News for October 1, 1999

Site of new Shinnston bridge argued

by James Fisher
staff writer
Shinnston residents who wanted to stop a proposed new bridge from destroying their church voiced their opinions Thursday night and have apparently convinced the state Division of Highways to look elsewhere for a site.
DOH officials said at a public meeting Thursday at Lincoln High School that the Shinnston Bridge, which is about 70 years old, is in dire need of replacement. The division contracted a private firm to develop three options for building a new bridge, said spokeswoman Tina McClung.
All three options involved building it near the existing bridge.
Town officials and many residents said that the bridge should be built further up-river so as not to displace any businesses or homes.
McClung and Doug Bobb, senior design engineer for Site-Blauvelt Engineers, said Thursday that both options that would involve tearing down St. Ann's Catholic Church have been discarded.
The third option, which would put the new bridge about 200 feet down-river from the existing bridge, also upset some residents.
"This is the first we've heard of it (the bridge) being unsafe," said Patty Boggess. "If it is, then we need a new bridge. But we don't agree with alternative three either, because it would take three houses and a business."
Shinnston Mayor Sam DeMarco said many residents suggested putting a new bridge further upstream on undeveloped property.
"We'll probably make a recommendation to the DOH, but I'd like to talk to the downtown business people to see how they think it would affect their businesses," DeMarco said.
Putting the bridge across the river Shinnston would mean that many vehicles, including coal trucks, would not pass through the town. While some residents believe this would reduce congestion in the downtown area and could actually lead to increased development, DeMarco said he wants to get input from shop owners before making any decision that would affect them.
Councilman Matt Clark said he believes the best place to put a new bridge would be near the old Rite-Aid building.
"That would be the best place to start the bridge, because it's all undeveloped property and we wouldn't have to take anyone's property or homes," he said.
Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday, and will probably discuss a recommendation to be made to the DOH, DeMarco said.

County's animal control officer attacked by dog

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
Harrison County's animal control officer is recovering from several puncture wounds and lacerations on his face after being mauled by a dog he was trying to catch in Clarksburg Thursday morning.
Rick Gerrard was transported, treated and released from United Hospital Center Thursday afternoon, receiving an unspecified number of stitches for wounds suffered in the attack.
The attack occurred around 10 a.m. Thursday on Lewis Street in Clarksburg shortly after Gerrard attempted to round up two dogs, said Harrison County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jim Jack.
County officials were distraught to hear the news of the attack but later found it was less serious than they first believed.
"The injuries were not as serious as we once thought because there was a profuse amount of blood," Jack said.
Gerrard may have also hurt his back and was expected to receive X-rays at the hospital, Jack said. Gerrard was unable to be reached for comment.
Although one dog attacked Gerrard, two dogs that he was attempting to capture have been apprehended. The dogs must be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days to monitor symptoms that might indicate rabies.
The dogs appeared to be healthy, showing no initial signs of being rabid, Jack said.
As of Thursday afternoon, officials did not know who owns the dogs and did not specify their breed.
Whoever owns the dogs could be civilly liable for damages, or the cost of injuries, suffered in the attack.
Jack points out that it is against the law for people to keep a dog if it is proven by a judgment in a court of law to be vicious or dangerous.
A county magistrate can level fines against owners of vicious dogs and order for the animal to be destroyed, he said.

