Circuit Court Judge Kurt Hall administered oaths of office to newly-elected Jane Lew Town Council members and the mayor last Monday.
“Fifty-four days ago, today [July 2], I lost my dad,” said Mayor Ruth Straley. “Tonight would have been one of the happiest days that he would have had. He wanted me to be mayor, really badly, and for many years that I didn’t even live here, he made sure I kept up with what was going on in town... It’s just made me feel very humbled, and I’m very happy to start this journey.”
The July meeting was Straley’s first as the newly-elected mayor.
In addition to Straley, council members sworn in include Tom Frazier, Kayla M. Neely and Recorder Debra K. West.
The council addressed members’ appointments to various county boards. Straley will serve on the Economic Development Authority. Councilwoman Phyllis Hinterer will serve as the primary representative on the Lewis-Upshur Local Emergency Planning Commission, with Neely as her assistant.
Straley also announced the department heads for the city. Frazier will handle buildings and streets. Neely will handle playgrounds and senior fitness. Hinterer will handle parks and beautification.
Straley said roles can be reevaluated when additional council members are appointed. Although new council members were elected this year, only three ran to fill five vacant council seats. Jane Lew Town Council is tasked with appointing the remaining council members.
Straley said she is interested in hearing from people who have an interest in participating on Jane Lew Town Council. She can be reached at 304-884-6842 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Straley said those who are interested may also reach her through Facebook messaging.
In addition to new interested council members, Jane Lew Town Council is looking for a volunteer interested in history who would like to work at the Old Harness Shop Museum in Jane Lew.
In other news, Frazier said there is another light out at Jane Lew Park. He said he has seen people in the park late at night.
“There’s stuff going on down there that shouldn’t be going on down there,” Frazier said.
Council discussed running a cable to the playground to install security cameras, and Straley suggested deciding hours for the park to be open and not allowing anyone in after hours. Former mayor Charlie Straley asked the town to think closely about what hours they choose.
“As a sports nut, I like to see kids down there playing basketball and baseball in the evening,” Charlie Straley said.
Ruth Straley agreed, but added that no one needs to be there at midnight.
“We don’t want anybody to not use the park,” she said.
In other business, The town received one estimate for $850 from Marple Heating and Cooling to install air conditioning in the park building, which they accepted.
“It has to be done if we want to rent the building,” Frazier said.
Various residents spoke in delegation during the meeting regarding their concerns. A primary concern of multiple residents was about a derelict building in the Straley neighborhood.
Connie Skidmore, and other residents in the Jane Lew neighborhood of Straley, said an abandoned house in their neighborhood is becoming an increasing problem. Skidmore said the structure now has several cars without license plates parked down the side of the house, and the property is filled with junk.
“I’m hoping and praying something can be done,” Skidmore said.
Wildlife, such as raccoons, groundhogs, roaches, snakes and various other critters, are an increasing problem for neighbors in the area, as a result. She said the dog catcher will not pick up the stray cats which populate the area.
Regarding the property, Straley received a letter from Dr. James Courtney, Tammy Brown and Tim Courtney, none of whom were present for the meeting.
“We have witnessed properties in better shape that have been condemned,” Straley read from the letter.
Local resident and businessman Pat Boyle, who said he was speaking as a citizen and on behalf of Pat Boyle Funeral Home, rather than as a Lewis County commissioner, also weighed in on the property, saying there is a problem with the cars. He said a property can have a maximum of three cars that don’t run, and a course of action would be to notify the Department of Highways.
“We have this problem all over the county, not just Jane Lew,” Boyle said. “It’s a matter of making the community a great place to live.”
Straley said Jane Lew Town Council will research what can be done. Hinterer said calling the Division of Natural Resources and asking for the property to be declared an open dump is another possible option.
“Nobody wants to cause trouble for them [the property owners], but this has been an issue for several years,” Skidmore said.
On an unrelated topic, two residents asked council about 3rd Street maintenance, citing that it was in desperate need of graveling because large holes had opened up, causing vehicles to drag. Graveling of the road was approved by the previous council, prior to the election, Straley said.
“We’ll move on getting that done,” she added.
When asked if paving would be a possible alternative, Frazier said he would look into the possibility.