McCoy mansion shops could make city "a little more hip"
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER

    Lisa Kovach stood amid the dangling wires, the protruding pipes and a stack of 4-foot long radiators a collective mess in a building that will soon house her dream.
    "You can't make something unless you make a big mess," she said. "I'm putting my life and my home on the line for this dream."
    Kovach's dream, opening up a handful of variety shops, awaits with the ongoing reconstruction of the first floor and basement of the old McCoy mansion on 535 West Main St. in Clarksburg.
    Kovach has leased those areas of the building to house The Shoppes of McCoy Mansion, which will include small shops where residents will be able to eat, drink, relax and buy gifts.
    Kovach plans for the building to have a boutique, a gift shop, a New York-style deli restaurant and the type of store where you can grab a cup of coffee, a newspaper and a pepperoni roll. She plans on opening some of the stores by July 1.
Before then, workers will tear out old plumbing and wiring and install new central heating and air conditioning. A new stairwell will be put in. Some old pipes will be covered. The walls and ceilings will be coated with fresh paint. And the oak floors will be refinished.
    Margaret Warner, owner of the building, will pay for the improvements to the house. Warner, a graduate of Washington Irving Middle School, grew up in the house and wanted it to remain a fixture in Clarksburg rather than a mere memory.
Aside from Warner's desires, some may question why Kovach chose to lease the home and build up business in the downtown- especially in an era when strip malls are all the rage. It's actually quite simple- at least for Kovach.
    "We're talking about the renovation of downtown Clarksburg," she said. "If we're going to maintain this downtown as a healthy place for business, we have to do a little more; we have to give a little more.
"We need to get a little more hip around here."
    Students at the new Fairmont State College-Clarksburg Center will be a big part of that "hipness." Kovach, a Clarksburg resident, is banking on increased traffic when the college opens this summer.
The McCoy mansion practically stands in the shadows of the new 36,000-square-foot college building. School officials project 2,500 students will attend classes at the school.
    All those students, Kovach reasons, will need a place to go. One of those places could be located in the basement of the McCoy mansion.
    Kovach plans on opening a convenience store called the Falcon's Lair, a place where students could get juice, coffee, a newspaper and a bite to eat. The store may also carry FSC apparel.
    Aside from catering to FSC students, Kovach believes the old building will draw residents with its charm something that eludes restaurants that are built from a mass of cinder blocks.
    Warner is just glad to see that the building is getting another lease on life. She has had several offers to buy the property. Some wanted to turn it into a parking lot. Warner, however, believes there's too much history in the house to let it be torn down.
    The house was built in the early 1900s, Warner said. Her family bought it in the 30s. Her mother used to own a beauty shop in the back of the house.
    Though Warner has been living in Charleston for decades now, she will always have a love for Clarksburg and the home in which she was raised. "It's such a lovely place. I would like people to enjoy it as much as I did when I was growing up."
Kovach hopes Warner's wishes come true when the shops open this summer.
    She is confident they will. "At Christmas, this will be the type of place you will want to take pictures of. We think we're going to pull business in here from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at night."



Implementation often a problem 
with comprehensive plans

by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER

    City and county officials around the region often talk about comprehensive plans, but few people actually see any practical applications arise from them once they are adopted by councils or commissions.
Some officials call comprehensive plans a blueprint for development. Governments often pay thousands of dollars to private companies to have these forms drawn up.
    But do the plans ever do more than collect dust in some file cabinet?  Are tax dollars wisely spent on these plans?
    Opinions vary on those issues, depending on how well the suggestions outlined in the plans are actually implemented. And the one issue that several regional officials agree on is that implementation is a problem.
"It gets real discouraging to the community," said Jim Fealy, the executive director of the Gilmer County Economic Development Association. "The feeling here is that we've planned enough; it's time to start implementing."
    For many agencies in North Central West Virginia the difficulty in implementing plans is a lack of resources, said Pat Ford, the director of planning at the Bridgeport office of Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani. Many counties fail to have well-funded planning commissions or other organizations that can devote enough time to a plan, Ford said.
Fealy's group had a plan drawn up in 1994 but found that much of it didn't necessarily apply to Gilmer County's problems.
"We found that we knew more about ourselves" than an outside group, he said. "Our best ideas are those that come from here."
    Indeed, some officials say the plans often only outline what was already known, with some exceptions. In Gilmer County, the plan helped identify prime real estate where the county later located its industrial park.
    "It might just bring to the forefront an asset or a problem you didn't see," said Robin Poling, a Lewis County administrator. "To me a good plan does that. You don't just identify them you have to dig into  it."
    If the plans are properly implemented, they definitely have a strong practical use, Ford said. The main purpose of a plan is to manage the growth of an area, he said. "If you don't plan you have to ask, "What are the consequences of not planning,"" he said.
    Without a plan, which often includes certain zoning, an area could end up with under-utilized prime real estate. Then nuisances such as snarling traffic could pop up if a company has to locate on a less desirable and inaccessible piece of property, he said.
    Plans also can keep incompatible businesses from locating next to each other; for example, having a junk yard adjacent to an expensive subdivision, Ford said.
    The Harrison County Planning Commission submitted a plan to the state for review in September 1998, said commission executive director Terry Schulte. Although the plan hasn't been adopted officially, some of the recommendations, such as consolidating water districts, have already been implemented.
    Schulte says that implementation is often a problem with comprehensive plans too. She described the plan as a "living, changing document" that will be revised as time passes.
    "I'd like to see everything implemented," Schulte said. "There's enough here to keep every county agency busy for five to seven years."



