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2017 Year in Review

By Staff | Dec 29, 2017

Founding members of Shepherd Village, along with project workers and members of Town Council throw the first shovel of dirt at the 19-acre cohousing community last June. (Vanessa McGuigan/Chronicle)

Breaking Ground

Ceremony for Shepherd Village marks milestone

Vanessa McGuigan

The Chronicle

The dream of several soon-to-be Shepherdstown residents desiring to live in an intentional community of socially supportive neighbors, came one step closer to reality with the ceremonial ground breaking of the Shepherd Village last June.

Many of the property owners, members of town council, and various people involved with the project were present to hear remarks and pose for a photo opportunity, even though clearing of the area actually began in late May.

When completed in 2018, the “pioneers” who have poured countless hours into planning this labor of love will have created 30 private homes in duplexes and triplexes, along with a 4,000-square-foot Common House, plus a community garden, walking paths, clustered parking and other amenities, adding to the uniqueness of Shepherdstown and the for the symbiotic benefit of all who will live there.

Philip Baker-Shenk, one of the founders of Shepherd Village made opening remarks.

“This is a big day. It’s somewhat like waking up after a long, complex dream that was both exhilarating and exhausting. And here, now, we’re waking up to the realization that this dream is happening-it’s reality,” Baker-Shenk said.

Baker-Shenk said that all 30 units were purchased, which is unusual at the start of a project, and went on to thank the many people who are participating in the project including the architects, project builder, surveyors, project manager, and members of Town Council, the planning committees and home owners.

Mayor Jim Auxer welcomed the future residents of Shepherdstown to the “greatest town in America.” Auxer only half-jokingly appealed to the residents to volunteer for future projects in town to help Shepherdstown move forward.

“We appreciate so much that you’re doing this,” Auxer said. “It only adds to the ‘eclectic-ness’ of Shepherdstown. It’s wonderful. We also appreciate how you’ve worked with the town to achieve what we see here today, and the rest of Shepherd Village.”

Ellen Smith, one of the owners said, “This day means the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people. It’s very exciting. It also means that another 50-80 people are going to be moving to Shepherdstown, buying stuff, dining, participating in in the community. Most of the people who are owners in this project don’t already live in Shepherdstown.”

In addition to the 30 cohousing units, there will be a separate 20 lots, or 10 duplexes sold in a community that is currently called “Sage Place,” which will be available for purchase this fall. It will be it’s own entity, with a separate HOA from Shepherd Village.

“This is the first of the town’s PUD (Planned Urban Development), an new ordinance-this is a test-case for that,” said Than Hitt. “This is a good starting point for some of the things I’m looking at, which is keeping some green space, and that’s part of the design here.”

The town has zoned the cohousing area as a “55-plus” purview, with 80 percent of the households having at least one member who is 55 years of age or older.

“The draw for members of this project (Shepherd Village) is each other,” said Mary O’Hara, one of the owners. “Yeah, we are going to be in this great town in a wonderful space with beautiful surroundings, but it’s the people, when all is said and done-the community that draws us together.”

Construction on the homes in the 19-acre community is expected to start later this summer.

“The whole idea is to be empowered and shaping your reality alongside your neighbors. We’re very-much looking forward to the move in 2018,” Baker-Shenk said.

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One Step Closer

Town dedicates $50K to library construction fund

Toni Milbourne

The Chronicle

With a unanimous vote of council members present at a meeting in August, the group voted to allocate $50,000 toward the construction phase of the new Shepherdstown Library. The vote garnered no discussion and was over in a matter of seconds.

Library Director Hali Taylor stood to offer a few words of thanks to the town, sharing that the Finance Committee members and library representatives had been working together to answer all questions that had arisen at a past town council meeting regarding town funding.

“We really appreciate your faith in this project and your help in seeing it move forward,” Taylor said.

Following the August vote, Taylor indicated that the one-time donation by the town to the capital fund will help reduce the total still needed on the multi-million dollar project down to approximately $500,000.

The Shepherdstown library unveiled a redesigned concept drawing of the multi-million dollar proposed new library building in late April. Taylor said that the latest concept drawing is the third one in the process of moving toward the newer, larger facility.

