KEYSER - One of the driving forces behind a movement to establish a series of halfway houses throughout he Potomac Highlands region appealed to the Keyser City Council Monday for help with seed money to get the facilities started.

"Our hope is to establish houses for substance abusers, alcoholics and drug abusers to come to for help," Burlington area resident Bill Burt told Mayor Glen "Bunk" Shumaker and the members of council.

"We want to be able to put them into a home-like atmosphere ... and help them rebuild their lives," he said.

Noting that the lack of halfway houses to follow through with abusers' and alcoholics' recovery programs is doing nothing more than placing the people back into their former lifestyles, Burt said, "Where do they wind up? Back in jail."

Referring to the current price to house an inmate in one of the state's regional jails, "this costs the city and Mineral County $48.50 a day," he said.

According to Burt, Allegany Mountain House Inc., the group working to establish between eight and 10 halfway houses throughout Mineral, Grant, Hampshire and Hardy counties, would like to see two of those houses put into place in Keyser.

"One for men and one for women," he said, noting that once the houses are established, the residents would be responsible for the operation of the self-sustaining facilities.

"This is a one-time deal; we're not going to be asking for any other money once we get started," he said. "This is just seed money."

Burt asked that the council consider contributing $5,000 to the cause.

"We want to get the community behind us," he said. "We'd like to get your support and get you to go out and talk it up.

"We've got to do something."

Although noting that the placement of halfway houses often causes some concern among residents, Shumaker said he feels "there is a need for this type of thing."

Shumaker added, however, that the city's budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2007 is already completed, but he felt the city officials would consider Burt's request for the following year.

"We'll work out something," Finance Commissioner George Chidester said.

In other budget-related matters, Chidester proposed the council honor Mineral County Library Director Connie Sutton's recent request to double the city's annual contribution toward the operation of the library.

"I checked with (accountant) Mike Ryan, and we can give the library a $5,000 check now and then double their budget at the beginning of the new year on July 1," he said.

Although Chidester offered to make a motion to approve the request, the item had to be tabled until the next council meeting because it was not on the agenda for Monday's meeting.

Sutton had appeared before the council on Jan. 26 seeking additional funds to help with increased costs due to the rise in minimum wage.

The council will vote on the request at their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 26.

Liz Beavers can be reached at

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