metro government would put together a metro council that would pull in communities such as Chelyan, Marmet, Pratt and Clendenin. Those towns will be at the table."

How did the Jefferson-Louisville area deal with the separate ordinances?

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson: "The new government had five years to re-pass any laws that were appropriate. If it was not passed it would sunset. In those five years, the law that was more strict would apply until the council made the decision on which law to follow."

How did you get citizens involved?

Abramson: "We went wherever two people would gather, and talked about the future of government. We spent a lot of time answering questions and building trust. We knew council members would be representing every nook and cranny of the county, and that person would be the decision maker. A lot of misinformation and disinformation will come out. The facts have to be out there. And you have got to want to do it. If you want to do it, it'll get done."
Contact writer Cara Bailey at or 304-348-4834.

Blackjack Dealer classes beginning

Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, formerly known as West Virginia State Community and Technical College, announces immediate openings for a Blackjack Dealer class for individuals interested in Table Games Training. Candidates are required to register at Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College and complete required pre screening.

Blackjack training is scheduled for seven weeks at a cost of $560.00. Classes will be held at Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in Cross Lanes, WV beginning on July 27th, Monday – Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 12:30 and will end on September 18th, 2009. Limited space is available.

To be certified, candidates must successfully complete the Black Jack Table Games Training Course through Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, pass an audition, fulfill the West Virginia Lottery Commission’s credit and criminal background check, and pass the Lottery Commission’s drug screening. There is not a guarantee of employment.

Interested candidates should complete registration requirements, including a prepayment of registration fees at 103 Cole Complex. Cashier’s checks, credit or debit cards, certified checks, or cash are accepted as prepayment for registration. Registration will be conducted Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m., until 4:00 p.m. beginning July 6, 2009. Financial aid is available for individuals who qualify.

For registration information and financial aid applications contact Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College at (304) 766-5113.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The below article appeared in today's Charleston Daily Mail.

Belle Makes Return to Charleston

By Mary Childress
Daily Mail Staff

The Belle of Cincinnati makes a five-day return visit to Charleston next week.

The paddle wheeler will be docked at Haddad Riverfront Park starting Tuesday.

Piloted by captain and owner Alan Bernstein, she'll be ready to load visitors and ply the waters of the Kanawha River.

"There will be opportunities for groups and individuals to take in the boat for lunch or dinner or just to sightsee," said Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bernstein brought another one of his boats, the River Queen, for a visit to Charleston during the recent FestivALL celebration.

The Belle's visit is sponsored by the convention and visitors bureaus in both South Charleston and Charleston. The Belle also visited Charleston last July.

Patty Pitrolo, president and CEO of the Charleston bureau, said, "We're very excited about the Belle's visit. People here have told me they have missed seeing the sternwheelers in Charleston."
Anderson, meanwhile, hopes Bernstein will permanently post a boat in the Kanawha Valley.

"People want a riverboat," he said. "Having a permanent boat here has been a dream of mine ever since the West Virginia Belle left."

The 1,600-ton Belle of Cincinnati has three climate-controlled decks as well as an open-air top deck. Each of the enclosed decks offers a bar, dance floor and elevator. The boat is also handicapped accessible.

The boat is noted for the Victorian decor and intricate details found on boats in the heyday of river travel.

Businesses and civic organizations can reserve sections of the boat or the entire boat to host parties, meetings or fundraisers. It also can be booked for special occasions such as weddings or receptions.

This year, visitors have the option of paying for their lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruises at the boat before they board.

The Charleston Area Alliance will co-sponsor Business After Hours on the Belle July 16. The boat also will be open to the public that day.

"The event will be held on the Belle from 5 to 6:45 p.m." said Anderson. "The cost will be $10 for members and $15 for non-members. We have also arranged for the Esquires to play that evening, and they've promised to play 'Rolling on the River' while we're cruising down the Kanawha."

Alliance members and guests have the option of staying on the boat for the dinner cruise for $25, Anderson said. Members of the Alliance should call Leslie at 304-340-4253 to make reservations for the Business After Hours event. If they wish to stay for the dinner, they should call Mary Ann at 800-261-8586.

Anderson has arranged for musical entertainment for the lunch and dinner cruises while the Belle is in Charleston.

"I've got Tommy Griffith Plus 2, George 'The Earl of Elkview' Daugherty and two Elvis impersonators that will be on the boat for the lunch crowds," he said.

"In addition to the Esquires on July 16, I've booked the Steve Pennington Band and the Lost Cause Band on July 17 plus Hillbilly Entertainment July 14-17 in the evening. And I'm still booking other bands."

Lunch and dinner and sightseeing tours take about two and a half hours and run from Haddad Riverfront Park to Kanawha City and then back down the river to South Charleston before returning to Charleston.

Boarding for the lunch cruises on the Belle will be from 11 a.m. to noon with the trip scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Meals served on the boat are buffet style.

Prices for the lunch cruise are $32.95 for adults; $31.95 for seniors; and $17.95 for children age 4-12.

Dinner cruises board from 6 to 7 p.m. and sail from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Prices are $40.95 for adults; $39.95 for seniors; and $25 for children age 4-12.

Sightseeing trips July 14-18 board at 3 p.m. and cruise the Kanawha River from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Cost is $13.95 for adults; $12.95 for seniors; and $7.95 for children.

The final cruise of the Belle will take visitors from Charleston to Point Pleasant on July 19. At Point Pleasant cruisers will board a bus for the trip back to Charleston. The boat will board at 8 a.m. and sail from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This trip will include a continental breakfast and lunch. Cost is $74 for adults; $70 for seniors and $40 for children.

The Belle will visit Huntington July 22 and 23.

For more information about the cruises or to book passage, call Mary Ann at 800-261-8586.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for folks to see a beautiful sunset in the evening or view the downtown area from the deck of this wonderful paddle wheeler," said Anderson. "That's the best entertainment we can offer."

East End restaurant seeking a Bartender

Tricky Fish, Charleston's very own beach shack, is seeking a part-time Bartender. Someone with sports knowledge and lots of friends preferred! To apply, please pick up an application in person at Bluegrass Kitchen on the corner of Washington St. E. and Elizabeth St.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Gateway Greenspace Update

July 2, 2009

The final section of the retaining wall footer was poured today by Order's Construction. After a break for the July 4 weekend, they will focus on setting and pouring the remaining pieces of the retaining wall.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Construction on Gateway Greenspace continues

As seen in the above pictures, workers for Orders Construction remove the concrete forms from the first section of the back wall.

Once the wall is complete, it will continue the full length of the site next to the adjacent building.

The middle picture above shows the steel reinforcement in the last section of the foundation footer.

Photos and comments by Mike Aeiker