News for September 21, 1999

Local officers accused in paintball case identified

4 Bridgeport officers won't face prompt discipline

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Bridgeport Police Chief Jack Clayton said Monday night that four Bridgeport officers accused of taking part in paintball games in the old Weston Hospital will not face immediate discipline by the department.
On Monday, officers Mark Norman, Mike Matvich and Jon Harbert were ordered to appear before Lewis County Magistrate Sharon Hull no later than Oct. 1 to answer misdemeanor charges of destruction of property.
Another Bridgeport officer, who was not named by Clayton, also has been accused of participating in the games. That officer has not yet received a summons.
"It's still too early to tell what will happen," Clayton said. "We don't have all the information from Lewis County yet. We'll need to wait and see what the disposition of the cases is before we decide anything internally."
In addition to the Bridgeport officers, Weston Police officer David Curtis and 21 others have been ordered to enter a plea to the charges by Oct. 21.
Each person has been charged with destruction of property, according to court records. Seven people have been charged with two counts because they played on two different days in May. It was not immediately clear how many charges the police officers are facing.
Weston Police Chief Robbie Clem could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
An FBI security guard has also been accused of playing the simulated war games, authorities have said. It was not clear whether the guard was one of the 21 people who were summoned to appear in court.
All of the officers were off-duty at the time, authorities have said.
If convicted, they could face a fine of up to $500 and up to one year in jail.
The paintball destruction drenched four floors of the former psychiatric hospital.
Multicolored paint still covers corridors, walls, ceilings, floors, wood doors, staircases and a 12-by-14-foot mural of the hospital on an interior wall of the vacant building.
The former psychiatric hospital has been empty since it closed in 1994 when it was replaced by nearby William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

Proposed medical waste facility worries Barbour residents

Citizens group to meet to talk about outcome of recent hearing

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
The outcome of a recent hearing on a proposed medical waste facility in Barbour County will be discussed by the Concerned Citizens of Barbour County at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30 at Philip Barbour High School.
"We want to let the citizens know what the status of the proposed project is right now, because they are the ones supporting the legal challenge of this issue," said Mary Poling, secretary of the citizens group.
The hearing, held Sept. 17 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Elkins, involved lawyers for the plaintiff, Doyle Payne Jr., a developer from Virginia Beach, Va., and lawyers for the defendants, the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Concerned Citizens of Barbour County.
Payne has proposed building a commercially operated Rotoclave-type medical waste plant at the Philippi Industrial Park, claiming the $2 million plant would bring more than 25 good-paying jobs to the area. The plan had been turned down in Maryland and in three other West Virginia counties.
A number of Barbour residents questioned the environmental safety of the proposed plant and formed the citizens group to challenge Payne's plans. That group would like to call for a referendum vote on whether the facility should be built.
But any plans to move forward on the project were frozen in March when the DHHR halted the permitting process because Payne allegedly failed to file the required pre-siting notices in a timely manner with four separate agencies.
Payne filed a motion for summary judgment in district court to require the DHHR to let the process continue, saying the citizens group and the DHHR misinterpreted the state filing statute. He also asked the judge to rule on the constitutionality of a referendum and on the actual facts of the permitting process.
In the hearing on Sept. 17, Judge Robert Maxwell sided with the defendants, saying Payne must still produce proof that he filed the necessary pre-siting papers. Maxwell set Oct. 7 for a scheduling conference to determine when the other two counts would be brought before the court.
Mark Ferrell, with the DHHR, said the recent ruling by Maxwell made his agency feel it was on solid ground by stopping the permitting process. Whether Payne moves forward with the proposal to build a medical waste facility remains with the courts, he said.
"Payne is certainly welcome to reapply for permits for the plant and begin the process over, but he has chosen to go through the courts, so this is the road we are on," Ferrell said.
Payne did not return phone calls seeking comment about his future plans.

Clarksburg Police alert merchants, residents that counterfeit money may be in circulation around area

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Clarksburg Police are warning local merchants and residents to be aware that counterfeit money may be in circulation around the area.
On Monday, Clarksburg Detective Robert Matheny received a report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that a phony bill passed in Clarksburg last month matched several found across the state this summer.
The bill was given to police three to four weeks ago, Matheny said, after it was found by a bank employee in a night deposit bag from a local business.
Matheny contacted the U.S. Treasury as well as the U.S. Secret Service about the bill. He said a Treasury spokesman told him Monday that several fake bills with the same serial number have been recovered around the state.
"They're all off the same plate," he said Monday. "These are decent quality fakes."
Matheny does not believe these phony bills are connected to a series of counterfeits that showed up in Clarksburg and Bridgeport a few months ago.
"Those were not good fakes," he said. "They were basically color photocopies. These are much better."
One easy way to identify fake bills is to look for the security strip that runs through the paper on one side, Matheny said.
"The ones we're seeing, the back of the bill is also different," he said. "The color of the ink is a little off."
Matheny said once a bill makes it into circulation, it can be difficult to trace where it originated.
"The hard part is, once it's in the system, it's hard to tell where they'll pop up before they're noticed," he said. "They can be passed to a retail store, sit in a deposit bag for a day or two, then get to a bank. If they're not noticed, they can go almost anywhere."
Matheny said anyone who believes they have a counterfeit bill should notify the police immediately. Cashiers who believe someone is trying to pass a fake bill should accept the money and get a description of the person.
"They should not alert the person that they know the bill is fake," he said. "It's dangerous for a civilian to confront any suspect, no matter how small the crime. You just never know how someone will react."