Bridgeport High teacher sues state over free speech dispute

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
A Bridgeport High School teacher is taking the state Department of Education to court, alleging that department officials violated his free speech rights.
Science teacher Terry Kerns filed suit against the department Tuesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court. Kerns, represented by Charleston attorney George Surmaitis, contends the department removed him from participation in the IBM Reinventing Education grant program for refusing to sign what he calls an unconstitutional grant contract.
Kerns believes the contract would have violated his First Amendment rights because it contained a provision that teachers participating in the program could not discuss it with the media without first getting permission from the state Department of Education.
"I don't feel I should have to give up one of my basic rights to participate in the program," he said. "I don't think the state should overtake local schools by having me report to Charleston. I work for people here."
The Reinventing Education program is a prestigious one, conducted in only 10 locations in the world. Kerns said IBM started the program in order to develop a website with lesson plans that could be used by teachers throughout the nation. As a participant, Kerns said he received five desktop computers and one laptop computer in June 1998 that his students used for research, reports and data tables.
Shortly afterward, the state Department of Education began attempting to add some unpalatable amendments to the original grant contract, Kerns said.
"When we applied, me, Robert Kittle (superintendent of schools) and Lindy Bennett (principal at BHS) had to sign a contract. We looked at it and everything seemed fine," he said. "After that, the Department of Education tried to create a provision that the copyrights to anything developed would be signed over to IBM -- they backed off that one.
"In November, they came out with another contract," he added. "That is the one with the provision saying a participating teacher couldn't say anything to the media about the program without contacting Charleston first."
Kerns said he and Bennett decided the provision was a violation of his free speech rights and did not sign the contract. He said he later received a letter from Assistant State Superintendent William Luff which stated the computers would be seized if he did not sign.
"I sent a letter in reply, hoping to discuss it with them. They didn't respond and came and got the computers with no notice," he said.
In the lawsuit, Kerns is petitioning for the return of the computer equipment, to be reinstated in the program and to have the media contact rule declared a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar free speech protections in the West Virginia Constitution.
"It's not just about me. For the students, losing those computers is like stepping back 10 years in science classes," he said.
The West Virginia Education Association supports Kerns and helped him find an attorney, said Bill White, regional representative for the WVEA.
"Anytime we have a member who has been denied workplace or citizenship rights in a school setting, it's our duty to be an advocate for them," White said. "Because the state Department of Education has denied students in Kerns' class the opportunity to use the equipment, it has a detrimental effect on them too."
Luff was at a conference and unavailable for comment Thursday.

WI's Philip Wyatt is Harrison Teacher of Year

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
Washington Irving Middle School Band Director Philip Wyatt says he does not do anything extraordinary.
Yet he has been named Harrison County Teacher of the Year, uses computers to help his sixth through eighth grade students learn music, and has some very strong opinions about the importance of the arts to adolescent development.
"Plato said the arts can be the most important part of education. I think music allows you to synthesize the curriculum and focus on the whole student," Wyatt said.
"There's a lot of emphasis on statistics and studies to determine the needs of students, and I think things like music and creative writing that develop the whole student are sometimes pushed aside."
Wyatt contends that consolidation and the growing number of single-parent households increase the importance of band programs, where students learn "life literacy."
"There's more to life skills than filling in bubbles. Band makes you better in interpersonal relationships and working in a group. Kids need to learn to work collectively -- you can even tie it in to the school safety issue," he said.
Wyatt added that he wants fine arts programs to be strong in order to supplement, not displace, math and science, as few of his students will go on to be professional musicians.
"I use computer programs to teach music theory and help me work with students one-on-one to improve their note reading. I've worked with the (West Virginia) High-Tech Consortium in writing on-line multi-media lessons that will soon be available to all teachers."
Wyatt began teaching in McDowell County in 1975.
He has also taught at Salem Middle School and Roosevelt Wilson High School.