“This is one we think is the perfect one,” Taylor said. “It is the most efficient with two stories.”

The building will consist of 5,600 square feet on each of the two floors, with the children’s area on the first floor and the adult section above.

The project, which has been ongoing for several years, began with the securing of land behind the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. Once a dump site, remediation of the site has been complete and a fundraising drive ongoing to secure the funding for construction of a library that can better serve the Shepherdstown area.

A silent phase of fundraising had been ongoing, Taylor recently said; however, now the public phase is in progress.

“We have a fundraising committee and we have a bunch of ideas, but we’re just getting started. We are at 2.35 million right now and our goal is 2.95,” Taylor said in May.

She continued by saying at the public kick-off in May that the objective is to raise the rest of the needed money by December of this year, with building to begin next year and an opening date in 2019.

Library officials believe a new, larger library will help increase membership and visitation. Plans include an increase in space, from the 2,000 square feet at the current facility to over 10,000 square feet at the new location. Additionally, there will be a multi-use common room, a private meeting room for small community organizations, large children’s area, reading garden and ample parking.

The library fundraising committee has planned a golf tournament in the near future. In addition, any and all donations may be made at the library at any time.

To help keep the public abreast of the fundraising efforts, a “book thermometer” is stationed outside the library at 100 German St. Each spine of a book in the stack currently represents $20,000 raised.

Taylor, and board member Libby Sturm said Monday evening that with the contribution of the $50,000 from the town, added to some additional donations that have come in, four more spines of books can now be painted, signifying another $80,000 toward the project.

Plans for the current library are still in discussion, but the goal is to continue to use the location for the near future. Plans are to offer the current services and also have a space dedicated to genealogy and local history at that location.

Contributions can be made in person or online to the capital fund at www.lib.shepherdstown.wv.us. Amazon online shoppers can also donate through smile.amazon.com. For more information call 304-876-2783.

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Historic Grist Mill auctioned off

Vanessa McGuigan

The Chronicle

Shepherdstown’s historic Grist Mill was sold to the highest bidder in June, businessman Tripp Spaur, of Charles Town, after a bidding war with Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer. Although more than two dozen people were present, Auxer and Spaur were the only two bidders for the property.

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BOE agenda has Jefferson County retirees seeing red

Toni Milbourne

The Chronicle

An agenda item proposing a change in dental and eye benefit coverage for retirees of the Jefferson County School system had several past employees speaking out the Board of Education meeting.

Human Resource staffer Shelby Todd provided a proposal to BOE members that would transfer current benefits received by retirees from the county plan to a state plan.

“It is an issue of manpower,” Todd explained citing 10 steps that must be taken when handling the current retiree plan.

Todd told board members that by changing retirees from the county plan, those retirees would see minimal changes in their coverage. Some of those minimal changes included increased co-pays, slight premium increases and possible changes in providers.

Todd explained that the proposal to phase out the retiree dental and vision plan would be done over the next year with a new plan going into effect July 1, 2018.

There are more than 250 retirees who have the benefits according to data Todd presented. She said that cuts in Central Office staffing have led to the proposed benefit change.

Concerns were immediately raised by Board President Scott Sudduth who indicated that while the need to be more efficient needs to be made while being mindful of the impact on current employees and retirees.

Speaking on behalf of the Jefferson County Association of Retired School Employees, President Betty Jo Walter stressed the need to have the current benefits remain.

“Being one of many who has been helped by Shelby Todd, I share with those others the experience of the value of having a familiar and trustworthy local point of contact to assist us with this local insurance option.”

Also speaking along those lines, former Superintendent Susan Wall, as a former math teacher also, encouraged the Board to look beyond the numbers and the data.

“Tonight I ask you to remember the department which works with benefits is not just Resources Department but Human Resources Department. Please don’t drop the ‘human’ from Human Resources,” Wall said.

Both Wall and former Board member and retired teacher Mariland Dunn Lee reminded the Board that in May 2016, a service position was changed to a professional position which would help provide some assistance to the Todd, the Benefits Coordinator.

Lee said, “Support was approved by the board when a county office administrator requested a reclassification of a position. Why had the help not materialized as promised? Where is the accountability and follow up on the board’s approval?”