BHS student takes school board to court
by Gail Marsh
STAFF WRITER

    A Bridgeport High School senior has filed a complaint in Harrison County Circuit Court against members of the Harrison County Board of Education because she says a policy it passed to select class valedictorians is unfair, inequitable and discriminatory.
    Julie Ann Felton, 18, represented by Norman Farley of West & Jones of Clarksburg, filed the complaint on Thursday. The complaint asked the court to require the board of education to apply a uniform valedictorian selection policy on a county-wide basis. The complaint also seeks an injunction to keep the board or any other school personnel from selecting any valedictorians pending the result of a hearing.
    Judge Thomas A. Bedell scheduled a hearing April 22 for the board to show why the writ of mandamus and the injunction should not be awarded. Board members include President James E. Bennett, Doug Gray, Sally J. Cann, Wilson Currey and D.D. Meighen.
    "What we are asking is that the board treat students at Bridgeport High School and all the other high schools in the same manner," Farley said.
    The complaint states that the board approved a revision to the valedictorian policy in June 1998 that created discrimination in the way students were chosen for the honor. That revision did away with "weighted grades," those grades for advanced and college level classes that were worth 4.5 or 5.0 on a 4.0 grade point scale.
    The policy revision will allow students who are freshmen this year to be chosen for valedictorian honors in their senior year based on a 4.0 grade point scale only. Current sophomores, juniors and seniors will still have their higher- than-4.0 grade point averages figured into the selection process.
    Farley said this year's sophomores, juniors and seniors have worked very competitively to achieve the higher grade point averages. By doing away with weighted grades, those students were not able to improve their grade point averages and their class standings this school year, even though they had signed up for the advanced classes in May or June before the revision took effect. Valedictorian and class rankings are not determined until after the first semester of a student's senior year, he said.
    "Because of the revised policy, Julie was not able to improve her grade point average during the first semester of her senior year, even though she had signed up for three advanced placement classes that were previously worth 5.0. This hurt her chances to be named valedictorian," he said.
    To compound the problem, Robert C. Byrd High School, Lincoln High School and South Harrison High School have all requested and received waivers so that the revised policy takes effect with this year's graduating class, Farley said. This means that all students in those schools whose grade point average is 4.0 or higher are automatically named valedictorians. Liberty High School has not asked for a wavier at this time, Farley said.
    "This means that if Julie or other students at Bridgeport or Liberty were attending the other schools, they would be valedictorians. This is unfair to her and to any other students who might be affected," he said.
    School Superintendent Robert E. Kittle was out of town on Friday and unavailable for comment.



Davis Memorial,
Broaddus merge
with WVU-UHC
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER

    The Davis Health System announced Friday that it has joined the West Virginia United Health System, a non-profit health care system created by West Virginia University Hospitals and United Hospital Center.
    The agreement means that four Davis Health System representatives will now serve on the West Virginia United Health System Board of Directors. The board oversees the operations of the hospitals.
The agreement will not affect the identity of Davis Health System members, said Bernie Westfall, president of the West Virginia United Health System.
    By joining the system, Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins can tap into WVU's health careers education programs. That tie will help in recruiting students and health professionals from the region, Westfall said.
    The hospitals in the system, including Davis Memorial and Broaddus Hospital in Philippi, will keep their medical staffs and governing boards, Westfall said. They will also continue to make day-to-day management decisions on the local level, he said.
    Davis Health System has considered joining a larger organization since 1996. The system's planning committee sought alliances with both for-profit and non-profit systems.
    Many hospitals around the country have been moving toward joining together with other health care systems, Westfall said. Joining together could lower costs for care at the hospitals by lowering overhead, Westfall said.
Bruce McClymonds, president of West Virginia University Hospitals, is looking forward to adding the Davis Health System to the group.
    "We have worked together in the past to provide educational opportunities for students and health professionals from this region, and to care for patients who need services here," he said. "Now that we are in the same organization, working together will be even easier."
    The four representatives from the Davis Health System that have been nominated for the system's board of directors are: L.T. "Tom" Williams; Thomas Wilson; Paul A. Bennett; and Richard E. Piccirillo.



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