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HMDA to purchase ACF Industries site

HUNTINGTON — Members of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority agreed to purchase the ACF Industries complex Monday — the latest step in a plan to redevelop a large swath of blighted and underused properties in the city's Highlawn neighborhood.

In the Board of Directors' first regular meeting since February, HMDA members approved signing necessary documents to purchase the 42-acre ACF property for $3.12 million.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who serves on the board, said several par-ties have come forward with an interest to develop the property. He did not elaborate on who the interested parties might be, but said there have been discussions to build a hotel and manufacturing possibilities in that area.

The property, located along the north and south sides of 3rd Avenue and 24th Street, is central to a plan to remake that area and surrounding properties into the Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone, or H-BIZ. This was a key component of a plan Huntington leaders submitted to the America's Best Communities competition, winning a $3 million grand prize in April 2017 to help make it a reality.

In the city's winning proposal, the ACF property was highlighted for its potential to connect downtown with river access and recreational opportunities. The proposal suggested using part of the property to develop a foundry center, which is a mixed-use development for offices, research possibilities, housing, event venues and manufacturing opportunities.

"This is wonderful for the city and will certainly be the linchpin for the next 50 years," Williams said. "It's that significant of an acquisition."

Along with the ACF property, the board also purchased 8 acres of the nearby Flint Group Pigments property, located along

the north side of 5th Avenue at 24th Street, for $750,000. The property is planned as the future site Marshall University's 3,500-seat ballpark, which has a March 2021 completion date.

There are still ongoing negotiations to purchase the former Ohio River Terminals coal dock and rail facility and the long-closed McGinnis Factory. The board has an option to purchase the 27-acre former Ingram Barge property along the Ohio River for $1.9 million.

All of these properties, collectively known as the Highlawn brownfields, were central to the city's winning proposal in the America's Best Communities competition.

Board members have been in discussions to purchase the ACF property from its owner, ACF Industries LLC, for the past year. The property was once used as a railroad car manufacturing plant before it was mostly idled more than 20 years ago. Unlike the other properties in that area, some of ACF's buildings are operational, though with minimal staffing.

"Huntington is eager to revitalize these prime properties consistent with the vision outlined in the Huntington Brownfields Innovation or 'H-BIZ' master plan, which was created with input from the community," according to a statement from the board.

The ACF property was first established as a railroad car manufacturing plant by Ensign Car Works in 1872 and was partly financed by Collis P. Huntington, the city's namesake. In 1899, Ensign Car Works and 12 other companies merged to form American Car and Foundry Company. That later became known as ACF in the 1950s.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.


Heritage Farm Museum and Village hosts Family Fun Night

HUNTINGTON — Kids of all ages headed out to Heritage Farm Museum and Village on Monday evening for "Family Fun Night," where those who attended were able to experience all of their favorite things to do at the farm from its museums, to the petting zoo and wagon rides.

AllStar Ecology LLC demonstrated how bat research is done throughout West Virginia and talked all about these fascinating flying mammals who call Appalachia their home.

The Marshall University Physics department brought an inflatable planetarium for families to view presentations about the night sky throughout the evening. They also had an "Afterglow" for firefly viewing and catching, as well as stargazing after dark.

On Wednesday, June 12, Heritage Farm will also be hosting its weekly Funington, $5 Kids Day as part of the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau's Funington campaign. Sponsored by HIMG $5 Kids' Days, Funington runs every Wednesday, June through August. Visit https://www.facebook.com/HeritageFarm-WV/ for more information.


Man suspected in campus rape accused twice more

Hardin

HUNTINGTON — A man currently serving probation for battery after he was accused of an on-campus sexual assault of a then-fellow Marshall University student has been charged with several new counts after two additional alleged rape victims came forward.

Joseph Hardin, 22, was booked in jail at 1 p.m. Friday on a probation hold related to a 2017 plea to battery in his original case.

The Cabell County grand jury returned the new indictment last week, and it was unsealed by Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson on Friday. An indictment does not determine guilt or innocence and the case will now move forward toward trial.

