Anmoore officials
deny mismanaging
city’s water billing

by James Fisher
STAFF WRITER

    Anmoore town officials have denied allegations the town’s water board billing and collection procedures are badly mismanaged, according to a letter from the town to the state Public Service Commission.
    The letter also says the billing program needs to be updated because monthly billing reports can be misleading. Anmoore officials are studying the billing systems of two local water utilities to decide if changes should be made, the letter said.
The town’s letter responds to a letter and analysis of the town’s water collection system filed Feb. 17 with the PSC by the Anmoore Good Government Association.
   The group said Anmoore doesn’t shut off service of past-due accounts and has written off certain unpaid accounts as bad debts, then restored service. The group also alleged the town failed to put delinquent customers on payment plans and that a high percentage of Anmoore’s current accounts are significantly past due.
    According to February billing records obtained by the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram, 177 of 543 water and sewer customers were at least 30 days delinquent.
However, the town’s letter says those figures may not be up-to-date.
    For instance, the town might print a report Tuesday showing a customer is overdue. Even if the customer pays the next day, the report will show an overdue account until the next month.
    The Anmoore Good Government Association relied on those monthly reports for its analysis, the letter says.
The letter also says the town auditor advised town council to write off certain overdue accounts as bad debt.
    Between March 12 and March 18, the town filed lawsuits in Harrison County Magistrate Court against 22 current and former Anmoore residents with overdue water bills. Those delinquent bills range from $31.76 to $296.72. According to the town’s letter, some of those customers have paid on these accounts or have signed payment contracts.
    At a meeting Feb. 11, town council decided anyone with a delinquent account must sign a payment plan contract. Also, anyone behind on a contract must pay or service would be shut off, Mayor B.L. “Pete” Grogg said. Letters setting a 30-day deadline to make payment were sent Feb. 12 to delinquent accounts.
    Monday, town employees tagged 27 residences with 24-hour shut-off notices. Everyone whose door was tagged was either 30 or 60 days late on water bills, Grogg said. None of the residents were on payment plans.
    By noon Tuesday, 24 had paid their bills in full, Grogg said. Water service to the other three homes was shut off. Since then, one resident has paid in full, plus a $25 reconnection fee.



Clarksburg Council seeks police grants

by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER

    Clarksburg City Council passed two resolutions Thursday that will allow the city to apply for two grants totaling more than $20,000. One of the grants, worth $10,000, would help city police officers curb drunken driving.
    Area police departments would join together to form a multi-agency task force designed to educate and track down drunken drivers.
    Patrol officers would work on their days off to cover peak drunken driving hours. The officers, who would get paid at an overtime rate, are seeking to concentrate on stopping drunken driving on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
    While strides have been made over the years to confront drunken driving, city police officers say the problem is far from being solved.
    Driving under the influence cases have neither gone up nor down in frequency in Clarksburg, said Robert Matheny, Clarksburg police investigator. But the city police still arrest an average of four people a week for DUI, he said.
About 50 percent of all fatal collisions that occur nationwide involve motorists who drive while impaired, Matheny said.
    The grant would not be used to fund any sobriety checkpoints, said Clarksburg Police Chief Raymond Mazza.
But Matheny believes city police officers will be ready to tackle the problem — despite having to work on their days off.
“Our guys have got to work overtime for it,” he said. “But we don’t mind working hard for what we get.”
Aside from the drunken driving grant, the city will apply for a $10,750 grant to help establish a local juvenile crime enforcement coalition.
    The coalition would be made up of community representatives who would coordinate programs and activities to educate students in Harrison County about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
    If the money is granted, the coalition could form and meet sometime in September to elect officers and set an agenda.
The city will apply to the state Division of Criminal Justice Service in Charleston for both grants. Matheny hopes the city police department can secure both of them. “This is real important because for a long time we weren’t getting any grants,” he said.
    In other business Thursday, council passed a resolution that endorses and recommends residents vote to renew the 3-year excess levy. The city is projected to receive more than $2.1 million from the levy. Residents will vote on the levy in the June 1 municipal election.



