News for October 20, 1999

Angotti asks water board to drop benefits

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
Delegate Frank Angotti Jr.  has requested that he be removed from life and health insurance benefits provided by the Clarksburg Water Board.
Angotti, D-Harrison, a former member of the Clarksburg Water Board, provided the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram with a copy of a letter addressed to board President Robert Glotfelty in which he made the request. In the letter and an accompanying press release, he said he did not wish for the controversy over the benefits to interfere with board business.
"I do not desire for the controversy surrounding my receipt of benefits to continue, and I apologize for any distraction it may have caused you and the current Water Board members," Angotti stated. "Hopefully, by withdrawing myself and my family from any health insurance benefit participation, it will enable you and the Water Board to concentrate on the more important matters of providing good water service to Harrison County."
Insurance benefits for retired Clarksburg Water Board members became controversial after current member Charles O. Thayer III questioned them, citing the board's $400,000 debt. Thayer has also questioned benefits for current members, as well as benefits for water board employees such as overtime pay for salaried supervisors and pay for up to 120 days of unused sick leave upon retirement.
Board members have since placed a $10,000 cap on the value of their group term life insurance policies.
Glotfelty said Tuesday that he was pleased with Angotti's decision to remove himself from benefits.
"I want to thank him for the letter. I hope this will clear up any controversy surrounding the board," Glotfelty said.
Though Glotfelty said he did not want to address specifics, he said board members would likely review benefits policies at a meeting next Tuesday.
"I think we will be addressing every one of those issues," he said.
Board members Thayer and Patricia D'Anselmi said Tuesday that they had not yet received copies of Angotti's request.
D'Anselmi added that she supports closely reviewing benefit policies for current and retired board members and board employees.
"I hope the citizens of Clarksburg realize we know there are things that need to be changed and are trying to do it," D'Anselmi said. "It's not something you can do in an instant. We have to make sure whatever we do is legal."
"I do think need to look at everything, including employee benefits. The fact that it's (the Clarksburg Water Board) a public service makes it even more important that we do it."

Fed building not handicapped accessible

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
When Charles Long and his wife, Elizabeth, looked for handicapped-accessible parking near the new Clarksburg Federal Center Tuesday morning, they couldn't find any. While there were two spaces in the secure employee parking lot reserved for handicapped parking, no spaces are available on the street.
The Longs circled the block, convinced they had just not seen the handicapped parking spaces for the building. Finally, Long let his wife out of their truck at the front door of the building and then searched for parking blocks away.
Elizabeth Long, who uses a walker, stood painfully at the front door of the building until a security guard helped her into the building and let her sit down.
For nearly an hour, the Longs asked for answers about the lack of handicapped-accessible parking from Social Security Administration officials, a U.S. Attorney representative and building security.
"I can't believe this is a federal building and this is it," a tearful Elizabeth Long said, as she sat in a chair near the front door and gestured toward the street. "Parking on a curb without a cutout and a parking lot filled with cars driven by able-bodied people."
The Longs were told that the parking lot was for employees of the building, not visitors.
Now, the Longs want to take their fight to Charleston or Washington because they say the building, which has been open for less than a year, violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Barbara Judy, the ADA coordinator for the state and West Virginia University, agrees with the Longs.
"They have to provide handicapped parking," she said. "They have to have some way to get in. And we're talking about Social Security; that's who they deal with is handicapped people."
A spokesman for the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees the building and operation of federal buildings, said that the center meets federal ADA guidelines because there are handicapped spaces in the parking lot.
"It's a matter of calling ahead to alert the guards to handicapped needs and get access," said John Thompson of the GSA in Philadelphia. "My understanding is that there are supposed to be two handicapped spaces for patrons. The rest of the lot is for the specific needs of the offices and not indiscriminate employee parking."
However, Steve Phillips, manager of the Social Security office in Clarksburg, said Tuesday that he was told by a GSA representative in Charleston that the handicapped spots are not to be used by visitors to the building.
"I spoke to her about a month ago and she said that for security reasons, the lot was not for unsearched cars going in and out all the time," he said. "Therefore, those spaces are not available."
Phillips said Tuesday that because of the discrepancy between the two directives, he would contact the Charleston GSA office again to determine if the spaces are for public use.
"People need to easily access parking and get into the building," he said. "It would be better if there was accessible public parking with enough room for people to get out of their cars."
Phillips also said the Longs were not the first people to complain about the lack of handicapped parking near or at the federal center.
"Last fall, the GSA sent me a copy of the city's parking plan," he said. "The plan was to make the garage more handicapped-accessible. That was kind of given to me as a partial answer. That's just another issue. What's kind of tied up in this is the lack of general downtown parking."
But lack of parking is not the only complaint about the new federal building. Judy said other factors make the building non-compliant with the ADA guidelines, including lack of curb cuts in front of the building and no push-button door access.
"That's a no-no," she said. "A new building must be ADA accessible and they know it. Program accessibility is the key. They have to provide physical accessibility to the building. If there is parking for anybody, it needs to be for everybody.
"If they can find a way to provide parking for employees, they need to find a way to make it accessible for handicapped people," she said.
Thompson said the GSA had negotiated with the city to provide handicapped parking near the building but talks quickly broke off when the city requested a yearly payment from the government for the designation.
Thompson also disputed that the lack of parking violates federal guidelines.
"The regulations say that if we do not provide public parking, it is not necessary for us to provide handicapped parking," he said. "We're not subject to meet ADA guidelines because it's a federal building."
Thompson said federal buildings are regulated by the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards of 1968, which are similar to the ADA guidelines.
Having two handicapped spots in the parking lot technically meets those standards, Judy said, but violates the spirit of the guidelines.
"They're walking a fine line there, but the bottom line is, they're running a program that is excluding handicapped people," she said.

