Transit Authority adds to fleet
by Torie Knight
The Central West Virginia Transit Authority in Clarksburg
will put two new vans into operation today that will allow it to transport
even more disabled residents. CENTRA, which transports 400 to 600 disabled
people every month, bought the new, 12-seater vans from the state Division
of Public Transportation. The state agency converted 16 passenger vans
and equipped them with wheelchair lifts.
Not only will more people be able to ride now, but
CENTRA also will be able to open new routes. The new vans, purchased for
about $40,000 a piece, are smaller and easier to maneuver on rural roads.
Manager Robert Boylan said he hopes to start serving new routes that other
buses are too big to get in and out of state Route 20 and routes through
Flemington and Quiet Dell.
new vans also could be used to start a tri-county
bussing system between Harrison, Marion and Monongalia counties. If CENTRA
goes into other counties, it will give riders access to jobs and education
and healthcare facilities outside Harrison County, Boylan said. CENTRA
doesnt travel outside of Harrison County limits at present. With the
newer, smaller size vans we can expand services to more remote areas of
the county and city where larger buses are too big to operate, Boylan
said. It will enhance our service to the elderly and the disabled.
About 83 percent of CENTRA riders depend on the
bus as their only means of transportation, according to surveys. Some 47
percent of CENTRA riders use the bus five or more days a week. Only 3 percent
of bus riders make more than $25,000 a year. Most of the disabled riders
are en route to dialysis or doctors appointments. Other frequent trips
are to work and social activities, Boylan said. CENTRA will be able to
use five vans and pick up more clients.
On Friday, about 30 trips were made to pick
up and return disabled clients in Harrison County.We will be able to do
more, Boylan said. This allows us to give them door-to-door service.
The federal government funded 80 percent of the project, while 20 percent
came from the $800,000 bus levy in Harrison County. That levy allows the
authority to give van rides that average 60 cents to $1 for disabled clients.
Senior citizens get a discounted price that averages
about 30 cents per ride. It allows us to have some of the lowest fairs
in the state, Boylan said.Gov. Cecil Underwood, who presented the vans,
said he hopes the vans will be utilized to improve quality of life in rural
areas.These state-of-the-art vans no doubt will go a long way toward helping
our elderly and disabled population, Underwood said.
IRS branch extends hours to aid harried taxpayers
by Paul Leakan
Mark Ribas sees the anxiety and confusion every
year. Hundreds of area residents line up at his office, sorting through
armloads of paper, searching for answers, and racing against The Deadline.
Ribas, an Internal Revenue Service agent in Bridgeport,
knows how hard it can be for people to complete their tax forms before
the April 15 deadline. Hes seen how much help people need and how little
time they have to get that help.
In years past, we were not open during lunchtime, Ribas said. And
for a lot of people, thats the only time they can come. The race against
time, however, may be less of a problem for taxpayers this year.
In an attempt to deliver on its promise to provide
more assistance to taxpayers, the IRS has begun to extend its hours of
operation on Saturday. We listened to our customers and realized that
we needed to be more accessible to our customers after the 9 to 5 shift,
said Joy Perkins, spokesperson for the Virginia-West Virginia district
of the IRS.
The IRS branch in Bridgeport, which is located on 11 Chenoweth Drive
off U.S. Route 50, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It will open its doors on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until April
The IRS will help prepare 1040-EZ, 1040-A and 1040
tax forms at no cost. Anyone who wants help with their tax forms
should bring last years tax returns and all W-2 income forms and 1099
documents. Ribas said that residents are already taking advantage of the
extra hours. Lines have begun to form outside the door, he said.
State employees will join the local IRS to help
taxpayers prepare their forms on Feb. 6 and 13 and April 3 and 10.
