News for Wednesday, June 24, 1999

Ashcraft finalist for position in Florida

by Paul Leakan
Clarksburg City Manager Percy Ashcraft has been sending out several job applications and is a finalist for the city manager position at a small city in Florida.
Ashcraft, whose job was in jeopardy in mid-May after some city council members questioned his ability to run the city, is one of six finalists for the city manager post in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla., a city of about 3,000 people.
Ashcraft said on Wednesday that he is not looking for another job because of the recent scandal in City Hall, which includes allegations that the city's police chief accused a city police detective of sexually assaulting a Clarksburg woman.
"I've kept my options open since I took this job three and a half years ago," he said. "I think, professionally, you always have to keep your options open.
"If the right opportunity was there and it was an advancement, I would have to consider it. I owe that to my family and my career."
Ashcraft said he has not been on an aggressive search for a job.
Officials in Daytona Beach Shores, however, have been on an aggressive search for someone to fill their city manager position.
The position at the retirement community has been vacant since August.
The city's last full-time city manager, Joyce Holmquist, was fired on a 3-2 vote by city council members.
Nancy Farr, finance director and acting city manager of Daytona Beach Shores, said council fired Holmquist because some council members felt she had "sided with their political enemies."
Since then, the city has conducted three rounds of interviews for the position.
A citizen committee there recommended Ashcraft -- giving him the second most votes of approval -- along with five other finalists and an alternate from a list of 62 applicants.
Farr said the city soon will begin setting up interviews with the finalists.
"It's a major concern right now," she said. "We need a city manager here to get all the programs going and to stay on top of things."
The job in Daytona Beach Shores includes an annual salary range of $50,000 to $60,000.
Ashcraft, whose contract expires on December 31, 2000, currently makes $61,000 a year.
He said the position in Florida may be a good fit for his family because his mother-in-law lives there.
Even so, he said he would continue to focus on his work in Clarksburg.
"I'm the city manager in Clarksburg today," he said, "and I will continue to do the best job I can."
Taylor Co. residents asked to conserve water

Dry conditions cause state to request cutback

by Gail Marsh
Taylor County is one of 14 counties across the state that has been asked to voluntarily conserve water because of the state's dry weather conditions, officials said Wednesday.
"There's no problem at the present time, but I can understand the government wanting us to take steps to avoid any problems in the future if the dry weather continues," said Donna Hoyler, Grafton's city manager.
Along with Taylor County, Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Logan, Monroe, Pleasants, Raleigh, Ritchie, Tucker, Tyler, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming counties have all been asked by Gov. Cecil Underwood to encourage residents, businesses and local governments to reduce their consumption of water.
Taylor County's rainfall is 4 to 5 inches below normal, according to Dave Riley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. The first three months of the year were normal, with the bulk of the rain deficit occurring in June.
Underwood decided to appeal for the voluntary reduction in water use after meeting with representatives from several federal and state agencies who are affected by drought management measures, including the Office of Emergency Services, the state Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service.
According to the National Weather Service, rainfall in the 14 counties has been less than normal for the past several months, and forecasts provide little hope for relief in the immediate future.
Hoyler said her office had just received the fax from the governor on Wednesday afternoon about the water conservation efforts. She had not yet had time to make any plans for implementation.
Hoyler said a meeting with personnel at the water plant a week ago confirmed that the water level of the lake is still fine. Water for the city and most of the surrounding county comes from the bottom of Tygart Lake, she said.
The Office of Emergency Services is asking people, business owners and government agencies to refrain from:
n washing their streets, driveways, the exterior of homes, other outdoor surfaces, cars and recreational vehicles.
n watering lawns and golf course fairways.
n filling swimming pools.
n flushing fire hydrants except when necessary to protect public health.
The governor's office has asked that the water saving measures stay in effect until dry conditions improve.