Deputies honor Harrison Commission

County thanked for recognizing department needs

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
Harrison County commissioners were in high spirits Thursday as officers from the county sheriff's department honored them for helping to improve the police department.
"Does this mean we get a pistol?" Commissioner Roger Diaz quipped, while officers presented commissioners with honorary plaques.
In all seriousness, members of the county Deputy Sheriff's Association say the commission has listened to the sheriff's department's needs, taking action to make sure that they're addressed.
"I think they're second to none," said county sheriff's department Lt. Jim Jack. "We're the best supported sheriff's department, and that's because of the commissioners. They recognize the department's needs and fulfill them."
Jack and other officers lauded the commission's recent salary increases for officers, amounting to about a 5 percent raise, and the commission's purchase of 18 new police cruisers late last year.
Over the last few years, the commission has also approved the purchase of new shotguns and handguns for every officer.
The new cruisers replaced 10-year-old vehicles with high mileage. The new cruisers mean more to officers than many people may realize, Jack said.
"We do a lot of traveling around the county in our cruisers," he said. "In effect, it's our office. They're tantamount to our success."
Several commissioners said they felt honored by the officers' presentation Thursday.
"It's very seldom that we get thanks for our jobs up here," said Commission President Tom Keeley.
In other business Thursday, commissioners approved the following allocation of funds for merit-based raises for employees:
-- $14,586 to the county clerk's office.
-- $9,893 to the county circuit clerk's office.
-- $8,300 to the county sheriff's department tax office.
-- $31,737 to the county prosecuting attorney's office.
-- $21,734 to the county assessor's office.
-- $52,087 to the county sheriff's department (for law enforcement).
-- $4,970 to the county sheriff's department process office.
-- $29,760 to the county sheriff's department for corrections (officers and cooks)
-- $4,218 to the county office of emergency services.
-- $14,861 to the county bureau of emergency services (911 staff).
-- $8,830 to the county bureau of emergency services (bureau staff).
-- $6,680 to the county planning commission's office.
-- $3,989 to the county parks and recreation's office.
Department heads and elected officials are expected to give out the raises to their employees based on how well the employees have been performing their jobs.
The merit-based policy applies to all county department and agencies except deputy sheriff and correctional officers, who will receive a salary increase of about 5 percent in accordance with civil service law.

Clarksburg Mission Executive Director Bennett steps down

Cites disagreement with board that governs agency

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
The executive director of the Clarksburg Mission has resigned, citing a misunderstanding with the members of its governing board.
"It should never have happened, but it was just one of those things. I don't really want to comment about it because I don't want to hurt the good work that is going on there," said Pastor Lonnie Bennett, former director.
According to Evans King, a spokesperson for the Clarksburg Mission Board, Bennett tendered his resignation following a board meeting last week.
King said Bennett had a disagreement with a unanimous board decision.
That decision gave representation on the board to the women's auxiliary volunteers who help at the mission.
The ladies wanted more of a voice in the affairs of the mission and the board supported that, but Bennett was not willing to work with that decision, King said.
"We did not ask for his resignation, and we had some discussion about his withdrawing it because he has done a tremendous job at the mission. We've asked him to meet with us, but he hasn't done so at this time," King said.
Bennett was in his sixth year as director of the community-supported mission on North Fourth Street.
The mission serves meals and offers shelter to the homeless.
It also runs a second-hand store to support its outreach.
For the time being, Pastor Tim Heldreth of Idamay has been appointed as interim director to oversee the day-to-day operations of the mission.
The Baptist pastor, who has a background in management, started his job Wednesday.
"I've been asked by the board to fill in as interim director until things are under control, and I was glad to be able to do it. The mission is a tremendous work," Heldreth said.