Philippi’s police chief glad to be back in uniform

by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER

Tom Hartley is back home doing what he just can’t stop doing.
    Hartley, 52, began his duties as the new Philippi police chief Thursday following the retirement of former Chief Gerald “Bucky” Gaynor.
    For more than 25 years, Hartley worked in law enforcement. He retired from the Fairmont Police Department in 1993 and went to Florida to “really retire.”
    That lasted about eight months. Soon, the golf and the odd jobs around the house became too commonplace and Hartley longed to be back in uniform. “Being a police officer — that’s about all I can remember,” Hartley said.
    He re-entered the workforce by driving an armored truck. For a while he was in the security division at Walt Disney World. In 1995, he joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
    Still, he missed his home state and the small town atmosphere. He came back to Philippi this month. “It’s great to be home,” Hartley said after his first day patrolling the streets of Philippi. “I like the friendly atmosphere and the people. People take time to know everybody and take time to care.” Hartley will work with six officers in Philippi.
    Philippi City Manager Joe Mattaliano said Hartley brings added skills to the department with his experience in supervision, planning and development, scheduling, purchasing and payroll. The Philippi City Council chose Hartley after interviewing five applicants.
    “We were impressed not only with his professional qualifications, but also with his outgoing personality and communication skills,” Mattaliano said. “He is a people person who will be an asset to the department and to the community.”



Bridgeport firm
alleged to owe
state $44,000

by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER

    The state Bureau of Employment Programs has sued a Harrison County restaurant for allegedly defaulting on accounts with the state Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Compensation divisions.
    The Pizza Man, in Bridgeport, allegedly owes Workers’ Compensation $24,820.36 in back taxes, interest and penalties, and $20,432.49 to Unemployment Compensation, according to the bureau.
    The suit, filed in Kanawha County, also asks a judge to order the restaurant to stop doing business. However, most companies agree to a payment plan before an injunction is ordered, said John Howell, an attorney with the Bureau of Employment Programs. “There’s a whole spectrum of things a company can do,” he said. “A lot of them make plans to pay.”
Joseph Rudy and Dan Avolio, listed by the bureau as the owners of The Pizza Man, were not at the restaurant Thursday afternoon.
    The bureau also announced that it is suing a Kanawha County lawyer and a Cabell County business for back payments.
Howell anticipates that many delinquent companies will take advantage of a 6-month amnesty period that will go into effect July 1. At that point, interest and penalties, which often make up a large amount of the sums owed by delinquent companies, will be waived if the companies agree to pay overdue premiums, Howell said.
    Many companies have legitimate reasons for having past due workers’ comp and unemployment premiums, he said.
“Some businesses are just scraping by and it’s not their fault,” Howell said.
T    he Legislature gave the bureau the power to sue for collection of back workers’ comp and unemployment payments in 1995, the same time legislation was devised to help erase a huge deficit in the workers’ comp fund.
Nearly $180 million in lawsuits are pending against West Virginia coal companies, the largest delinquent industry in the state.



