The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 6, 2011

Illegal gun range, trash create problem

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— There are nights when Crab Orchard resident Dave Barnett feels as if he has been swept up in a time warp and deposited in a combat zone.

Armed with semi-automatic rifles, nocturnal shooters are blazing away off the Cleveland School Road and depositing piles of trash after target shooting, Barnett told the Raleigh County Commission in Tuesday’s meeting.

Barnett provided the commission with color photographs showing spent cartridges and piles of refuse left behind by shooters.

“I’m headed down that road at night and hear an AK-47 and an AR-15, just rapid firing,” he told the commission.

“Once you start a garbage dump, it just enlarges.”

Making matters worse, he said, the target shooting is an area where a gas line is located.

“One of these days, I’m going to drive down the road, and they’re going to blow up the gas line,” he said.

Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner agreed with Barnett’s assessment of the dangers and unsightly garbage and pledged his department would do what it could to provide him some relief.

Familiar with the area before he became a law enforcement officer, Tanner said a shooting range was once in place there.

“And I think some traditions die hard,” he said.

“That shooting range has been closed for decades. It is still a very common place for people to shoot. They do throw their garbage out. When someone throws out the garbage from their vehicle, someone else joins in and, before you know it, you do have a huge mess.”

Tanner said his deputies would attempt to increase patrols but acknowledged it’s difficult to find the violators.

“It happens so frequently,” the sheriff said.

“Unless they call in and we’re in the area, by the time we respond, they are gone.”

On another matter, carpenter Christopher VanNatter was approved as a new hire, but, in a rare occurrence, one commissioner — newcomer Dave Tolliver — voted against him.

Tolliver assured the carpenter he had nothing personally against him but denounced the hiring system of the county as unfair, saying the commission should have advertised for a full week, rather than one day. When he ran for the office last year, Tolliver said a major complaint voiced by citizens was the hiring procedure used by the county.

“This process is totally wrong and needs to be modified,” Tolliver said.

Commissioner Pat Reed said the policy of running an ad in a single publication has been in force since she has served on the commission.

“We’re not here to micro-manage every phase of the Raleigh County Commission,” she told Tolliver.

Tolliver indicated his displeasure with the interviewing process, saying he was “left out in the cold,” then later added, “What’s the problem of interviewing everyone who sends in a resume?”

Mick Bates and Scott Worley, representing the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, unveiled an artist’s conception of a special plaque to be erected on the left side of the courthouse lawn facing Main Street, honoring the 29 victims of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion.

The monument, expected to be erected within a month, joins an earlier one commemorating the Eccles No. 5 disaster of April 28, 1914, considered the second worst mining disaster in West Virginia history.

“It will be something we can be proud of,” Reed said.

Tolliver added, “It means a lot to me because my father was a coal miner.”

Commissioners agreed to conduct a public hearing at the next meeting set for April 19 on the proposed closing of the Gray/Kincaid Road in Prosperity.

The commission approved a $6,010.03 drawdown for the Women’s Resource Center and renewed its annual proclamation of April as “Fair Housing Month.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com