In addition, the IRS toll-free helpline is available for taxpayers
24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number, 1-800-829-1040, will operate
from now until April 15. The IRS expects to receive around 126 million
tax returns in 1999, including those from more than 850,000 taxpayers in
West Virginia. Ribas said that the next few weeks are simply going to be
wild. And thats why he believes the latest efforts to improve service
is essential. A lot of people appreciate the help were giving, he said.
Were increasing our service to taxpayers. And I think its what we have
Woman wants English declared official language in
by Paul Leakan
Trudy Slater said she has nothing against diversity
or the influence of other cultures. She just believes everyone in America
should be able to communicate in one language. That language, she said,
should be English.
Slater, a 62-year-old resident of Gerrardstown in
Berkeley County and mother of two, adamantly believes that English should
be the official language of the United States.
Her mission could be achieved if all the states declare English as
their official language. At the moment, 25 of the 50 states have passed
legislation to do so. West Virginia, she said, should be next.
Since July 1998, Slater has amassed nearly 600 signatures
on a petition calling for the state Legislature to make English the states
official language. And her efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Delegate John R. Overington, R-Berkeley, is sponsoring
a bill that would make West Virginia the 26th state to declare English
as its official language. But while Slater and other state citizens passionately
plea for the movement, the chances of passing the bill hinges on
one big question: Why, in West Virginia, would it even be necessary?
That questions falls largely on the shoulders of the House of Delegates
Judiciary Committee. Similar bills supporting the movement have died there
the past few years.
Rick Staton, D-Wyoming and chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, has been searching for reasons why he should move the bill forward.
Personally, I think there has to be a real demonstrated need thats specific
to West Virginia. In the past, I havent run it because I havent seen
it as a problem here. Slater said there may not necessarily be a need
for the legislation right now. But she worries that the future will bring
more immigrants into the state who cant speak English.
We are becoming a very populated state with foreign nationals. Whether
they be Hispanics, from the Near East or from all over the world, they
are coming in with industry into West Virginia.
Slater believes an increase of immigrants into the
state may force the school system into using bilingual education. Bilingual
education, an ongoing controversy in California, has not been effective
because it doesnt teach immigrants English early enough, she said. Slater
said she witnessed the problem while she was a part-time teacher at Rockville
High School in Maryland. She believes the foreign students struggle in
these programs. The programs basically teach students English as a second
language and at a slower pace, with teachers speaking in the students
home language most of the time. They dont get to speak English. It makes
it more difficult for them to learn English and to assimilate into society.
Unless you speak English in the United States, you are handicapped.
That problem, however, hasnt existed in West Virginia,
said Rick Belcastro, coordinator of the English as a Second Language policy
in Harrison County.
The state has been effective in teaching foreign students English,
Belcastro said. And the legislation would probably have little or no effect
on the states education system anyway, he said. Even if it did, that may
not be a good enough reason for legislators to support the movement, said
Delegate Larry Linch, D-Harrison. Its not one of the more pressing issues
that we need to be paying attention to, Linch said. I dont perceive
the problem in this state as in other states.
Linch believes the movement may simply come down to patriotism.
Its kind of a quagmire when you really get into
it. I think to most people, its a patriotic thing more than something
thats really significant or a problem in the state.
But patriotism has led to other less important movements in America,
Slater said. We have an American flag, and we have an American bird. And
I think making English the official language is much more important as
those, she said. Either way, public sentiment on the issue, additional
information and the Legislatures workload could be the deciding factors
in whether the movement becomes a reality, Staton said.
Every bill has its advantages and disadvantages.
I know there is opposition to this bill. There are people that do not want
it whether or not we have a large immigrant population. And I want to
find out those reasons to see if theres any validity to them, he said.
We have a lot on our plate, and if its something thats needed and I
can run with it very quickly, I probably can do it. But if its something
thats going to be controversial and bog down the committees work ...
then I dont know.
Groups fight to clean up, protect watershed
by Torie Knight
Its time to protect those downstream. Thats a
message local groups like the Tygart Valley Watershed Development and Preservation
Alliance are sending to those living near the Tygart River.