Lee went on to say, “Retired educators gave and give of themselves; this is the last way that Jefferson County gives back.”

Walter, Lee and Wall pointed out that the proposed state plan is far different than the current benefits received by retirees. There is no guarantee that a new plan would provide the same coverage, include the same doctors or cover things such as pre-existing conditions.

“Increases and changes in plans may have retirees deciding not to continue dental or eye coverage due to higher costs or reduced coverage,” Lee said. “Costs go up but income does not,” she said. “How sad and callous to put them in that position.”

Board member Mark Osbourn called for a look into advanced technology, possibly a billing system, that may address some of the strain on current staff.

Laurie Ogden, another board member, said that she sees the next step as an opening of a dialogue between retirees and current staff and administrators to find the best solution.

“We recognize there is a manpower issue but we want to see more dialogue and possible resolutions,” Sudduth replied.

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Shepherd’s underpass gets an artistic makeover

Students and community members who traverse Shepherd University’s campus through the underpass now have something to look at other than plain white walls.

A group of students and alumni headed by art professor Sonya Evanisko transformed the walls and ceiling of the underpass into a large public art work.

“I’m always really excited when it comes to public art,” Evanisko said. “Many artists create work that ends up in very sheltered spaces like galleries or their own studio. Whenever you have the opportunity to work on a public art project usually the scale is much larger and the access to the art-the people who enjoy the art, see the art, and respond to the art-tends to be more of a community rather than a singular experience that might happen through a gallery.”

Evanisko worked with Shepherd alumni Josh Hawkins, the project’s lead designer, and Fernando Velez, a graphic design major and graphic designer at the Discovery Channel in Washington, D.C., to come up with the concept for the mural. It is an abstract painting that draws from elements on campus and in the community and state-like rolling mountains, rhododendron, wind turbines and chimney swifts. Evanisko said the biggest challenge is creating a mural on a space that is three-dimensional for viewers who will be moving through and not standing still looking at it. She said the group is working from loose illustrations and is responding to the space.

“So there’s no tracing or using a grid to get it from one scale to another,” Evanisko said. “The mural will be shaped by hand on site.”

The three, along with several Shepherd students, have been volunteering their weekends to work on the project. Hawkins grew up in Harpers Ferry and is a freelance painter who has done murals in other communities.

“Coming from a background where I normally do something small that goes in someone’s house, it’s nice to do something in a public space and to be working within the community,” Hawkins said. “Adding imagery enhances the underpass and the experience of walking from one side of the campus to the other.”

Velez, who has experience working with Hawkins on large murals, said the project is fun.

“It’s really challenging and a great opportunity,” he said. “I feel like this is the perfect space because it had huge, empty white walls.”

Rachael Dutko and Katelyn Wyant, both of Martinsburg and Kaleb Aurand of Silver Spring, Maryland, spent part of a recent weekend helping with the project.

“It’s a nice way to create an interactive space,” Dutko said. “The empty walls on this part of the campus are a little boring and I think having some public art installed here will really make the community appreciate the art more and see what we can do to public spaces around Shepherd.”

Wyant said she’s excited the mural will be completed in time for her last year of college.

“It gets our art out of the studios and onto the campus,” Wyant said. “I’m a senior next year, and I walk through this tunnel all the time. I’m really excited to be able to walk through my last year and know that I helped.”

“I decided to do it as a fun way to get me connected to the Shepherd community,” Aurand said.

Evanisko pointed out that the arts play a big role at Shepherd, in Shepherdstown and in West Virginia, but there is not a lot of public art displayed on campus.

“Having a work specifically designed for the Shepherd campus is pretty unique,” Evanisko said.

“I hope it just makes a statement that we are a community and university that really embraces arts and culture.”

Evanisko also hopes this addition to Shepherd’s public art collection will encourage people to walk more, because placing public art along a pathway creates visual interest.

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Goal of protestors: Stop proposed health care bill

Toni Milbourne

The Chronicle

Nearly two dozen individuals gathered at the wall outside McMurran Hall in June to participate in a “die-in” to protest the proposed American Healthcare Act and to call on Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to vote no.

Organizer Jessie Ward, captain of the Women’s March Outreach for Shepherdstown, said that Capito’s vote was a key one on the issue.

