ATK

Discussing the future of Mineral County, from left, are Kolin Jan of ATK, Steve Workings, a new county resident from the Martinsburg area, Colleen Peterson of the Greater Cumberland Committee and Mineral County Commissioner Janice LaRue.

Mona Ridder
Cumberland Times-News

KEYSER, W.Va. — It was a long day with an air conditioning failure in the afternoon, but at the end of it a group of 28 people had come to a consensus on the five most important opportunities and the five things that most threaten Mineral County’s future.

By breaking into four smaller groups of seven each, they identified strengths and weaknesses in the county then determined what each group considered were opportunities available for future growth and development and the threats posed.

Initially the lists were lengthy for each area but with the help of five members of the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Community Development program, led by director Steve Bonanno, the lists of strengths and weaknesses were consolidated into categories.

In opening the workshop, Bonanno said, “We are the process people, you are the content people.”

He said the focus of his staff would be to learn more about Mineral County in order to facilitate local efforts to update the county’s 10-year-old comprehensive plan.

“You won’t walk away with a plan today,” he said, noting the process is a lengthy one. “It’s up to you to decide what’s best for you.”

Bonanno said he and the four other members of the team, Mike Dougherty, Sarah Etherton, Rick Moorefield and Carl Marcum, had reviewed the current plan in effect. “At first blush, it’s a decent plan,” he said.

Etherton, acting as facilitator for the workshop, said the focus for the day would be to determine the issues facing the county and develop a consensus based on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as determined by the group.

She said, “You want to know how to meet the changing environment.”

One of the most important aspects of the planning process, Etherton said, is to engage the entire community because the more involvement there is in the process, the more commitment to it.

“It has to be Mineral County’s plan,” she said.

She went through the steps of developing the plan which include a mission statement, an analysis of the situation, goals and objectives, an action plan and evaluation of the plan as it progresses.

As the brainstorming began in the different groups, several facets of the community were discussed.

As the groups focused on strengths, they identified several industries already established in the area, including CSX, ATK and NewPage, while also noting a good public school system, Potomac State College, a newly announced hospital, the airport at Wiley Ford, Jennings Randolph Lake and the proximity to other destinations such as Deep Creek Lake.

“One thing I like about here is that people know each other,” said Marsha Sargent, chief dispatcher of Mineral County 911. “I like going to the grocery store and seeing people I know and who know me.”

Steve Workings, a new resident from the Martinsburg area, said, “Some strengths are also weaknesses.” He mentioned that there can be too little regulation but also too much. Others suggested there is too little local government control of issues that determine growth.

County Commissioner Wayne Spiggle said he believes one of the most significant weaknesses in the county is the “fractured communications” infrastructure with its limited and inconsistent technology availability.

Dave Kartchner, of CONXX and a new resident, said that he believes that can be remedied through his company which is considering expanding Allconet type high-speed Internet service from Allegany County into Mineral.

At the end of the day, which began at 9 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. The group had listed dozens of strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

The final consensus was based on a chance for each person to decide for themselves which five opportunities and five threats seemed most important from the lists of about 20 of each.

The five prioritized opportunities included:

* Land use planning/zoning.

* Improving infrastructure.

* Business and industrial recruitment from the surrounding metropolitan areas.

* Tourism.

* Business incentives.

On the threat side, the group listed the most significant as:

* Unplanned growth.

* Lack of water management.

* Lack of money and local resources.

* Competition with neighboring communities for economic development.

* Zoning.

And while land use planning and zoning topped the opportunity list, it also appeared on the threat list.

The group seemed to be trying to find a balance between no regulation and too much regulation.

The WVU team will provide a report of the workshop results from which the Mineral County Planning Commission will decide whether to continue a relationship with them in the continued development of the plan.

Also attending Saturday’s session were Colleen Peterson, director of the Greater Cumberland Committee; Elwood Williams, Grant County Economic Development; Jim Wilson, Grant County commissioner; Charles Baker, Hampshire County compliance officer, and Ken Dyche, director of Region 8 Planning and Development.

The workshop was conducted at the Wind Lea Conference Center in Keyser.

Mona Ridder can be reached at mridder@times-news.com.

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