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Plenty to do in this small town
by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER
MONTROSE — Only a few hundred feet lie between the two city limit signs for Montrose on U.S. Route 219.
With 140 residents, it is the smallest incorporated town in Randolph County and West Virginia.
“You blink your eyes, you are through it,’’ said John Lawrence, a Montrose resident.
In a town this small, you’d think the opportunities for entertainment would be limited. No malls. No movie theaters. And the town is dry, meaning you can’t buy beer or alcohol within its limits. But in Montrose, residents say, there is plenty to do.
Right in the middle of Montrose is a place many residents call the hub of the town. It’s not the town hall. It’s Smitty’s.
“Everyone comes here to socialize,” said Lawrence, who works in flood mitigation. “We have our hunting tales and our fishing tales.”
It’s a gas station and convenience store with a little restaurant, a video game room and a pool table.
Carol Helmick serves up the hot dogs, hamburgers and hot sandwiches to the storytellers sitting at the tables situated near aisles of cereal and cans of vegetables.
Helmick said a few truckers stop in for food, but most patrons are local people. And, they usually stop by about every day.
Lawrence and Howard Murphy, a 72-year-old councilman, are regulars.
“Everybody knows everybody,” Lawrence said. “This is just a small, little hick town. Everyone is either related or good friends.”
If Smitty’s doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are music or cake walks at the community building.
One of the biggest issues facing the five-member city council is expanding the community building by adding on a kitchen.
In the summer, a big draw is the fly (not flea) markets at Bill Jeffries’ house, across U.S. 219 from Smitty’s. Jeffries rolls out his grill and makes shish kabobs or hot dogs.
“He’s a real good cook,” Lawrence said.
Montrose incorporated in 1895. It was named Montrose because of an abundance of wild roses found growing where crews were building the railroad.
Guy Bedford has spent the last 70 years in Montrose. He raised two sons and a daughter while farming and carrying the mail.
“It’s a good place to live and raise a family,” Bedford said.
At one time he sold milk to Carnation and had a 500-acre farm. This year, he has about 40 cattle on 145 acres. His son, Charles, works by his side. Farming has decreased in the area, Bedford said.
“It used to be everybody had cattle. Today, there’s just a few,” Bedford said.
Doug Stoop stays in Montrose for a similar reason. He likes the natural beauty of the area and wants to raise his three sons there.
He moved his nursery and greenhouse from Elkins out to his home in Montrose this month. He probably won’t make more money in the rural area, but he believes he will have a better quality of life.
“The advantages still outweigh the disadvantages,” said Stoop, a computer-image landscape designer who has landscaped in the area for 19 years. “I like the way of life.”
It’s a way of life where the girls in the post office often remind Stoop that he gets more mail than anyone else in town.
And, it’s a way of life where Mayor John Bartlett hangs a large smiley face on a post in his yard that says, “Smile, Pass It On.”
“It’s down home,” Murphy said.

Anti-smoking educators target children
by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER Seven-year-old Julia Southerland listens to many talks about the dangers of tobacco use.
Her mother, Deborah Southerland, travels the state as a member of the West Virginia Coalition for a Tobacco Free Community and gives talks at town meetings like the one held Saturday at United Hospital Center in Clarksburg.
Anyone wondering what the second grader thinks of smoking doesn’t even need to ask her. They just need to watch her.
As Finny Kittle of the West Virginia Youth Tobacco Prevention Campaign talked about school-age children being addicted to snuff and cigarettes Saturday, it didn’t seem to bother Southerland. At least not until Kittle mentioned a group of second grade students using the products.
Southerland, who was browsing through a table of literature that discourages smoking, turned around and looked at the speaker in shock, her mouth hanging open.
She knows smoking is bad and believes other second graders should too.
She picked up a postcard from the literature table that had a picture of an ill camel lying in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and going through chemotherapy.
On the back, she addressed the postcard to Joe Chemo.
“Shouldn’t smoke — it is bad for you,” Southerland wrote on the card. “Sorry you are ill.”
Southerland is an example of what organizers of town meetings against tobacco want to see — educated youth.
National statistics report that most smokers start smoking by age 18 and that most advertisers target those ages 14 to 24 years old.
Deborah Southerland said that is causing concern because tobacco can be deadly. Last year, $21 million was spent in Harrison County to treat tobacco related illnesses and 182 Harrison County residents died of tobacco-related illnesses.
“This is a preventable cause of death and disease,” Southerland said. “We want the citizens to be part of the solution. We need to work as a team.”
About 40 residents attending the town meeting Saturday were hoping to get information to be able to tell their friends and loved ones about the dangers of smoking.
Mayor Louis Iquinto was among the crowd. He talked of his days as a smoker and how much better he feels now that he gave up the habit.
Iquinto said that smoking can degrade and damage one’s quality of life. By giving it up, however, former smokers can feel healthier and better about themselves. Had he still been a smoker, the mayor said, he never would have made it through the 10K run last year.
“There are people who want help, but need encouragement getting help,” Iquinto said.

