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Drilling, crime discussed by commission

May 14, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - staff writer , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Efforts to work with companies drilling for natural gas and the incidence of crime in Brooke County were among issues discussed by the Brooke County Commission at its May 3 meeting.

Brooke County Sheriff Richard Ferguson said he's been patrolling areas where crews have begun work to establish natural gas wells and working to establish a line of communication with the companies involved.

Chesapeake Energy has established drill sites near Camp Run and Locust Grove roads and state Route 88 near Bethany, Bradys Ridge Road near Wellsburg and Apple Pie Ridge Road near West Liberty.

Ferguson said other drilling permits are pending and because of the county's small size, it's likely that 70 percent of its roads will be affected by the drilling.

The sheriff said he's pleased with efforts thus far by drilling companies to repair roads used by heavy trucks traveling to and from the sites. He said instead of just patching holes, they are removing affected sections of the roads and filling them with concrete and asphalt.

He said the companies also have scheduled their trucks around school bus routes.

In recent weeks the Brooke County Commission approached Bob Whipp, a former district engineer with the state Division of Highways now employed by Chesapeake, about maintaining secondary roads used by the drilling companies.

Ferguson said some may have noticed boxes with antennas and yellow wires posted near the drill sites. He said the boxes are seismic meters used to determine if underground mine shafts exist in the vicinity.

Many such shafts are undocumented, and drilling into one can ignite methane, he said.

The release of methane during drilling operations near a Moundsville well overseen by AB Resources led to a fire that severely burned seven workers and wasn't completely extinguished for several days in June.

County Commissioner Marty Bartz asked Ferguson about the attempted armed robbery of a Hooverson Heights home at night on May 2.

The sheriff's department is looking for the intruder, who was described as a thin, white man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt that later was found outside the home.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the sheriff's department at (304) 737-3660 or (304) 527-1430.

Ferguson said it's fortunate an elderly couple living there weren't seriously hurt. He said the incident presents cause for concern but isn't typical of the type of robberies his department has been investigating in recent months.

Ferguson said usually the robbers break into homes when no one is there, hoping to grab something they can sell because they are desperate for cash, often to support a drug addiction.

In recent months the sheriff's department has received reports of things being stolen from garages and sheds.

Ferguson said residents have a right to protect their property but he's concerned someone, perhaps an innocent person, will be killed as a result.

Commission President Bernie Kazienko, the county's former sheriff, encouraged residents to take steps to secure their homes and belongings.

Ferguson said there still are some who don't lock their homes or vehicles.

Bartz said seniors should check before opening their door to anyone and keep pepper spray handy to fend off intruders.

He suggested the sheriff work to educate seniors and others about how they can reduce the risk of becoming victims of crime.

In other business:

The commission approved $1,529 for the installation of moulding in the jury room at the county courthouse as part of ongoing renovations to the courtroom funded by an $80,000 grant from the state Courthouse Improvement Council and local funds.

Bob Fowler, Brooke County director of emergency management, reported on a mock industrial emergency conducted on April 30 at the Wheeling-Nisshin plant in Follansbee.

Staged by the county's local emergency planning commission, the drill involved Fowler, Mike Bolen, a sanitarian with the county's health department trained in emergency threat preparedness; and about 70 members of Brooke County law enforcement, fire and ambulance departments.

Fowler said the simulation involved a terrorist igniting an ammonia tank at the plant and injuries to 12 "victims."

"It was a good learning experience," he said.

Wayne Buxton of Animal Advocates- Brooke County said the group found homes for 11 dogs from the county's animal shelter at a pet adoption promotion held at the Robinson Township, Pa. PetSmart and received $435 from the pet supply chain for the shelter through the effort.

(Scott can be contacted at

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