News for July 1, 1999
CNG, Dominion stockholders OK merger
by Troy Graham
Consolidated Natural Gas and Dominion Resources stockholders have overwhelmingly
approved combining the two companies, clearing another hurdle toward completing
The merger must still be approved by several federal and state regulatory
agencies, including the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which
has scheduled a meeting on the matter in July.
The combination of the Pittsburgh-based CNG, which has two subsidiaries
in Clarksburg, and the Virginia-based Dominion Resources would create the
nation's largest fully integrated natural gas and power company. Dominion's
main subsidiary is Virginia Power.
At special stockholder meetings in Richmond, Va., and Tarrytown, N.Y.,
98 percent of the votes cast by CNG stockholders favored the merger, while
99 percent of the votes cast by Dominion stockholders approved of the move,
the companies reported Wednesday.
"We are gratified by the strong support shown for the combination of
these two great companies," said CNG Chairman George A. Davidson in a statement.
"It is clear that our shareholders, as well as our customers, employees,
retirees and communities, will all benefit from this merger."
The merged company will use the Dominion name, but will maintain its
presence in Pittsburgh and Clarksburg, CNG officials have said.
The "votes today are important steps in uniting two of the country's
most efficient energy providers with the critical mass needed to compete
and thrive in the nation's dynamic marketplace," said Dominion Chairman
Thomas E. Capps.
Under the terms of the agreement, CNG stockholders will receive a combination
of Dominion stock and cash valued at $66.60 per share of CNG stock.
The combined company will have 4 million customers, company officials
CNG will begin selling electricity in its deregulated markets once
the merger is complete, and the two companies have already agreed to build
four natural gas-fired electric generating plants, including one in Pleasants
"We are already showing why this merger makes good business sense,"
Playing with fire
Battle to collect $201,172.86 from businesses and residents rages on
by Paul Leakan
The legality of Clarksburg's fire service fee may have been left intact
by the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals, but the battle to retrieve hundreds
of thousands of dollars of unpaid fire fees continues.
A list of delinquent fire service fees owed to the City of Clarksburg,
obtained by the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram Wednesday through a Freedom
of Information Act request, shows that hundreds of businesses and residents
owe more than $100.
The grand total: $201,172.86.
The good news for the city is that the Supreme Court's decision not
to hear legal challenges to the fire fee may have ended a 15-year legal
battle with City Councilwoman Kathryn Folio, who along with other Folio
family members, owns businesses that owe about $50,000 in back fire service
Members of the Folio family had refused to pay the fee, arguing that
it was unconstitutional.
The court's decision will give the city a "stronger argument" to use
when collecting the fees, said City Manager Percy Ashcraft.
"Whatever legal maneuvers that we have to take, we're prepared to do
so because we now have solid ground that this fee has withstood every court
test and that there's no shadow of a doubt that it is a fair assessment
in the city," he said on Tuesday.
Frank Ferrari, Clarksburg's finance director, agreed.
"It has to help us," Ferrari said, "because now they can't use that
as an excuse not to pay."
Even so, several people who owe thousands of dollars in back fire fees
still disagree with the fee or simply don't have the money to pay it.
Larry Iaquinta said he has nothing against paying the fees. His business,
Iaquinta & Sons Plumbing, owes more than $2,000 in back fire fees.
Paying the fees is just not economically possible right now, he said.
"It's a debt that's owed. It will be paid. It's a vacant building,
and it's not being rented. I would like it to be rented. Sometimes you
have to slack back on certain things and you do what you can do."
Louis Oliveto, who owes $1,484 in back fire fees, believes the fee
"A tax on the gross or any other tax or fee based on anything but net
income amounts to rape of its citizens, especially a small businessman,"
Home owners pay $60 a year for fire service, while commercial property
owners pay 45 cents per square foot of property.
Kathryn Folio said she will pay the fees in the case rejected by the
Supreme Court, but she still disagrees with the fee so much that she plans
to fight part of the total amount she owes.
"There isn't anyone who doesn't want to support the fire department
or the police department," she said. "But at what point do you say, 'What
do I have to pay all theses taxes for -- plus a levy?'"
