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Ken Hechler to lie in repose at WV Culture Center

The Herald-Dispatch

ROMNEY, W.Va. - Former U.S. Congressman and West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler will lie in repose next week on the capitol grounds where he served the Mountain State for more than a decade in one of many public offices he held in his lifetime.

Hechler died peacefully after having dinner Saturday, at age 102, at his home in Romney, West Virginia.

Hechler will lie in repose from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at the Culture Center at the West Virginia Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, followed by a service at the Culture Center at 3 p.m., according to his obituary from Giffin Funeral Home & Crematory in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.

His family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Giffin Funeral Home & Crematory.

A service in Hampshire County will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Augusta Church of Christ, 15338 Northwestern Pike, Augusta, West Virginia. Burial will follow at Branch Mountain United Methodist Cemetery in Three Churches, West Virginia.

In lieu of flowers, Hechler's family has requested that contributions be made to either Hospice of the Panhandle, 330 Hospice Lane, Kearneysville, WV 25430, or the Ken Hechler Scholarship Fund, C/O The Bank of Romney, P.O. Box 876, Romney, WV 26757.

Hechler's life spanned more than a century, and his political career spanned decades. He spent many of those years as an activist, soldier, teacher and author. He worked for three U.S. presidents, interrogated Nazis in World War II and was the only sitting congressman to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama.

During his nine terms in Congress, he championed civil rights legislation while fighting for coal mine safety, strip mine regulations and black lung compensation.

He found love late in life, marrying Carol Hechler at the age of 99.

A New York native, Hechler was educated at Swarthmore College and Columbia University before serving as a U.S. Army combat historian during World War II. He served in the 9th Armored Division. He helped chronicle the 1944 invasion of Normady, the liberation of France, Battle of the Budge, experiences that inspired his book "The Bridge at Remagen," which was turned into a movie in 1960. He went on to write eight other books.

He served in the Truman administration as a speechwriter and other positions in Washington.

Entrusted with a doctorate from Columbia University, he devoted a considerable amount of his career to teaching, starting in 1957 at Marshall University as a political science professor, where he spent a semester before starting his campaign. He had discovered Huntington while helping arrange a train trip through town by President Harry S. Truman.

Alongside Hechler, former Huntington Mayor Bobby Nelson also campaigned for President John F. Kennedy as he visited Huntington in 1960. Marshall did not allow political events on campus at the time, so instead, Kennedy pulled alongside 3rd Avenue - technically off campus - in a makeshift campaign event, Nelson told The Herald-Dispatch on Sunday.

Hechler was photographed with Kennedy in a booth at Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House, an image that has become iconic.

In between two stints as a professor at Marshall, Hechler walked the halls of Congress as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 1958 until 1977 and was West Virginia secretary of state from 1984 to 2001. He donated his congressional papers to the university's archives.

He was the only member of Congress to march with King at Selma, Alabama.

"You are part of history. Always remember what you were doing on March 21, 1965," Hechler said King told him after the two met before the march.

He also was the principal author of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969 after a failed bid for the U.S. Senate. Continuing his legacy, in 2009 Hechler was arrested with 29 others while protesting mountaintop removal mining near Marsh Fork Elementary School in Boone County.

"Some of these things you fight for might not come to a conclusion, but it is worth the fight," Hechler said in a 1998 interview.

Hechler's complete obituary can be found at www.giffinfuneralhome.com.


Winter Wonderland of Lights shines in Ashland

ASHLAND — The heart of Ashland beams with more than 800,000 Christmas lights as the city's annual Winter Wonderland of Lights continues through the season in Central Park.

Since 1988, the city has attracted thousands to downtown Ashland's 50-acre park in what's become a cherished tradition now passed to a younger generation while remaining beloved by all ages.

The Winter Wonderland Express train rides take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday through this weekend. The cost is $3. Photos and visits with Santa Claus will also be available this weekend in the park's log cabin.

The light display will continue daily until Jan. 8, 2017.

