The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 15, 2013

Oak Hill mayor, council member sworn in

OAK HILL — Oak Hill's new mayor was sworn in on Monday night, along with a new member of city council.

Councilman Fred Dickinson was appointed mayor by the city council last month to take over for Jon Nick Lopez, who resigned under pressure from his employer, the Army National Guard.

Anna Lou Holt, nominated by councilman Tom Oxley, will fill Dickinson's now vacant Ward I seat. Holt previously served as both a council member and the mayor of Oak Hill, but lost the mayorship to Lopez in 2011.

Councilwoman Mollie Ray also nominated local businessman Mike Fox for the seat but she was outvoted 4 to 1.

At the swearing in ceremony, Dickinson had kind words for each member of council, the streets department, the fire department, the police department, and the city manager, Bill Hannabass.

"I'm going to enjoy and it's going to be a be a pleasure to work with these fine, fine individuals," he said, also assuring the public that Oak Hill is "progressing."

 

A contractor and the owner of a pawn shop in Oak Hill, Barry Blackburn, was refused a business license by Hannabass.

At Monday night's meeting, council accepted a proposal from Blackburn's attorney, Tom Fast, that the businessman be reissued the license and be given until March 8 to clean up his property.

Hannabass says he denied the license on several grounds. He says the man has operated without a business license since July of last year. He has recently been cited for six junk vehicles on his property after several warnings. He has also failed to pay B&O tax for a year, until this week, according to Hannabass.

Finally, the city manager says Blackburn has been illegally operating a salvage yard at 104 Virginia Street, and not a "construction yard," as he claims.

Hannabass showed photographs of Blackburn's cluttered property.

Fast showed his own photographs, taken last week, which he says show that Blackburn is making a good faith effort to clean up his property.

"It already looks 90 percent better. I think the intent is being demonstrated," said Fast.

Hannabass and some council members were skeptical about accepting the offer, arguing that it had been a long struggle to get Blackburn to cooperate. Fast says after hiring a lawyer, Blackburn now has a better understanding of the city's code and is operating a legitimate business.

Before the March council meeting, Hannabass will inspect the property and if there is any noncompliance, the license will be revoked.

 

Council heard a presentation by W.D. Smith of Region 4 Planning and Development Council on the new Fayette-Raleigh Metropolitan Planning Organization that is currently forming, based on an increase in population along the U.S. 19 corridor between Beckley and Fayetteville.

The organization, required by law for areas with more than 50,000 people, gives local governments more input on transportation planning for the region.

Council also approved a one-year lease with the White Oak Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Sergeant Lee Kirk was promoted to Lieutenant at the Oak Hill Police Department, based on his achieving the highest score on a civil service exam.

The town repealed its ordinance that requires registration of a security system with the city.

— Email: cmoore@register-herald.com

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