Several city officials, however, do believe the fee is both necessary
and fair. So fair and necessary that the city has spent $110,000 of "taxpayer
money" fighting court battles over it in the 1990s, Ashcraft said.
The fee, enacted in 1984, generates more than $750,000 annually, or
39 percent of the fire department's budget.
Some of those who can't afford to pay it have filed for personal bankruptcy
and their debts no longer have to be paid.
Many are taken to court where the city could win a judgment that would
allow it to collect the fees by garnishing businesses' or residents' wages.
Ferrari believes the city has done just about as much as it can to
get the fees, sending out letters to all businesses and residents that
have not paid them and working out an agreement with those who are financially
unable to pay it in monthly installments.
"Basically, our only option is to go to court to try and collect the
money -- other than to send them letters and call them," he said. "Some
people refuse to pay, and some people just can't afford to pay."
I-79 crash victim listed as critical
by James Fisher
A Monongah woman remains in critical condition at Ruby Memorial Hospital
after a car crash Tuesday afternoon on Interstate 79 near the FBI Road
Bonnie Jo Lambert, 41, was driving south about 2 p.m. Tuesday in the
right-hand lane when she crossed in front of a six-wheeled truck in the
passing lane, said Bridgeport Police Officer J.E. Harbert.
Lambert was apparently attempting to use a gravel cross-over access
road to get to the northbound lanes, Harbert said.
When Lambert crossed the left-hand lane, her vehicle was struck broadside
by a truck driven by Terry Corbin, a contractor for C.W. Stickley Inc.
of White Hall. Corbin said Lambert's vehicle crossed right in front of
him and he didn't have time to avoid striking her.
Lambert had not regained consciousness by late Wednesday afternoon,
Harbert said, and she has not been interviewed by police. But Harbert has
determined she was at fault for the accident.
"Even if she remembers anything, she won't be cited," Harbert said.
"We did the investigation for insurance purposes to determine fault. We're
all just hoping and praying she pulls through."
Despite a rain downpour late Tuesday that hampered the police investigation,
Harbert said officers were able to finish the majority of the accident
Corbin's truck sustained moderate damage to the grill and front bumper.
Lambert's compact car was declared a total loss.
Lewis County's economic future bright
by Troy Graham
Todd Stahl was looking for the right location for his company's new
plant when someone mentioned to him that West Virginia has a good website
that advertises available property.
Stahl then called someone from the state Development Office who encouraged
him to come down while he was inspecting property in Pennsylvania.
"I thought, 'Okay, I have a couple of hours to kill,'" Stahl said.
That first visit evolved into Wednesday's announcement that Stahl's
company, Viking Pools, will locate a plant in Jane Lew that will employ
The California-based company, which was started by Stahl's father,
will locate its newest plant in the Lewis County Industrial Park, just
off Interstate 79.
At a ceremony there Wednesday, local and state politicians, including
Gov. Cecil Underwood, talked of a bright economic future in Lewis County.
Stahl even referred to the county as the "gateway to the Northeast."
"I am more enthused and optimistic about Lewis County than I have been
in many years," said Charles Stalnaker, the president of the Lewis County
Economic Development Authority.
From Stahl's perspective, the location of the industrial park was key.
His company operates in California, Florida and Texas. Its new location
allows the company to tap into northeastern markets, he said.
In addition, the workforce is available here, Stahl said.
On a personal level, Stahl, who will move to Lewis County, said the
area reminded him of his northern California home.
"It's pretty and I don't like big cities," Stahl said.
The new plant will manufacture fiberglass pools in a 4-stage process.
An innovator in making fiberglass pools when it was founded in 1975, Viking
is now the nation's largest pool manufacturer.
"Fast installation, easy maintenance, it'll last forever," Stahl said
of the pools. "I can't build enough pools now.
The Lewis County plant should be ready for manufacturing by early 2000,
Stahl said. There will be 30 manufacturing jobs there, as well as 10 office
positions and 10 drivers, he said. The manufacturing jobs will pay $7-10
an hour, he said.
Viking will invest $2.5 million in the 40,000-square foot plant.
Girls Inc. provides realistic business experience
by Shawn Gainer
Jennifer Cava sat in front of her computer Wednesday morning, pondering
changes in advertising graphic designs for her computer consulting firm.
