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Two Towns Have Eyes on FBI Prize

February 25, 1991

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) _ The FBI, armed with 2,000 jobs, is on the most-wanted list of two towns that share their water, their dogcatcher and even a page in the telephone directory.

Clarksburg and nearby Bridgeport are waging a legal battle for the right to annex the FBI’s Fingerprint Identification Center, planned for 997 acres of rolling hills that lie between them. There’s more than just town pride at stake: There’s $3 million in taxes from contractors that will build the center.

″The city of Bridgeport has refused to meet with Clarksburg representatives. The cutoff of communications is regrettable,″ Clarksburg City Manager Dan Boroff said.

But he added: ″The plain fact is the average citizen doesn’t give a hoot if the FBI center is in Clarksburg or Bridgeport. They’re just glad it’s coming to Harrison County.″

The issue goes to court Tuesday, when Bridgeport, the smaller of the two towns, will try to block the county commission’s expected vote in favor of Clarksburg.

The FBI center, now located in downtown Washington, D.C., is a $200 million prize for Harrison County, a prize won with the help of Sen. Robert Byrd, D- W.Va., chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee.

The county, some 100 miles south of Pittsburgh, still is reeling from Anchor Hocking’s decision to close a huge glass manufacturing plant, idling more than 900 workers, in November 1987. Unemployment peaked at more than 18 percent in 1988 and stood at 9.7 percent in December.

About 2,000 of the center’s 2,800 workers are to be hired locally, with the rest transferring from Washington.

Last month, FBI officials paid about $3.5 million for pasture and woodland and part of a reclaimed strip mine. The land is not part of either city, but it adjoins Bridgeport’s city limits.

Clarksburg’s nearest border is about eight miles south of the FBI property. The city, which moved to annex the FBI land in July, used a state highway, farm paths and a creek to show a winding, convoluted route from the city to the FBI center.

It wasn’t the first time Clarksburg has tried to annex a valuable addition to the town through creative boundary drawing.

In the late 1970s, Clarksburg, population 18,000, wanted to annex the Eastpointe shopping malls by drawing a long corridor from its city limits. Bridgeport, population 7,000, wanted the malls, too, though the property owners favored Clarksburg.

The feud eventually was settled by the state Supreme Court; Clarksburg won. Many in both towns haven’t forgotten.

FBI Director William Sessions has called the latest feud a local affair that will not affect construction. Sessions spoke after an assistant sent a letter to Boroff saying the FBI wanted to be in Clarksburg because the town was better prepared to provide police and fire protection and other services.

The three-member Harrison County Commission, comprised of two Clarksburg residents and another from Salem, has indicated it favors Clarksburg’s claim.

A hearing is scheduled Monday in Harrison County Circuit Court to hear Bridgeport’s request to bar the commission from making an annexation decision on Tuesday.

Bridgeport City Council member Lewis Trupo said Clarksburg wants to annex the FBI site for the contractors’ onetime tax payment. He said Bridgeport wouldn’t profit from the annexation even with the tax, because it will have to spend money to upgrade its services for the center.

″It’s not really a matter of pride,″ Trupo said. ″It’s a matter of what is right and just and what is West Virginia law.″

But Boroff said Clarksburg agreed to annex the site to ensure the FBI would stick with its decision to locate in the county.

″We didn’t ask them, they asked us,″ Boroff said Sunday. ″If we said ‘We’re not going to annex them,’ I bet that project would be somewhere else.″

Commission attempts to find a middle ground have failed.

″There really isn’t any room for negotiation,″ said Bridgeport Mayor Carl Furbee Jr. ″The feeling in Bridgeport is that Clarksburg is infringing on our territorial integrity.″

Jack Allston, director of Harrison 2000, the county’s economic development group, said the rivalry is not unusual.

″There are going to be naysayers no matter what comes in to an area. But 99 percent of the people are for this project because of the huge economic impact it will have,″ Allston said.

Mabel Kovar, 57, of Clarksburg agreed.

″This is all foolishness,″ said Kovar. ″We need it here, no matter what, no matter where. If they keep it up, we might lose it.″

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