News for November 5, 1999
Council: New manager 'perfect fit'
by Paul Leakan
A Beckley native with years of experience running a municipal government
will become the next city manager in Clarksburg.
After meeting in a closed session for about 45 minutes Thursday, Clarksburg
City Council members selected Tom Vidovich to fill the vacant city manager
"We felt he was the perfect fit for the city," said Councilman Terry
"He was the city manager in Follansbee and Bluefield, and the reference
checks at both places assured us that he was the perfect person for us."
Council members said that Vidovich has accepted the job, pending contract
Vidovich served as Bluefield's city manager for three years, was the
city manager in Follansbee for almost six years and was Raleigh County's
administrator for more than six years.
A Vietnam veteran, Vidovich holds a master's degree in journalism and
a master's degree in public administration, both from West Virginia University.
Council members have offered Vidovich a two-year contract with a $57,500
per year salary and benefits such as vacation and sick leave.
Vidovich is projected to begin the job on Nov. 22.
Before then, council members plan to hold a special session sometime
next week to officially approve his contract by resolution.
Several days ago, Vidovich called the Clarksburg city manager post
"one of the premier jobs in the state" for his profession.
Vidovich was chosen over one other finalist, Jeff Burdoff, who is the
current assistant city manager of Morgantown.
Council interviewed a total of nine candidates after receiving 54 applications
for the post.
The candidates were required to have a bachelor's degree and some experience
in municipal government. The position has been vacant since Percy Ashcraft
left on Oct. 1. Ashcraft resigned after citing a "steady pattern of meddling"
in administrative affairs by some city council members.
Since Ashcraft's departure, Finance Director Frank Ferrari has served
as the city's interim city manager.
Old state hospital cemeteries finally get respect
by Shawn Gainer
Thursday afternoon was a special time for Goldie McCauley.
McCauley, a resident of Churchville in Lewis County, is the daughter
of a former patient at the Old Weston State Hospital who was buried on
the grounds after dying at the facility in 1961. For years, three cemeteries
on hills behind the hospital that contain the graves of about 2,500 former
patients were overgrown with brush and thorns.
Jack Clohan Jr., administrator of William R. Sharpe Jr. hospital, said
at a dedication ceremony for memorial stones at the rehabilitated cemeteries
that he was not aware of their existence until McCauley brought the matter
to his attention.
The cemeteries were used from 1858 to 1972, Clohan said.
"I got a call from her and I checked it out. It was a wilderness up
here. She got support from the governor in the form of $7,000 and our maintenance
crews did a lot of work to rehabilitate the grounds.
"I would like to see these cemeteries become monuments to how far we've
come in treating mental illness."
McCauley said she was immensely pleased to see the cemeteries restored,
especially in light of the fact her father had once asked that thorns not
be allowed to grow over his grave.
"I'd like to thank them for what they've done. It means a lot to me
and my family."
About 26 people attended Thursday's dedication, which included prayers
and gospel singing. The Rev. Jack Streets read letters from relatives of
former patients, some of whom had requested that their relatives be buried
on hospital grounds.
"In the past, we had well-intentioned people who didn't understand
mental illness well enough to make a great difference in patients' lives,"
Clohan said. "Then there was an outcry from former mental health care customers
and we listened. Now we've made great progress."
Jonathan Boggs, Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health
and Human Resources, said he believed there should be two aspects to the
"Number one, nevermore will the people buried here be forgotten," he
said. "Number two, mental health workers will dedicate themselves to further
understanding mental illness so these people will not have died in vain.
We honor these souls who were once with us by serving those souls who are
with us now."
'Let's Get Real Rally' expected to draw from around area
by Paul Leakan
The Let's Get Real Rally in Clarksburg may attract droves of people
from around the city, county, state and outlying areas this Saturday, organizers
"Come hell or high water, there's going to be a large gathering," said
Clarksburg Mayor David Kates. "It's going to be larger than we think."
There could be more than 1,000 people at the event, said Jim Hunt,
a Clarksburg City Councilman and the activity coordinator for the rally.
The event is scheduled to begin at noon at the Osborn shelter at the
Veterans Memorial Park, located along state Route 98 in Clarksburg.
Kates plans to deliver a diversity message during the event, along
with dozens of school children from around the county.
There will also be a presentation of a resolution from the West Virginia
Municipal League, a message of support from the governor's office and speeches
by state and local officials on the importance of unity and diversity.
