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2013: The Year in Review

By Staff | Jan 6, 2014

Looking back over 2013, there were many stories of interest that could be selected as prominent in the news. The Chronicle staff has selected a sampling of those stories, in no significant order. The following lay out an outline of what happened in Shepherdstown and the surrounding county during 2013.

Many of the stories cited will have continuing relevance heading into 2014. They will be expanded upon, explained, story lines altered and molded around changes both local and statewide.

Taste of West Virginia showcases bakery

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce sponsored The Taste of West Virginia Tuesday at the Hart Senate Building in Washington, D.C. The event showcased a sampling of some of our state’s most well-known and unique foods. A special cake commemorating West Virginia’s 150th birthday traveled 80 miles from Shepherdstown’s Sweet Shop Bakery to the U.S. Capitol.

The cake, a four-foot replica of the state of West Virginia, was commissioned by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, to be served in the Senate offices during Tuesday evening’s “Taste of West Virginia” celebration. Bakery staff members Kayley Kemp and Kellie Ravenscroft hand-delivered the cake.

Freedom’s Run

Freedom’s Run hosted more marathon runners than ever before, boasting about 2,000 overall participants despite a last minute change in course.

With the usual routes through Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry National Park and the C&O Canal all closed due to the federal government shutdown, runners met the new route on river road with the same enthusiasm.

“No one complained about the alternate route,” Lois Turco, one of the race organizers said.

“They all supported what we did,” she said.

Freedom’s Run success was showcased this year with features in the national publication, Runner’s World Magazine.

According to its official web site, the historical route and race organization has earned a “Top 25 Half Marathon,” by Runner’s World Magazine in February 2013. It was also featured as the ‘Highlight Race,’ in the October 2013 edition.

Potomac Edison

The West Virginia Public Service Commission continued its investigation into the billing practices of Potomac Edison-First Energy electric company, as a two day public comments hearing was held in Shepherdstown in October.

Michael Albert, chairman, Commissioner Jon McKinney, and Commissioner Ryan Palmer, all traveled to Shepherdstown to hear testimony from Eastern Panhandle residents regarding their individual billing problems.

During the two day meeting WV state Delegate for Shepherdstown, Stephen Skinner spoke on the issue.

“We don’t have a choice. We are dealing with a monopoly, so we must rely on you to keep that monopoly in check.”

“I have yet to hear the real personal responsibility from First Energy- Potomac Edison for the problems in the Eastern Panhandle,” he said.

Just last month a local resident took legal action against Potomac Edison after receiving a bill of more than $3,000.

John Kilroym of Shepherdstown, claims Potomac Edison violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act by not accurately tracking and billing his electrical usage, according to the story by Ogden staff reporter Mary Stortstrom.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission will continue its investigation of Potomac Edison through out the new year.

More info regarding the general investigation can be found by visiting the commission’s web site at www.psc.state.wv.us.

Really Really Free Market

In April, hundreds of Shepherdstown residents signed an online petition asking Shepherd University and the McMurran Hall Board of Trustees to reconsider a made decision to deny the Really Really Free Market (RRFM) use of McMurran Hall’s lawn and wall.

With many in the community disappointed in the decision, RRFM organizers regrouped to find a new method of appeal.

In May the “Wall Street Exchange,” demonstration was held by local citizens to protest the University’s decision to disband the RRFM.

Following the protest, Bill Knode, member of the three-person McMurran Hall Board of Trustees, said that the board itself has no plans to meet with either demonstrators or the organizers of the RRFM.

Knode said the board faced complaints from businesses and visitors about the Really Really Free Market and saw it as an obstruction to those trying to enter and exit the historic McMurran/Reynolds Hall building.

“There’s a place in the community for that market,” he said, “But it is not at the college wall.”

Despite the controversy The Really Really Free Market would indeed return to Shepherdstown this fall at a new location in front of Town Hall, after seeking approval from the Town Council.

The new market has continued to be held monthly as a regular event.

Street Fest and the BEST festivals

In 2013 the BEST Group (Better Experiences for Shepherdstown Tourists) kicked off a series of unique themed festivals.

Dogfest, and Boofest, were born and additions to the annual Christmas in Shepherdstown activities helped characterize a busy 2013.

Following last year’s Christmas in Shepherdstown celebration, business owner Deb Tucker and Jan Hafer of the Visitors Center, said they decided it would be beneficial to create more events like the traditional Christmas celebration to bring awareness to the town. BEST members said their goal is to offer year round events for those who discover Shepherdstown and want to return.

