News for Tuesday, June 29, 1999
High court upholds fire fee
by Troy Graham
The U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld Clarksburg's fire service
fee, a decision that city officials believe will end a 15-year battle with
City Councilwoman Kathy Folio and members of her family over the legality
of the fee.
City Manager Percy Ashcraft said he will immediately instruct attorneys
to collect the $50,000 in back fire service fees and penalties that members
of the Folio family owe.
The city will also begin collecting another $150,000 from residents
and business owners who have withheld their fees while the Folio case played
out in court.
The fire service fee, which generates $750,000 annually, or 39 percent
of the fire department's budget, was enacted in 1984. Members of the Folio
family who own several buildings throughout Clarksburg, challenged the
fee. The state Supreme Court ruled in the city's favor in 1989 and the
Folios paid up.
Members of the Folio family refused to pay the fee again in 1990 and
mounted another legal challenge, this time arguing that the fee was unconstitutional.
The city has spent $110,000 of "taxpayer money" fighting court battles
over the fee in the 1990s, Ashcraft said.
Gregory Morgan, an attorney who represented the city in the matter,
said there are no more legal challenges the Folios can raise.
"You can never discount the imagination of a creative lawyer but I
would say there are no more credible challenges," he said.
Kathy Folio, who recently declared Ashcraft's job in jeopardy after
a recent city hall scandal, said she was unaware of the ruling Monday.
Folio said she wouldn't comment on whether family members will pay
up until she talks to her attorney.
"I don't know what our plans are," she said. "Until I talk to my attorney,
I don't want to answer any of those questions."
Surrounded by firefighters at a city hall press conference, Ashcraft
called the ruling a "significant event in the city's history."
Clarksburg citizens are the benefactors of the fee, he said. The fee
allows the city to maintain a full-time fire department, which reduces
home owners' insurance, Ashcraft said.
Home owners pay $60 a year, while commercial property owners pay .45
cents per square foot of property.
The city has supplemented the fire department's budget while the fire
service fee case was argued in court, said fire Chief Rick Scott.
"There's a lot of things we could use and hopefully this will help
out," he said.
UHC to scrap medical waste incinerator
Hospital has been waiting for state to establish new air pollution standards
by Troy Graham
United Hospital Center will replace its medical waste incinerator with
an autoclave system that uses steam to disinfect waste in order to come
into compliance with new federal emission standards.
The state is in the process of implementing the new standards for emissions
from medical waste incinerators. A 1998 report identified 13 hospitals
in the state that would not meet the new standards once they go into effect,
said Jon McClung, with the state Division of Environmental Protection.
UHC is one of those hospitals.
Once the state adopts a plan to meet those standards, the hospitals
will have three years to upgrade their incinerators, McClung said. Rather
than upgrade its incinerator, UHC will install the autoclave, said hospital
President Bruce Carter.
Many of the smaller hospitals on the list will most likely stop incinerating
and contract to haul out their waste, Carter said. In fact, several of
the hospitals have either already closed their incinerators or are considering
the move, DEP officials said.
UHC, however, is one of the state's largest hospitals. It creates 405,000
pounds of medical waste every year, Carter said.
"If you're much larger and you start getting into the half-million
pound range, you have to start looking at new technologies that are cost-effective,"
The autoclave system steams medical waste until it is sterile. The
waste can then be disposed at a regular landfill. The hospital will still
have to send out some waste, such as body parts and blood, to be incinerated,
Carter said. The hospital won't accept waste from other facilities to be
disinfected in its autoclave, he said.
The autoclave will cost $600,000, Carter said. It would have cost $500,000
to upgrade the hospital's incinerator, but the hospital "would still be
polluting," he said.
In addition, there is no guarantee that the emission standards wouldn't
be strengthened in the future, causing the hospital to upgrade again, Carter
The hospital will begin putting in its autoclave once the state implements
its plan to meet the federal regulations, he said. It should take about
12 months to install the autoclave technology, Carter said.
