Clarksburg parking lot has citizens up in arms
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER

    They huddled around the parking booth, some frowning, some raising their arms, some cursing. All had the same complaint: How am I supposed to pay?
    The scene Wednesday afternoon has become all too familiar for several motorists who park at the Ampco System Parking lots on Washington Avenue in Clarksburg.
    The parking lots, sold by the city in October for $360,001, have been giving scores of motorists splitting headaches. A petition has even been started to try to get the city to do something about it.
    The owner and manager of the lots, however, believes they have been working well and said he has not received any complaints from the city.
    The problem with the lots, according to several motorists, is that they are confusing to use. Instead of handing their money over to a parking attendant, motorists parking at the lots feed coins into a computerized machine. Motorists punch in their designated parking space number and drop money into the machines to park.
    A yellow note, stamped on the machines, warns customers in handwritten print to "please read instructions carefully."
In a 20-minute span Wednesday, four customers were confused about what they were supposed to do and dropped in too much money.
    Orvilla Smith, a Marshville resident, dreads using the machines. "I have problems with that thing every time I park here," she said, shaking her head. "I hate it."
    Dino Colombo, who owns a dental office at 222 Court St. in downtown Clarksburg, has been rounding up signatures for a petition to do something about improving the lots. Colombo said his customers are "completely and utterly frustrated" about having to park there.
    "I can't afford to keep losing people because of the parking lots," he said. "The lots are driving people out of town. The lots used to be filled when the city had it. How come it's not filled now?"
    John P. Coyne, a Cleveland, Ohio, resident who manages and owns the lots, disagrees. Coyne said the lots have been used well since they opened in mid-December.
    Coyne also said the lot does have a full-time employee who works out of her car to help customers at the lot. Some motorists, however, complained Wednesday that they didn't see anyone there to provide help.
    Even so, plans are being made to construct a booth for the parking attendant to answer any questions or clear any confusion about how to use the machines, Coyne said.
    And Clarksburg city officials, who have been getting dozens of complaints about the lots, said they will do what they can to review the operations of the lots. "We're dissatisfied, too," said Councilman Tom Flynn.
    When the lots were sold, the city failed to make an official agreement with Coyne as to what improvements would be made to the lots in the future, said Councilwoman Kathryn Folio.
    The city wanted the new owner to install more parking spaces or add a new parking deck. Coyne said he likely will put in a deck, depending upon the effect the federal building and the Fairmont State College-Clarksburg Center has on the use of the lot. Coyne plans to be in Clarksburg on Monday. "If people are having problems, then that's one of the things I'll look into."



PSC sides with Bridgeport in sewer dispute
by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER

    An attorney for a state agency that oversees utilities has recommended that a complaint filed by the Greater Harrison Public Service District against the Bridgeport Sanitary Board over providing sewer to a new subdivision be dropped.
    The two sides met in January before Public Service Administrative Law Judge Ronnie McCann to argue over which agency should provide sewer service to Worthington Estates. McCann has not made a final ruling.
Cassius H. Toon, a PSC staff attorney, recommended this month that the complaint be dismissed.
    "The district would merely be laying a sewage collection system to deliver to the city's existing mains for treatment by the city," said Toon. "This would, in effect, be placing another utility between the city and the normal extension of its facilities."
Bridgeport officials want to extend the city's sewer lines by 8.4 feet and provide the service. Greater Harrison would have to extend its lines more than 2 miles and would then have to have the sewage pumped into Bridgeport's plant.
    In 1975, the PSC gave Bridgeport authority to serve sewage customers up to 20 miles outside the corporate limits, as long as service was not expanded into an area where a public service district had existing facilities.
The area in debate, Worthington Estates and the Hall Valley Estates Inc. property, are within 20 miles of the city and adjoin city limits on three sides.
    Bridgeport Mayor Joe Timms said he is happy with the recommendation. Richard Hudkins, general manager of the Greater Harrison Public Service District, was not aware of the attorney's recommendation Tuesday.
    Harrison County Commissioner Beth Taylor, who spoke during the hearing on behalf of Greater Harrison, was not pleased with the recommendation.
    "This decision constitutes a dangerous precedent which will hurt the progress of public service districts intending to promote the extension of public utilities into the outlying areas of the counties which have been neglected for far too long," Taylor said Wednesday.
    She said the broader issue is annexation. Bridgeport uses sewer line extensions as an annexation method, she said.
Bridgeport City Engineer and Public Works Director Dan Ferrell said the city never uses sewer service to entice county residents into the city limits.
    The Harrison County Commission formed the Greater Harrison Public Service District in August 1997 to consolidate smaller public service districts. In this case, Taylor argued that any customers to be served outside the corporate limits of a municipality must be served by the Greater Harrison Public Service District in a service territory dispute.


Hey, kids: Enjoy time off from school now, summer could be a little shorter
by Gail Marsh
STAFF WRITER

    Students in Harrison County will still get a spring break, but there will be other changes to the school calendar because of the number of days students have missed due to snow, officials said Wednesday.
    "We've had three snow days recently, which makes a total of five for the year. We're in the process of looking at ways to make up several of those days in the confines of the current calendar," said Robert E. Kittle, Harrison County school superintendent.
    Any revisions to the county school calendar must first be approved by the local school board and the state Board of Education before those changes can be put in place, Kittle said. "I've not yet talked with the board about the changes, but we expect to have a plan approved by the end of next week," he said.
    School districts are required to offer 180 instructional days each year, and are allowed two days off before any days have to be made up.  After missing those two days, any non-instructional days left in the calendar must become instructional days for the students, the superintendent explained.
    The revised plan will allow spring break to remain on schedule, with the last day of classes set for Thursday, April 1. Classes will resume on Monday, April 12.
    The plan instead calls for April 22, originally scheduled for a faculty senate day, and June 9, originally set for a staff development day, to become instructional days for which students will be required to attend.
    The April 22 faculty senate day will be moved to April 2, originally scheduled for an outside school environment day when no students or staff report.
    Kittle said his office would like to hold the faculty senate day at some other time because so many faculty and staff need that day off for holiday travel.
    "So many of our people have scheduled that day for travel and we are trying to preserve that for them. But if nothing can be worked out, we'll be in session on the 2nd," he said.
    Faculty senate days give teachers time to do such things as discuss a student's progress, work on a unified school improvement plan, meet with administrators or take part in technology training.
    "The faculty senate days are important to us because they have a tremendous impact on our instruction program. So many things need to be accomplished on those days," he said.



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