Clarksburg police officers
to announce union charter
Group to become first unionized
law enforcement agency in state
by James Fisher
Clarksburg police say they became the first unionized
law enforcement agency in the state in order to get better pay, updated
equipment, more officers and to open lines of communication with the city.
City Manager Percy Ashcraft, however, said that
the city will not recognize the union as far as collective bargaining or
pay issues. He said those issues are covered by the Police Civil Service
Commission or are spelled out in the citys employee handbook.
Robert Matheny, who has been elected the head of
Local 119 of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO, was
to announce at noon today that the department has been chartered.
This is the first department in West Virginia to join the AFL-CIO.
Thirty-three of the departments 36 officers have joined the union, Matheny
The noon ceremony in Clarksburg City Council chambers
was to feature IUPA International Secretary/Treasurer Rich Estes. Matheny,
one of the union organizers, said the citys police department has been
losing resources and manpower at a time when criminal activity has begun
to rise in Clarksburg.
The city has cut the police force by 25 percent in the last several
years, while crime in the city has continued to increase, he said. Between
1997 and 1998, 911 calls to the citys police department have increased
more than 20 percent, while the felony rate has also risen in the city,
Union officials also believe that Clarksburg residents
are at risk on local highways because of reduced enforcement caused by
a lack of manpower and proper equipment.
Union officials also expressed concern that low pay has resulted in
more police officers leaving the force to join other, higher-paying forces
in the state.
We have an important message to get across to the
city government and by presenting a united front, we hope that message
comes across loud and clear, Matheny said. Despite unionizing, the departments
officers will maintain a relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police,
a national organization that represents several police departments in the
county. But officers in Clarksburg believed the union would be able
to better handle problems specific to them.
We have a unique FOP here in Harrison County because
they represent many departments in the county, so they may not be able
to handle some problems that are unique to each department, Matheny said.
We felt that the problems of the Clarksburg Police Department are better
handled by the officers of the Clarksburg Police Department.
Clarksburg Police Chief Raymond Mazza, although not a member of the
union, said he believes the officers efforts can be beneficial to both
the officers and the citizens of Clarksburg.
Our first objective as officers is to improve the
quality of life here in Clarksburg, he said. But if this will help them
obtain up-to-date equipment and the officers needed to do the job, I am
behind them completely. Anything that will help develop trust and a good
working relationship between the officers and the administration is welcome.
The union will be beneficial not only to the officers, Matheny said,
but to the city administration, as well.
We can sit down and settle matters before they
become major issues, he said. I think that attitude has already started
to manifest itself. Matheny said union officials and Ashcraft have already
met to hammer out some issues relating to officers days off that could
have escalated to bigger problems. Although Ashcraft said the city wont
negotiate pay issues with the union, he said he views the union as a positive
step toward improved communication between the city and its employees.
Anytime employees want to gather to suggest things
to improve their working environment, or even suggest policy, I think thats
healthy, he said. The question of their agenda will have to be decided
by their members.
The officers in the union are Matheny, president; Lt. John Fuscaldo,
vice president; Cpl. John McDougal, secretary; Sgt. Ronald Alonso, treasurer;
and three trustees, Cpl. Jessie Menendez, Sgt. Bill McGahan and Sgt. Mark
The International Union of Police Association represents approximately
80,000 active duty law enforcement officers in the United State, Puerto
Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada. It is the only law enforcement
union chartered by the AFL-CIO that exclusively represents law enforcement
State leaders hope to get Corridor H construction started
by Troy Graham
CHARLESTON State Transportation Secretary Sam
Bonasso anticipates the long-delayed construction of the final 100 miles
of Corridor H will begin once studies on the highways impact on historical
sites are completed.
Officials say those studies can be completed in eight months.
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the state
must complete the historical impact studies along the entire route before
continuing construction. The state had previously decided to conduct the
studies as the road was built.
Although the ruling will hold up construction until at least late summer,
state officials and lawmakers who support the road declared victory Wednesday,
describing the historical studies as a temporary roadblock.
The court ruling is a major win for the people
of West Virginia, said House Majority Leader Joe Martin in a speech to
the House of Delegates. Were going to go ahead and build Corridor H.Delegate
Bill Proudfoot, D-Randolph, also said he was pleased with the court ruling.