Matko to run for judge's position

by Paul Darst
Staff Writer
Harrison County Commissioners spent part of Tuesday morning discussing how to rearrange offices in the courthouse to make room for a third judge.
And they found out who one of the contenders for that newly created position will be.
After serving as county prosecutor for the past 30 years, Edmund Matko informed commissioners that he will not seek a ninth term next fall.
Instead, he will make a run for the third circuit judge position in Harrison County.
"During the more than 30 years I have been prosecutor, I have handled all types of cases," Matko said after the meeting. "I think I have done just about everything there is to do in this job. It's time for me to move on; to go in another direction."
The West Virginia Legislature created the new position during the 1999 session to help the two existing judges with the increased caseload in the area.
Matko started thinking about making the move then, he said.
"I was asked about my interest in this by family and friends when it occurred," he said. "I thought about it from time to time, but not seriously until  recently."
In a letter he read to the commissioners, Matko indicated that he made the announcement at that time to allow other attorneys time to consider running for the office. Candidacy papers for all offices up in the Nov. 7, 2000 general election must be filed by May, he said.
But finding space for the winner of that judgeship race will not be an easy task, commissioners said. They met with Judge Thomas Bedell, Judge John Marks and architect Bill Yoke to discuss the problem.
"I have no solutions," Bedell said. "What worries me is the timing of all of this. The new judge is going to need space for a staff. Then, the Supreme Court has to have final approval of any space issue. We have 14 months to figure this out."
The new judge will need at least seven rooms, plus a courtroom, Bedell said. The two existing courtrooms are large enough to be divided into smaller ones, but that was not a favorite option of either the commissioners or the judges.
"That is not an option," Commissioner Beth Taylor said, citing the historic value of the courtrooms.
But the existing rooms are too large for today's justice system, Bedell said.
"My courtroom has room for 150 spectators," he said. "I just finished a two-day jury trial, and there were no spectators."
A new courtroom would not need to be as large, he said. A room about he size of the commission meeting room would suffice, he said.
But finding that space will not be possible without moving other offices out of the courthouse. Commissioners already have discussed plans to move the Harrison County Health Department to another location, commission President Thomas Keeley said.
"It wasn't our thinking to move the new judge into the Health Department," he told the judges. "We just saw the need for additional space."
Ideally, offices and courtrooms for all three judges will be located on the same floor of the courthouse. The commission and judges will work with Yoke to find a way to make it all fit.
"The approach I'd like to take is to get with the judges and see what is needed," Yoke said.
It is a process that will take time, he said.
"Based on the work done in other parts of the building, it will take six to eight months," he said. "It will have to be phased in, but I think we can be done in a reasonable amount of time."
For work to start, one area of the building must be vacated no later than March 31, 2000, Taylor said.
In other action, commissioners approved $20,000 in funding for the Harrison County Humane Society. Of that money, half will go toward the society's low-income spay/neuter and immunization program. The society will provide an additional $5,000 to fully fund that program.
The other half is earmarked to fund the salary  for a part-time kennel technician.
Commissioners also approved a request to replace several computers and fax machines in county offices that cannot be upgraded to handle the Y2K problem.
County Administrator James Harris estimated that the county will spend about $100,000 on Y2K upgrades by the end of this year.

