News for September 20, 1999

W.Va. Wesleyan is using creative solutions to combat binge drinking

Interactive games, outdoor program offered to help curb the problem

by Deanna Wrenn
As nearly every college and university in the country tries to find ways to stop binge drinking, West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon may have found a solution.
A combination of things on campus, in the fraternity houses and in the local police station has caused the number of binge drinking related arrests to drop dramatically, officials said. Since school has begun, two college-aged people have been cited for underage drinking, public intoxication or driving under the influence. Last year, from the beginning of school to the end of September, 47 people of college age were cited for such offenses.
"Every year we see the same thing happen. New freshmen in college think that they have to drink all the alcohol in the county the first weekend there," said Fred Gaudet, Buckhannon Police Department chief. "But something good is happening here. This is the best first month of college I've ever seen here ever."
Although Wednesday is usually a big party day on campus, last week police received no calls about noise or parties.
"It's very seldom during the school year that we don't get any calls on a Wednesday night," Gaudet said. "It may be a little too early to tell yet, but we've noticed a decrease in problems so far."
While drinking still occurs on Wesleyan's campus -- mainly in fraternity houses on each Wednesday and on the weekends -- the drinking has been more responsible, officials say. They have fewer problems with out-of-control binge drinkers.
"Young men and women between the ages of 18 and 22 are understandably seeking to try out and test their independence," said William Haden, president of West Virginia Wesleyan College. "It's important that we recognize that, but it's also important that we set boundaries."
The college has taken many steps to curb the binge-drinking problem. Haden speaks with students and parents about the dangers of binge drinking at the freshman convocation each year. Wesleyan provides interactive simulation games on CD-Rom where students can make choices about alcohol and see the consequences on a computer screen.
The college also offers an extensive outdoors program. Students can use hiking excursions, whitewater rafting adventures and camping trips as an alternative to the party scene.
"We try to encourage alternative programs," Haden said. "Outdoor recreation can be an alternative to behavior that can be either dangerous or destructive."
But no matter how hard the college tries, there will always be drinking on campus, Haden said. That's why the campus has a liaison between the fraternities and the college administration and city officials.
Since John Bohman has taken his post as Greek advisory coordinator working with fraternities, the police and college administrators, Buckhannon police have found their job easier.
"I can send two or three policemen into a group of students to encourage them to hold the noise down and it's not as effective as when John Bohman goes up and talks with them," Gaudet said. "It's taken a lot of the burden off of us."
Bohman is in charge of making sure fraternities on campus follow national standards. There are several rules Greek organizations must follow at parties.
n They must make a list of invitees and deny anyone not on the list from entering the party. This ensures that the number of people in the house will not exceed fire marshal regulations.
n Parties must be BYOB, or bring your own beer, but there are limits. Students can bring six beers or four wine coolers. No hard liquor is permitted.
n There must be only one door to the house open with a fraternity member checking ID's of all party members and marking underage partygoers.
Although these rules may not always be followed to the letter, Bohman said as old students graduate and as new students enter the college, the guidelines are being followed more often.
"They've really done a great job in monitoring the situation. I've seen them turn away groups of 30 to 35 people who weren't on the list, and they didn't know I was watching," said Bohman, who usually visits parties on the weekends to make sure everything is going as planned. "They are starting to get used to the new resolutions. They know they are here to stay. The willingness of the fraternities to work with us has really made the difference."
Between campus, police and fraternity efforts, college binge drinking may be slowing at Wesleyan, officials said.
"I know there is no way of stopping underage drinking all together," Bohman said, " but we've really seen a decline in underage drinking."

Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce luring business, tourists with unique events