Kates said he has received plenty of response about the diversity celebration,
mostly in support of it.
The mayor is encouraging area school children, particularly middle
and high school students, to send him one-page essays on diversity.
The essays, which would be sent in care of the mayor to City
Hall, will be bound in book form and stored in the city's archives. The
city will accept the essays until Dec. 6.
Kates is also encouraging people to bring a can of food to the diversity
celebration. The food will be donated to local food pantries, such as Mustard
The diversity celebration coincides with a rally being planned by the
Grafton-based chapter of the Knights of the White Kamellia Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan plans to rally Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Harrison County
The Let's Get Real Rally is both an appropriate and impressive response
to the Klan's rally, said Lew Tyree, commissioner with the West Virginia
Human Rights Commission.
"We're pleased to see Clarksburg take such a stance and rally around
it," said Tyree, who was in Clarksburg Thursday.
"This will be a strong statement in West Virginia," he added. "Just
by coming together, that shows that we're not concerned about race, creed
or color here; that we are one state, one nation, one community with all
different backgrounds choosing to work together."
Kates believes this year's event could become an annual celebration,
possibly as a part of the Glen Elk Ethnic Festival in Clarksburg.
"I'm quite sure that if this goes well, this could be a positive thing
for the festival."
Tapes indicate conflict in comments
Played in court for Weston fire trial
by Vicki Smith
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON -- Taped recordings indicate Ricky Brown's housemate repeatedly
contradicted herself when talking to investigators about the morning her
two children died in a Weston house fire with Brown's three stepchildren.
Janette Ables also told stories that don't match the accounts given
by either Brown and his wife, Barbara, or other witnesses to the Nov. 21,
1997, fire, the recordings indicate.
Ables was interviewed by investigators the day after the deaths of
her 3-year-old son, Jimmy, and 5-year-old daughter, Rayshell. She was interviewed
again on Dec. 3, 1997.
The recordings of those interviews were played Thursday for jurors
at Ricky Brown's death penalty trial in U.S. District Court.
Prosecutors say Ables and the Browns, allegedly motivated by $61,449
in life and house insurance policies, doused the house with gasoline and
set it ablaze, leaving their children inside to die. Each parent is being
tried separately and could be sentenced to die by lethal injection if convicted
on all 15 federal charges stemming from the fire.
Ables' interviews seemed to lend credibility to prosecutors' contentions
that the fire was an evolving conspiracy in which each defendant tried
out variations of a poorly planned cover story to explain how none of the
Prosecutors say the parents set a small fire on a mattress in one bedroom
and blamed it on Ables' 3-year-old son. But arson experts say the house
was destroyed by two fires set with gasoline.
Assistant State Fire Marshal Greg Greer interviewed Barbara Brown the
day of the fire and Ables the next day. Barbara Brown also told him details
that contradict the testimony of other witnesses.
Among other things, Barbara Brown said she fled the burning house through
a side door in the kitchen. Several firefighters have testified they could
not enter the house through that door because it was blocked by a heavy
Barbara Brown also told Greer that Jimmy Ables had played with matches
on several occasions and once burned his sister's bookbag. Ables, however,
told Greer her son had only once lit a match and was then so scared he
wouldn't touch them. The night before the fire, Ables and the Browns went
to a bar called the Dixie Club, where other witnesses have said they danced
and drank until at least 2 a.m.
Ables initially told Greer she'd had only one beer and came home with
the Browns and John Natale, a man she'd picked up, by 10 p.m. In that interview,
she said everyone went to bed by 12:30 a.m. But two weeks later, on Dec.
3, she said they stayed up until 5 a.m.
Ables also said Barbara Brown's parents, Charles and Lucy Landers,
also were at the bar. In the second interview, she said they were home
Ables told Greer that she and the Browns tried for 25 to 20 minutes
to douse the mattress fire with kettles of water. The Browns told investigators
those efforts lasted only a few minutes.
Ables also gave conflicting accounts of which children she saw before
running out of the burning house and whether she knew that Barbara Brown
had insurance policies on her children.
She also related a story about how Ricky Brown's brother, David, told
her he escaped; her version does not match David's testimony earlier this
"What do you think caused this fire?" Greer asked Ables near the end
of the second interview.
"I don't know," she said.
"Do you think somebody intentionally started this fire?" he asked.
"No," she said.
Prosecutors have presented 49 witnesses so far in the case against
Brown. The final two are set to testify Friday morning.
