News for Saturday, June 26, 1999

CNG confident state will approve merger with Dominion

by Troy Graham
After the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission quickly approved the merger between Consolidated Natural Gas and Dominion Resources, CNG officials are confident that West Virginia's regulatory body will follow suit.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing on July 12 to consider the merger.
The Pennsylvania agency approved the merger Thursday, the same day as its hearing on the matter. The West Virginia commission usually does not make its decisions as rapidly, but CNG Spokesman Dan Donovan said "you may be surprised."
"The issues are the same," he said.
A PSC staff attorney refused to predict the speed of the commission's decision, but he was confident the merger would be approved.
"At this juncture, staff is not aware of any conditions that would cause the commission to deny the application," said attorney Jim Kelsh.
The Pennsylvania utility commission ruled that the merger between the Pittsburgh-based CNG and Virginia-based Dominion would not hurt customers of Peoples Gas, CNG's Pennsylvania subsidiary.
"Moreover, the combination of these companies will further enhance competition by providing an alternative wholesale electric service provider," the commission ruled.
The electric industry is deregulated in Pennsylvania, which proponents say creates greater competition. CNG buys electricity from a power company and sells it to 22,000 customers in that state, Donovan said. After the merger, CNG will sell Dominion's electricity.
A bill to deregulate the electric industry in Ohio, another state where CNG operates, is on the verge of becoming law, he said.
In West Virginia, however, lawmakers have balked at deregulation. If the Legislature ever reverses course, CNG and Dominion will seek to sell electricity here as well, Donovan said.
Approval of the merger is also expected Wednesday from CNG and Dominion stockholders, Donovan said. Up to 50,000 stockholders have cast nearly 99 million votes in the last few weeks. CNG's votes will be counted in Tarrytown, N.Y., and Dominion's votes will be counted in Richmond, Va.
"We're very optimistic about it," Donovan said. "We're getting a positive response from the stockholders."
CNG operates two subsidiaries in Clarksburg, Hope Gas and CNG Transmission Corp., which are two of the town's largest employers.

Levy vote could still be contested

by Paul Leakan
Clarksburg City Council certified the results of the recent recount of the city's $2.1 million streets and parks levy Friday, but the actual fate of the levy still isn't certain.
The 3-year levy passed by nine votes Tuesday after all the votes cast for and against it were recounted.
Residents, however, can contest the results of the recount.
State municipal election laws allow for residents to contest the results of the recount within the next 10 days.
Residents who want to appeal the recount would have to give a written notice contesting the results to the Harrison County Circuit Court.
The written notice must give specific reasons for contesting the results, according to state law.
A contestant, for example, could challenge city council members' decision to count or reject particular challenged ballots when they were canvassing or counting the ballots.
A contestant also could challenge council's decision to count or reject a certain mark or vote on a ballot, or the decision to count a ballot that was not signed by both poll clerks.
In some cases, a contestant may even challenge the overall integrity of the election. State law, however, says that particular challenge may not normally be based on general allegations of fraud unless the contestant is willing to present specific evidence that the fraud could change the outcome of the election.
City Clerk Annette Wright said on Friday that no one has contacted her about how to challenge the recount of the levy.
Wright believes the city has taken all the proper steps to ensure that the final results were legitimate.
"We did it as fairly as possible," she said. "The committee calling for the recount wanted to recount every precinct. They could have stopped while they were ahead."
Members of Citizens for a Better Clarksburg, a group of residents who rallied support for the levy prior to the election, had requested the recount.
The final count was 2,237 votes for the levy and 1,486 votes against the levy, or 60.08595 percent for the levy. To pass, 60 percent of voters needed to approve it.

Harrison schools plan $1.5M in construction

by Shawn Gainer
The Harrison County school system will spend in excess of $1.5 million this summer on construction projects at schools and athletic facilities, Superintendent Robert Kittle said Friday.
Extensive work is planned at South Harrison High School, including renovations of science labs, hallways and ceilings. New goal posts and fences will be added at the athletic field. Also, existing bleachers will be repaired and additional bleachers will be placed in an end zone for the school band.
"South Harrison is a big one. Our goal is to bring the facility up to SSAC (Secondary Schools Activities Commission) standards," Kittle said.
At Bridgeport High School, scheduled projects include fieldhouse window replacements, field improvements and the installation of additional bleachers for playoff season. New dugouts, portable bleachers and a scoreboard will be added at Lincoln High School.
A weight room will be added at Liberty High School, as well as three sets of bleachers for track and softball. Track maintenance is scheduled at Robert C. Byrd High School and a restroom facility will be added to the soccer field at Bridgeport Middle School, Kittle said.
Gymnasium floors are also a high priority, Kittle said. Renovations are scheduled at: Robert C. Byrd, Bridgeport and Liberty High schools; Lumberport, South Harrison and Gore Middle Schools, as well as West Milford Elementary.
The board has planned to spend more than $400,000 on door replacements at Van Horn, West Milford, Adamston and Simpson Elementary schools, as well as Liberty and Bridgeport High schools.
Paving projects are scheduled at Van Horn, Johnson and Harden elementaries; Salem and Lumberport Middle schools and Lincoln High School, Kittle said.
Kittle added that $82,000 to $85,000 has been budgeted to replace the roof at Washington Irving Middle School, while the roof at Johnson Elementary is scheduled to be replaced, Kittle said.
Also, carpets will be replaced in 45 classrooms and one hallway.
"If you wait do maintenance, you pay later," Kittle said. "We're very fortunate to be able to budget this through bonds and the excess levy. People here are willing to pay for good schools."

College interns to spend summer studying Tygart Valley watershed

by Gail Marsh
An intern funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining will be working with the Tygart Valley Watershed Association this summer to test the water quality of the river and to assist the group in its preservation efforts.
Jamie Blake, a recent Alderson-Broaddus College graduate, is one of 10 interns from across the nation who will be taking part in the first-time program. A biology major while at A-B, the Cowen resident said she will be studying the acid levels and metal concentrations in the water along the Tygart Watershed, collecting samplings from a number of sites in Barbour County.
According to Whitni Kines, vice president of the Tygart Valley Watershed Association, Blake will help the group toward its goal of making people aware of the importance of good quality water and of the group's efforts to clean up the Tygart. The entire watershed covers an area from Pocahontas County to the Monongahela River.
"We want to make people think long and hard before they dump something into the river because we all live downstream from someone," she said.
Blake will also be putting together a multi-media presentation that can be used to educate students in elementary, middle and high school grades about the importance of good water quality.
"The presentation will help students to become more aware of what's going on with our water and how important water quality is," she said.
Blake got the internship with the help of her former professor, Tom Jones, a teacher of ecology, biology and aquatic entomology at A-B. Jones helped Blake to apply for the position and said that of the 10 interns working with watershed groups around the nation, four were placed in West Virginia.
"This is a chance to bring some awareness to the importance of having clean water and also to assist the local watershed group in getting support for its work," Jones said.
For those who would like to learn more about the watershed group, a meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Science Hall on the Alderson-Broaddus College campus in Philippi.

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