Investigation of paintball incident at Weston State Hospital moving slowly

by Troy Graham
It's slow going with the old Weston State Hospital.
Slow finding a new use for the abandoned pre-Civil War building, and slow identifying the 40 people who turned the historic structure into a paintball arena.
On two different occasions in May, as many as 40 people covered four floors of the hospital with paint. Investigators say five of the paintball players were police officers, reportedly from Lewis and Harrison counties.
Investigators have only interviewed about 10 of the people involved, said Lewis County Sheriff Bob Rinehart.
"That's the problem. Everyone wants to know why we're not done," he said. "But it's tough when you have to spend an hour with each one."
Rinehart said he has talked to the police chiefs of each department that had officers involved. It will be up to the chiefs to decide if the officers should be suspended, he said.
Rinehart did not know what sort of charges the paintball players, including the officers, could face.
The sheriff said he will turn over his report to Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Wagoner, who will decide when to release the identity of the paintball players.
Word got out among a loose network of paintball players after a group played there on May 22, Rinehart said. A second group played paintball in the facility during the Memorial Day weekend.
"They're all into paintballing and this one knows that one," he said.
In the meantime, state officials don't believe the paintballs, which will have to be cleaned up, will affect the latest proposed use for the building, which has been vacant since 1994.
State and federal officials want to explore making the hospital a Civil War museum, said Bob Reintsema, the state secretary of commerce and tourism. The museum idea has caught the eye of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, and a team from the National Parks Service toured the facility in April.
The museum could include memorials, virtual reality recreations of battles and a database that visitors could use to research their family's involvement in the war, Reintsema said.
"Instead of the conventional slate and granite memorial, why don't we take it inside and make it a memorial of lights, of sorts," he said.
Whatever use is eventually found for the building will most likely require significant cash. An estimate to turn the hospital into a five-star hotel was $85 million, Reintsema said. That plan fell through.
Reintsema said he is cautious when discussing the museum idea.
"With all the publicity there is a certain level of expectation, and how many times have they been let down,"he said.

Oliverio: Gov. Underwood ought to be impeached

by Troy Graham
Republican gubernatorial candidate Joseph Oliverio, whose underdog campaign has been bolstered by his outspoken personality, called this week for the impeachment of Gov. Cecil Underwood for abusing "his official powers to help his friends."
Oliverio, a Harrison County native who lives in Shinnston, insists that his impeachment appeal is not a publicity stunt or a tongue-in-cheek attempt to lash out at the governor.
Oliverio also said last week that he wouldn't attack his opponents.
"It basically got down to the point where I can't stand what  he's doing to the people," Oliverio said. "I'm trying to sit here and be a nice guy, but I can't take this anymore."
Oliverio's statements drew little response from the governor's office.
"Let me just respond, Mr. Oliverio's comments are ludicrous," said spokesman Dan Page. "I don't want to say anything more about it."
Oliverio based most of his criticism of Underwood from events regularly documented in the media. He accused Underwood of "squandering" the state's money to pave orphan roads, and neglect of duty for allowing Kroger and Rite-Aid to close in-state facilities. Oliverio proposed earlier this month that West Virginians boycott Rite-Aid.
The local painting contractor also attacked the governor, a former coal company executive, for directing his administration to drop workers' compensation lawsuits against past "associates."
"When you let these companies off the hook and put the burden of making up the lost revenue on the small business owner  and the so called 'little guy,' that is corruption," Oliverio said in a letter.
The main impetus for Oliverio's impeachment plea came from a column in a Charleston newspaper that outlined pay raises handed out in Underwood's administration, he said.
"When you have politically connected people on the state payroll receiving a pay raise that  on a yearly total is more than the $18,000 poverty level of this  state, that is maladministration," he wrote.
The highest pay raise documented in the column, however, was less than $10,000.

Mummies make Philippi a top tourist attraction

by Troy Graham
The world's great tourist destinations easily roll off the tongue -- Paris, New York, Hawaii.
But, Hot Springs, Ark.?
Riverside, Iowa?
How about Philippi, W.Va.?
For a stranger breed of tourist, searching the countryside for bits of Americana -- those little oddities peculiar to the U.S. -- the names of these towns may be uttered just as easily.
So what is Philippi's oddity? What does this town have that attracts those who wish P.T. Barnum was still alive? A pair of 110-year-old mummies that sits in the bathroom of the Barbour County Historical Museum.
The mummies, two former female insane asylum patients, have found their way on to the pages of "The New Roadside America," a book of "oddly manifest destinations," according to its authors.
A choice sampling of the destinations was featured this month in the magazine Details. The magazine ran a picture of one of the mummies over the caption, "Is it real? Of corpse!"
Details sandwiched the mummies between Riverside, which touts itself as the future birthplace of "Star Trek" character James T. Kirk, and Hot Springs, which is home to a zoo full of animals that act out scenes from movies.
In Philippi, though, the mummies are not some sort of gimmick. They are a serious part of the town's history.
"I grew up with the story" of the mummies, said 87-year-old museum volunteer Jim Ramsey.
In 1887, Graham Hamrick, a "half farmer and half undertaker," got the idea for his experiment from the Bible. He purchased two cadavers from a local insane asylum and attempted to perfect the Egyptian method of mummification.
"We had some very unusual people living back then," said Ramsey, who got his first peek at the mummies when he was 10 years old. "Of course there's quite a few people that read the Bible and didn't come up with anything like it."
Despite their notoriety, Ramsey couldn't remember any tourist who came to Philippi just to see the mummies.
"Many of them come for the covered bridge, and they photograph the bridge and they see the museum across the street," he said.
Nonetheless, 6,000 people from 49 states stopped to pay a dollar to see the preserved pair last year. And if no one stopped to see the mummies exclusively, it's not for a lack of exposure.
Ramsey remembers when the authors of the travel guide stopped by the museum.
"Those people were here, I believe, with the New York Times people," he said.
Yes, the mummies have also been featured in the venerable paper, as well as on KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, CBS and London's BBC.
After the mummies were featured on CBS, a few locals finally took notice.
"I had people calling from Clarksburg and Fairmont and they said, 'I didn't know you had a mummy. I'll be right over,'" Ramsey said.