Hardin is scheduled to appear in Cabell Circuit Judge Greg Howard's courtroom at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a hearing regarding his potential probation revocation. His new case has been assigned to Ferguson, who oversaw the original case. Ferguson has not yet set an arraignment date for the charges in the new indictments, according to court officials.

In the original case, the defendant was indicted in 2016 on a single count of second-degree sexual assault after a female student, who has since left the university, implicated him.

The university had issued a campuswide alert at 6:20 p.m. Feb. 1, 2016, that a student reported she was assaulted that afternoon in a room at an on-campus residence hall.

Hardin entered a Kennedy plea to misdemeanor battery in 2017 and was sentenced to serve three years' probation in that case. A Kennedy plea allows a conviction without the defendant admitting guilt or explaining his role in a crime.

A lawsuit filed by the alleged victim is currently pending against the university in federal court.

The June 2019 indictment charges Hardin with four felony counts of second-degree sexual assault involving the alleged rape of two female victims on two different dates in September and October.

The Herald-Dispatch typically does not disclose the name of sexual assault victims, given the nature of the crime.

Hardin has been continuously enrolled at Marshall since 2016, said Leah Payne, communications director for Marshall, and as of Monday was enrolled for the fall semester.

Payne said the most recent charges did not include allegation that the attacks took place on campus and the Marshall University Police Department was not involved in the cases.

Hardin is currently housed at Western Regional Jail in Barboursville without bond.

CONTACT Rape Crisis Center provides free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and stalking in Cabell, Lincoln, Wayne and Mason counties. CONTACT can be reached at 866-399-7273 or 304-399-1111.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD. Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.


Details released in deadly Wayne crash after man charged

Marcum

WAYNE — The Wayne County Sheriff's Department alleges a Wayne, West Virginia, man crashed into a convoy of off-road vehicles along W.Va. 152 in May before fleeing the scene, leaving a man to die.

Ance Matthew "Butters" Marcum, 33, is currently charged with negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident with death after striking Jessie Dingess, 63, of Genoa. Dingess, a retired coal miner and member of New Beginnings Church in Fort Gay, was killed May 26 in the hit-and-run crash on W.Va. 152.

Marcum was arrested June 4 near Fallsburg, Kentucky, where he was found hiding in a closet by the U.S. Marshals Cuffed Task Force, and extradited back to West Virginia on June 7.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Wayne County Magistrate Court, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department responded to a hit-and-run crash near Railroad Road in Genoa.

The victim's daughter, who was covered in blood, told deputies she and others were riding side-by-sides and ATVs and were about to turn left onto Radnor Hollow Road in Radnor, West Virginia. She said she had seen her father's vehicle had signaled it was turning left when she saw an older model Ford Mustang go around the vehicles and strike her father's vehicle, which caused it to spin around and flip on top of him.

Wayne County 911 dispatchers told deputies the suspect vehicle had fled northbound on W.Va 152. It was later located by the Dunlow Fire Department Chief, allegedly hidden in front of the Genoa Elementary School behind a school bus. Video footage from the school after the wreck allegedly shows a male and female leaving the vehicle at the location.

An eyewitness of the wreck identified the vehicle, a black and green 1992 Ford Mustang, as being the same one that caused the crash. Car debris taken from the scene of the crash — a Mustang hubcap, passenger side mirror and parts of headlights — were also consistent with damage found on the vehicle located at the school, according to the criminal complaint.

The vehicle registration came back to a family member of Marcum, who later said he must have stolen her license plates. Several people at the home and family members of Marcum confirmed the vehicle was his, although the registration did not match him.

When arriving at the house where it had been registered, a man said Marcum had been dropped off at the home earlier that day and told him he had hit a four-wheeler with his vehicle. The man said he told Marcum to turn himself in, but Marcum told him he had not stopped because he "didn't hurt anyone."

Another woman at the home said Marcum had requested a ride from her boyfriend and when she asked where his vehicle was he laughed and said the car had been stolen, according to the complaint.

Marcum is currently housed at Western Regional Jail in Barboursville.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.