"I'm in the marketing division," Cava said. "I'm in charge of advertising
for our company. I make signs and fliers and figure out their cost and
I'm also doing payroll."
Cava is a freshman at Notre Dame High School. While her company, Tangled
Cords Inc., is fictitious, this realistic exercise was designed to open
the world of entrepreneurship to her and her young "co-workers."
Her endeavors were part of the one-week Girls Inc. program at Fairmont
State College. The 2-year-old program is designed to make girls in grades
7-10 aware of business practices and opportunities. Participants work in
teams to develop business plans and receive training in business skills
such as communication, ethics and networking, said Sabrina Chadwell, founder
and director of Girl's Inc. and operator of the training education firm
On The Edge.
Participants appeared to have learned quickly. Many could use business
jargon like they had spent years in a corporate boardroom.
Becky Nestor, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School, was working
on an executive summary and financial plan for Tangled Cords.
"We would do troubleshooting for computer users," Nestor explained.
"We want to make it available to the general public with a special concern
for larger businesses."
Chadwell said she developed the program because she was 40 years old
before she realized she could have a business of her own, and she wants
to clear the path for others.
"Women in West Virginia have wonderful opportunities in business but
they need to know it. They don't get it in schools," she said. "I think
it's a little harder for girls because, starting in sixth grade, they start
becoming divided into girls' fields and boys' fields.
"You don't see a lot of women in the computer programming and computer
software industry," she added.
The program is co-sponsored by the West Virginia Small Business Development
Center. Participants pay a $60 fee for the program but question-free scholarships
are available to defray the cost, Chadwell said.
"We also want to get them started at an early age so they can plan
ahead to take the classes they will need in high school. That's very important
with block scheduling," she added.
The program has seeded entrepreneurial ambitions in at least
some of the participants. Rachel Tucker, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior
High School, said she was participating for a second year and hopes to
someday operate her own art business.
"I learned a lot last year, but this year I'm paying closer attention
and learning more," Tucker said as she typed a financial plan for a coffee
house. "I like playing around with numbers."
Fireworks legal, but still dangerous
by Jessica Laton
In the wake of a fire allegedly started Tuesday by an 11-year-old boy
playing with fireworks in his bedroom, local fire officials say they want
to remind parents and children that fireworks aren't just fun -- they are
The fire, which allegedly started when a firework the boy was playing
with caught his bed on fire, caused $30,000 in damage to a Nutter Fort
house. The family dog died in the fire.
"We want to prevent this from happening to another kid since it is
so close to the Fourth," said Nutter Fort Fire Chief Tom Rohrbough. "We
want to express safety."
Children between the ages of 10 and 14 run the greatest risk of being
injured while misusing fireworks -- illegal and legal, according to the
state Fire Marshal's Office.
"The No. 1 thing is parental supervision," said Capt. Rick Lafferty
of the Clarksburg Fire Department. "It's common sense. If people just use
their heads and not just hand them to the kids --you might as well hand
them a gun."
Approximately 7,000 fireworks-related injuries occur every year in
the United States and 2,000 of those are eye injuries, according to the
American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Other injuries include severe burns, amputations, permanent hearing
loss and death.
Fireworks also cause millions of dollars in property damage every year,
according to the Fire Marshal's Office.
"Very honestly, we don't condone the use of any of these items. None
of these items are safe for use," said Carol Nolte, public education officer
for the Fire Marshal's Office. "We recommend people go see professional
displays that are put on by trained pyrotecs."
Most fireworks are illegal in West Virginia.
Any fireworks that explode or propel through the air are prohibited
by law. These include cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80s and firecrackers.
Violation of the fireworks law is a citable offense and can lead to
According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, if
one M-80 explodes in someone's hand, it can take off fingers or put out
West Virginia allows fireworks known as sparklers and novelties. These
include smoke devices, "snakes," "poppers," wire sparklers and other sparkling
devices that emit showers of sparks.
These devices, however, cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 16.
"These novelties should only be put off with the supervision of an
adult," said Randy Akers, assistant state fire marshal.
Although sparklers and novelties are legal, Nolte said they can still
be extremely dangerous.