Itd be nice to look out there and see some work going on, he said. You
cant totally stop progress. You can slow it down a bit. The road is going
to be built.
Bonasso was cautious, however, saying that more
challenges from opponents could arise. Although he anticipates being able
to start construction soon, it doesnt mean there wont be more attempts
to slow us down, he said.
Bonasso also said it was too early to say if construction
on some segments of the highway will start before the historical impact
studies are completed. Contracts had been awarded for construction of several
parts of the road, including a 3.5-mile bypass around Elkins. I have no
answers on any of that stuff, he said. Theres just too much going on
Bonasso said he will make the determination on whether to move forward
with construction on those segments in the coming weeks after meeting with
Division of Highways officials.
Secretary of state joins battle between
Weston City Council, towns residents
by Torie Knight
WESTON Secretary of State Ken Hechler believes
Weston residents legally should be allowed to vote on an ordinance passed
last year that raised municipal fees in the city about $90 a year.
City officials, however, say they believe many of the signatures on
a referendum petition were forged and the state hasnt done its job in
verifying the signatures.
Weston City Council approved a municipal fee ordinance
on Feb. 20, 1998, that raised municipal fees from $30 for most residents
to $120. On April 20, 1998, residents who objected to the raise submitted
1,026 petition signatures to the council. Weston City Council, however,
rejected the petitions, in a 3-1 vote, and questioned the validity of some
of the signatures.
If the petition had been done correctly, then council would have looked
at it more strongly, said Weston City Councilman John Tucci.
The residents appealed the citys decision to the
Secretary of states office. This week, Secretary of State Ken Hechler
said the number of people who signed the petitions warranted putting the
municipal fee on the ballot.
If there is a reason why this is not the case, we would appreciate
a summary of the facts involved, Hechler wrote to Weston Mayor John Burkhart.
If the issue is to be brought for a vote, it could be presented on your
upcoming general election ballot. Hechler could not be reached for comment
Of the 1,026 signatures on the petition, 822 were
registered Weston voters, according to the state. Only 758 signatures,
or 30 percent of the citys 2,528 registered voters, are required to put
an issue to vote, Hechler said in the letter.
Wednesday, council gave the letter to City Attorney Christy Smith for
a response. Smith said Wednesday that the state will have to verify the
signatures. I read it as an inquiry letter, Weston Councilman Charles
Wilson said. I think anyone like the Secretary of state wants to know
Revenues from municipal fees fund city, police,
fire and street departments and make up a large chunk of the citys budget.
In 1998, the city collected $110,000 in municipal fees, according to City
Treasurer Cyndi Donaldson.
Residents, however, want a say in the fees. If they dont get
a vote, some have said they may pursue a lawsuit, much like the lawsuit
filed by city business people who opposed the citys new business and occupation
Resident Wilma Clem said residents just feel the fee increase was too
much for one time. Increments would have been better, Clem said.
Donaldson said she has been instructed by council
to bill the nearly 3,000 municipal fees for 1999 within the next few weeks.
City officials depend on both the newly enacted business and occupation
tax and the municipal fees for revenue.
Wilson said he believes the situation will be handled professionally,
without a lawsuit. I think well try to get the matter resolved, Wilson
Florists, card shops get
ready for Valentines Day
by Julie Cryser
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
Local florists and card sellers have already started
preparing for one of the largest money-making holidays of the year and
one of the biggest headaches. People are already calling, said Lloyd
Parrish, owner of All Seasons Florist on Pike Street in Clarksburg. Its
the most aggravating holiday, normally.
Not that he minds. Valentines Day is one of the top three holidays
for flower sales, with Mothers Day and Christmas coming in just a bit
The good thing about this years Valentines Day
is that it falls on Sunday, making it much easier to handle for all involved,
Lloyd said. Flowers will be delivered on Friday and Saturday, instead of
just on one day. Delivering more than 300 orders in two days still will
be a logistical juggling act. Most florists plan on sending out orders
to schools and work places Friday, while having Saturday to send out the
more personal deliveries.
Janice Carpenter, the shop manager for Cardas Florist,
said her store will put four people on standby to help deliver the orders.
