08-06-88 12:42 ped
Marshall County must overcome obstacles to be attractive
By TODD SPANGLER
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (UPI) _ Marshall County is seldom seen as a
residential area or a suitable place to locate a factory by those who do
not live there.
More often than not, the news coming out of the Northern Panhandle
area concerns Moundsville's most famous _ or infamous _ sites: the West
Virginia Penitentiary and New Vrindaban, the largest Hare Krishna
community in North America.
But to the people who live in Marshall County, the two most visible
parts of their community aren't worth a second look.
"There's so much more going on here," said Randy Chamberlain,
president of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce. "The people here
don't give much thought to it."
Chamberlain and his group have a difficult task _ promoting an area
known more for its aging prison and a religious cult to outsiders.
"Truthfully, the first thing that crosses people's minds when you
say, `prison' is Attica or riot," he said, "You think of the worst
thing you can think of, but that's not the way it is."
In fact, except for the bad reputation the prison carries with it,
Chamberlain said it has been helpful to the Moundsville area, which has
been beseiged by plant closings in recent years.
"We've lost some businesses. The prison provides jobs," he said.
In addition, work crews from the penitentiary _ which is almost as
old as West Virginia is _ help with community projects, saving local
groups money it would take to go out and hire workers. Chamberlain said
many projects would not be possible without them.
He also is quick to point out that neither the prison nor New
Vrindaban have kept companies like Mobay Chemical and Pittsburgh Plate
Glass from locating there.
"It's much more important that we have an excellent school system
_ our excess levies always pass by large percentages _ and a low crime
rate," Chamberlain said.
He agreed that many people inside and outside Marshall County look
upon the Krishnas living at New Vrindaban with some skepticism. He said
that may not be warranted.
"Most people look at that community as a whole and reject it
because it is different," he said. "But it is like any other
community. If someone does something wrong, that person is prosecuted to
the full extent of the law."
The major problem Marshall County has, however, is not with either
site _ but with the news media.
"Those places are only a problem only to the extent that the
media, in wanting to sell newspapers or get viewers, uses them as a hot
item," Chamberlain said. "They give them more focus than need be.
There's a lot of good things going on."
He pointed out that new industries _ like the county's new
filtration plant _ get little or no coverage.
"Sometimes it is justified and sometimes it's not," he said.
But it will be up to Marshall Countians to decide at least a
portion of their fate.
Chamberlain said Gov. Arch Moore _ a Marshall County native _ knows
that something must be done to correct the major problems at the prison.
He has asked the county, the chamber president said, whether a new
prison should stand there or somewhere else.
"But that may not be a question we will get to answer in our
lifetime," Chamberlain said.
In the meantime, the chamber president points to the ancient indian
burial mound the town is named after, and the plush, modern museum and
center that stands next to it. Across the street, the 100-year-old walls
of the penitentiary stand in stark contrast.
"You see something bad on one side of the street," Chamberlain
said. "I can show you something positive on the other side."