The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 20, 2013

Lewisburg VFD, landmark panel issue reports

LEWISBURG — With 15 active firefighters, the Lewisburg Volunteer Fire Department responded to 874 emergencies last year, according to the unit’s annual report.

Prepared by Chief Wayne Pennington, the report shows the 99-square-mile Lewisburg Fire District suffered $347,100 in structure and vehicle fire losses in 2012, but the department saved more than $7 million in property.

The VFD’s average response time was 7 minutes, 9 seconds.

Nicholas Sams was named the department’s Firefighter of the Year, while Doug Beard and Matt Carver were recognized as Fire Officers of the Year.

Meritorious commendations went to Joey Thomas and Gary Workman, who rescued people from a structure fire, and lifesaving commendations were awarded to Workman, Beard, Randy Chambers and Nathaniel Tucker, who revived infants in two separate incidents.

The Lewisburg VFD operates on a budget of $475,815, more than 90 percent of which comes from the city.

Looming large in the capital improvement section of the annual report, which was made public Tuesday evening, is the immediate need to replace Fire Station No. 1, which is currently located in a deteriorating structure on Foster Street.

The department’s capital improvement budget for the current fiscal year allows $200,000 to purchase land for a replacement station, and the proposal for FY 2013-14 estimates the cost of constructing a new station will be $4.8 million.

“The citizens of Lewisburg are fortunate to have a city government that continues to support the fire service,” Pennington wrote in the annual report’s introduction. “Our members continue to take pride in the quality of fire and emergency service protection the department delivers to the citizens of Lewisburg and the Lewisburg Fire District.”

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Also during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Carol Olson released the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s annual report.

She noted that 42 applications were approved as submitted in 2012, 12 were approved with conditions attached and four applications — two of which were for the same project — were denied. In five cases, applicants chose to withdraw requests for approval of projects.

“Our difficulty comes with enforcement,” Olson told Council, explaining that some property owners in the city’s historic district fail to apply for HLC certificates for renovations or construction, while others change their plans after a certificate is issued.

She said, while the city can fine an offender, a costly legal process must be followed in order to resolve the issues.

Mayor John Manchester expanded upon Olson’s comments, saying, “You choose your battles.”

He said, “There’s an educational component (for new buyers). There’s inevitably something that falls through the cracks.”

According to the mayor, the city’s posture is to concentrate on the “most visible violations.”

According to Olson, who serves as the HLC’s chairperson, the agency plans to develop a form for contractors to sign before beginning work in the historic district, agreeing to abide by the district’s guidelines.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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