State approves consolidation
of Harrison Co. water districts

by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER

    A year long, contentious battle to consolidate three water districts in the southern part of Harrison County, which was heavily resisted by residents there, ended when the state Public Service Commission approved the merger.
    The consolidation of the Lost Creek-Mount Clare, Quiet Dell and Valley of Good Hope public service districts, which was approved March 26, will go into effect April 15. The districts will become part of the Greater Harrison Public Service District, which was already managing two of the districts. The consolidated district will have more than 3,000 customers.
The conclusion of the difficult merger process and the possibilities it opens up have left Greater Harrison Manager Richard Hudkins “as excited as a kid at Christmas time.”
    “Those districts were so close to each other, but it was like the Berlin Wall. No one wanted to go out and help each other,” he said. “Now that wall will come down.”
    One of the first items on Hudkins’ agenda will be to seek an engineer to link the three water systems.
“They’re just a few thousand feet apart,” he said.
    Linking the districts will create “two- way streets,” giving Greater Harrison more than one way to pump water in and out of the districts, Hudkins said.
    Quiet Dell’s water, which is purchased from the Clarksburg Water Board, must now flow through the Nutter Fort system for a fee. With a linked system, Quiet Dell can get its water through Lost Creek, eliminating that fee, Hudkins said.
The district will also address low water pressure areas and building more water tanks to increase storage, he said.
    The merger was highly contested by residents in the southern part of the county when it was proposed last year. Some feared that Greater Harrison did not have the resources to handle all three.
    The PSC received an report from a Tetrick & Bartlett accountant who found that Greater Harrison did have the manpower and equipment necessary. Greater Harrison had run Lost Creek since August and it had been managing Valley of Good Hope for years, the report said.
    Since Greater Harrison took over Lost Creek last August, it has made three water line extension, Hudkins said.
“There are requests now that this thing has gotten rolling for water everywhere,” he said. “All these years those people have been overlooked.”
    The three former districts will maintain representation on a new 5-member Greater Harrison board that will be created. The board will be made up of two current Greater Harrison board members, Bill Coffindaffer and Greg Robertson, as well as Evan Hugus, who is also a Valley of Good Hope board member, Hudkins said. A board member from Quiet Dell and Lost Creek will also be selected, he said.
    Greater Harrison will also absorb the two full-time employees at Quiet Dell. The Quiet Dell office will remain open as a satellite office of Greater Harrison, Hudkins said.



Clarksburg businesses told
to beware of money scams

by James Fisher
STAFF WRITER

    Clarksburg Police are warning all area store clerks to watch for a man and a woman they believe have scammed businesses out of hundreds of dollars in the past weeks.
    The pair, who hit the Eastpointe Chevron station and Elby’s about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, as well as stores in the Morgantown area, use an age-old sleight-of-hand trick, said Clarksburg Police Detective Robert Matheny.
    With the woman usually acting as a distraction, the man approaches the counter to pay for items, Matheny said. He will usually give the clerk a large bill for a low-priced item, and then question the amount of change given, saying he handed the clerk a much smaller bill. After pretending to check his pockets, the man will admit he gave the clerk the larger bill.
Matheny said this is to lull the clerks with a false sense of security, because of the man’s apparent honesty.
However, this is when the real deception starts.
    Still holding the change from the large bill, the man will ask for the money back in exchange for a smaller bill. Sometimes he may even ask the clerk to exchange the large bill for several smaller bills, further confusing the situation.
The pair will then leave the store with the original bill, the change and also the change from the smaller bill.
    Matheny said the pair can get away with more than double their original amount of money this way. “These people are professionals,” he said. “A lot of times the victims can feel as if they’ve let down their employers, but the hand is faster than the eye. These guys are fast-talkers and pros at what they do.”
    Police are asking clerks to be more alert if anyone begins to question the amount of change given. Keep all bills in sight on the cash register until the transaction is complete, take time to look at the bill’s denomination and don’t allow bills to be traded back and forth, Matheny said.
    “Also, if anyone feels they may be the victim of this scam, try to get the plate number of the car,” he said. The pair is described as a black male, 6 feet tall with medium build and a thin moustache and a white female with blonde hair.
    They generally wear baseball caps, Matheny said, and have been seen driving an older-model white Chevrolet Monte Carlo. “We’re asking clerks to be aware of this scam,” he said. “Be aware of the suspects’ descriptions and contact the police if they come into your store.”
    Matheny said no other incidents have been reported since Tuesday, but it is possible that clerks don’t even realize they’ve been scammed. “All you may notice is that your cash register is short at the end of the day,” Matheny said. “They may not even realize what has happened.”



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