BOE to vote on credit card use by school officials

by Shawn Gainer
If members of the Harrison County Board of Education give their approval, some county school officials will be shopping for supplies with plastic.
At a meeting Tuesday evening, members slated for tentative approval a recommendation by Superintendent Robert Kittle that selected maintenance officials be allowed to buy some supplies with a credit card. Members will vote on the proposal at a special session on June 30.
Kittle said Wednesday that the main benefits of credit card purchases would be a reduction in paperwork costs and increased accountability in maintenance orders.
"Right now if we make a purchase order for something that costs $1, we'll spend more than $1 in paper costs," Kittle said. "It also provides a clear account of purchases because everything is itemized and signed off on by the employee."
At first, credit card use would be limited to a yet-to-be-determined number of maintenance employees to purchase items not in stock at the school system warehouse.
Purchases over $250 dollars would have to be approved by an administrative assistant, Kittle said.
"We'll start with maintenance, but later we'll look at other areas like travel," he said.
Susan Haddix, chief financial officer for Harrison County Schools, told board members Tuesday that other institutions use credit cards to purchase supplies with good results.
"Banks and VA Hospitals do the same thing for supplies," Haddix said. "I've called all our vendors and most seemed to like the idea. The current system is a bookkeeping nightmare for them, too."
Kittle added that credit cards are currently used by colleges, state government and the Cabell County school system.
"State government has saved thousands of dollars in paperwork costs with it," he said. "It's just a better way of doing business. Nowadays, if you don't find ways to streamline, you're in trouble."

City property owner ordered to clean up asbestos dump

by Paul Leakan
A Clarksburg property owner who allegedly dumped building materials containing asbestos along a sloping hill in a residential area of the city has been issued an order by the state to clean up the site within 60 days.
Leonard Papa allegedly dumped truckloads of building materials several months ago on a hill beside a house on 108 Brown St., located just off the Joyce Street exit of U.S. 50.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources issued Papa an order to begin a project to clean up the site by July 2. The order requires Papa to finish cleaning up the site by August 18.
Papa was unable to be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The massive pile has been covered with black plastic. The area around the dump has been sealed off and tape and signs warning residents of asbestos have also been posted.
Residents along the narrow road have been outraged by the dump, fearing for their health.
Lisa Kovach, a Clarksburg resident who has relatives that live near the dump, is upset about the potential dangers that residents may have been exposed to while the dump sat open to wind and rain during the past few months.
"There's an asbestos dump right in the middle of the neighborhood," she said. "They've destroyed the property value there. Who's going to rent a house across from a toxic waste dump?"
The asbestos at the site, however, poses no health risks to residents because it is not the kind that can become airborne, said Sam Perris, an inspector with the state Division of Environmental Protection.
"It's not the type that gets in the air and gets in people's lungs," he said. "It is only in a small portion of roofing material and a couple of pieces of siding in the house. It's not blowing around in the air."
Residents near the dump do not have to take any special precautions, Perris said.
Several residents have been complaining about the site to city officials.
"The city has chosen to ignore it," Kovach said. "These people were ignored repeatedly."
The city, however, did not have a specific ordinance at the time that could address the illegal dump, said City Manager Percy Ashcraft.
The city has since passed an ordinance that forces residents to get a permit for certain types of filling and grading of land and does not include minor landscaping.

Construction grant presented for high-tech training center

by Gail Marsh
A $650,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will help with the construction of a high-tech training center at Fairmont's I-79 Technology Park.
According to Laurance Milov, president and chief operating officer of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, the recent grant is part of a $3.2 million state and private financing package that is being used to build the 30,000-square-foot facility.
Milov said the training center, located behind the consortium building, will house Lockheed Martin, a California-based firm and the world's largest defense contractor, in the west wing. The east wing will house a Fairmont State College computer training program. The center will eventually train and hire almost 200 people, he said.
"What makes this program so exciting is that people can come in and get entry-level computer-related jobs, and next door is Fairmont State College offering classes to improve their skills and their salaries," he said.
Milov said the facility is nearing completion and Lockheed Martin has already moved in and hired about 80 people. Lockheed Martin has contracted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a five-year fingerprint scanning project that will allow the FBI to do away with paper records and record fingerprints electronically.
Milov said he expects Fairmont State College to move into the center in August.
"Not only will this help us to ensure that West Virginia has a trained workforce that is ready for new, high-technology opportunities, but it also adds more muscle to our diversification efforts," he said.