For more information about festivities and a full list of events, visit ashlandalliance.com/winter-wonderland-of-lights/and read about more places to see Tri-State light displays in The Herald-Dispatch's Weekend section.


Finance Committee advances increase
CITY SEWER RATES

HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington's Finance Committee gave a proposed sewer rate increase its stamp of approval Wednesday night, voting in favor of sending it back to council with no changes and a positive recommendation.

Having made no alterations, the ordinance will go back before City Council for a second reading Dec. 27, when it will be voted on by council members.

While the ordinance had the support of the Finance Committee and over a dozen employees with the Huntington Sanitary Board, others from the public questioned if the proposed increase of about 57 percent over three years was necessary.

The proposed ordinance, which originated from the Huntington Sanitary Board, lays out three phases of increases spread out over three years.

The first increase would occur 45 days after the passage of the ordinance, which will be toward the beginning of February if City Council approves it. This would increase a customer's average bill — which is based on about 3,200 gallons of water used — from $17.37 to $21.90 per month. The minimum monthly bill, which is based on 2,000 gallons of water used, would go from $13.16 to $16.60.

The next increase proposed in the ordinance would be scheduled for Dec. 31, 2017. Minimum bills for residents would be $18.50 and the average bill would be $24.35.

The final increase would occur Dec. 31, 2018, and would raise the minimum monthly bill to $20.80 and the average to $27.39. The last sewer rate increase, a 23 percent hike, came in June 2009.

From start to finish, an average customer would see an increase of about $10; however, as Steel of West Virginia Vice President of Administration John O'Connor pointed out during the meeting, the increase in costs for businesses is much higher.

O'Connor said the company, which provides about 560 jobs, currently pays about $500,000 yearly in sewer rates, but the proposed rate increases would raise their bill by $300,000 by the end of the final phase, placing a burden on the company's ability to be profitable.

"Our problem is we can't just pass these costs around," he said. "We're competing internationally for work, and it's hard to get any increases out of our customers."

O'Connor urged the committee to take more time to examine and explain the budget fully.

"I think you need to understand all the costs and justify why a 57 percent (increase) is needed on the back of your businesses and customers," he said.

O'Connor wasn't the only person who voiced an opinion at Wednesday's meeting. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local Union 598 President and Sanitary Board employee Lee Adams said he was fearful of what would happen to his co-workers if the rate increase wasn't approved.

"We are at a point now where we can't kick the can down the road anymore," Adams, a Sanitary Board employee of 15 years, said. "We are at a point now where our equipment is at an end-of-lifespan cycle. Our system is in dire need of repairs."

Adams said the Sanitary Board has about 37 employees but had about 50 employees when he started.

For the 2016 fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, the Huntington Sanitary Board's budget was just under $12.3 million. With the proposed increase, the Sanitary Board is expected to grow its budget by about $6.5 million over the course of three years. The Sanitary Board's budget is solely supplemented by sanitary fees.

When this ordinance was originally compiled, city officials said the rate hike was necessary to address projected increases in operating and maintenance costs.

The increases, which have mainly been caused by increases in health insurance and sludge removal costs, caused the Sanitary Board to end the 2016 fiscal year at a structural deficit of $234,566, according to documents provided by the city.

In the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2017, insurance costs are expected to be $400,000 more than anticipated and sludge removal costs will reach a high of $718,000, more than $450,000 over budget.

While the Sanitary Board's budget is projected to increase by about $6.5 million with the proposed rate hike, its operation and maintenance expenses only increase by about $2.7 million, from just under $10.4 million to $13.1 million. The remaining $5.7 million is split between debt service requirements — about $3.2 million — and cash available for capital improvements and contingencies — about $2.5 million.

Michael Griffith, a certified public accountant with Griffith and Associates, said the increase in the debt service requirements, more specifically the sewer principal interest from about $1.3 million in 2016 to $2.75 million in 2018, is due to an anticipated closure on a $7.5 million, 20-year loan at 4.5 percent interest.

