Paw Paw Mayor Kenny Crites continues emphasis on economic development
New Paw Paw Mayor Kenny Crites took over the town's helm on July 1. Crites is committed to continuing the economic development programs and measures that former Mayor Julie Kidwell started. Kidwell is now the town recorder.
Crites wants to get more businesses in town so local folks don't have to drive to Winchester, Cumberland or Berkeley Springs to work. Crites has worked for Kohl's Distribution Center in Winchester for nine years.
Crites also would love to see a grocery store and a pharmacy in Paw Paw. He dislikes that people have to travel 20-25 miles to get medications filled.
What Paw Paw needs is a decent employer that could hire 40-50 people, Crites said. The Morgan County Commission was working to help them achieve that, he said.
Crites moved to Paw Paw in July 1987. He grew up in Petersburg. Crites was an EMT firefighter in Paw Paw for 10 years, mostly in the 1990s. He was president of the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company and was also fire chief for one year.
Becoming a part of the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department was the first step in his community involvement, said Crites.
Water and sewer upgrades
The town is still working on grants to upgrade and replace the sewer lines, said Crites. They had applied for a small cities block grant last year that they didn't receive. They are resubmitting for the grant, said Crites.
Crites would also like to upgrade the town's water system to larger water lines that would increase water flow. The move would save on the town's and residents' insurance. Crites said they would look into grants for the water project.
One of Crites' goals as mayor is to remove blighted properties in Paw Paw. Some are in disrepair, were burnt in a fire or are just vacant, he said.
"All are eyesores and need to go," said Crites, who had made cleaning up the town eyesores a campaign pledge.
The water tower is also an eyesore, said Kidwell. The town doesn't own the water tower. It is owned by Borderline and is on Borderline property, said Crites.
The town recognizes that the water tower is a landmark. Kidwell hoped at some point the town could find money to take down the water tower and restore it.
The town is also continuing its campaign to get Borderline to clean up the bales of plastic stored on its grounds, said Crites.
Tourism & the Rail Trail
Paw Paw has been enjoying an economic boon from tourism. The boat dock parking lot and the bed and breakfasts are full every weekend, said Kidwell. They also have a lot of tourists in the summer during the week.
Many bicyclists ride the canal, said Crites. Lots of motorcyclists also stop while traveling through.
"People don't realize we have a lot of tourists here," said Kidwell.
Paw Paw may be receiving technical assistance from the C & O Canal for the environmental study for the Paw Paw loop of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Kidwell went to Washington, D.C. with County Administrator Bill Clark to request aid for the study.
The Paw Paw Trailhead Welcome Center planned for the boat dock has gotten the official go-ahead, said Kidwell. They are looking at structure designs now and will go to Charleston next week to look at welcome center plans.
The trailhead welcome center will have men and women's restrooms and an information kiosk for pamphlets and brochures. It could have soda machines, said Crites. There are no public restroom facilities between I-68 in Cumberland and I-81 in Martinsburg, Kidwell said.
Skate park plans
Another new town project is a skate park for local youth. The town has had a lot of complaints about kids skating in the street, said Kidwell.
The skate park will just be a paved area and a portable ramp to get kids off the street, she said. They have $2,000 from Paw Paw Parks and Recreation toward the skate park and are looking at several possible town properties for the site.
Kidwell's son Daniel Kidwell approached Governor Joe Manchin in June about financial help to build their skate park. He told Manchin they needed $10,000 to complete it. Manchin agreed to match whatever amount they got from the Morgan County Commission for the project.
The Morgan County Commission agreed on Friday to match up to $5,000 for the Paw Paw skate park project, contingent on what the governor gives for it.
Crites supports the plans for a skate park. He said that it wasn't safe for kids to be skating in the street. He really thinks the kids need something to do.
"The kids are our future," said Crites.
The Paw Paw Parks and Recreation Commission is continuing its work on a gymnasium/multipurpose room facility for youth activities and social events.
Other projects, activities
Some $76,000 was awarded from the Division of Highways for a sidewalk by the school. The sidewalk was expected to be in place in 24 months because the grant money wouldn't be received until next September, said Kidwell. The sidewalk has been an issue because kids have been walking in the street to get to school.
Crites is looking forward to the first Paw Paw Festival, which will be held the weekend of September 15-16. Festival activities include music, food, games, a parade, a beauty pageant and fireman contests.
Feels at home
Crites has been in Paw Paw for 20 years and really feels at home there.
"People here are super-nice and really help each other out," he said.
Crites' term as mayor will be up on June 30, 2009. So far his time as mayor—just two and a half weeks— has been enjoyable.
Crites said that Kidwell has been a tremendous help and that he is learning a lot from her.
Crites is available for Friday appointments for those that need to talk with him. Call Paw Paw Town Hall at 947-7476 to make an appointment.