Plenty to do in this small town
by Torie Knight
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
In a town this small, youd think the opportunities for entertainment
would be limited. No malls. No movie theaters. And the town is dry, meaning
you cant 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. Its not the town hall. Its Smittys.
Everyone comes here to socialize, said Lawrence, who works in flood
mitigation. We have our hunting tales and our fishing tales.
Its 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 Smittys doesnt 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 Smittys. Jeffries rolls out his grill and
makes shish kabobs or hot dogs.
Hes 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.
Its 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, theres just a few, Bedford
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 wont 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.
Its 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, its 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.
Its 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 doesnt 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 didnt 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
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
On the back, she addressed the postcard to Joe Chemo.
Shouldnt 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
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
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 ones 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,
Property Assessments in region up to date
by Troy Graham
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
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 dont 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 assessors 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
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 Romanos remarks.
In Upshur County, property values are increasing, but its 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
Were on our second go-round and, in some cases, the third, said
Barbour County Assessor Loring Phillips. Obviously theyre having some
troubles in Kanawha County. Its the biggest county. They have something
like 160,000 parcels.
Like most counties, Barbour also saw property values rise initially,
he said. But the assessors office tried to make the public aware of the
situation through advertising and other methods, Phillips said.
We didnt have any 300 percent increases. We had some that doubled
in value, he said. Most of the people realized their property values
In Lewis County there are only 17,000 parcels, and the assessors office
was recently judged as one of the top 10 most efficient offices in conducting
We visit every property one way or another every three years, said
Lewis County Assessor Gary Smith. Were 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 countys 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 Julys
Once the books are closed we cant help them out, Romano said.
Group promises legal action over medical waste project
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 arent
Michael believes the handling of Paynes 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
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 Paynes application.
We feel they should turn this down outright because they didnt 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
Residents attending Saturdays meeting applauded the groups 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 groups 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
The citizens 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 Saturdays 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 isnt 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.
Lawmaker wants to regulate body-piercing studios
by Troy Graham
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.
Theres too many people sitting in their kitchens doing piercing,
making us look bad, he said. We hear about people all the time. Theres
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,
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,
But right now its 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
Its 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.