News for October 26, 1999

$1M secured for Shinnston park project

by Shawn Gainer
The six-year dream of building a multi-million dollar city park in Shinnston is one step closer to reality.
Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-West Virginia, announced Monday that he has secured $1 million in federal funds for the project.
Mollohan garnered the appropriation by adding a provision to the 2000 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Shinnston Mayor Sam DeMarco was notified of the appropriation Friday.
DeMarco said Monday he was elated by the news and looks forward to "getting the park off the ground."
"We went to see Mollohan a month and a half ago and told him there are roughly 4,000 kids living in a 5- to 10-mile radius of Shinnston and the only thing we have for recreation now is a little league field," DeMarco said. "He was very appreciative of the situation and told us he would do what he could."
DeMarco emphasized, however, plans for the park are intended to make it a place to be used by people of all ages.
"The concept of the park is to serve toddlers to the elderly. It would have a pool, ice skating, shuffleboard and walking trails," he said. "We understand we will have a hard time attracting businesses to Shinnston because we're too far from the interstate. We want to make Shinnston a bedroom community so people will want to live here, though they may drive to Clarksburg or other places to go to work.
"We already have good water and sewer service.
"We have everything here except for recreation, he added."
City officials have worked on the proposed $3.5 million park project since 1991, said Jay Harmer, president of the Shinnston Parks and Recreation Board.
Though the city must still obtain a substantial amount of money, Harmer said a plan for financing is in place.
"We have a financial plan through the City Manager (Jeff Silka).
"We have applied for a $500,000 Small Cities Block Grant. We have some support from commercial contributions and part of it will come through long term financing," Harmer said.
Silka was unavailable for comment Monday.
The park will be located on an 18-acre site in the east section of town donated by Mrs. Lota F. Bice.
Planned facilities for the park include: a swimming pool, picnic shelters, trails, courts for various sports, a playground, an amphitheater, a miniature golf course and a skating rink.
"This is an exciting time for the park board and the city," Harmer said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us but if we get it all together, it will be very nice."

Bridgeport to file water rate protest

by Paul Leakan
After weeks of discussion, Bridgeport City Council members Monday authorized the city attorney to file a formal protest of the Clarksburg Water Board's recent 15.9 percent rate increase.
With time running short, council members felt it was necessary to go forward and file a petition of the rate hikes to the state Public Service Commission, which would determine whether to investigate to see if the higher rates are justified.
For the last few weeks, Bridgeport city officials have questioned the board's rationale for the rate hikes. Officials have also questioned how efficiently the board is operating.
Even after sifting through stacks of information provided by the board, city officials still aren't satisfied with the board's explanations.
"There are a lot of unanswered issues yet," said Mayor Joe Timms. "We think it requires some explanation."
Thursday is the last day to file a formal protest, and Timms hopes that other municipalities and Public Service Districts that purchase water from the board will join in the protest. Several municipalities and PSDs have expressed interest in joining in, Timms said.
The City of Clarksburg, however, likely will not.
Last Thursday, Clarksburg City Council members voted 5-2 to shoot down a motion calling for the city to join in a possible protest.
"It would have been nice to have Clarksburg join us," Timms said. "They have their own reasons for not."
If the PSC chooses to investigate, it would send an attorney, accountant and an engineer to conduct an independent rate study at the water board.
Once completed, PSC officials would make a recommendation on what the rates should be.
In late September, board members voted 2-1 to raise water rates.
The rate increase will help cover a $400,000 operating deficit and help pay for a $2.1 million loan that will be used to replace an 89-year-old water tank on Chestnut Street in Clarksburg.