The state plan has been completed, and is under review by the federal
Environmental Protection Agency, McClung said. It could be anywhere from
a few weeks to a couple months before it is approved. The state standards
will basically mirror the federal standards for reducing emissions, which
were established in 1997.
W.Va. enrollment plummets in '90s
by Shawn Gainer
Declining student enrollment continues to loom over many area school
systems, serving as fuel for a continued push for consolidation of schools
and resulting in fewer state dollars for school system coffers.
The number of students in state schools declined by 31,886 from the
1989-1990 to the 1998-1999 school years, according to the West Virginia
Department of Education's second month headcount enrollment history. Harrison
County lost 562 students during this period; Marion, 647; Upshur, 364;
"We're the only state in the nation declining in student population,"
said Bill White, a regional representative for the West Virginia Education
Association. "The state needs fewer teachers and fewer buildings. It fuels
the whole school consolidation issue."
Since March 1989, the West Virginia Board of Education has approved
just over 300 school closings, including many in the North Central Region
of the state. Harrison County lost 12 schools; nine elementaries, one junior
high, one primary and one intermediate school. Three elementaries were
closed in Marion County. Doddridge County lost four elementary schools.
Two elementaries and one high school were closed in Taylor County. Four
schools have been closed in Lewis County, though a new elementary is under
While no schools in Upshur County were closed in this period, the Upshur
Board of Education voted in February not to follow a recommendation from
outgoing Superintendent Richard Hoover to close Rock Cave and Central Elementary
Schools. While the passage of a $1.4-million-a-year school levy has helped
preserve the schools for now, Hoover said closings will become an issue
again if enrollment continues to drop. He added that enrollment decline
is particularly troublesome for county school systems because it affects
state School Aid Formula Disbursements and financial assistance from the
state School Building Authority.
Robert Kittle, Harrison County superintendent of schools, said that
enrollment statistics for the 1999-2000 school year would not be available
until September or October. He did say that enrollment in Harrison County
"We've lost a few kids over the last year, but nothing significant,"
he said. "We gained a little in kindergarten enrollment."
Wayne Clutter of the state Department of Education said department
personnel are projecting enrollment at the state level to continue to drop
through 2004. State enrollment is projected to decline from 296,559 in
the 1999-2000 school year to 274,472 in 2004 -- a loss of 22,087.
"We have an aging population and a low birth rate isn't helping," Clutter
Mike Cox of the state Department of Education said enrollment decline
is projected to be most severe in southern counties.
"Kanawha County is losing students at a serious rate and there will
likely be heavy drops in counties like Logan, Mingo and McDowell," Cox
"In the last decade, West Virginia lost the largest percentage of enrollment
of any state in the nation," he continued. "I think the worst is over,
though indicators are that numbers will continue to drop."
Everybody's looking for a picnic site
Area parks pretty much booked up for the Fourth
by Jessica Laton
If you're planning on heading to one of the area's parks this weekend
for a picnic, you should have planned ahead -- way ahead.
Shelters in parks around the area have been reserved for up to a year
in advance of Independence Day weekend.
"We began taking reservations this time last year for the next year,"
said Linda Nosse, who handles shelter reservations at Watters Smith State
Park near West Milford.
Clarksburg Parks and Recreation begins taking reservations each year
on March 1 for Veterans Memorial Park.
"We probably filled up shelters by early March for July and August,"
said John Cooper, Parks and Recreation superintendent.
Most shelters in the area are booked for this weekend, but parks also
offer single picnic tables on a first-come, first-served basis. But Cooper
suggests making some plans for those tables, also.
"Definitely come out early," said Cooper. "We open the gates at 7 a.m."
Tygart Lake State Park's shelters are also booked, along with most
of the park's other facilities.
"Our campground will most definitely be full. We fill up early every
Fourth by Thursday. Our cabin area will be full. Our lodge will be full,"
said Mick Elsey, superintendent at Tygart Lake. "We also have approximately
150 picnic tables at three different sites -- lots of room for everybody."