Preservation group seeking historical status for state roads

by Gail Marsh
Leaders of a state roadway organization say that designating U.S. Route 50 as a scenic byway would not hamper plans to expand the road to four lanes.
North Central Byways and Backways, a highway preservation group, held a public meeting in Grafton Tuesday night to seek input from residents about the future of the area's historic roads, including U.S. Route 50.
The organization is conducting research to see if U.S. Route 50, which runs from Parkersburg to the Virginia state line, can be designated as a scenic byway. The group is also conducting research on state Route 7 in Preston County and state Route 72, which crosses U.S. Route 50 at Macomber, to see if they meet the criteria to apply for scenic byway designation.
Bryan Ward, chair of the organization, said the meeting gave the group an opportunity to explain the scenic highways program and to hear what ideas and concerns residents may have about designating U.S. Route 50 a scenic byway.
Roy Shank, a Grafton resident who is the retired chair of a committee working to make U.S. Route 50 a four-lane highway, asked the byways group if its project would hurt the route's chances of becoming a four-lane.
Residents of Grafton and Taylor County have been lobbying the state Division of Highways for several years now to widen the road for both safety and economic reasons.
Ward told the dozen people gathered for the meeting that the group is not involved in any road construction. It only conducts research to help preserve the area's historical sites.
The Division of Highways is the only agnecy that can make a decision about widening U.S. Route 50, and the byways group is neither for or against that decision, he said.
The byways program was initiated in 1991 by the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The legislation called for a national scenic byways preservation program and provided funds to support its development on the national and state levels.
In order to be designated a scenic byway, a road must be near natural beauty, historic areas of interest, cultural areas of interest, archeological evidence or nearby recreational opportunities.
A final public meeting will be held in July in the Bridgeport area to allow Harrison County residents to give input into the byways project.
The day, time and place of the meeting will be announced at a later date, Ward said.

Local and regional news in brief

Taylor County road to be closed

Resurfacing will close Fetterman Road, Taylor County Route US 50, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. beginning today. The road will be closed until the project is complete.
The closure will be between the intersections of US 250 and Route 50/7.

11-year-old girl dies in ATV accident

CHARLESTON (AP) -- An 11-year-old Kanawha County girl was killed Tuesday night after the all-terrain vehicle she was riding on ran off the road and flipped down an embankment.
Ashley Nicole Fisher was pronounced dead at the Charleston Area Medical Center.
Five people, all from Charleston, were riding on the ATV. The vehicle was built to hold two, said Kanawha County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jess Bailes.
The three other passengers were 8 years old and younger.
The driver, 31-year-old Dreama Lupson, had attempted to turn onto a dirt road when she lost control of the ATV, Bailes said.
The accident took place on Lacy Hollow Road, outside the Charleston city limits.
Lupson and Tiffany Lupson, 3, Christopher Fisher, 4, and Nicholas Lupson, 8, were taken to CAMC. All were listed in satisfactory condition Tuesday night.

W.Va. group bound for West Point

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Eight teen-agers bound for the rigors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., have heard the praise of Gov. Cecil Underwood.
"You send a powerful message that the people of West Virginia are prepared to embrace the opportunities that we shall encounter in the 21st century,'' Underwood said.
The new students are: John Madia of Clarksburg; Latosha Floyd of Charleston; Brandon Chapman of Elkins; Charles Fitzwater of Prosperity; William Ratcliff of Huntington; Jennie Hattman of Parkersburg; Donald Ross of Poca; and William Rebrook of Charleston.

State man facing charges in fatality

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A Huntington man faces drunken driving charges after a 4-year-old passenger was killed on Interstate 64.
Michael McFarland was charged Monday with driving under the influence of alcohol causing death, third-offense drunken driving and driving on a suspended license.
McFarland, 42, was returning a woman and her three children home early Sunday after a company function in Huntington.
Lawmakers vote to travel more often
BECKLEY (AP) -- State lawmakers enjoyed their interim meetings in Beckley so much that they have voted to approve two more trips outside of Charleston.
The Joint Committee on Government and Finance on Tuesday approved interim meetings in Shepherdstown in November and at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in September or October 2000.
House Judiciary Chairman Rick Staton, D-Wyoming, said holding interim meetings outside of Charleston gives lawmakers exposure to parts of the state they might not otherwise visit.

Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright © Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999