By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor    

Heavy equipment moved in last weekend to begin toppling trees on the wooded acreage behind what was formerly the State Police Company A Headquarters in Shinnston.

Mark Southern Construction was the high bidder on the State Police Headquarters property last summer and the facility was supposed to have been vacated in November of 2016.  However, due to some final construction delays, vacating the premises was postponed until Spring. At that time, Southern immediately got started gutting the building.

As with most sizeable projects, it takes time to receive permission to proceed.  Now, though, he has been cleared for demolition and has received burning permits from the Division of Forestry so that tree removal can begin.  Heavy equipment was moved in last Saturday, and tree removal commenced immediately.  The side/rear of what was formerly the Company A facility became a pile of rubble on Tuesday and later in the week, the main building may be gone.  One thing that Southern adamantly says will remain, though, is the flag display at the front of the property that exhibits both the American flag and the flag of the State of West Virginia.

Southern says that for the time being he may keep one building on the property for storage use and another – the Headquarters’ maintenance garage that has several bays with a lift in place for working on vehicles – he may keep as well because it has the potential for functionality as a service garage should an auto repair business be interested in renting it.

“Right now my main focus is to get the property cleared so I can see it from every perspective.  We don’t have to be in a hurry, and I want to move slowly, taking time to make the right decisions,” he said.

Mid-week part of the rear of the Headquarters facility was bull-dozed, making way for the possibility of commercial businesses occupying the property in the future.

While a very few adjacent residents have expressed their concerns about having future ‘neighbors’, most have been very positive about what has transpired just this week. Some are glad to see it ‘open up’, saying that for the first time they can see Rt. 19 from their property.  Southern continues to communicate with adjacent property owners regarding tree removal.

“I have already been contacted by interested parties making inquiries about purchasing land for a possible convenience store/gas station and a grocery store.  Parcels of commercial property of various sizes will be available,” he stated.  “The property consists of just under 12 acres, and I may keep a portion of it in the back for multi-family and residential development.  No definite decisions have been made on that right now; I’m leaving that option open.  But after seeing the land cleared, I’m hoping to have a better idea of where earth may need to be moved, filled in and leveled.”

When asked what made him lean toward tackling a project this massive, Mark replied, “I’m an entrepreneur and I’ve always had an interest in real estate.  Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of property in Shinnston, and although it might be a huge undertaking, it is my hope that it will also bring a huge reward to the Shinnston area and its residents in the future.”

Smoke rises as sections of trees come down and are burned on the former State Police property along Rt. 19 in Shinnston.