Defense lawyers, who have said they will need two to three days to
present their case, are expected to start calling their witnesses Monday.
That could put the case in jurors' hands by mid-month.
Organizations continue to flock to Vets Day Parade
by Gail Marsh
More than 30 additional organizations have signed up to take part in
this year's Veterans Day Parade in downtown Clarksburg on Nov. 11, officials
The noon parade will be preceded by a Veterans Day program at 11 a.m.
on the Harrison County Courthouse Plaza.
"I believe West Virginians are extremely patriotic people and want
to pay their respects to the veterans. This parade gives them an opportunity
to do that," said Stan Frum, strategic planner for the Louis A. Johnson
Veterans Administration Medical Center and co-coordinator of the parade.
Keynote speaker for this year's Veterans Day program is Herschel "Woody"
Williams, the only living West Virginia Medal of Honor recipient. Williams,
who was born in Quiet Dell and now resides in Ona, served in the Marines
from 1943 to 1945 and took part in battles in Guam and Iwo Jima.
Williams earned the Purple Heart and was also awarded the Congressional
Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for his actions on Iwo Jima
The noon program will also feature the laying of two wreaths, one by
the American Values Association and one by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post
573 and American Legion Post 13.
The parade will feature a number of high school bands, along with scout
troops, color guards, veteran and civic organizations and local school
"We try to make it interesting, and we have a a great representation
of organizations from around the area," Frum said.
"The parade was well-attended last year and we expect to have an even
larger crowd this year."
Challenging courses help prepare kids for SAT, ACT
by Shawn Gainer
School administrators and guidance counselors say many methods are
available to students who wish to prepare in advance for college entrance
exams. But educators also say there is no substitute for taking academically
The SAT test will be given on Saturday at Davis & Elkins College
in Elkins, West Virginia University and University High School in Morgantown.
Testing for the ACT will be on Dec. 11 at several area high schools,
including Notre Dame, and at Fairmont State College.
"The best preparation for the SAT or ACT exam is to take higher level
English, math and social studies classes," said Ike Maxwell, a guidance
counselor at Liberty High School. "It has been proven every time that students
who take the higher level classes perform better on those tests than those
"It's better to take a higher level class and get a lower grade than
avoid the class to have a higher grade point average."
Students should not shun difficult courses, because good SAT and ACT
scores are crucial for gaining scholarships and admission to a student's
choice of colleges, said Dr. Carl Friebel, administrative assistant for
Harrison County schools.
County high schools have computer preparation programs for college
entrance exams, as well as retired SAT and ACT tests. Students can use
the computer programs to score themselves and assess individual weaknesses
they may need to address, Maxwell said.
He added that the programs can be valuable tools, but only if used
"No tool is better than how well you utilize it," he said. "The usefulness
of the software depends upon whether a student uses it to work on weaknesses."
Study guides for SAT and ACT tests can be purchased in major bookstores,
"The nice part about the study guides is they are self-paced, and all
of them provide a written explanation of why an answer is the best answer
for a particular math problem," Friebel said. "If you pick up one a week
before the test, it will be a waste of time and money.
"If you get one with plenty of time before you take the test, it will
more than pay for itself."
Study guides also explain the test format, which is important because
students need to know if it will be scored according to the total number
of correct answers or the number of correct answers in relation to the
total number of answered questions, Friebel said.
"People at the companies that design these tests know it is humanly
impossible to answer all the questions on one of the sub tests," he said.
"If you're down to two minutes left on a test scored by just the number
of correct answers, mark the remaining bubbles with a single answer and
you have a 25 percent chance of getting it right. Some kids who don't know
stop and miss the chance to increase their score by a point or two."
UTC helps out Corrections Department
by Paul Darst
Training employees to work for the West Virginia Division of Corrections
is not cheap.
By the time a new worker is trained and on the job in one of the state's
correctional facilities, the state's bill is as much as $6,000 -- and that
does not include wages.
It is a small price to pay for a quality workforce, but not if they
stay for only a short time, corrections Commissioner Paul Kirby said.
"When we lose them after six months, it hurts," he said.
With a workforce turnover sometimes topping 50 percent, the state is
looking for ways to retain its corrections workers, Kirby said.
And a new course of study at the United Technical Center might
pave the way to doing just that.
The new Corrections Careers Program will be the first in the state
designed to introduce people to one of the fastest growing industries in
West Virginia, Kirby said.