Asbestos forces WVU basketball team to hit the road

by Vicki Smith
MORGANTOWN -- The Mountaineers will play every game of the 1999-2000 basketball season on a foreign court while West Virginia University administrators try to resolve potential problems with asbestos in the Coliseum.
Nine of West Virginia's 18 home games will be played at the 12,000-seat Charleston Civic Center instead of the 14,000-seat Coliseum, school officials announced Thursday.
Six games will be held at the 7,000-seat Wheeling Civic Center and three will be at the 4,000-seat Feaster Center at Fairmont State College.
Average attendance at men's home basketball games is about 8,000, Athletic Director Ed Pastilong said. Women's home games will be held at the 2,000-seat Morgantown High School.
Coach Gale Catlett was absent from the news conference held to announce the new schedule, and Pastilong was vague about how he took word of the disruption.
"Coach Catlett realizes it'll be a little bit of a disadvantage playing all of your games away, but he's very competitive," Pastilong said. "Sometimes adversity brings out the best in people. We're hoping that will be the case here."
In addition to basketball, WVU has been forced to move volleyball and wrestling matches to the Shell Building on campus. Athletic officials are still deciding where to hold gymnastics meets.
The Mountaineers will play three games on national television: a Jan. 11 home game with Syracuse and a Feb. 10 home game with Pitt in Charleston, and a Feb. 15 road game at Villanova. TV coverage will not be affected by the relocation.
Big East Conference officials have been "very patient" with WVU as it developed the schedule and there have been no complaints from competing coaches so far, Pastilong said.
University officials are working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a testing plan to find out whether asbestos levels in the air inside the Coliseum are dangerous.
Cancer-causing asbestos was applied to the bottom of the arena's ceiling in 1969 to limit condensation and muffle noise. The adhesive holding the asbestos in place is now weakening, causing chunks of it to fall into seats.
The building's outer ring, where classrooms and offices are located, remains open because its air system functions independently of the arena.
WVU plans to remove the asbestos from the Coliseum next spring unless the EPA forces it to do so sooner. The work should take about six months and cost some $15 million, said Scott Kelley, vice president for administration and finance.
The EPA had given WVU an indefinite extension to develop a new testing plan after rejecting the first one as inadequate. But an agreement could be reached within the next few days, and testing could begin as early as next week, Kelley said.
If the testing finds no threat to public health, the arena could be reopened for practice, which is scheduled to begin in mid-October, Kelley said.
Although WVU fans in other parts of the state may be excited about the prospect of seeing the Mountaineers in other venues, it creates a hardship for students and other fans.
The university is working on transportation plans for students who want to attend the home games because admission is covered in the activities fee they pay with their tuition.
"It's sad for our players; nonetheless, it's something that needs to be done," Pastilong said.

Area & regional news in brief

Council members sue mayor in small Kanawha town

CHARLESTON (AP) -- A factional fight in the tiny town of Jefferson has landed in court.
Four members of the town council sued Mayor Kathy Wolfe in Kanawha County Circuit Court Wednesday. They accuse her of acting without the consent of the council.
Officials split into two factions shortly after elections last June. Wolfe defeated incumbent Dan Jackson, and four of the five council members lined up against her.
Council members Robert Stalnaker, William Meadows, Owen Spradling and Cynthia Meadows say Wolfe has denied council members access to town records, illegally hired employees and kept council members from speaking at council meetings.

Race track to add 500 slot machines

CHARLES TOWN (AP) -- Charles Town Races has won its bid to add 500 video slot machines.
During a meeting Wednesday at the track, the West Virginia Lottery Commission voted unanimously in favor of the expansion.
The vote approves an increase in slot and video lottery machines from 935 to 1,435. Track officials have said the expansion would enable the Eastern Panhandle track to accommodate a growing number of gamblers from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Extension of MARC line to be scrutinized

MARTINSBURG (AP) -- A $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will pay for a study to determine whether commuter rail service should be extended from Martinsburg to Morgan County.
Extending the MARC line west makes sense because tracks and passengers are already in place, said Berkeley County Commissioner Phil Maggio. CSX operates two Maryland Rail Commuter lines under contract.
Extending the line 23 miles to Hancock would cut as much as an hour from the driving time of some Eastern Panhandle commuters, Maggio said. Dozens now travel to Martinsburg to catch trains to Washington, D.C.

Rock slide closes U.S. Route 60

GAULEY BRIDGE (AP) -- A slide with rocks as large as a Volkswagen Beetle blocked both lanes of U.S. Route 60 and shut down a CSX Transportation rail line Thursday.
The slide Wednesday night at the foot of Gauley Mountain near Cathedral Falls sent boulders within inches of a little used 22-mile rail line, Bob Sullivan, a CSX spokesman in Philadelphia, said today.
Motorists were forced to take a long detour on state Route 39 or U.S. Route 19, a Fayette County Emergency Services spokesman said. The road likely would remain closed until late Thursday to all but emergency traffic, the spokesman said.

Rooting Creek closed

Rooting Creek, Harrison County Route 52, will be closed from 8 a.m.-noon today for culvert installation.
Lewis County Rt. 8, I-79 and Harrison Rt. 48 may be used as alternate routes.

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