News for July 27, 1999

Students from 3-county region attend Junior Police Academy

By Gail Marsh
Staff writer
It could have been a scene from the first day of Army boot camp.
Uniformed recruits standing in long lines in the hot sun, waiting for the next order from the commanding officer.
"Don't move! Don't pick it, scratch it or bite it! You're at attention!" the officer bellowed in a loud voice as he inspected the ranks.
"Yes sir!" came the resounding reply.
 For the last week, more than 180 students from Harrison, Marion and Doddridge counties have opted to attend the 1999 Harrison County Junior Police Academy, headquartered at the West Milford Elementary School. The students, ages 7 and up, are spending every day for two weeks attending the academy to learn more about professional police training and the basics of respect, discipline and good citizenship.
Academy activities this year include swimming, horseback riding and camping along with classes on fire prevention, CPR training, gun safety and police procedures.
Shari Webb, 15, is attending the academy for the second year and serves as a captain. The Robert C. Byrd High School student said the camp may be work, but it's also rewarding.
"It's fun really to come out and work with the younger kids. A lot of people just sit around and do nothing during the summer, and I'd rather be here," she said.
Webb said she has already seen a difference in the younger students after just one week.
"These little kids come here and don't know what to do, but they're beginning to say 'Yes, ma'am and Yes, sir' and are learning to salute the flag. It's great," Webb said.
Josh Kuhens, 7, is a first-year student and said he knows what he likes to do best, and least.
"I like to do the marching, that's fun, but the hardest thing is push-ups," the Big Elm Elementary School student said.
The Salem Police Department has hosted the academy for the last three years and Salem Police Chief Todd Howell is the officer in charge. Howell said the academy is the best way to help children identify with their local police officers.
"We teach our children not to talk with strangers, and sometimes the police officers can be the biggest strangers in the neighborhood. This helps break down some of the stereotypes and gives the kids a chance to work with us on a personal level," Howell said.
Joshua Voigt, 17, of Baltimore, Md., who attends the Miracle Meadows School, agreed that the academy is a good way to introduce students to a more disciplined lifestyle.
"Back where I'm from there's a lot of kids just running the streets with nothing to do. A camp like this gives the kids somewhere to go and gives them something fun to do while they learn about respect and discipline," he said.

Settlement in mountaintop suit now in judge's hands

by Martha Bryson Hodel
CHARLESTON -- A proposed consent decree settling most issues in a lawsuit challenging mountaintop removal strip mining was turned in Monday for the approval of the federal judge overseeing the case.
The proposal represents "substantial progress towards achieving positive and innovative changes in the regulation of surface mining in West Virginia," the court filing said.
But U.S. District Judge Charles Haden still must resolve a dispute over how the state Division of Environmental Protection enforces a "buffer zone" rule that prohibits mining within 100 feet of larger streams.
The judge must decide whether the buffer zone applies when strip mine operations use a streambed to dispose of left-over rock and dirt, a practice known as valley fill. If he rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could effectively ban the practice.
The proposed decree also does not settle the future of Arch Coal Inc.'s proposed Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County. At 3,100 acres, the mine would be the largest permit ever issued by the state.
On Friday, Arch Coal Inc. closed down a related mine, laying off at least 200 workers. Arch's Hobet Mining subsidiary said it has exhausted the supply of coal at the mine until it can begin work on the adjacent Spruce mine.
The consent decree filed with the court Monday leaves the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other plaintiffs free to challenge the state's decision to issue that permit.
As a result, intervenors Hobet Mining Inc. and the United Mine Workers of America did not join in the request for approval of the consent decree.
Hobet and the UMWA did join in a request to delay the scheduled Aug. 2 trial on the Spruce mine permit. In that motion, Hobet agreed to modify its mining plan for the proposed Spruce mine.
Haden issued an injunction in March, blocking the start of any work on the Spruce mine.
Under the proposed consent decree, the conservancy would retain the right to challenge any actions they believe may be illegal that are taken by the state Division of Environmental Protection after July 1, 1999.
DEP Director Michael P. Miano agrees with the proposed settlement, but was unable to join in the motion presenting the proposal to the judge.
According to filings with the court, state law prohibits him from signing such a decree without first asking for public comment.
"Therefore, the director has, today, notified the attorney general, the president of the state senate, the Speaker of the House of Delegates and the Secretary of State of his desire to assent to the attached decree and asked for the public comment contemplated by law," the motion to enter the consent decree said.
The UMWA and Hobet said they would outline its objections to the consent decree, if any, during that public comment period.
Monday's filing also said that all parties agree that the dispute over the buffer zone rule can be resolved without the need for a full-scale trial.
"The parties agree that those issues are appropriate for resolution on summary judgment," the filing said.
A hearing should be scheduled "as soon as possible" to answer any questions from the judge, the filings said.
The motion requesting the judge to approve the consent decree warned that it may still take some time to resolve all the details.
"Negotiators have worked for weeks to reach this point," the motion said. "The consent decree and attached working papers show the complex nature of the provisions at issue.
"Not only will it take a significant amount of time to draft the complete regulations and policies, but it will also take much time to receive approval from federal regulators. The parties, therefore, agree that more time is required to implement the provisions of the decree."
The motion said the parties propose reporting to the judge on their progress by Sept. 1, 1999, "or at the court's direction."

