The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

November 21, 2012

UBB memorial to be dedicated in spring

BECKLEY — On a quiet, spring-like afternoon one day after Easter two years ago, a horrific explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch in a rural pocket of Raleigh County, killing 29 workers.

Only two men assigned to the work shift that day survived the worst mining disaster in four decades.

Come next spring, the Raleigh County Commission expects to dedicate a special monument, a permanent tribute to the victims. The memorial, bearing the names of all 29 men, will be placed on the Main Street lawn of the courthouse.

In the Raleigh County Commission’s meeting Tuesday, a drawdown of $6.556.10 was approved, covering the cost of the monument as reimbursement to the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, Administrator John Humphrey explained.

“It’s completed,” Humphrey said.

“It’s done, but we don’t have a base for it yet. We’ll probably wait until spring and have a dedication for that.”

The April 5, 2010, disaster occurred at a mine operated by Performance Coal Co., a subsidiary of the former Massey Energy, which since has been absorbed by Alpha Natural Resources.

Eventually, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a 1,000-page report that disputed Massey’s claim that a swift buildup of natural gas triggered the blast, saying it was actually caused by coal dust. The government pointed to a dozen safety infractions directly related to the disaster, nine of which fell into the category of “flagrant,” adding the deaths were totally preventable.

In another matter, the commission awarded a $17,869.36 contract to Hurd Windows and Doors, based in Medford, Wis., to install new windows at the Campbell Building, which houses the prosecuting attorney’s staff.

Until the renovation work is completed, Prosecutor Kristen Keller and her staff are operating out of an old courtroom in the courthouse.

About 30 new windows will be installed in the Campbell Building.

The commission also approved a drawdown of $4,972.25 to assist the homeless through the Raleigh County Community Action Association.

And, the commission agreed to write a letter to James R. Boles, giving him 60 days to rid his property of debris in Eccles.

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