Griffith said the money is needed to cover nine capital improvement projects identified by engineers with Potesta & Associates. The projects range from improving ventilation at the treatment plant to upgrades to the 5th Avenue Pump Station and cleaning out an 18,500-foot interceptor pipe along the 4th Street Pump Station.

Potesta originally identified more than $75 million in needed capital projects, but Pat Taylor, a senior engineer with Potesta, said the new list of projects demonstrated improvements that are needed to keep up with day-to-day operations as well as comply with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

Robert Rodecker, an attorney representing the Sanitary Board, said the proposed projects are seen to be in the "ordinary course of business" and therefore do not require the 30-day notice typically required of capital projects.


Ken Hechler to lie in repose at WV Culture Center

ROMNEY, W.Va. — Former U.S. Congressman and West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler will lie in repose next week on the capitol grounds where he served the Mountain State for more than a decade in one of many public offices he held in his lifetime.

Hechler died peacefully after having dinner Saturday, at age 102, at his home in Romney, West Virginia.

Hechler will lie in repose from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at the Culture Center at the West Virginia Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, followed by a service at the Culture Center at 3 p.m., according to his obituary from Giffin Funeral Home & Crematory in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. His family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Giffin Funeral Home & Crematory.

A service in Hampshire County will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Augusta Church of Christ, 15338 Northwestern Pike, Augusta, West Virginia. Burial will follow at Branch Mountain United Methodist Cemetery in Three Churches, West Virginia.

In lieu of flowers, Hechler's family has requested that contributions be made to either Hospice of the Panhandle, 330 Hospice Lane, Kearneysville, WV 25430, or the Ken Hechler Scholarship Fund, C/O The Bank of Romney, P.O. Box 876, Romney, WV 26757.

Hechler's life spanned more than a century, and his political career spanned decades. He spent many of those years as an activist, soldier, teacher and author. He worked for three U.S. presidents, interrogated Nazis in World War II and was the only

sitting congressman to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama.

During his nine terms in Congress, he championed civil rights legislation while fighting for coal mine safety, strip mine regulations and black lung compensation.

He found love late in life, marrying Carol Hechler at the age of 99.

A New York native, Hechler was educated at Swarthmore College and Columbia University before serving as a U.S. Army combat historian during World War II. He served in the 9th Armored Division. He helped chronicle the 1944 invasion of Normady, the liberation of France, Battle of the Budge, experiences that inspired his book "The Bridge at Remagen," which was turned into a movie in 1960. He went on to write eight other books.

He served in the Truman administration as a speechwriter and other positions in Washington.

Entrusted with a doctorate from Columbia University, he devoted a considerable amount of his career to teaching, starting in 1957 at Marshall University as a political science professor, where he spent a semester before starting his campaign. He had discovered Huntington while helping arrange a train trip through town by President Harry S. Truman.

Alongside Hechler, former Huntington Mayor Bobby Nelson also campaigned for President John F. Kennedy as he visited Huntington in 1960. Marshall did not allow political events on campus at the time, so instead, Kennedy pulled alongside 3rd Avenue — technically off campus — in a makeshift campaign event, Nelson told The Herald-Dispatch on Sunday.

Hechler was photographed with Kennedy in a booth at Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House, an image that has become iconic.

In between two stints as a professor at Marshall, Hechler walked the halls of Congress as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 1958 until 1977 and was West Virginia secretary of state from 1984 to 2001. He donated his congressional papers to the university's archives.

He was the only member of Congress to march with King at Selma, Alabama.

"You are part of history. Always remember what you were doing on March 21, 1965," Hechler said King told him after the two met before the march.

He also was the principal author of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969 after a failed bid for the U.S. Senate. Continuing his legacy, in 2009 Hechler was arrested with 29 others while protesting mountain top removal mining near Marsh Fork Elementary School in Boone County.

"Some of these things you fight for might not come to a conclusion, but it is worth the fight," Hechler said in a 1998 interview.

Hechler's complete obituary can be found at www.giffinfuneralhome.com.