"Sparklers can burn as hot as 1,200 degrees or more, almost enough
to melt gold and hotter than a cigarette lighter," she said. "We don't
hand those to our children."
Search is on for new director of Harrison County's Development Authority
The Harrison County Development Authority has begun searching for a candidate
with at least seven years of experience to replace Executive Director Ray
Farley, who is leaving at the end of the week for a position in the Midwest.
Don Molter, the authority's president, will handle the day-to-day duties
until a successor can be found.
The vacancy has been advertised on the American Economic Development
Council's website, and an ad will soon appear in papers in Morgantown,
Fairmont and Clarksburg, as well as Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., Molter
"The search is on," he said. "We're open-minded and we want the best
person for the job. But, obviously, there are some absolutes."
Candidates must has seven years' experience "with a proven record of
success," according to the advertisement.
The ad says, "Harrison County has one of West Virginia's most vibrant
economies, driven by growth in the information technology and aerospace
It will take at least two to three months to find a successor, Molter
Jeff Mikorski and Randy Spellman, who handle economic development for
Clarksburg and Bridgeport respectively, have agreed to assist Molter if
he is unavailable to handle the authority's duties, Molter said.
Farley is not leaving any major projects unfinished, Molter said.
The announcement this month that a telemarketing firm will locate in
downtown Clarksburg capped the last major initiative on which Farley was
working, Molter said.
Salary is not discussed in the advertisement, but it promises a "competitive
Salary will be negotiable, based on a candidate's qualifications, Molter
Molter refused to say how much Farley makes.
The authority is a non-profit corporation, and the executive director
reports to a 21-member board.
Local and regional news briefs
Clarksburg City Hall steps will be made safer
The Clarksburg Municipal Building Commission approved three measures Wednesday
that may improve the safety at a stairwell in the Municipal Building where
several people have fallen down.
Three stairs connecting the landing and the building's lobby on the
city manager's side of the building may not have been noticed by several
people who have fallen there.
One woman who fell near the steps more than two weeks ago still remains
in stable condition at United Hospital Center.
To improve safety, the commission approved the installation of a new
railing in the middle of the steps, a lighter color linoleum on the steps
and warning signs near the steps.
Both flights of stairs on the city manager's and police department's
side of the building will receive the new safety measures as soon as the
supplies are available, said City Manager Percy Ashcraft.
The total cost of the improvements is estimated at $300.
Three Clarksburg Council members set to be sworn in
Three new Clarksburg City Council members will be sworn in and a new mayor
and vice mayor will be elected during council's regular 7:30 p.m. session
today in the Municipal Building.
David Kates, Becky Lake and Margaret Bailey will be sworn in to four-year
terms on council.
Council members will elect both the mayor and vice mayor.
Ridgeway Drive work will slow traffic in Bridgeport
Reconstruction of a portion of Ridgeway Drive in Bridgeport will begin
on July 6. Construction limits will extend from Johnson Avenue approximately
1,050 feet toward Wayside Drive. Access to homes within the construction
area will be maintained, although some delays are possible. Residents on
upper Ridgeway are urged to use alternate access via Valley Drive.
In addition to the reconstruction work in the road, storm drains and
drop inlets will be rebuilt. The storm drains will be on the left side
of Ridgeway going from Johnson Avenue to Wayside Drive.
Persons with questions can contact the Bridgeport Department of Public
Works at 842-8231.
Two days after boating accident, body is found
HUNTINGTON (AP) -- The body of a man was found Wednesday on the Ohio
River, two days after he was thrown into the water when his motorboat collided
with a tow boat.
Sonar equipment and helicopters were called in to help search for Kevin
Sweptson, 46, of Huntington.
The accident occurred Monday night when Sweptson and two other men
were cruising the river between Proctorville, Ohio, and the Guyandotte
section of Huntington, a state DNR spokesman said. The two passengers,
Joe Dehart, of Huntington, and John Holderby, of Proctorville, were rescued
by the tow boat's crew. Both men were treated and released from St. Mary's
Hospital in Huntington.
No one on the tow boat was injured.
An investigation by the Coast Guard and the DNR concluded that Sweptson's
boat was traveling at a high rate of speed when it cut into the path of
the larger boat.
Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg,
WV 26302 USA
Copyright © Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999