News for October 25, 1999

Auto repair shop destroyed in fire

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
An early morning fire on Sunday destroyed an auto repair business in the Glen Elk II section of Clarksburg, fire officials said.
The Clarksburg Fire Department was alerted to the fire around 1:30 a.m. at the John Book Automotive Service building, located at 217 Ohio Ave.
According to Lt. Matt Wageman, an officer with the fire department, the building was nearly consumed by the time firefighters arrived.
Wageman said the warehouse and eight vehicles in the building at the time of the fire were declared a loss, with an estimated value in excess of $175,000.
The fire was contained to the warehouse, and a number of vehicles parked around the outside of the building did not receive any damage.
Firefighters fought the blaze in a steady rain, with winds causing the smoke to spread and create some visibility problems.
 No cause for the fire has yet been determined, Wageman said.
"We will be investigating the cause of the fire, but we donít know at this time if the state fire marshalís office will be contacted," he said.

Maplewood targets hometown seniors

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
The latest census figures show that West Virginia has the highest number of senior citizens per capita of any state in the nation.
And North Central West Virginia has the highest senior population in the state.
Harrison County boasts more than 69,000 residents, with 12,000 of those residents over the age of 65, better than 17 percent. There are 14,000 Harrison residents between the ages of 45-65, another 20 percent of the countyís population.
With the senior population projected to continue to rise as the baby boomers age, communities are looking for ways to help seniors remain in their home towns rather than losing them to the retirement enclaves of the South.
This idea was the driving force behind the construction of Maplewood, a senior living community nearing completion on the outskirts of Bridgeport along U.S. Route 50 East. Greystone Inc. of Irving, Texas, which builds retirement communities around the country, was the developer on the $18 million project.
 Maplewood is a subsidiary of United Hospital, but remains its own, separate non-profit corporation, with its own board of directors. Bruce Carter, president of UHC, said the hospitalís board recognized the need to build a facility like Maplewood in North Central West Virginia for a long time.
"So many of the patients we see at UHC are no longer able to live safely alone at home. And we also see patients who are in nursing homes that donít really need to be there, but just need some assisted care," Carter said. "Maplewood can meet the needs of seniors who want to stay independent without having to move to a facility out of state."
Maplewood is situated on 29 acres, a massive brick, multi-level structure with four wings. The facility contains 84 one- or two-bedroom independent living apartments, along with 44 assisted-living units, referred to as The Meadows at Maplewood. Jane Wade serves as Maplewoodís executive director.
"Weíre so excited about nearing the completion of Maplewood and getting ready for our residents to move in. Itís been a two-year effort, but things have turned out beautifully," she said.
Wade said that 52 of Maplewoodís apartments were already purchased before construction began. The apartments are in the $60,000 to $110,000 range. The assisted-living units are not sold but only rented out to clients, with the price range depending on the services a person may require, Wade said.
"Seeing how popular the units are even before we open reinforces the fact that residents want a retirement complex like Maplewood in the Clarksburg-Bridgeport area," Wade said.
Long-time Clarksburg resident Harry Berman is on the board of directors for Maplewood. He and his wife, Florence, also plan to move there in the next few months.
"This will be an outstanding facility once itís complete, offering many advantages to the people who live there. Itís such an attractive place and offers so much to do that it will probably have a waiting list in no time," Berman said.
Seniors who live at Maplewood will pay a monthly maintenance fee that will entitle them to a number of services, including daily meals in an upscale dining room, complete with a hostess, wait staff and two certified chefs.
The dining room is furnished in classical walnut furniture, with one side of the room comprised of French doors that open onto a balcony overlooking a pond and rolling hills. The room also contains a private dining area that can be reserved for special occasions.
"The menu is definitely classified as 'fine dinning,í with our residents able to pick from several choices each day," Ware said.
Rooms located in the corridors off the dining room include a library, a game or card room, a work-out area, a meditation room, a beauty salon and a gift shop. Each residential floor also contains a common lounge area at the center of each hallway.
"We want Maplewood to be a place where seniors can be with other people if they choose, or have the privacy they also want," Wade said.
Wade said she expects the finishing touches to be done on the building by early December and residents will be able to move in after that time.
"This has been a long process, but itís definitely been worth the wait. I think people will be very pleased to see how well this place has turned out," she said.