Clarksburg Police shifts revamped

By James Fisher
staff writer
Financial and manpower problems in the Clarksburg Police Department are causing a shakeup with the shifts police officers work, city and police officials said Monday.
The department's Community Action Team (CAT), a group of officers who worked during high-crime times, will be disbanded effective Aug. 1, said Capt. Ronald Williams.
The three officers will be put back on regular shifts, bringing the complement of officers for each shift to nine.
The CAT shift officers usually worked 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., Williams said, supplementing the department's evening and midnight shifts.
By putting these officers back on regular shifts, Williams hopes to reinforce the officers on the streets.
"This will add one more officer to each shift, which hopefully will keep them from running from call to call," Williams said.
"A lot of times, the officers are backed up on calls and don't have time for any patrolling."
City Manager Percy Ashcraft said the decision to disband the CAT shift was more financial than manpower.
"It's summer and we've got officers on vacation and taking comp time," he said. "We kind of got hit with some short shifts and needed to get some officers in there."
Ashcraft said the city and the department are committed to having at least four officers on the streets at all times.
With officer vacations and comp time, the department ran the risk of incurring overtime if more officers were not added to the shifts, he said.
Adding to potential future manpower woes, between three and six officers may be leaving the department by January. Six officers have tested for employment with the West Virginia State Police. Three of the officers are in the final stages of the hiring process and could go to the State Police Academy as early as October. Three more are on track to enter the January class.
"This could affect our manpower," Williams said. "If we lose three guys in October, we'd be back to eight officers per shift. Any time you lose officers, it can affect things."
Ashcraft said it is too soon for the city to begin examining replacing the officers but said a plan is in place should the need arise.
"City council has not officially addressed any rumors that we may be losing manpower," he said. "I know officers have taken the tests and the possibility does exist. However, we have a civil service register we can look to immediately if anyone chooses to leave."
The register is a list of applicants who have passed an entry test. However, even hiring someone from the list will not provide an immediate replacement.
After an applicant is hired, he or she must still attend the State Police Academy for three months and then ride with a training officer for an additional three months, Williams said.
"Losing experienced officers hurts," Ashcraft said. "Every municipality goes through it, but I wouldn't want to see it on a large scale."

Buckhannon officers will use bicycles next year

By Gail Marsh
Staff writer
Police officers in the City of Buckhannon will be taking it to the streets next spring when the department launches a program to get officers out of their police cruisers and onto bicycles.
Chief Fred Gaudet said the new program is part of the plan to help make city police officers more visible in the community.
"It will give us a better chance to get our officers out in the community to talk with people and to allow people to get to know the officers. It's an important step in helping to prevent crime," the chief said.
Gaudet said he has been in law enforcement since 1971 and has seen police officers move from being proactive to being reactive. He believes some of the old methods worked better.
"Too many times officers just ride around in police cars and wait for a call to come in. It will be better for them to be out on the streets where they can help to prevent problems before they start," he said.
Police departments in Morgantown, Charleston, Beckley and Martinsburg are already using bicycle patrols, but Buckhannon will be the first small city in the state to put the program into practice.
"The idea really came from the younger officers in the department who are anxious to get things rolling," Gaudet said.
The department plans to purchase four bicycles for the city's seven-person force and will have officers riding in pairs throughout the city.
He said it will cost about $2,000 per officer for the bikes, car racks, uniforms and training. Part of the cost should be covered by federal dollars.
Gaudet has been speaking to local service organizations to solicit money to help fund the program. Once the funding is secured, Gaudet said the equipment will be ordered and the four participating officers will attend a 40-hour training program at Marshall University.
Will Gaudet take part in the bicycle patrol?
"No, I'm not going to be one of the riders. It's the younger officers that will be doing that," he said with a laugh.