by Deanna Wrenn
"The Promise of Tomorrow with the Dignity of Yesterday."
So reads the motto of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce. Recently, though, the chamber has been experimenting with unique events that some may say are not very dignified.
Huge yard sales, wedding contests, hunting weekends and cow patty bingo. These are just some of the several fund-raisers that are not exactly prestigious, but chamber officials say the events bring in business and tourism none the less.
"I don't think it's bad at all because it gets us on the map," said Laura Cocoltchos, executive director of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce. "If you have something unique, people will come back."
Buckhannon's tourism industry is counting on that theory, and so far it's working. The chamber has added almost 10 new members in the last three months, bringing the total number of businesses up to 167.
The chamber recently held cow patty bingo, where a field was marked off into a grid and people bet on the different squares. A cow was then let loose in the field, and the spot where it left a "cow patty" was the winning square.
Dignified? Maybe not, but participants had a good time, Cocoltchos said.
Other unique ideas began about two years ago when now annual events like West Virginia's Largest Yard Sale and the Wedding in the Hills contest were initiated.
The Wedding in the Hills contest allowed couples from around the world to submit essays, along with a small fee, to the chamber outlining why they wanted to be married in Buckhannon. The winning couple then won a free wedding, which included everything from the bride's dress to food and accommodations.
"It was outstanding," Cocoltchos said. "It's another unique and special event that adds to the Buckhannon area."
Although the chamber will not be holding another Wedding in the Hills, it is considering holding another wedding contest, this time with a Southern theme.
"People loved the wedding contest," Cocoltchos said. "This is an event that we can't let slip by."
Another event, West Virginia's Largest Yard Sale, brought people to the county from as far away as Virginia, Georgia and Florida. Each shopper received a map to the many individual yard sales.
One shopper purchased so much stuff during the three-day event that he bought a new pick-up truck to carry it home. The event was mentioned in Southern Living magazine, which led a lot of people from outside the area to call the chamber for information.
More than 200 individual sales attracted bargain hunters this year -- making for crowded Buckhannon streets, busy hotels and, most importantly, business for area retailers.
"The hotels in the area love it," Cocoltchos said. "They offered shop-till-you-drop specials over the weekend, which gave people another reason to stay in town for more than one day."
Jill Cable, the chamber president and a local hotel owner, said most people enjoyed the sale.
"It increased my business. We had a lot of people from out-of-state drive here and stay," she said. "I think there were some people who didn't like the traffic, but a lot of people came up to me after the event and asked if we were doing it again. They love it."
Other ideas are new this year. The chamber is planning to hold a Hunters' Weekend Nov. 19. The celebration will feature huge sales of camouflage gear and a deer meat cook-off contest. The chamber is also looking into holding a widow's day during the weekend because while many men go hunting, their wives stay at home.
One of the few criticisms with events like the Wedding in the Hills, West Virginia's Largest Yard Sale and the Hunters' Weekend is that they don't bring people into the area long enough. Couples participating in the wedding contest are not required to visit the area. The yard sale and hunters' weekend last for only three days a year.
"Just because all the people (wedding contestants) didn't come to town at that time, Buckhannon will stay on their minds for a place to stop if they are in the area," Cable said. "We think it's great if we can get them to stop."
Cocoltchos said that bringing people to town for a day is sometimes enough to attract them to the area for life.
"Once people hear about a town, like they did through the wedding contest, they call for more information," she said. "And when they come here, they love it. Some people like it so much they want to move here."
Retailers in the area are happy to see more business, visitors are happy to attend the events and residents are happy to have a better economy, officials said. These events may not be symphony orchestras or foreign films, but they are still making people smile, Cable and Cocoltchos said.
"People love the uniqueness of these events. It's something they can't get in their hometown," Cocoltchos said. "These events give them pleasant memories of Buckhannon, and then every time they think of our city they are happy."
As long as things are growing, chamber members plan to continue with these innovative ideas, even if some consider them less than dignified.
"Once you start something good, you should stick with it and let it keep growing," Cable said. "I think we're doing a pretty good job."

Cox murder trial to start

Harrison teen stands accused of shooting mother

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
A Harrison County teen will get his day in court this week on a charge that he shot his mother to death Jan. 19 in her home off U.S. Route 19 near United Hospital Center.
Kristopher Ray Cox was arrested by Harrison County sheriff's deputies nearly a week after the shooting.
He has been held in the Harrison County Correctional Center without bond on a first-degree murder charge since his arrest.
If convicted, Cox faces life in prison.
Authorities say Cox shot his mother, Linda Cox, 51, in the face with a 9mm pistol and then tried to stuff her body into a cardboard box.
Lead investigator Lt. Rodney Broadwater said in January that it appeared Kristopher Cox had tried to clean up the scene.
Harrison County Assistant Prosecutor Gail Voorhees will try the case for the state.
Cox is represented by noted jurist and former West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals justice Franklin Cleckley and James Zimarowski.
Jury selection for the trial is slated to begin at 9 on Tuesday morning, according to court records.
Circuit Judge John Marks said Friday that opening statements in the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Cox, a 1998 graduate of Robert C. Byrd High School, had attended classes at Hampton University in Virginia, but did not return to school for the winter semester earlier this year. He was living at his mother's home.
Police have said there were no records of any other violent incidents between Cox and his mother.
Cox denied any involvement with the shooting during an initial interview with Broadwater, and refused to speak with police afterward.
Cox was the focal point of the investigation almost from the beginning, Broadwater said in January.
Police found Linda Cox's body early in the morning Jan. 20 after her estranged husband, Raymond Cox, asked police to check on her.