Each year its a new task of trying to figure out how its going to be,
Navonda Hayhurst, an employee with Bices Florist and Greenhouse in
Enterprise, agrees. Bices has been getting calls for Valentines Day deliveries
for the last week and has been able to split the delivery days. If you
dont have it all in one day, it helps, Hayhurst said.
According to Dorothy Mills, manager of the House
of Cards, Valentines Day is the largest holiday for card sales.
Usually its pretty slow until right before, then they pour it on,
she said. Mills said most of the card buyers are men, and they often wait
until the last moment to purchase cards, Teddy bears and gifts. And their
card selections range from heartfelt to hilarious. A lot of people dont
want to get mushy and then other people do, Miller said.
City of Weston
struggles to keep wolf away from its door
by Torie Knight
WESTON -- Weston City Council members agreed Wednesday
to pay $6,000 to the city's pension reserve, $4,000 to a construction company
for a long-time overdue paving bill and $5,000 in 911 fees that have been
owed for two months.
Council, however, still owes $6,000 to the reserve fund for three months
of no payment. And the city has made little headway in reducing a $50,000
Weston City Council evaluated the city treasurer's
department in a special meeting Wednesday. Concerns about the department
arose during the Feb. 1 regular meeting. At that time, the city had $100,000
in bills, $38,000 in the safe instead of the bank account and the treasurer
had submitted a letter of resignation in executive session.
The money in the safe was for payroll, $7,000 in
insurance costs and a few other bills, according to the city treasurer,
who says now she will stay on with the city.In the past week the city collected
$42,000 in business and occupation taxes. Most of that will go toward payroll,
Wednesday morning, City Treasurer Cyndi Donaldson
said things were going much better for the city. "Everything looks good,"
Donaldson said. "I'm very positive." Council also approved Wednesday part-time
help for Donaldson and agreed to have the computer system, which
failed three times Tuesday, checked and fixed.
Since that isn't enough to get the city out of debt,
council again decided to pay bills as revenue becomes available. Councilman
Charles Wilson, a lawyer, said the city is mandated by law to pay into
the pension fund. Councilman John Oliver said the other top priority for
the city is utilities."We need to keep our gas on and electric on," Oliver
Despite deficit, Upshur board of education decides
to keep 2 schools open
by Torie Knight
Two Upshur County schools will remain open in what
one school administrator called a bittersweet victory that still leaves
the school system searching for a way out of a $179,000 deficit. Upshur
County Board of Education members decided this week to keep open two elementary
schools in the county. The school board voted against closing Central Elementary
School in Buckhannon on Monday night before an audience of nearly 200 parents
After the vote, Upshur County Schools Superintendent
Richard Hoover withdrew his recommendation to close Rock Cave Elementary
School. The board was to meet about the proposed closing of that school
Assistant Superintendent Allen Sturm said that Hoover, who plans to
retire in four months, has the option to make another recommendation to
the board, but has already fulfilled his obligation to come up with a
plan to reduce the budget deficit.
The county school system has a $179,000 deficit
and is searching for a way out. The superintendent proposed closing the
two schools to save the money. We have not chartered another course of
action as of now, Sturm said. Rock Cave Elementary School Principal Daniel
Silbaugh said the lingering deficit is why the boards decision is bittersweet.
He fears the school could be fighting closure again next year if a solution
Silbaugh said the board didnt rely on just the
budget when it voted to keep his school and Central Elementary open. He
said they listened to the students. Keeping the schools open is good for
the parents, teachers and students who like the advantages of small schools,
he said. But the decision doesnt address whether the board will face the
same situation next year or what board members will do this year, Silbaugh
Its a big question as to what will happen next
year with our schools, Silbaugh said. Upshur County used to operate its
school system with an educational levy. Voters, however, have voted down
the last four levy attempts. The November 1998 levy failed by slightly
more than 30 votes.
An educational foundation has been established in
the county. Silbaugh said if residents donate to the foundation, it could
be used for improvements to schools. Another attempt to pass an excess
levy could be a solution, but the school board would have to pay for any
Dave McCauley, an attorney and father of a Central
Elementary School student, is asking parents and residents to donate to
the educational fund to help out the schools budget crisis. McCauley
gave $123 to the fund $1 for each student at Central Elementary School.
He is encouraging others to do the same. Unless we find an avenue to find
money, we are going to be in the same dire straits, Silbaugh said.