Unity rally scheduled for Nov. 6 at Veterans Park

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
After consulting with police officials and experts on hate groups, organizers of a unity rally in Clarksburg now say they will hold the event on the same day as a rally being planned by the Ku Klux Klan.
Last week, some city and county officials said the "Let's Get Real" unity rally would be held at Liberty High School on Nov. 7 a day after the Klan plans to rally in front of the Harrison County Courthouse.
Several city council members have since criticized those plans, saying that the rally would be best held at the same time and day, but different location, as the Klan's rally.
Now, organizers say the unity rally will be held on Nov. 6, beginning at noon under the Osborn Shelter at Veterans Memorial Park.
"It's not going to be an elaborate situation," said Jim Hunt, a city councilman and the activity coordinator for the event. "It's going to be a community grass-roots event, and it will work out well."
Mayor David Kates, who originally conceived the plans for a unity rally, is encouraging young adults to attend the event.
Any youth group or school organization that attends the unity rally will receive recognition.
In addition, Kates has asked for residents and school children to write letters about issues related to racism and hate crimes.
The letters, which would be sent to Kates at City Hall, will be included in presentations at the unity rally. After the rally, the letters will be bound and preserved in the city's archives.
Some council members discussed the latest plans for the unity rally during the council's special session Tuesday afternoon.
Kates was not present at the meeting. Councilwoman Kathryn Folio said she is no longer a part of the planning committee for the event. County Commissioner Roger Diaz said he is also no longer an active member of the planning committee, saying that he would still be more of a "worker bee" waiting for his marching orders from rally organizers.
In other business Tuesday, council members interviewed two more applicants for the vacant city manager post.
Council members interviewed five candidates for position on Saturday.
Two more candidates will be interviewed on next Tuesday. After that, council plans to pare down the list to three candidates. Hunt said the names of the top three candidates would be released to the public.
Council members want to have a new city manager in place by Dec. 1, but have not set an official deadline.

Four city residents arrested on stolen check charges

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Four Clarksburg residents were in the Harrison County Correctional Center Tuesday after their arrest Monday afternoon for using and attempting to use stolen checks.
David Morris, 22, Jonathan Williams, 18, Danielle Zdeb, 19, and Susan Jimenez, 19, were arrested at the Bank One drive-through window just after 2 p.m. Monday after police were alerted that they were trying to cash a check that had been reported stolen earlier in the day, said Clarksburg Police Investigator John Walker.
Morris was charged with forgery and two counts of uttering. He is being held on $45,000 bond.
Williams was charged with conspiracy and forgery and is being held on $25,000 bond. Zdeb and Jimenez were both charged with conspiracy and are being held on $10,000 bond each.
"They found a checkbook, jumped in a cab and went on a shopping spree," he said.
"They bought some stuff at Tate's Market, the Shinnston Go Mart and on their way back to Clarksburg they decided to cash one at the bank."
The check the group was trying to cash at the bank was written for $1,500, Walker said.
According to the criminal complaints filed in magistrate court, the group was planning to purchase a car for about $700 and split the rest of the money.
According to Walker, the Shinnston Police Department is investigating the stolen check used at the Go Mart, and the Harrison County Sheriff's Department is investigating the check passed at Tate's Market. Other charges may be pending against the four from the other agencies.
The arrests were made about two hours after the checkbook was reported stolen, Walker said.
"The very good cooperation between the City of Shinnston, the sheriff's department and the Clarksburg Police Department directly led to these arrests being made," he said.
If convicted on all counts, Morris faces 3-30 years in the state penitentiary or up to three years in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,500 for the forgery and uttering charges. Williams faces 1 to 10 years in the penitentiary or up to 1 year in the jail and a fine of up to $500 for the forgery charge and a prison term of 1 to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000 for the conspiracy charge. Zdeb and Jimenez both face prison terms of 1 to 5 years and/or fines of up to $10,000.

Local church honored for renovations

by Gail Marsh
Christ Episcopal Church on West Main Street has received the first Golden Broom Award for the recently completed historical renovation done to the 150-year-old sanctuary and grounds.
The Clarksburg Woman's Club presented the Rev. Scott Holcombe with the award on Tuesday afternoon in the church's courtyard.
Dolores Stinespring, local Woman's Club president, said the West Virginia Federation of Woman's Clubs created the Golden Broom to allow each local club to give an award to encourage businesses or organizations to improve their buildings.
"We felt that Christ Episcopal deserved the Golden Broom Award for the extensive work the church has done to improve the outside of their building," Stinespring said.
Holcombe said the historic renovation took four years from start to finish and cost more than $800,000. The project, overseen by a firm from Charleston specializing in historic preservation, restored both the inside and outside of the church to appear as it did when it was built in 1853.
Holcombe said the original building had a slave balcony and gas lights, while the renovated building has a sealed up balcony and chandeliers that most closely resemble those in the original church. The tongue-and-groove oak floor has been restored, along with the black walnut pews and wainscoting.
The highlight of the restoration was the work done to the stained-glass windows that line both sides of the sanctuary, now insured for more than $3 million. The windows date back to the 1860s when the first was a gift from the family who donated the land for the church. The family wanted to re-create the church they had formerly attended in Dublin, Ireland.
Holcombe said the most satisfying aspect about the historic renovation was seeing the effect it had on the surrounding neighborhood.
"When I came here six years ago this building had actually become an eyesore in the neighborhood. Since the renovation, the whole area around the church has spruced up and been greatly improved," the pastor said.