“We believed she promised she would vote against anything that would harm West Virginia,” Ward said. “We are relying on her to vote against the AHCA.”

The die-in usually involves individuals lying on the ground holding gravestones representing deaths that will occur should the Act be passed. However, Shepherdstown police officers informed the group they could not lie on and block the sidewalks so the group sat on and against the wall on German Street holding signs proclaiming that the AHCA would cause deaths and calling for the Senator to help stop the act.

Ultimately, the bill didn’t pass the Senate.

Susan Pipes, Women’s March outreach captain of Shepherdstown, also helped organize the evening’s event as well as one in Martinsburg and Charles Town. While she admittedly has not read the complete bill, she believes that it will be detrimental to West Virginians by cutting funding to Medicaid and cutting benefits for those with pre-existing conditions.

Also protesting was Tracy Riordan, of Vigilance Jefferson County, a group focused on “contacting representatives to resist the current executive agenda.” She explained that her group contacts representatives weekly with alerts, talking points and suggestions on issues they believe are important to West Virginia.

Prior to the 7 p.m. protest, Riordan said that members of the Vigilance group gathered at Maria’s Taqueria to hold a post card station allowing locals to send post cards to Capito requesting she vote against the AHCA.

Riordan also had not read the bill; however, she said that she has read some summaries.

“People we trust read and put out points we care about, such as maternity,” Riordan explained.

Chess Yellott protested Friday saying, “I’m afraid all my patients will have their healthcare taken away.” Yellott is a retired physician who said during his career he saw many patients go without care because of lack of Medicaid funding.

“Many, many went without care but all have care under Obamacare,” Yellott said. “We need universal healthcare like they have in all civilized countries,” he continued.

Yellott shared that he has written Senator Capito on multiple occasions about various cases but has never heard back from her. He, like many at the protest, had not read the bill but was there to call for Capito’s negative vote on the AHCA.

Pipes explained that the die-in was a form of protest that would hopefully grab people’s attention and lead them to contact representatives about this important issue. Pipes believes that while the Affordable Care Act has its flaws, Congress should focus on fixing those issues instead of creating new ones as will be done with American Healthcare Act.

A third die-in protest was scheduled at the Charles Town Library on Saturday evening.

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Cornerstones opened; contents displayed

Toni Milbourne

The Chronicle

The Mt. Nebo Masonic Lodge was the site for the opening of the cornerstone that had been laid in 1951 at the former Sara Cree Hall on the campus of Shepherd College (now University). Also opened at the ceremony was another cornerstone that was confirmed to be the stone from the former Boteler Hall, a men’s dormitory, constructed on the campus in 1952. That hall, like Sara Cree Hall, have both been demolished.

Sara Cree Hall was the home to the physical education department of the school. Mount Nebo Lodge No. 91 A.F. & A.M. laid the stone during the construction of the hall and were the leaders of the ceremony to open the cornerstone.

The cornerstone held multiple editions of newspapers, a Holy Bible, coins, stamps and several letters written by staffers at the time.

Past Master of Nebo Lodge George Alwin explained that Masonic lodges specifically lay cornerstones at public buildings, schools and churches. He shared that Jefferson County has many stones laid by Masons, some dating as far back as before statehood was granted.

The purpose, said another member, “was to invoke the blessing of the Grant Architect of the Universe.”

Before the opening of the stone from Sara Cree Hall, Holly Morgan-Frye spoke briefly to the crowd. Morgan-Frye, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of community and congressional relations, had a connection to the cornerstone as her father, D. Lee Morgan, was a member of the Masonic Lodge when the stone was laid. Joining Morgan-Frye at the ceremony were her mother, Mary Ann Morgan and son, Donovan Frye.

“We were even able to connect the destruction of the building by allowing firefighters to train there,” Morgan-Frye said as she shared that her father loved the Masons, the fire department, the Rotary Club and his family.

Monica Lingenfelter, executive vice president for the University Foundation, and a friend of Sara Cree, shared some of her memories with the attendees. She shared that Cree, a member of the faculty at Shepherd from 1940-1972, came to the college as head of the Physical Education Department.

“She developed the department and started the women’s collegiate athletic department,” Lingefelter said.