23 deaths blamed on oppressive heat wave

The Associated Press
Scorching heat gripped the eastern third of the country on Monday, continuing a hot spell that has been blamed for at least 23 deaths -- including an elderly Illinois woman found inside her 102-degree home.
Heat advisories were posted Monday from Kansas eastward through the Ohio Valley, and over parts of the Southeast. Temperatures throughout the region hit the 90s and reached triple digits with the heat index.
The weather was blamed on seven deaths in Cincinnati over the weekend, 11 deaths in Illinois in the past week and five in Missouri.
In West Peoria, Ill., a neighbor found the body of 82-year-old Helen Lane on Saturday. All the windows in her home were closed and her air conditioner had broken; the temperature inside was 102.
"The heat's not going to go away," Hamilton County (Ohio) Coroner Carl L. Parrott said. "Unless people modify their behavior, there will be more deaths."
The Illinois death count included two young boys -- ages 2 and 1 1/2 -- found last week outside their home in their parents' sweltering car.
Temperatures reached 100 degrees in St. Louis on Monday, making it the hottest day of the 12-day span of 90-plus degree weather.
Hospitals in the city were reporting high numbers of cases of heat stress.
In New York state, more than 1,000 people were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration at the three-day Woodstock '99 concert.
The heat has also increased demand for air conditioning and tightened supplies of electricity.
The utility Cinergy, parent of PSI Energy which serves 655,000 customers in central and southern Indiana, said it would interrupt electrical service on Monday to certain large-volume customers under special contracts to reduce electricity loads.
Forecasts say there's no immediate relief in sight.

Property maintenance to be focus of Stonewood meeting

By Gail Marsh
Staff writer
The City of Stonewood will hold a public meeting tonight to discuss the clean-up of neglected and unkempt properties in the city limits, officials said Monday.
The meeting is set to take place at 7 p.m. at the Stonewood Fire Department.
Jim Nutter, Stonewood's mayor, said he would like to see all residents who own property in Stonewood come out for the meeting.
"Like every other area, Stonewood has a few places that are eyesores and we want to see them cleaned up. The meeting will help explain what we are doing and will allow residents to ask any questions they may have," Nutter said.
The mayor said a committee of city council members went through Stonewood street by street to determine what properties needed to be cleaned up. He said they found about 20 properties, mostly abandoned lots, that need to be mowed or need to have trash and junk removed .
"We plan to send out registered letters on the first of next week giving people 10 days to get their properties cleaned up. If they're not taken care of after that time, we'll have to take some action," he said.
Nutter said he expects most people will comply with the cleanup notice, but he said the city is prepared to hire someone to clean up the empty lots and then bill the landowner for the work. If the bill is not paid within 30 days, the city can put a lien on the property, he said.
"Most people do a good job of keeping up their properties, and we're taking these steps to encourage the others to do the same. It's something that has to be done," he said.

Policy to end high-speed police chases

CHARLESTON -- These days, when West Virginia bandits flee, Smokey thinks twice.
Based on a new State Police policy, the likelihood of a tire-squealing, high-speed, over hill-over dale, one-on-one chase is remote. And that's just as it should be, agency officials say.
"High speed chases are dangerous. Sometimes they just don't make sense," said State Police spokesman Ric Robinson.
While the image of Jackie Gleason's Sheriff Buford T. Justice chasing Burt Reynolds' Bandit in the 1970s movie "Smokey and the Bandit" is mostly good fun, such movie-style chase scenes can be uncomfortably realistic.
"The way it is in the movies is the way it used to be," said Robinson. "In the past, the trooper had the final say as to whether he would pursue a vehicle or not. The entire burden of that decision fell on that trooper."
But in November 1996 a terrible thing happened in Berkeley County. Amanda Smailes, 21, was killed when Robert Lee Sparkman Jr. slammed into the back of her car as he tried to outrun a trooper.
A crew for the Fox Television network show "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol" was filming from Trooper Kevin Plumer's cruiser during the 12-mile chase. Speeds during the chase reached more than 100 mph, Robinson said.
A lawsuit filed after the accident claimed State Police and the television crew had agreed to create and sell dramatic TV footage of the chase.
The lawsuit was settled in 1998, with Smailes' parents receiving a $775,000 settlement. But John Smailes, Amanda's father, said money was never the issue. He said he wanted police to adjust the way they go about pursuing crime suspects.
"Hopefully, there will be a lot of changes in policy," Smailes said. "That is really where our heart is."
The pursuit guidelines that went in effect this month "are directly linked to the death of Amanda Smailes," Robinson said.
The guidelines say troopers no longer can pursue by themselves. If a chase begins, troopers must notify a dispatcher immediately. The dispatcher then sends a backup cruiser to join the chase.
The dispatcher also notifies a supervising officer. At any point in the pursuit, any of the three officers involved can cancel the chase.
Coming to a school zone is enough to call off the chase. So is inclement weather, or a heavily populated area. Common sense is often to be the determining factor.
"A policy like that makes sense. Our pursuit policy has the same approach. A lead car has to phone in for backup, and a supervisor has to be notified," said Cabell County Sheriff Dallan Fields. The department's policy was adopted in 1997.
"High speed chases can get dangerous, so sometimes it just makes sense to turn off the lights and let him go. If he gets away, he gets away. You've got the license number, you can still go after him."
Often, that's when common sense should take over, Fields said.
"When you're out there, you get tunnel vision. Nobody wants the person they're chasing to get away," he said.
"But what if a rookie police officer is pursuing a guy that drove off with a tank of gasoline. You're chasing somebody over $15 worth of gas," Fields said. "It's not worth risking injury to yourself, or innocent bystanders, or even the guy with the gasoline.
"On the other hand, if it's a wanted criminal, maybe you follow," Fields said.
Although Cabell County's policy is similar to the State Police's, Fields said chase policies are not uniform throughout the state. Each county and municipal force has its own rules.
"There is no uniform policy to cover all jurisdictions. But what does happen is that people share their policies during association meetings. Counties adopt each other's policies," Field said.
Fields admitted that communicating with dispatchers when a chase begins "is a little cumbersome" for officers. But "it's for their protection, and they understand that," he said.
Pursuit policies protect the officers in court, because decisions made during a chase are shared, said Fields and Robinson.
Troopers contacted would not discuss the policy, citing its newness.
During Sparkman's criminal trial following the Amanda Smailes accident, Trooper Plumer testified he was frustrated by the chase because Sparkman refused to stop.
Sparkman, who broke his neck in the accident, received a 10-year prison sentence. He also was convicted of driving under the influence.
After the accident, the Legislature approved and Gov. Cecil Underwood signed a law increasing the minimum penalties for motorists who try to evade police.
Another change occurred.
State Police now use retractable strips to flatten the tires of motorists who try to run. A remote-control device activates spikes that puncture tires as they pass over the strips. The spikes make the tires slowly lose air, which allows for a safe stop.
The manufacturer of the remote control device that triggers the spikes, PMG Manufacturing Group of Wheeling, says 250,000 police pursuits occur annually, resulting in 500 deaths. One in four pursuits ends in a crash.