Boy makes the cut in pumpkin-carving contest

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
And the winner is -- 10-year-old Brad Pyle, who walked away $100 richer after carving the most outstanding creation at Sundayís jack-oí-lantern contest at Leonís Produce.
Pyle picked a large pumpkin with a long, vertical face rather than the traditional short, round pumpkin in order to have the best carving surface.
Pyle, the son of John and Connie Pyle, is a veteran carver, and said heís been making Jack Oí Lanterns since he was 8 or 9.
The contest had no rules, and pumpkins could be painted, carved or dressed up.
More than 35 people of all ages competed in the afternoon contest, and all contestants received prizes.
 Pyle chose to carve a felineís face, complete with cut-out whiskers, eyes and ears. His intricate design took about an hour, he said.
"I did this last year and I really enjoyed it. The whiskers are the hardest part," Pyle said.
Leon Wetzel, owner of the produce stand along state Route 98 near the Veteranís Administration Hospital, said the contest is something heís wanted to do for a long time.
"We sell a lot of pumpkins this time of year, and we thought it would be fun to have something for the kids to do. This is a pretty good turnout considering the weather and that this was our first year," he said.

Church festival benefits childrenís home

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
Despite the cold, dreary weather, a good-sized crowd turned out Sunday afternoon to support a booth festival held at the Lost Creek United Methodist Church in downtown Lost Creek.
The festival was sponsored by all the churches of the South Harrison Cooperative Parish to raise funds for the Burlington United Methodist Family Services, Inc.
Pastor Leon Hevener and his wife, Gerri, were enjoying setting out cakes for a cake walk and collecting the canned goods and supplies people were donating for the youth homes located in Beckley and Burlington.
The church kitchen was selling funnel cakes, hot dogs, cole slaw and other goodies to help raise money the youth homes.
"The concept of a booth festival was started years ago, so that churches in an area could cooperate and help support the childrenís home," Hevener said.
Burlington United Methodist Family Services has been helping children for the last 86 years, according to Vicki Ginn, public and volunteer relations coordinator for the family services agency, headquartered in Keyser.
"The organization started out as the Star of Hope Childrenís Refuge in 1913, and has grown to a state-wide family services agency helping hundreds of children and families," Ginn said.
Burlington is affiliated with the United Methodist Church in the state, but is its own independent corporation. Along with group residential care, Burlington offers adoption services, foster care, a truancy diversion program and maternal and newborn care for at-risk mothers. The nearest office is located in Grafton.
There are currently about 50 youth, ages 11-18, in residential care, and another 150 children in foster care, Ginn said. There are also about 10 other youth in transitional care, older teens who have grown up in foster care and are getting ready to move out on their own.
Burlington has become famous for its Apple Harvest Festival, held every year in Keyser in early October.
Nearly 1,200 volunteers show up the week of the festival to help make 2,000 gallons of apple butter.
"Itís something that people look forward to every year, and they are so generous to help out. The festival gives us a chance to not only raise some money but to let people know the kinds of services we offer," Ginn said.