Lingenfelter spoke of Cree’s friendship with Ruth Scarborough, for whom the current library on campus is named. She said that Cree was so much more excited about the building named for Scarborough than for the one named for herself.

“The long-term strategic plan indicated the hall would come down,” Lingenfelter said. When asked how she felt about that, Lingenfelter shared that Cree’s response was “Do with the building whatever is best for the students.”

The former site of the building will now provide parking, a definite need for the students.

When the cornerstone was opened, it revealed many items from the day including multiple editions of newspapers such as the Morning-Herald, the Martinsburg Journal, the Spirit of Jefferson, The Shepherdstown Register and the Picket, Shepherd’s paper.

Also in the box was a Holy Bible, coins, stamps and several letters written by staffers at the time for their counterparts to read whenever the box was opened.

Over 50 items were inside the box and each was handled by Grand Master Richard Nehfer and Coordinator of Archives and Special collections at Shepherd University, Christy Toms. The two removed items from the box with gloved hands and laid them along tables so that attendees could see them more closely following the opening of the box.

In addition to the cornerstone from Sara Cree Hall, a second cornerstone was found inside the building, in a closet. The second box was also opened Saturday and proved to be from the former Boteler Hall, a men’s dormitory, which was constructed in 1952. That box contained similar items including newspapers, a yearbook from Shepherd College, a Bible and coins, stamps and other collectibles.

Everything taken from the boxes will be catalogued and displayed or archived under climate-controlled conditions, Toms said.

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So Long, Rev

Remembrance, fond farewell for Tremba

Vanessa McGuigan

The Chronicle

Hundreds of people filled the sanctuary at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church for the last “Storied Evening” with the beloved Randy Tremba as pastor before he retired.

There was a palpable spirit of warmth and love toward Tremba as the crowd paid rapt attention to stories of Tremba’s years in service to the church and to Shepherdstown.

The master storyteller spoke of becoming ordained as a minister in southern California, but then losing interest in ministry after suffering a personal loss. He moved to West Virginia. and began working at an apple orchard in his early 20s. He later discovered Shepherdstown at the suggestion of one of his co-workers.

“On a Saturday morning in December I drove Halltown Pike,” said Tremba. “I came across the railroad tracks, turned right on Princess, turn left on German Street. I thought I had driven on to a movie lot. I had never seen a town like that.”

On that day, Tremba explored Shepherdstown and ventured into the unlocked Presbyterian Church.

“I walked in an looked around this room (church sanctuary),” said Tremba. “It was kind of drab. Everything was cold and worn out. I just took it in-never thought I’d be back. Looking back, something was taking me in.”

Everyone in the audience laughed when Tremba said, “I really liked this small town. I thought it had a metaphysical harmony. It had 8 churches and 8 bars.”

Tremba continued telling stories of people he had met, some local legends that were known by many in the room and his unplanned leap into ministry at the church on July 4th1976. What Tremba thought would only be a temporary preaching job, turned into a 41 year ministry.

Tremba recalled some of the most memorable funerals and weddings at which he officiated, over 250 of each, including the weddings of his three children.

Tremba was presiding at one wedding where he met and had a conversation about baseball with Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia.

Tremba had met Former W.Va. Senator, Robert Byrd on more than one occasion and went to Byrd’s office in Washing to discuss pending (at the time) legislation about flag burning.

The Good News newspaper, a free quarterly paper was started by Tremba, as well as the popular Rumsey Radio Hour show and the Storied Evening series.

Mary Ellen Lloyd, one of the church leaders at Shepherdstown Presbyterian said, “I’ve been watching from countless stands and behind the scenes for the 40 plus years Randy’s been in our town. While he is an innovator with a very creative mind, he’s also a nurturer-an incredible nurturer. He’s the guy who take other people’s vague ideas and brings them to life. He’s the one who takes your dreams and pushes you to turn it into reality. He’s the guy who coaxes and prods us along, the one who finds the right mix of people and venues to make things-fabulous things-happen.”

Saturday morning there was a reception for Tremba and Sunday he gave his final invocation at the church. Although Presbyterian rules dictate that he must separate from his church upon retirement, he and his wife plan to remain in Shepherdstown.