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Closed meeting causes rift on council

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- City Council's decision Wednesday to privately discuss the planned relocation of United Hospital Center was wrong, two members of council said.

Vice Mayor Becky Lake and Councilman Zeke Lopez voted against the private meeting, saying the talks should be held publicly. Mayor Terry Greaver and council members Jim Hunt and Margaret Bailey voted for the executive session.

"As a council, every time we go into executive session, it looks like we're hiding more information from the people who elected us," Lopez said. "I feel that this should be public. There have been too many closed-door meetings and the public should know first-hand what's going on with the hospital."

Also attending the meeting were UHC President Bruce Carter and board member Jack Keeley. Lake and Lopez refused to attend the executive session.

Councilman David Kates arrived after the meeting had begun and initially questioned why the private session had been called.

"There's no reason to even be here talking with the hospital people. This is a done deal," Kates said.

After attending the meeting, Kates agreed with Hunt and Greaver that the session was productive, saying the "wheels of progress are in motion" and "we were able to get the council more involved."

Greaver's statement after the session was that the meeting was "instructional and informative." Greaver also said hospital officials agreed in six to eight months to form a task force to include the city in discussing the planned move.

"I think I can say that things are not as dim for the city as people think," Greaver said.

While the city, Hunt said, cannot prevent the hospital from moving to Bridgeport, the discussion involved "potential issues that the city will be involved in."

"There are some intricacies of possible future construction that could affect the city," Hunt said. "Just for the fact that we want the best for the citizens, if the whole system were laid out, it could be detrimental to the project."

Council member Patsy Trecost did not attend.

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

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