Area man finds new job through Rehabilitation Services

NOTE: This is third in a series of articles for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
by Gail Marsh
Like a number of area workers, Eugene Lafferty found himself downsized a few years ago after being employed for more than 20 years.
Lafferty had worked at the Clarksburg Data Center for 16 years when it was located on First Street. When that facility closed, he went to work for CB&T in Fairmont for four years. Then the downsizing took place.
Lafferty, who is hearing impaired with a 50 percent hearing loss, found himself out of work when the bank got rid of all its data processing employees.
"Here I was, 47 years old and out of work. I couldnít even find something part-time or temporary for nearly three years," he said.
Things took a turn for the better in 1996 when the local Job Service referred Lafferty to the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services on West Main Street. Liz Carder, a counselor at the rehabilitation office, was assigned to Laffertyís case.
Carder said diagnostic services determined that Lafferty was suffering from both a hearing loss and age-related discrimination that had kept him from finding employment. Lafferty was fitted with appropriate hearing aids and given temporary employment in a local state office.
"Mr. Lafferty was very motivated to work with us so that he could find employment. He took the civil service test, worked on his resume and continued to go on job interviews until he was finally hired full time," Carder said.
Lafferty went to work at the Division of Health and Human Services in Weston, but continued his job search to find something in the Clarksburg area. He was eventually hired at his present job with the Disability Determination Section in the new federal building located on Pike Street.
Lafferty works as the information systems coordinator for his office, taking care of the network and troubleshooting problems with the work stations.
He said he enjoys both working with computers and with the people.
"Itís a nice office with everything brand new, and I really enjoy the people I work with," Lafferty said.
Lafferty said that learning about the services offered by the state Division of Rehabilitation helped him to move from being  unemployable to employed.
"They didnít give up but worked diligently with me, getting me the proper hearing aids and helping with my interviewing skills and job contacts.
"Their help made the difference," Lafferty said.
To learn about the services of the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, people can call the local office at 624-0300.

Local and regional news in brief

New owners of aluminum mill consider investment

CHARLESTON (AP) -- The new corporate owner of the aluminum rolling mill at Century Aluminum of West Virginia Inc. says it may invest up to $100 million in equipment and increase metal parts production for the aerospace and automobile industries.
"We are ready to decide in a very short period of time exactly what we have to do," said Guy-Michael Raynaud, a vice president for the Pechiney Group, based in Paris. He said the investment could total $100 million.
Pechiney officials are visiting the Ravenswood plant to determine how much to invest.
Raynaud and Pierre Chaumes, chief executive of Pechineyís rolled products division, said outdated equipment has hindered greater productivity.
Century Aluminum operates a metal smelting operation in Ravenswood with about 650 workers.
The rolling mill employs about 1,300 people.
Century Aluminum, which has operated the former Kaiser Aluminum facility in Ravenswood since 1993, sold its rolled products section to Pechiney for $248 million earlier this year.
The sale also included a smaller mill in California.
The Pechiney group has since proposed a merger with Alcan, a Montreal-based company, and Algroup of Zurich, Switzerland.
The combination would create the worldís largest aluminum maker with combined sales and operating revenues of $21.6 billion.
The merger must be approved by regulators.

Columbia Energy turns down new NiSource offer

HERNDON, Va. (AP) -- Columbia Energy Group said Sunday its board of directors has rejected as inadequate a sweetened takeover bid by NiSource Inc. and told Columbiaís management to look for other possible deals, including a merger with someone else.
The rejection marked the second one for Indiana-based NiSource by Columbia. In June, NiSource offered $68 a share, then raised the offer to $74 a share Oct. 17 amid a campaign by the Virginia company to urge its shareholders to turn down the deal. The latest offer was worth about $6.1 billion.
Oliver G. Richard III, Columbiaís chairman, president and chief executive officer, said Columbia was "firmly committed to exploring thoroughly the opportunities available to us and considering all possible alternatives for enhancing shareholder value."
NiSource, based in Merrillville, Ind., has said the combination would make a good fit in a natural gas distribution corridor from the Chicago market to New England.
Maria Hibbs, a NiSource spokeswoman, said her company was disappointed by Columbiaís response.
"However, weíre confident that when Columbia sits down with us, theyíll recognize that this is the right combination," she said.
Herndon-based Columbia has two subsidiaries -- Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. and Columbia Natural Resources -- with headquarters in Charleston and operations in West Virginia.

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