Working in concert with the Shepherdstown Business Association, the BEST Group hopes events like Dogfest galvanize foot traffic downtown.

Former SBA President, Meredith Wait reported to BEST group members that the group’s first effort had succeeded in increased patronage to all the downtown shops and restaurants.

“Overall, everybody benefited,” Deb Tucker said.

The summertime arts and music festival, Shepherdstown Street Fest made its return this year. The day-long festival once again hosted thousands of patrons and featured numerous craft and artisan vendors as well as local musicians.

Festival organizer Lori Robertson announced this fall that Street Fest organizers will take the year off in 2014.

“Our Board met recently and has decided to take a year off with the commitment of returning in 2015, allowing us the time to build upon an already well-oiled machine. Producing an event of this size demands an organized team. We will be looking for new members to add to our core team to continue to bring the best possible festival to Shepherdstown,” she said.

Comprehensive Plans

Both the Jefferson County and Corporation of Shepherdstown Comprehensive Plans have come up for review this year. County Planning and Zoning staff hosted a series of public input workshops to glean resident’s concerns for the county’s future. Shepherdstown’s Planning Commission followed suit by requesting public input via an online survey and public meeting in November.

A Comprehensive Plan subcommittee being headed up by David Rosen has moved forward with plans to work with consultants, Benchmark CMR, Inc, on the town’s new plan.

In December committee members reviewed community feedback, noting that many supported growth and annexation around the corporate limits, though historic preservation is also a priority.

“Over the next two to three months, the draft plan will be developed by the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee with technical assistance provided by Benchmark. A draft plan will be ready to be presented for public comment in March or April,” David Rosen said.

The planning process will be completed by June 2014.

Determining an Urban Growth Boundary for Shepherdstown in conjunction with Jefferson County’s Comprehensive plan, remains a top priority. Representatives for both the town and county have begun working together on the process.

Shirley, Lawrence face federal judge

Former Jefferson County Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison in May of 2013 by Judge John Preston Bailey in federal court in Wheeling.

After serving his time in prison, Shirley will face 18 months probation, according to the sentence.

The sentence came after nearly two hours of testimony, which included arguments by the prosecution and defense as well as character witnesses and the bank robber involved in the Dec. 27, 2010, incident that landed Shirley before the federal bench.

Shirley resigned from his position as sheriff Jan. 11, 2013, and days later pleaded guilty to one count of a federal indictment charging him with deprivation of rights under the color of law for using excessive force during the arrest of Mark Daniel Haines after a high-speed chase that followed an attempted bank robbery.

The same day as the Shirley sentencing, William A. “Tony” Lawrence, 65, of Shepherdstown, was sentenced to three years probation in the same U.S. District Court Northern District Court of West Virginia after pleading guilty to one felony count of sale of a firearm to a prohibited person.

Lawrence was initially charged with with seven counts, one of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and six counts of selling a firearm to a convicted felon.

Judge John Preston Bailey announced in the courtroom that Lawrence had, on Feb. 12, 2013 in the Magistrate Court in Martinsburg, pled guilty to Count two of the initial indictment. He accepted that plea of guilty which led to the sentencing phase in Wheeling.

County establishes ambulance fee

Jefferson County residents will face a $40 fee for ambulance services in the county beginning July 1, 2014. The approval of the bill came in late September after months of discussion between the County Commission, members of the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency, the Fire and Rescue Association many members of the public.

The $40 fee is much less than proposed in a draft ordinance constructed by a committee set forth to study the issue. Members of the JCESA had called for an $85 fee which they say would fund the nine positions sought to provide supplemental EMS service throughout the county.

Commissioner Lyn Widmyer, who voted against lowering the fee to $40, explained that according to the information and statistics provided, the lower fee would not adequately cover costs. Dale Manuel agreed and hoped to gain consensus on the proposed $85. He was not successful in doing so.

Details of how the fee will be billed to citizens of the county are still under discussion. The bill may come as an extra bill included with, but not part of, the county tax bills.

Middle School band top in state

The Shepherdstown Middle School Jazz Band was judged as the best middle school jazz band in the state of West Virginia for 2013. The band also received honors from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. They were one of 35 schools in 30 counties to receive grant funding. Students from Shepherdstown Middle School’s Jazz Ensemble performed at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., along with celebrity musicians on the national level including Chad Smith, drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bernie Williams, Latin GRAMMY-nominated jazz guitarist and former N.Y. Yankee and singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton.