Upshur County readying for laborer influx

BUCKHANNON – With the rumor mill churning about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline possibly bringing an influx of people to the Upshur County community, county officials are left to face community concerns.

Construction on the proposed pipeline is anticipated to begin in Upshur County in April with the pipeline being placed in about 23 miles of Upshur County, running south of Buckhannon and Tallmansville.

The pipeline will be 42 inches running underground.

In November of last year, community liaison Mike Cozad said the county is expected to see an influx in people, noting an estimate of 400-500 construction workers.

That number has alarmed some about safety matters.

“We’ve addressed the concerns, I think, that folks have had through our meetings. We’ve actually through our office of emergency management have a plan in case there would be some sort of emergency associated with the pipeline — kind of an order of operations on how things would be handled,” explained Commission president Sam Nolte. “Hopefully that would never happen, but we feel like we’re prepared. We got that in place.”

Nolte commented the county’s emergency management are concerned about providing sufficient safety to workers and the community.

“Every meeting I’ve been in with them, they keep preaching safety,” he said.

With the concerns about living arrangements among the workers, Nolte said folks have set up mobile home parks to accommodate the pipeliners. He added he believes a lot of the hotels and motels have been booked up for a year or two.

“There’s definitely going to be a shortage and it’s a good thing, but at the same time for special events, weddings and homecoming, Strawberry Festival and other events that are associated with functions around the county, that’s going to be an inconvenience for that,” Nolte said. “It’s relatively short term.”

Having the pipeline placed correctly is a concern Nolte said he has received from the community.

“A pipeline of this size, people have had their concerns,” he said.

Late last year, Cozad approached the Upshur County School Board, saying the schools could see an increase in students because some workers will bring their families.

Superintendent Roy Wager said he doesn’t think the school system will see a huge influx of students.

“They said they’re going to be bringing in 500 people, but we don’t know if it’s going to be families or just workers,” he said.

However, Wager noted “it’d be a nice problem to have” if the school system did see an increase.

“It’s probably going to be more economic for the county with all these people coming in and spending money,” he said. “If we get students, we’ll deal with it and if they stay for two years that’s good for the school system. It gives us more students.”

Because construction will be occurring throughout the back roads of Upshur County, the safety of students and bus drivers has been a concern.

Wager said Cozad is supposed to sit down with the school board’s transportation director to discuss the best times for pipeliners to be maneuvering their vehicles.

“(Cozad) said they don’t want to interfere with our routes and everything,” he said. “Because it is going to create a lot of traffic.”

Wager said the small one-lane roads will be the real issue because “if they’re coming one way and we’re coming the other, they can’t pass each other.”

“On the main roads it’s not going to be a problem, but on those back roads when it’s only a one-lane road, somebody’s going to have to back up,” he said.

Wager commented it is a good thing ACP officials are wanting to work with the school board to provide adequate safety for students and drivers.

“If we have to question more, then we’ll bring them in and question them more,” he noted about the safety factors.