Area and regional news in brief

Teen arrested in attack of  elderly woman

PINEVILLE (AP) -- A teen-ager was arrested Monday in the near beating death of an 88-year-old Wyoming County woman.
Sheriff's authorities arrested the 16-year-old Pineville teen, accusing him of beating Martha Cook with a stick, slashing her with a knife, then robbing her home and leaving her to die in a nearby creek April 15.
The boy, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was charged Monday with aggravated robbery and malicious wounding. He was also charged with a separate incident of grand larceny, authorities said.
Cook was found by a neighbor as she lay moaning in the water by her home. The suspect remained jailed Monday at the Wyoming County Sheriff's Department.

Construction complete on McDowell school

IAEGER (AP) -- The first new school construction project in McDowell County in more than two decades is complete, county Superintendent J. Kenneth Roberts says.
When it opens late next month, the $7 million Sandy River Middle School will consolidate 400 students from Jolo Elementary School and Iaeger Intermediate School.
Located midway between Welch and Iaeger, the new school includes a computer lab and distance learning facilities.

Panhandle man bitten by rabid kitten

HARTMANSVILLE (AP) -- A Mineral County man who started experiencing symptoms of rabies a few days after he was bitten by a kitten has begun treatment for the disease.
The unidentified Hartmansville man killed the kitten after it punctured his skin, then tossed its body into a wooded area, Mineral County animal warden Jim Hawk said. Within a few days, the man began to experience sleeplessness, nervousness and diarrhea.
The kitten was a stray, one of five that had followed their mother to the man's home, Hawk said last week. Another of the four died, and a third vanished into the woods.
The man kept one of the remaining kittens and gave one to his mother.
Both kittens and the mother tested negative for the virus, which attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals and is fatal if left untreated.

Gravestone returned to family

MARTINSBURG (AP) -- An early-century gravestone that was found buried in the yard of a Martinsburg home has been returned to the owner's family.
Relatives of Helen Grace Eschleman, who died in 1910 at age 2, hope to find the child's grave and return the marker. They believe the remains are in a family graveyard near the Maryland-Pennsylvania line.
Pam Cook discovered the tombstone while gardening recently.

Peggy Bear of Martinsburg, a niece of Eschleman's, read a news story about the gravestone and met Cook Saturday.
A remaining mystery is how the gravestone ended up in Cook's yard.
-- The owners of the Bobtown Coal Co. in Pennsylvania's southwestern corner may reopen the mine within a year.
The mine, which closed in 1992, could rehire 115 miners when it reopens if financing is assembled as expected, said Terry Jackson, Bobtown's general manager.
It will succeed, Jackson said. "There's no doubt about it."
Coal from the mine is low in sulfur, pollutes less than some other types when burned and could be attractive to power plants. The state Department of Community and Economic Development gave Bobtown Coal $500,000 to cover costs of reopening the mine.
The mine, about 20 miles north of Morgantown, W.Va., used to employ 300 people.

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