Property Assessments in region up to date

by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
CHARLESTON — While it appears that some counties are still struggling to meet the mandates of a 1990 law that requires all counties to reassess property values, area property owners will not see huge fluctuations in their taxes.
A delegate from Kanawha County asked House leadership to look at the law this week, saying he was being flooded with calls from people whose property values, which help determine property taxes, have skyrocketed.
“And I don’t think Kanawha County is an anomaly in this regard,” said Delegate Rusty Webb.
The 1990 law was passed because some counties had properties assessed at rates as low as 30 percent of their value, said Harrison County Assessor Cheryl Romano. Those assessments were made by a company hired by the state. The law required the counties to complete reassessments every three years, bringing property values closer to the actual market value.
“Now things are sort of on an even keel,” Romano said. “People in our county are sick of looking at us.”
Property assessments in Harrison County have been brought up to around 90 percent of market value, she said.
The county did see rising property values when the law was first enacted. The assessor’s office sends out notices to people whose property values increase by more than 10 percent from the previous year. When the law was first enacted more than 20,000 notices were regularly sent out, Romano said.
This year only 4,000 notices were sent out, she said. Most of those increases were due to new construction, not from reassessments of under-valued property, Romano said.
Assessors in other counties in the region echoed Romano’s remarks. In Upshur County, property values are increasing, but it’s because properties are worth more since the completion of the four-lane highway through the county, not because of reassessments, said Assessor Helen Phillips.
In smaller counties like Barbour, the reassessments were completed years ago.
“We’re on our second go-round and, in some cases, the third,” said Barbour County Assessor Loring Phillips. “Obviously they’re having some troubles in Kanawha County. It’s the biggest county. They have something like 160,000 parcels.”
Like most counties, Barbour also saw property values rise initially, he said. But the assessor’s office tried to make the public aware of the situation through advertising and other methods, Phillips said.
“We didn’t have any 300 percent increases. We had some that doubled in value,” he said. “Most of the people realized their property values were low.”
In Lewis County there are only 17,000 parcels, and the assessor’s office was recently judged as one of the top 10 most efficient offices in conducting assessments.
“We visit every property one way or another every three years,” said Lewis County Assessor Gary Smith. “We’re not having any problems.”
Notices for property reassessments went out in all counties recently. People who believe their reassessment for the 1999-year is in error can ask a county’s board of review for a hearing. County commissioners make up the board, which will convene from Feb. 1 to Feb. 25. After the 25th, the books are closed and the values are used to set the tax rates for July’s bills.
“Once the books are closed we can’t help them out,” Romano said.

