CHARLES TOWN – Opponents of the Rockwool insulation factory have filed seven lawsuits against five local governments as part of their efforts to put the kibosh on the plant.
It hasn’t come cheap.
So far, the legal bills for taxpayers arising from those lawsuits have totaled $298,567, according to information from the governments involved in those lawsuits.
And that bill is only expected to grow with four of those lawsuits still unresolved. Funded by donations and fundraisers, Jefferson County Vision, a nonprofit group fighting the $150 million factory that is preparing to open next fall, filed the lawsuits. The group’s targets have been Jefferson County’s government, the Jefferson County Development Authority, the board of education and the cities of Ranson and Charles Town.
Here’s a breakdown of what those governments have paid non-staff lawyers for Rockwool legal actions, according to officials and public records:
• Jefferson County Development Authority — $138,170
• City of Ranson — $92,589
• Jefferson County government — $47,053
• City of Charles Town — $14,500
• Jefferson County Board of Education — $6,255
This year the Jefferson County Commission agreed to pay $95,000 of the legal
expenses the JCDA accumulated over the factory lawsuits, but county commissioners have said they won’t defray any more of those expenses.
Ranson officials have indicated that they might seek reimbursement for the legal fees they pay to defend the city against two JCV lawsuits, should they prevail in court. One complaint the city is defending itself against alleges it failed to provide adequate public notice before rezoning the Rockwool property. Another lawsuit challenges the issuance of building permits for the factory’s construction.
Charles Town has spent $6,600 to defend against a JCV lawsuit questioning whether a citizens’ petition required city officials to approve with a super-majority vote a sewer pipeline that would serve the factory. The city has also paid lawyers another $7,900 to respond to other JCV “inquiries” related to the Rockwool factory, officials report.
Jefferson County Schools officials have paid $6,255 to the Adams Law Firm in
Martinsburg, according to a review of bills the school board has paid. School
officials have said the law firm was hired to assist with a JCV lawsuit opposing a tax-relief agreement provided to Rockwool. The school board took a neutral position in the case, which minimized its legal filings.
The school board has spent an additional $120,814 on attorney fees to pursue a public property condemnation involving the factory, according to a recent review of paid invoices since July 2018.