POINT PLEASANT — With 2012 quickly approaching, the Point Pleasant Register has gone through the archives of 2011 to choose the top stories of the year.
January began with the Mason County Commission accepting nearly $34,000 in grant money to finance upgrades to the Mason County Courthouse which included new courtroom benches, floors and windows - the money came from the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority. Further up in the Bend, New Haven Council began to take care of business with its newly appointed mayor, Gregory Gibbs. Voters in Mason County then learned they’d be going to the polls in November for a special election to choose its next governor. January ended with a story involving drugs in Mason County with the arrest of Jerold A. Fugate of Ashton who was charged with operation/attempted operation of a clandestine drug lab at his home on Ashton-Upland Road.
February began with the West Virginia Division of Highways announcing it was $40 million short to finish the final 14.6 mile stretch of U.S. 35 through Mason and Putnam Counties, causing the battle against the tolls to heat up, again. One of Mason County’s largest employers, Pleasant Valley Hospital, also had a staffing shake up in February when it was announced then CEO Hugh H. Collins was no longer employed – Amy Leach, then marketing and public relations director for PVH, said the hospital had “no comment” on reasons leading to Collins’ departure. That same month, PVH dedicated the Robert and Louise Claflin Chapel on the campus’ main lobby floor.
Drugs once again found their way on to the front page in March when Dennis Lester Barker of Gallipolis Ferry pleaded guilty to cultivation of marijuana before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers – ground units with the West Virginia State Police reported they seized around 165 mature marijuana plants from Barker’s property. Also in March, the community remembered the 35th Anniversary of the Mason County Jail Tragedy, one of the worst tragedies to hit the community since the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967. March also brought flooding throughout the county and citizens who planned to file a lawsuit to block the U.S. 35 tolls. Towards the end of the month U.S. Senator Joe Manchin paid a visit to Point Pleasant, stopping at the Main Street Point Pleasant Office to visit with a variety of organizations and community leaders – he ended his day being updated on the progress of the A.F. Kisar (Kincaid) Home which was then undergoing remodeling to help attract tourism to Mason County. Then, as the Hannan Jr./Sr. High School press box project neared completion, the U.S. 35 project was put in “indefinite hold” which squashed the idea of the tolls to finance the road but left many wondering what was next in terms of the roadway’s future.
One of the most compelling stories in April was the disappearance of Bill Mayes of Ashton, a man who’d been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and went missing on April 12. Sadly, Mayes’ story came to a tragic end when his body was found in a creek near his home on Ashton-Upland Road, 10 days after he’d disappeared. Mayes’ death was ruled “suspicious.”
May began with yet another front page story concerning drugs in Meigs County when a meth lab was found in the Jerry’s Run Road / Millstone Road areas of Apple Grove. The Mason County Sheriff’s Department arrested Johnny L. Patterson of Apple Grove with the operation of a clandestine lab. Less than a week later, another meth lab was discovered, this time on Viand Street in Point Pleasant – Michael Bing of Pomeroy, Ohio and June Cremeans of Gallipolis Ferry were charged with operation of a clandestine drug lab. The two were also charged with child neglect with the potential of serious bodily harm because the couple’s two sons were inside the residence which contained the meth lab. Days after the Viand Street discovery, four residents from Mason County were arrested in Gallia County for their alleged involvement in the manufacture of methamphetamine – they were Teddy E. Robinson, Charles Kensler, Amber M. Beegle and Jackie Hancock. Later that month, a former corrections officer at the Lakin Corrections Center pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing child pornography – Joseph Roush entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Huntington, admitting to having more than 600 images of child pornography on his home computer. In addition to the more uplifting events of local high school seniors graduating from high school at the end of the month, drugs crept back on to the front page when Ronald W. Rainey of Apple Grove was arrested for the cultivation of marijuana at his residence on Long Ridge Road – approximately $10,000 worth of marijuana plants were reportedly found on the property.
June began with the news American Electric Power’s Philip Sporn Plant would close by December 2014 – AEP cited the closure as a response to “increasingly stringent environmental regulations.” Also in June, William R. McClosky entered the Hot Spot gaming parlor in Gallipolis Ferry in an attempt to pull off an armed robbery but ended up getting shot in the leg by an employee – McClosky and his accomplice, Bill Kenney, were arrested. June also contained yet another drug story when Melanie R. Tucker and William Igo, Jr. were arrested at their residence in Leon – Igo was charged with operation of a clandestine drug lab while Tucker was arrested on a charge of accomplices, aiders and abettors, also, two juveniles were removed from the home. The month ended with news of nearly $30 million being earmarked for upgrading US 35 through Mason and Putnam counties; the Belle of Cincinnati returned to Point Pleasant; the Point Pleasant River Museum unveiled its Riverboat Pilot Training Simulator; and Point Pleasant’s 21st Annual Sternwheel Regatta began.
(Part two of this series will appear in Saturday’s Point Pleasant Register and document Mason County’s top stories from July – December.)