Mine closings blamed on court ruling

by Pam Ramsey
CHARLESTON -- A coal company shut down two strip mines employing a total of 148 workers Monday, saying it can't mine coal without using valley fills to dispose of waste.
WV-Indiana Coal Holding Co., Inc., blamed the closures on last week's federal ruling that banned the dumping of rock and dirt in most streams. The company said Judge Charles H. Haden II's ruling left it no choice but to close the Princess Beverly mine in Kanawha County and the Marrowbone Development Triad mine in Mingo County.
The state Division of Environmental Protection, meanwhile, on Monday filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The agency also asked Haden to delay the effectiveness of his ruling until the appeal is decided. The agency's petition predicted massive job losses if the ruling remains in effect.
Eighty-eight employees at the Princess Beverly mine and 60 employees at the Marrowbone Development Triad mine were laid off Monday, said Terry Whitt, a company spokesman.
"We can't mine coal," Whitt said. "It's not only going to affect us, it's going to affect everybody in surface mining."
WV-Indiana Coal Holding Company's parent company, AEI Resources, Inc., is evaluating its other operations in West Virginia and more mine closures are possible, said James I. Campbell, AEI chief operating officer.
AEI operates mines in Kanawha, Mingo, Fayette, Boone, McDowell, Nicholas and Webster counties.
Division of Environmental Protection spokesman Andy Gallagher said the agency was not aware of the mines' closure.
Dan Page, Gov. Cecil Underwood's spokesman, said the Underwood administration fears more shutdowns could occur.
"It's very troubling. This administration has been concerned about this very issue for the past couple of years and regrettably we're faced with this reality right now," Page said.
Page said Underwood is exploring options to deal with the issue, including a special legislative session.
"This is not make-believe. This is not overreacting. This is reality," he said.
Mine operators say valley fills are a key part of a mining technique known as mountaintop removal strip mining. The practice allows operators to avoid reclaiming land to its original mountainous contour. Instead, they remove rock and dirt above coal seams and place it in nearby streams, leaving a post-mining terrain that is flat or gently rolling.
Haden's ruling prohibits dumping rock and dirt from mines into perennial streams, which run year-round, and into intermittent streams, which flow a large part of the year but not necessarily continuously. Dumping is allowed in ephemeral streams, which flow only in direct response to rainfall or snowmelt.
DEP Director Mike Castle issued an order on Thursday declaring that the agency will not issue any strip mine permits which "allow or propose fills in intermittent or perennial streams."
Castle's order also directs all permit holders to cease work immediately on any project that has the effect of advancing existing valley fills downstream.
Castle met with coal officials behind closed doors Monday for about 45 minutes during an industry meeting in Charleston and briefed them on the industry's position, Gallagher said.
"This is not going to go away. We're trying to find another way, but the fact is that if you can't use valley fills, there's nowhere to put the material and if there's no place to put the material, you can't mine the coal. There isn't any other option," Whitt said.
Whitt could not say how much the shutdowns will cost WV-Indiana Coal.
Ben Greene, president of the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association, said he was not aware of any other mine shutdowns attributed to Haden's ruling. But he predicted more would occur if the ruling remains in effect.
West Virginia currently has 780 "open" strip mines covering 195,462 acres, according to the DEP. "Open" mines include active and inactive operations, where the reclamation bond has not been revoked or released.
There are now 62 permit applications pending before the agency, of which 59 have proposed fills for perennial or intermittent streams, the agency said.
The DEP has asked coal operators to survey companies to determine the ruling's impact, Greene said.

Taylor Co. chamber seeks items for time capsule

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
The Taylor County Chamber of Commerce is on a treasure hunt to find a few good items to fill a time capsule.
"We're asking businesses, churches, schools or anyone else to donate small items that would help to portray life in this century to those who will open the time capsule in 2050," said Sally Pickens, co-chair of the search.
Pickens said the idea of filling a time capsule is actually the theme of the Chamber's annual party to be held Nov. 6.
"This year we thought the theme of a time capsule would be a good way to get a head start on the new year," Pickens said.
Pickens said the Chamber plans to collect items through Nov. 8, and place them in a 3-foot by 2-foot stainless steel box.
So far, people have donated a penny postcard dating back to 1951, a receipt from a local grocery store, and a framed advertisement from the O.C. Bolyard Wiring and Lighting Co.
Pickens said the Chamber plans to seal the time capsule and bury it at the Heritage Park on Main Street in mid-November. Anyone who would like to donate an item can contact Pickens at Main Street Printers at 265-1032 or Emily Bolliger at United Security Agency at 265-3427.
People can still make reservations for the Chamber's yearly open dinner meeting to be held at the Four Corners Restaurant on Nov. 6. The social hour begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner to follow at 7 p.m. To make reservations, contact the Tygart Valley Development Authority office at 265-3938.

