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Commission won#039;t oppose barge facility

BURLINGTON - The Lawrence County Commission says it understands the complaints but wants residents to look at the big picture.

The commissioners refused to write a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers protesting a planned barge fleeting and repair outfit on the Ohio River.

The commissioners said Thursday they understand why Burlington residents oppose Huntington Marine Services' plan, but they as a governing body, must consider the economic welfare of the county as a whole.

"One of the toughest things about being a commissioner is saying 'no' to people you like," Commissioner Jason Stephens said. "However, as commissioner, I have to look out for the entire county when it comes to economic development. Š For me to oppose this is something I can't do. I respect where you're coming from and I empathize, but as a commissioner I have to look out for the broader aspects of things."

Both Stephens and Commissioner Doug Malone pointed out that such a river business could benefit The Point industrial park.

"If we can get paying jobs that sustain families, we're going to try and get them," Malone said.

Burlington resident Don Saunders first approached the commission a few weeks ago about the issue.

Saunders said he and other Burlington residents are concerned about the negative ramifications of having the barge business located across the river along the shores of Westmoreland, W.Va. Saunders said Westmoreland residents have expressed the same concerns.

"We oppose it because of soil erosion, it would devalue property with additional noise and dust," Saunders said. "This is a historic area, too."

Saunders wanted each commissioner to personally write a letter to the Corps of Engineers

and send a letter collectively as a government entity, voicing opposition.

"And I want it worded as strongly as you can word it," Saunders said.

He said both the Concerned Citizens of Burlington and a similar group representing Westmoreland residents have gone on record opposing the barge business.