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Town council discusses Freedom’s Run, Market House, broadband updates

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Jul 16, 2021

Shepherdstown resident Ken Lowe discusses his ideas for the Shepherdstown Elementary School and Shepherdstown Middle School properties in the War Memorial Building Tuesday evening. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Tuesday evening, the Corporation of Shepherdstown held its monthly town council meeting in-person for the first time in about a year, in the War Memorial Building.

During the meeting, the topics ranged from updates on the Market House hit-and-run destruction to the town’s collaboration with the Jefferson County Commission’s Broadband Committee.

According to Mayor Jim Auxer, discussions with the JCC Broadband Committee have led the town to investigate any legal ramifications of mounting small broadband antennas onto the town’s water tower.

“We’re exploring the idea of putting small antennas on the water tower,” Auxer said. “What we hadn’t realized before, is that just maybe 200 yards outside of Shepherdstown’s perimeter, the internet service rapidly diminishes.”

The July 4 hit-and-run damage to the Market House, which houses the Shepherdstown Public Library, is currently being evaluated by two companies that specialize in bracing and shoring buildings, Auxer said.

“We hope to have our proposals from them in hand this week. We plan to make our decision on which company to work with by Friday,” Auxer said, mentioning it will take the company two weeks to fix the damage, followed by an additional week of work on the building, before it can reopen to the public.

The town council agreed to once again sign another three-year agreement with the Eastern Panhandle Home Consortium of West Virginia, to allow them to continue surveying local first-time homeowners on their experiences and helping people build and finance their first homes in Shepherdstown. The Home Consortium is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Program and the Community Development Block Grant Program.

Shepherdstown resident Ken Lowe, who has experience in town as a developer and real estate broker, asked the town council to ask Jefferson County Schools to change its current plans for its Shepherdstown elementary school and middle school building plans, by first building Shepherdstown Middle School on its new property location outside of town limits, and retrofitting the current middle school building for Shepherdstown Elementary School to move into.

“This will prevent water and sewer lines from having to be laid out there for more than the first school,” Lowe said, indicating constructing the buildings simultaneously would require separate water and sewer lines to be laid for each building.

The town council decided to table Lowe’s conversation in its next monthly meeting, at which interested community members and a Jefferson County Schools representative will be invited to give their input.

Jefferson County Foundation, Inc. member Christine Wimer requested a letter of support from the town council to be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, regarding a letter she submitted to them about requiring Rockwool’s Ranson plant to use the cleanest energy source possible, in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

“Because of the Clean Air Act, they are required to do so,” Wimer said.

After some discussion, the town council asked Wimer to write up a draft of the suggested letter, which could then be altered by the town council members and town attorney. It will then be signed by Auxer and sent to the EPA. Councilmember Chris Stroech recused himself from this portion of the meeting.

The town council approved the return of Freedom’s Run this fall to Shepherdstown, although it will now mostly take place on the C&O Canal, according to race founder Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

“We didn’t want to invite any disharmony in town last year by holding Freedom’s Run, so we canceled it,” Cucuzzella said, mentioning that even if the COVID-19 Pandemic grows worse this fall, outdoor activity is the safest way to spend time with people in-person.

“We’re going to have all events filtering to the C&O Canal, so they will start at King Hall, Shepherd University’s dining hall, and will then head to the canal,” Cucuzzella said. “The only event through town we’d like to continue doing, would be the Kids Run. I think it might be safer for the kids, than having them run over the [James Rumsey] Bridge. It would be a road closure [in town] of about five minutes.”

Councilman Jim Ford announced the town website’s redesign is nearly complete. It will likely be cleared for approval in the next town council meeting, and promptly launched.

Near the end of the meeting, the town council approved the appointment of attorney Matt Jividen to the Grants Committee. The town council also recognized the town’s 15th anniversary as a Tree City USA.