By Erin Beck Charleston Gazette-Mail–Courtesy of WV Press Association
Ashley CreelFox drove an hour and a half each way from her home in Calhoun County to her job as a server at the Bob Evans restaurant in Elkview.
On Monday, her first wedding anniversary, she received a letter from the company telling her that her job, along with those of all her co-workers, had been terminated, more than month after a devastating flood wiped out the bridge to the Crossings Mall shopping plaza.
“Happy anniversary to us,” she said with frustration.
The letter, dated July 27, notified about 40 employees of the Elkview restaurant that, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Bob Evans has no certain future re-opening date for this restaurant, and, therefore, must terminate your employment with Bob Evans effective August 1, 2016.”
CreelFox said she and her husband have two children, 6 and 9. She drove to Elkview because jobs are scarce in Calhoun County, she liked her co-workers, and because she believed in the company, she had hoped to move up to a management position.
“The company made no attempts to relocate myself or others,” she said. “I gave almost three years of my life to a company I believed had my best interest at heart and apparently didn’t.”
Benefits for the Bob Evans employees were set to terminate Monday, according to the letter.
Angela Payne, spokeswoman for Bob Evans, said the company is unsure whether they will be able to re-open the Elkview location.
She said the decision was based on flood damage, not lack of communication from Plaza Management, the shopping center’s developer.
Beth Abruzzino, director of facilities maintenance for Plaza Management, said she believed construction of a new bridge should be complete within the next couple of months.
But Kanawha County Planning Director Stephen Neddo said the county has still not received the required information for a permit.
Plaza Management applied for a permit to build a bridge from the county on July 15. Owner Bill Abruzzino provided an engineering survey and wrote a check for the permit, but the county cannot deposit the check until it receives the name of the contractor Abruzzino plans to use and an estimate of the cost.
Neddo said Tuesday that the county had still not received that information.
Abruzzino has said the process was delayed because bridge construction had to be approved by multiple agencies. Tuesday, she said it was her understanding off-site construction of the bridge began last week and the project should take eight weeks.
She said “I believe all the permitting phase is done now” and “as far as I know they have started off-site construction.”
Acknowledging that her phrasing made her sound unsure, Abruzzino said “we don’t want to give out definites because the problem is things don’t always happen the way we think they are.”
“We’ve been crucified, basically,” she said. “That’s how we’re answering stuff. … We’re doing everything we humanly can to get that bridge built as fast as we can.”
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, who has said in the past the process was too slow because Plaza Management had tried to get the state to pay for the bridge, said he was not surprised to see a Crossings Mall business fire employees.
“It’s disgusting,” he said. “I’m sure they all will.”
Beth Abruzzino referred other questions to Bill Abruzzino, the Plaza Management owner. A phone number she provided listed extensions for several employees, but not Bill Abruzzino.
Another local Bob Evans restaurant, at Southridge Center on Corridor G, closed recently. That restaurant was among 27 that the company announced would close in April.
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