"This will give people the opportunity to become exposed to what the
Division of Corrections really is," he said. "There's a lot of, 'I didn't
know that,' out there.
"We need to expose them, and let them know that we need more that just
corrections officers. We also need counselors, unit managers, case managers
Kirby was the guest speaker at a Harrison County Chamber of Commerce
Business After Hours at UTC Wednesday night. He thanked UTC for the program,
which has been in development for couple of years, said Joan Smith, UTC
"It came up when people from the Department of Corrections were talking
about how they have such a turnover," she said. "We thought that maybe
there was something we could do to help."
UTC helped introduce the FBI to the local workforce when they opened
the fingerprint center, Smith said.
"When they came in, we got a software package, and set up computers
to help people with the test," she said.
That program helped the FBI find qualified people to work at the new
center. UTC and the Division of Corrections hopes the new program will
work the same way, she said.
"We're doing the preliminary work on the curriculum," she said. "This
will be a class where people can come to get basic knowledge about the
Division of Corrections."
Besides giving potential corrections employers a leg up when they undergo
the state's training, the course also can weed out those who are not suited
for the job, Kirby said.
"A lot of times, we have people who get in and then decide it's really
not what they want to do," he said. ". . . It's not because it's dangerous.
It's just different."
And during the next several years, finding a qualified workforce for
the state's prisons is going to be critical, he said.
"We have a total of about 4,700 inmates incarcerated in West Virginia
today," Kirby said. "We expect that to double by 2004."
While the crime rate remains about the same, more police officers,
tougher sentencing guidelines and other factors lead to an increasing prison
population, he said.
To make matters worse for the state, two new federal prisons likely
will compete for prison workers, Kirby said.
But an effort to boost salaries for prison workers should help the
state's retention rate, Kirby said.
The new program at UTC also will help, and could serve as a model for
others, Kirby said.
"I don't think anybody else is doing this," he said. "This could be
shared with other states."
Area news in brief
Burglary of local business remains under investigation
Clarksburg police are still investigating the report of a break-in and
burglary at a West End business overnight Wednesday.
About 10 a.m. Wednesday, police went to Clarksburg Communications,
located at 907 West Pike St., and spoke to the owner, Charles D. Washington,
who said that between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, someone forcibly
entered the business and removed several thousand dollars worth of car
enhancement equipment and a customer's car that was being outfitted, according
to a police report.
Stolen items include a 1987 Mercedes-Benz, radios and vehicle remote-control
According to the report, about $1,000 damage was done to the building.
AT&T cuts 45 workers in Scott Depot
CHARLESTON (AP) -- Forty-five people will lose their jobs at AT&T Wireless
in Scott Depot in March.
The decision was necessary for "business reasons" after AT&T Wireless
bought Vanguard Cellular in August, spokeswoman Paula McWilliams said Wednesday.
"Anytime two companies are joining together, there's always the possibility
for people to be impacted," said McWilliams, with AT&T Wireless in
Earlier reports indicated no job loss would result from the purchase.
AT&T Wireless bought Vanguard Cellular Systems, which owned the
rights to the Cellular One franchise in much of West Virginia and along
the East Coast, including Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, part of New
York and Pennsylvania.
The call center in Scott Depot handled customer inquiries from West
Virginia and Ohio. Those calls will likely be handled by the company's
600-person call center in Pittsburgh.
Union withdraws petition to organize hospital workers
MARTINSBURG (AP) -- A union has dropped its bid to organize workers at
a Jefferson County hospital.
The International Association of Machinists filed a petition with the
National Labor Relations Board Oct. 21 to represent full- and part-time
employees, X-ray technicians, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapy
technicians and other specialists at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson.
A hearing on the petition was set for Wednesday in Baltimore. It was
canceled after the union withdrew its petition.
Jim Lautar, a union representative in Baltimore, said Thursday "insufficient
interest" among hospital workers prompted the union to drop its bid. The
number of workers who would have been eligible to join the union outstripped
the number of employees who expressed an interest in voting for representation,
Withdrawing the petition does not stop the union from re-petitioning
or filing another petition in the future, said Louis Damico, National Labor
Relations Board regional director in Baltimore.
Suzanne Shackelford, the hospital's director of patient services, said
officials were surprised by the union's move.
"We were not given a reason," Shackelford said. "It's hard to know
what that means. That doesn't mean they won't come back."
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Copyright © Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999