West Milford getting new, bigger post office

Because of continued growth in area, Postal Service saw need for larger facility

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
The West Milford Post Office will be moving to new quarters in the next month to accommodate the increased business the facility is handling out of its south Harrison location.
According to Alan Stealey, postmaster at the Liberty Street location, the number of mail boxes in use at the post office has doubled in the six years he has served as postmaster.
"We currently have 415 boxes available, but the new building will have more than 700," Stealey said.
Stealey said people from the Laurel Park, Laurel Valley and Good Hope areas often use the services of the West Milford Post Office rather than driving all the way into Clarksburg.
"This area of the county is experiencing continued growth, and we wanted to make sure we had a facility that could handle the growth," he said.
Stealey said the new post office, a pre-fabricated building, is located along Main Street, two doors up from the United Methodist Church and just a few hundred feet from the concrete bridge. The facility will have 10 parking spaces when the parking lot and landscaping are completed, and the workspace will be about three times as large as the current building.
"This will be a little more convenient for people because they can park right at the door, but the main reason for the new post office is to have more work space," Stealey said.
Like the current post office, the lobby of the new facility will be open 24 hours a day to accommodate people who need to pick up their mail in the evening. The service window will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. The window will be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon.

Area news in brief

FSC student killed on Route 73

A Fairmont State College student was killed in a one-vehicle accident on Friday night on state Route 73 near the Taylor and Marion County lines.
The victim, Sarah L. Tennant, 19, of Blacksville, was a passenger in a white, 1987 Dodge automobile, driven by Rebecca Durant, 19, of New Martinsville.
According to a state police report, the accident happened at 9:45 p.m. near Boothsville. The report did not list the details of the accident or of Tennant's death, and the state police officer who filed the report was not available for comment.
Durant and a second unnamed passenger were taken to United Hospital Center and then flown by HealthNet to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. Both were later treated and released.
The accident remains under investigation.

Calhoun leads state in unemployment

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Calhoun County had the state's highest unemployment for September with a rate of 14.4 percent, displacing Mingo, which had had the highest unemployment for three months.
Morgan County had the lowest unemployment rate, 1.9 percent, the Bureau of Employment Programs announced Monday.
Nearly half of West Virginia's counties reported declining unemployment rates for the month. The state's overall unemployment rate for September was 5.9 percent.
Counties with unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher were: McDowell, 14.3; Mingo, 14; Boone, 13.9; Logan, 13.5; Wirt, 12; Lincoln, 10.8; and Wyoming and Mason, both 10.7.
Counties with unemployment rates of 4 percent or less were: Jefferson, 2.4; Hardy, 2.7; Monroe, 3.1; Ohio and Monongalia, 3.3; Hampshire, 3.4; Berkeley, 3.5; and Putnam, 4.

Texas murder suspect fights extradition

CHARLESTON (AP) -- A Charleston man accused in the Texas yogurt shop murders indicated Monday he wants to use the extradition process to challenge a statement he gave to police.
The move will delay extradition proceedings at least three weeks.
An extradition hearing was held Monday in Kanawha County Circuit Court for Robert Burns Springsteen Jr., 24.
Springsteen and three Texas men have been charged with murder in connection with the shooting deaths of four teen-age girls in Austin, Texas, in December 1991.
Springsteen's lawyer, David Bungard, told Circuit Judge Charlie King he plans to file a petition challenging evidence gathered by Texas authorities to support an arrest warrant, including a statement Springsteen gave to Austin police in September.
King questioned whether Bungard's challenge was appropriate for an extradition hearing. He gave the lawyer two weeks to file the petition and submit written arguments showing it is.
King warned Bungard that he does not want the extradition proceedings to become lengthy. Prosecutors will have 20 days to respond to Bungard's petition.

Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright © Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999