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
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
"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
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
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
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.?
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
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
"Those people were here, I believe, with the New York Times people,"
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
"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
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
"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,
Several residents have been complaining about the site to city officials.
"The city has chosen to ignore it," Kovach said. "These people were
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
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
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
Milov said he expects Fairmont State College to move into the center
"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
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
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
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
Five people, all from Charleston, were riding on the ATV. The vehicle
was built to hold two, said Kanawha County Sheriff's Department spokesman
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
Lupson and Tiffany Lupson, 3, Christopher Fisher, 4, and Nicholas Lupson,
8, were taken to CAMC. All were listed in satisfactory condition Tuesday
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,''
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.
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