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CURRENT STORIES


Water Board probe, floods top stories from August

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Topping the news for August, the state Public Service Commission reversed two earlier decisions and unexpectedly ordered an investigation of the Clarksburg Water Board.

Despite twice denying a request for a full investigation, commissioners reconsidered after "further reflection and contemplation."

Several policies and procedures of past board members became controversial after six municipalities and public service districts protested the board's plan to increase rates by an average of nearly 16 percent.

Questionable practices included free lifetime medical, prescription and life insurance coverage for former board members; overtime pay for salaried employees; $500-per-month expenses for the board's former attorney and the ability of the attorney to borrow $10,000 off the face-value of his life insurance policy.

In Lewis County, several bridges and roads in Walkersville were flooded and numerous homes were damaged when a summer storm swept through the area.

In the final tally, 32 homes were damaged or destroyed and 12 mobile homes were damaged, along with untold acres of farmland. Residents eventually were able to receive Small Business Administration funding because the Federal Emergency Management Agency deemed the damage too insignificant for federal money.

The Huntington National Bank branch at Rosebud Plaza was robbed by a man who walked into the facility and demanded money. Police were unsure whether the man ever displayed a weapon and he was never caught.

More than two weeks after Verizon workers in several states walked off the job, the union successfully negotiated a new contract. Returning workers were faced with a massive backlog of service calls.

Workers went on strike citing concerns over mandatory overtime, job stress and job security. The strike came just weeks after Verizon was formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE.

A Marion County grand jury indicted two teens for the July 4 beating death of a Grant Town man. Police said the two kicked and beat the man, then ran over him with a car to make the attack look like a hit-and-run. Trials are expected to begin early next year.

After months of controversy, four Bridgeport police officers answered criminal destruction of property charges in connection with two 1999 incidents of paintball "war games" inside the old Weston State Hospital.

The officers successfully argued that they were led to believe that the person who initiated the games had permission to be in the historic structure. An Upshur County jury deliberated just 10 minutes before returning the acquittals.

Nearly 20 other defendants entered no contest pleas rather than fight the charges. They were fined and ordered to pay $250 restitution to help the clean-up effort, which was conducted almost a year later.

Other events in August included:

* A monument honoring 93 area veterans belonging to Chapter No. 418 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is unveiled on the Harrison County Courthouse. The monument, which honors veterans wounded in battle, spawned a minor controversy because not all area recipients of the Purple Heart were listed on the monument, just those who belonged to the group.

* A Harrison County woman and a Wetzel County man were found shot to death in a pick-up truck alongside W.Va. 20 near Smithfield in Wetzel County. Police said the incident appeared to be a domestic situation that escalated to a murder-suicide.

* A 150-pound tank of sulfur dioxide in the Weston sewage treatment plant in Deanville leaked. Although the gas cloud remained mostly in the area of the plant, about 75 nearby residents were evacuated as a precaution.

* The first-degree murder trial of Jeffrey Alan Quickle, who was accused of shooting to death Michael Wayne Dye on Thanksgiving Day, was scheduled for Sept. 25

* Princess House, Inc. of Weston, a local glass manufacturer, was sold to GlassWorks WV, L.L.C. The company remained in Weston and most employees were retained.

* Despite opposition from board member Charles O. Thayer III, former Clarksburg Water Board member and president Richard Welch was named to succeed Patsy Trecost as the board's general manager.

* Richmond, Va.-based Heilig-Meyers Co., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, announced that the Weston store was closing.

* Longtime Harrison County schools employee Dr. Carl Friebel was chosen to succeed Dr. Pamela Sumpter-Cain as superintendent. Sumpter-Cain left the position after two months to take a position in the state Department of Education.

* A fire broke out and destroyed a 21-year-old Jarvisville Road sawmill. No one was injured in the blaze, but the business was destroyed.

* Randolph County Emergency Medical Squad officials warned commissioners that if their financial situation was not improved, the squad could run out of money within six months. County commissioners eventually agreed to give the EMS a one-time gift of $10,000 and also discussed finding a way to permanently fund the group.

* The new Broaddus Hospital opened in Philippi.

* An auction for the old Clarksburg Municipal Building, with a minimum price of $100,000, failed to attract any bidders.

* A military KC-135, known to civilian air travelers as a Boeing 707, became the largest aircraft ever to land a Benedum Airport in Bridgeport.

* A federal judge ruled that Janette Ables and Ricky and Barbara Brown, who are accused of dousing their Weston home in gasoline and setting it on fire in 1997, would be tried together. Barbara Brown and Ables are charged with 14 federal counts while Ricky Brown faces just seven counts after being acquitted of seven charges at an earlier trial. The fire killed five children.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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