Group promises legal action over medical waste project
byTorie Knight
STAFF WRITER
PHILIPPI — The newly incorporated Concerned Citizens of Barbour County is threatening legal action over the proposed infectious medical waste facility in Philippi.
More than 100 residents signed up Saturday evening to become members of the group and gave hundreds of dollars in donations to help it get ready for any necessary lawsuits to stop to the project.
The group elected Paul Bulka, a plumber at Fairmont State College, as president; Mary Poling, a math teacher, as secretary; Peggy Chesser-Sjoberg, who is retired, as treasurer; and Fred Daugherty, an industrial arts teacher at Philip Barbour High School, spokesman.
They have also consulted the legal counsel of Clarksburg environmental attorney Thomas Michael to help fight the facility proposed by Virginia developer Doyle Payne for the Philippi Industrial Park.
The facility would be the first commercially operated Rotoclave-type waste center in the nation and would take medical waste from nearby states.
Payne and members of the state Department of Health and Human Resources have repeatedly said the facility will be safe to the public.
The residents and Michael disagree.
Michael sent a letter to both the DHHR and the Barbour County Commission on behalf of the citizens, warning of a lawsuit if certain requests aren’t met.
Michael believes the handling of Payne’s application fails to comply with the minimum procedural requirements contained in the Commercial Infectious Medical Waste Facility Siting Approval Act.
The letter states that the pre-siting notice was not properly filed because it was never filed with the local Solid Waste Authority or the state Division of Environmental Protection. For that reason, the residents allege that the county commission prematurely published the pre-siting notice.
They also contend that the legal advertisement published by the county commission was misleading because it was captioned as a pre-siting notice instead of ‘’a notice of the right of the voters to petition for a referendum.’’
The letter also alleges that the proposed site of the facility has been changed since the filing and legal notice.
“As a result, the citizens of Barbour County have been denied meaningful public participation,’’ Michael stated in the letter.
The citizens group is asking that the pre-siting notice be properly filed, that the right to petition for referendum be published by the county commission and that the DHHR immediately cease processing Payne’s application.
“We feel they should turn this down outright because they didn’t file it properly,” Poling said.
Philippi City Manager Joe Mattaliano said a decision to put the medical waste facility up to a vote can only be made by the county commission. As for whether any errors occurred in the filing of the application, he said only the state would know. That should be addressed in a report to be issued within the next few weeks by Joe Wyatt of the state Public Health Sanitation Division.
Residents attending Saturday’s meeting applauded the group’s legal actions. They plan to begin petitioning both state and federal lawmakers to look into the situation. Sen. Jon Hunter, D-Monongalia, and Del. Richard Everson, D-Barbour, already have registered the group’s petitions with both houses of the Legislature.
Payne has not yet been granted a construction permit to build the facility. DHHR Secretary Joan Ohl will decide whether to grant the permit after receiving Wyatt’s report.
The citizen’s group is waiting until that report is issued before deciding if legal action is necessary.
In the meantime, members are collecting donations and support from residents in Barbour County and surrounding counties.
Clarksburg resident Patricia Martin attended Saturday’s meeting and wrote out a check for the group.
“The longer I thought about it, the more I wanted to come and tell these people they have a right to vote. This is their town. They pay the taxes here,” Martin said.
What concerns most residents isn’t the facility and the Rotoclave technology, Poling said, but the hauling of the waste into the area and the future growth of the facility.
Philippi resident Cecelia Vassar has even greater concerns. She lives about a mile away from the Philippi Industrial Park and worries about her property value and that more waste facilities would follow.
“I am concerned if we start this type of development in the county, we will never be able to reverse it,” Vassar said.
 

OUCH!
Lawmaker wants to regulate body-piercing studios
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
A local legislator has introduced a bill that would require sterile conditions for body piercing studios and would allow local health departments to inspect the studios to ensure safe conditions.
The bill, introduced by Delegate Larry Linch, was inspired by a similar bill passed several years ago that regulated tattoo parlors.
“It was kind of a response after we did that bill,” he said. “A constituent wrote in and asked, ‘What about body piercing?’”
Body piercing is mostly conducted at tattoo parlors. The skin is pierced with a needle and a stud or ring is inserted. Body parts that can be pierced include the tongue, eyebrow and belly button.
Jack Gorbey, who does body piercing at Thinkin’ Ink Studio of Tattoo in Fairmont, said he hopes the bill, if passed, cuts down on the number of amateurs doing unsanitary piercing.
“There’s too many people sitting in their kitchens doing piercing, making us look bad,” he said. “We hear about people all the time. There’s people piercing in bars.”
Thinkin’ Ink already lives up to most of the requirements in the bill and welcomes the regulations, Gorbey said. The studio, which has four shops around the state, even lobbied for the tattoo legislation several years ago, and then taught the health department how to inspect tattoo parlors, he said.
The body piercing bill would require sterile procedures, such as wearing latex gloves when piercing, using needles one time only, and sterilizing other equipment in an autoclave.
The bill would also require parental consent before piercing minors. Thinkin’ Ink already requires consent, and it refuses to pierce anyone under age 16, Gorbey said.
“Right now we could pierce anyone we want to, but we choose not to,” he said. “More kids try to slip in here than bars.”
The industry is even trying to police itself, Gorbey said. Professional tattoo artists and piercing technicians are trying to discourage tattoo magazines that offer piercing “starter kits” for several hundred dollars, he said.
“But right now it’s all about the money,” Gorbey said.
Linch, D-Harrison, has introduced the bill for several years now. Last year the bill died because some of the co-sponsors were pro-choice. Some language was inserted in the bill that “came out of the pro-choice dictionary and that kind of killed it for me,” Linch said.
This year Linch is the lone sponsor.
 The bill has also grown over the years, as it has changed after each defeat.
“It’s gone from a few pages to a full chapter,” Linch said.
The bill has gained the attention of the House Government Organization Committee. A staff attorney from the committee has drafted the bill and hearings on it will takes place in the next two weeks.
 

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