Good times, old friends in Flemington

Second annual Fair and Festival 'like a big reunion'

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
FLEMINGTON -- Tom Dadisman looked around at the crowd milling about at the Flemington Days Fair and Festival on Sunday and was pleased with what he saw.
"I knew that if we would build it, they would come. It's like a big family reunion," the Grafton resident said.
Dadisman is director of the Thunder on the Tygart Foundation, a non-profit organization that spent the last two years restoring the dilapidated former jail and city hall in downtown Flemington. The result was the reopening of the historic building to visitors and the Flemington Days Fair and Festival.
The three-day festival, now in its second year, began Friday with the Fireman's Parade, followed by plenty of live music, children's rides and craft and food exhibits. Saturday was the feature parade, and Sunday the first Cruise-in Car Show was held at the fire department, sponsored by the Flemington Emergency Medical Services.
Dadisman said he got the idea for the jail restoration after Thunder on the Tygart successfully renovated the Anna Jarvis birthplace in Webster two years ago. State grants and community support helped the group clean up the area around the Anna Jarvis house and erect a welcome center on nearby property.
Dadisman approached Flemington City Council about beginning work on the old jail, which was built in the 1920s to house male and female prisoners and to serve as city hall. It had fallen into disrepair after a new city building was erected in the late 1960s.
Dadisman successfully applied for state grants to help with the work, and the renovated jail is now open for tours. People can view the original two cells, complete with the flat-steel bars on the doors made by a local blacksmith.
Dadisman said the festival is a way for local people and organizations to raise a little money while giving people a reason to come back to the area to visit.
"People who attended the high school that closed down years ago enjoy coming to the festival to see old classmates and to see what's happening in the town. For only our second year, the fair is coming along nicely," he said.
Betty Lou Crouse and her husband now live in Hampshire County, but both graduated from Flemington High School in the 1950s and wouldn't miss the celebration. Crouse had a booth set up selling her outdoor scenes painted on band saws and saw blades.
"This really is like a reunion. I'm amazed at how many people I've seen that I still know. It's a nice festival," she said.
Steve Gallo, who headed up the Cruise-in, said he was pleased with the turnout of nearly 50 cars for the first-year show.
"We thought we would try it this year to see how it would go, and we've had a good turnout. We plan to do this every year from now on," he said.
Gallo brought his own red, two-door, 1952 Chevrolet convertible to the show. He bought the broken-down heap more than 30 years ago in Grafton and spent years restoring it to mint condition.
"This is a nice way for people to get together and to help raise some funds for equipment for the Flemington EMS," Gallo said.

Local and area news in brief

Lewis County man found hanged in Central Regional Jail

FLATWOODS (AP) -- A Lewis County inmate in the Central Regional Jail has been found hanged from a bedsheet in his cell.
The death Friday of Shawn Heines, 28, of Weston is being investigated by jail officials, said Steve Canterbury, director of the Regional Jail Authority.
Heines left a suicide note, but Canterbury would not release it or describe its contents.
Canterbury said jail officials will review the use of garment hooks, which secured the sheet used in the hanging.
Heines was jailed in April on a domestic violence charge. He also was charged with third-offense drunken driving and had a fugitive warrant against him from Iowa.
Canterbury did not know the details of the warrant.

Homeless shelter resident drowns in Monongahela River

MORGANTOWN (AP) -- Rescue workers have recovered the body of a Morgantown man who drowned in the Monongahela River.
Following a four-hour search Saturday, about 20 firefighters and divers found the body of John Gilbert Pierce, a resident of a Morgantown homeless shelter. He was 27.
The medical examiner was due to autopsy his body Sunday, police said.
A witness told police Pierce removed his clothes, laid them on a rock near the river and disappeared under the water a few feet away. The witness called 911.

Teacher's aide suspended; accused of slapping student

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Lincoln County school officials have suspended with pay a teacher's aide accused of slapping an 8-year-old child who switched a TV channel during a "Sesame Street" program.
Teacher's aide Syble Wilkerson slapped Derek Adkins for twice refusing her orders to stay away from the TV at Griffithsville Elementary School last week, said a volunteer aide.
Wilkerson and volunteer Tammy Smith wrestled the child into a restraining chair, called the "time-out chair," in a bathroom. Wilkerson slapped him three times after the child swung at the teacher and struck her, Smith said.
Derek suffers from epilepsy and cannot easily understand instructions, said his mother, Anita Adkins.

Infant center established in honor of lawmaker's son

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Friends have established a memorial fund for a Kanawha County lawmaker's infant son who died last week.
Organizers say they will establish the Andrew Marshall Hunt Infant Center at a Charleston church. The 10-month-old son of Delegate Mark Hunt and his wife, Tracy, died Thursday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. He suffered from circulatory problems that required open-heart surgery in August to correct a valve blockage and a hole in his heart.
Contributions may be made to Hunt Infant Center, Grace Bible Church, 600 Kanawha Blvd. W., Charleston W.Va. 25302.

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