The water of the Tygart is polluted, and years of
coal mining along the Tygart River has resulted in acid mine drainage.
A lawsuit against the state, settled in 1997, requires that about 500
rivers, streams and lakes in West Virginia be brought up to fishable and
swimmable conditions within the next 10 years. The Tygart and Cheat rivers
are at the top of that list. The deadline to remove pollutants from those
rivers is March 30, 2001.
That leaves a short time to remove years of pollutants.
Thats why the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection
are turning to local residents and groups like the watershed organization
for help. Tom Henry, who heads the cleanup program for the federal EPA,
said local people know the most about land characteristics, river usage
and water quality. They are the stakeholders, Henry said. They know
the area a lot better.
Anyone who lives or works in the watershed or is
interested in its welfare is considered as a stakeholder by the EPAs definition.
Henry said the goal is to make the waters as clean as possible. For residents
living in the seven-county region of the Tygart-Valley Watershed, which
stretches from Pocahontas to Monongalia counties, that may sound like a
After all, they drink, bathe and cook in water that comes from the
Barbour County resident Whitni Kines joined the
Tygart Valley Watershed Group because the river is a daily part of her
life. She also realizes that anything done to the river has an impact on
everyone who lives downstream, not just Barbour County residents. Why do
the members of the watershed group care? Because they drink the water.
In Philippi, for example, all of the citys water
supply comes from the Tygart River. About 85 percent of Barbour Countys
water supply also comes from the river. And, people fish and swim in it.
But, as members of the watershed organization say, one county cant do
a cleanup without those upstream also participating. Otherwise, debris
will continue to float downstream. Whatever you do along the river will
affect other people, Kines said. Somebody lives downstream. Dont
do to us what you wouldnt want someone to do to you.
The watershed now has members from Taylor, Barbour,
Monongalia, Marion, Randolph and Pocahontas counties.
Karen Weaver, another Barbour County member, said the main plans are
to make everyone aware of the importance of the river and to try and gain
collaboration for cleanup efforts.
Preserving the watershed and bringing recreational
river development are other goals once the water is clean.
Perry McDaniel, a Charleston attorney who brought the water pollution
case against the state, said the battle was over clean water. No monetary
awards were awarded in the case. With the suit settled, the goal is to
clean and develop West Virginia waterways with a plan, much like the 10-year
plan developed by the EPA. Past development has left us with an environmental
problem, McDaniel said. We dont want to lose recreation waters in the
tourism state. We need to plan smart development.
Fire destroys Shinnston apartments
From Staff Reports
At least three Shinnston residents had to find a
place to stay after an afternoon fire destroyed a two-story apartment building
at 71 1/2 Maloy Court in downtown Shinnston Sunday.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighters from eight units responded to the 3
p.m. fire that destroyed most of the apartment building owned by Wilma
Vanorder. Vanorder said she had owned the building for about three years
and estimated the worth of the building at $40,000 to $50,000.
I was at the mall and they called me on the cell phone, Vanorder
said, as she watched firemen continue to hose down the building. Shinnston
Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jimmy Spadafore said the cause of the fire
is unknown. He believes, however, that it was accidental and the state
fire marshals office wont likely be called in to investigate.
The heat from the fire was so intense that it melted the plastic table
mats on neighbor Clara Reesmans kitchen table. The mats were just inside
her sliding glass door, about 100 feet from the burning building. It also
melted the siding on the back of the house Reesman lives in, also owned
Firefighters, however, kept the fire from spreading
to several other buildings located within just a few feet of the fire.
Neighbors in the area said the same building burned in March 1987.
Vanorder said she would help the three apartment residents find other apartments
in which to live. The names of the three renters were not immediately available.
Responding to the fire were the Shinnston, Lumberport, Spelter, Worthington,
Bridgeport, Nutter Fort, Stonewood and Monongah fire departments, as well
as the Harrison County EMS and Clay-Eagle EMS.