Local and regional news in brief

Hydrant flushing may cause city water discoloration

Some Clarksburg residents may have discolored water today, since officials with the Insurance Services Office were testing and inspecting some 17 city fire hydrants.
Workers with the Insurance Services Office, a service hired by insurance companies to determine fire insurance rates, were to begin flow-testing fire hydrants at around 8 a.m. today.
Areas affected include: West Pike Street and Sycamore Street; Hewes Avenue and North Fourth Street; West Pike Street and E.B. Saunders Way; Tyler Avenue and Harrison Street; Broadway Avenue and Myra Street; Ohio Avenue and Stiles Street; Ohio Avenue and Pinnickinnick Street; Sixth Street and Clark Street; North 15th Street and Hamill Avenue; North 19th Street and Pride Avenue; West Pike Street and 24th Street; West Pike and Bailey Street; Duff Avenue and Hall Street; Rt. 19 and Davisson Run Road; Route 19 and Oakmound Drive; Van Buren Street and Cleveland Avenue and areas of Gore.
The testing was to be complete by around 1 p.m., said Clarksburg Water Board President Patsy Trecost.
Anyone with discolored or rusty-looking water should let the water run until it clears up, Trecost said.
If the water doesn't clear, residents should contact the water board.

DMV center to be built in Morgantown

CHARLESTON (AP) The Division of Motor Vehicles has announced plans to build an 8,000-square-foot branch office in Morgantown.
The DMV center, to be built off W.Va. Route 7 near Interstate 68, will serve Preston, Monongalia and Marion counties.
State Police in Westover and Fairmont will no longer perform motor vehicle duties once the center opens late next year.
"They just weren't ideal sites," Sen. Michael Oliverio, D-Monongalia, said Monday.
"The parking was bad and lines stretched around the corner."
The new office will provide business licensing, driving tests, license renewals and motorcycle tests in its motorcycle center.
Glenmark Holding, LLC, of Morgantown, which owns the land, will build the center and lease the site to the DMV.
The new center will cost the state about $1.1 million annually for 10 years, Oliverio said.

Ex-trooper denies having relationship with teen-ager

CHARLESTON (AP) A retired State Police officer facing nine counts of third-degree sexual assault for having sex with an underage girl has pleaded innocent.
John K. Rapp, who once served on the state Parole Board and as a county campaign manager for Gov. Cecil Underwood, also is charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Third-degree sexual assault alleges an adult had consensual sexual relations with a juvenile under the age of 16.
Rapp, who entered his innocent plea Monday in a Mercer County Circuit Court, said he was innocent of having a continuing sexual relationship with a minor girl while he was police chief in Athens.
Rapp was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond with trial set for Jan. 25.

Boone juvenile detention facility gets approval

CHARLESTON(AP) Members of the Regional Jail Authority have approved construction of a juvenile detention facility in Boone County.
Authority members voted unanimously Monday to move forward with plans to convert the former Lory-Julian School near Danville into a 75-bed regional juvenile center.
The $6 million facility will house violent offenders, older juveniles and those awaiting transition to adult correctional facilities.
It will be part of a statewide network of regional juvenile detention facilities, similar to the regional jail concept for adults.
Groundbreaking for a $4 million prototype in the Eastern Panhandle is set for Oct. 29.
That juvenile center in Augusta near the new Potomac Highlands Regional Jail in Hampshire County will house 24 youths.
Authority members also agreed Monday to research if they have authority to build another juvenile facility in Kanawha County to replace the antiquated Kanawha Home for Children.
Steve Sluss, county manager, repeated the county's offer to provide the land and funding to build the facility.
The sticking point is whether state law limits the authority to projects that are on an approved list passed by the Legislature.
The authority asked its attorney, Chad Cardinal, to meet with legislative attorneys to determine if it can proceed without the Legislature's approval.
Public Safety Secretary Otis Cox said the question is not whether to replace the Kanawha Home, but how.
"After recently conducting a tour of the facility, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the facility needs to be closed," Cox said. "As soon as we can close that facility and open another facility in this region, we need to do that."

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