Watters Smith State Park also has picnic tables with grills attached,
but Nosse has a piece of advice for anyone wanting a table: "Come early."
All the parks are expecting a big crowd and are prepared for the holiday
"On holidays and weekends, and the Fourth is on a weekend, we increase
our staff due to the high number of shelter reservations," said Cooper.
"The Fourth is a normal picnic day. People come out into the parks and
get together with friends and family."
But parks and pools are not the only places increasing staff for the
weekend. Foodland in Rosebud Plaza is preparing for the weekend with extra
workers and extra supplies.
"It just takes a lot of extra work to get it all out," said Dave Thomas,
grocery manager at Foodland. "Saturday will probably be the busiest day
of the year."
Big K-Mart at the Eastpointe shopping center is also bracing for the
"It's the busiest time of the year," said Joe Skidmore, pantry manager.
Skidmore suggests buying your supplies early. "Don't wait to the last
minute to stock up. Once we are out, we are out."
Added Thomas: "They should buy early to avoid the crowds."
Local and regional news briefs
Clarksburg resident killed in car wreck in Doddridge County
A 20-year-old Clarksburg man died Sunday afternoon in a one-car accident
along Big Flint Road in Doddridge County.
Paul Ray Siders Jr. of Route 6, Box 526, in Sun Valley was traveling
north on Big Flint Road Sunday about 12:25 p.m. when he ran off the right
side of the road, said Trooper G.L. Campbell of the Doddridge County detachment
of the West Virginia State Police.
"When he cut back on the road, he lost control and his car started
skidding," Campbell said.
Siders' car ran off the road and turned over in a nearby creek. Siders
was partially thrown from his vehicle through the sun roof, Campbell said.
When the car turned on its top, he was trapped beneath it.
Siders was pronounced dead at the scene. Doddridge County EMS workers
tried for about an hour to revive him, Campbell said.
Siders was employed at Pratt-Whitney as an aircraft assembler and was
a member of the West Virginia Army National Guard.
Marion mine still has a future despite weekend explosion
FAIRVIEW (AP) -- An explosion of methane gas in an underground fire
blew chunks of concrete 200 feet in the air over the weekend, but that
shouldn't cause the permanent shutdown of a Consolidation Coal Co. mine.
Teams from Consol, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration
and the United Mine Workers of America are working together to save the
mine. The fire, which did not result in injuries, began early last week.
A crew of 10 who were working underground at the time got out safely.
The mine has been idle since mid-May, when most of its 480 employees
were laid off due to a weak coal market.
'Family Fun Night' set at city park
Clarksburg Parks and Recreation is trying to bring local families together
for a fun, inexpensive evening, says John Cooper, Parks and Recreation
During "Family Fun Night" on Thursday, July 8, at Veterans Memorial
Park, the entire family can swim, play miniature golf and listen to a live
band for $5.
Swimming will be offered from 7-8:30 p.m.; miniature golf from 7-10
p.m., and Sweet Country, a local country-western band will perform from
7-8:30 p.m. at the Fireplace Shelter.
"We are doing it to encourage families to do something together," said
Cooper. "In this day and age, both parents work. We are providing an opportunity
for families to come out and enjoy our facilities and hope they have a
good time. That is what we are here for."
Governor names general counsel
CHARLESTON (AP) -- The Underwood administration has a new general counsel.
Edward P. Tiffey will replace Patrick Kelly, who is leaving to return to
private practice, Gov. Cecil Underwood's office announced Monday.
Tiffey, 33, will become Underwood's lead lawyer on Thursday.
Tiffey, 33, He joined the administration in January as associate general
is a graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and Washington
& Lee University in Lexington, Va.
Tiffey served as special prosecutor in Greenbrier County in 1998 and
was a law clerk from 1990 to 1992 for U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth
V. Hallanan in Beckley.
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