MORGANTOWN — The bricks and mortar, monuments and amenities were purchased with tax dollars but earned by decades of military heroes, civic pioneers and engaged citizens who have known Monongalia County, West Virginia, simply as “home.”
This sentiment was expressed Wednesday morning as the Monongalia County Commission held an official flag-raising and rededication of its newly renovated courthouse square under bright sunshine.
The crowd on hand was estimated at 125 to 150 people, easily overwhelming the 50 chairs arranged for the ceremony. Dozens of faces peered down on the proceedings from windows above the 200-block of High Street.
Commission President Tom Bloom opened the ceremony before handing off to Wilbur England, a Vietnam veteran and adjutant of VFW Post 9916 who assisted the commission in coordinating the proceedings.
The flag-raising included Andrew Riley, the MHS student whose entry was selected as Monongalia County’s flag in October.
“That was actually really cool,” Riley said of seeing his design fly over downtown Morgantown. “I love Morgantown, Mon County and West Virginia as a whole, so it’s pretty cool to be able to leave my mark on my home state and town.”
Among the speakers was Michael Mills, founder of Mills Group, the square’s designer. He walked the crowd through the various features of the newly designed space, noting that preserving the county’s history was a primary goal but making the square safe and more accessible for all was the priority.
That fact wasn’t lost on Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki.
“It’s the county square and they’re making it available to the community. I’m very pleased with that. It really is much more user friendly,” Kawecki said. “We want the downtown to be a welcoming place. We want more activity. I just want to see more people come downtown and feel comfortable downtown.”
Mills also spoke of the scale representation of the Monongahela River that runs across the square, terminating at a fountain — the county’s original fountain — which was found in Westover and donated back to the county by that city’s council before receiving a bronze rhododendron topper from artist Jamie Lester. The river was built by local business, City Neon.
Bloom said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out and proud of the number of veterans who came to see the changes.
“I can say we were not expecting this crowd. And I’m so glad there were so many veterans from the different services who showed up,” Bloom said. “I think they felt honored, and that’s what we wanted to do, respect them and the history of this community while looking to the future. I think Mr. Mills achieved that.”
Commissioner Sean Sikora said the project, built by March-Westin and managed by Bobby Doyle, the county’s facilities director, came in about 5 percent under its estimated $2.1 million budget.
“This courthouse square is a symbol of community, of hope and pride for those who will assemble here and a symbol of remembrance for those who gave their lives in service of their country,” Commissioner Ed Hawkins said, closing the ceremony. “And as we celebrate our past, our eyes are on the future.”