Garbage fee rate hike likely in Upshur County

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
Residents of Buckhannon and much of Upshur County will be paying a couple of dollars more per month for garbage fees if a proposed rate increase is approved by city council at its October meeting.
A public hearing will be held during council's regular meeting on Oct. 7, with council members expected to approve the increase following a mandatory second reading.
The hike would affect Buckhannon's 1,873 customers, another 3,481 customers outside the city limits, and about 520 commercial customers, according to Burl Smith, city engineer.
Smith said the proposed rate hike is needed to cover the $60,000 required annually to operate a state-mandated recycling program, and to cover an increase in fees at the Harrison County landfill it uses, S&S Landfill on U.S. Route 19.
"We haven't asked for a rate increase since 1991, so that should tell you something," Smith said.
The proposed rate hike would raise the rates of Buckhannon residents from $9 to $11.50 a month, while customers' bills outside the city limits would go from $9.50 to $12.50 a month. Commercial customers in the city would see a raise from $15 to $18.30, while commercial customers outside the city would see an increase from $19 to $23.20. The new rates would go into effect 45 days after the passage of the proposed increase.
Nancy Shobe, city treasurer and recorder, said 50 cents of the increase per month will cover the cost of picking up bulky goods for residents who want to get rid of old appliances and furniture.
The state Legislature mandated that haulers begin to pick up the larger goods and approved a small rate increase to cover the cost of hauling. The city has agreed to pick up the heavier products twice a month.
"It's hard to get rid of a mattress or an old appliance, and I will gladly pay the increase to be able to get rid of those kinds of things," she said.
Shope said the remaining rate hike amounts to about a 22 percent increase.
"According to our books, we need the rate increase to continue to remain solvent," Shope said.

Tip line little used

Despite promise of anonymity, Clarksburg police receive few calls

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Although the Clarksburg Police Department set up an anonymous tip line more than three years ago, officials say it has yielded only sporadic results.
"We occasionally receive tips and information we wouldn't otherwise have, but we don't get that many calls," said Clarksburg Police Lt. John Walker. "I'm not sure that many people know we have the line."
Walker said several larger cities around the state and in other parts of the country have similar tip lines. No other department in North Central West Virginia has an anonymous, automated tip line.
"People don't even have to leave their names," he said. "We've gotten some leads that have pointed us in the right direction."
Walker said police like to have people at least leave a telephone number so police can follow up the information or get more details, but that is not necessary.
"This can be completely anonymous," he said.
Walker said anyone with information about crimes can call the line and leave a message. It doesn't even have to be a Clarksburg crime. Police will pass along any information to the proper agency.
While the anonymity is attractive to potential informants, it can be a hindrance to police. But Walker said the positive aspects of the line far outweighs the negatives.
"When people know they can call and we can't call them back or know who they are, they are probably more likely to call with information," he said. "People can feel safe calling us about crimes."
Walker said the biggest help has been with breaking and entering and thefts from cars.
"Sometimes people see things out of the ordinary in their neighborhoods, but don't feel comfortable calling us," he said. "This is a good way for people to let us know what is going on and still feel safe that no one will know they are talking to us."
Anyone with information about past or future crimes can call the automated Clarksburg Crime Line at 624-1625.

DNR predicting good hunting this autumn

by Brian Farkas
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON -- Hunters head back to the woods next month, and state wildlife officials predict many will return home satisfied by their hunts.
Beginning Oct. 2, thousands will trek across the state in pursuit of squirrel, turkey, deer, bear and other species. And during the next three months, hunters will spend millions on equipment, lodging, gasoline and other supplies.
This year, the agency's forecast is predicting higher kills for squirrel, turkey, raccoon, wild boar, ruffed grouse and deer.
Turkey and ruffed grouse hunters will benefit from this year's drought as a dry spring increased survival rates for younger birds, said James Pack, a wildlife biologist with the Division of Natural Resources.
There have been record turkey sightings this year, said Pack, who prepared this year's hunters forecast.
This fall will be good for squirrels because last year's abundant food supply increased the population. Squirrel populations, which rise and fall based on food, won't be as abundant next fall because this year's drought has resulted in fewer acorns, nuts and other food.
The drought has reduced food supplies across the state. The reduction will change animal behaviors, Pack said.
With less food, bear should hibernate earlier than normal. Bear hunters can expect greater success during the October-November archery season than December's gun season, he said.
Animals also may concentrate in areas to feed.
Deer are the economic engine for fall hunting. Deer hunters generate more than half of the $389 million the agency says hunters spend each year to pursue their sport.
The agency has changed hunting regulations to give hunters extra chances to shoot deer.
"This year we once again liberalized the anterless deer season," said Paul Johansen, the agency's assistant chief for game management
A special antlerless season will run concurrent with the first six days of the traditional two-week buck season. Last year the special season was only three days. The special hunt will be in 24 counties.
"In terms of hunters that go home with smiles on their faces and deer in the back of their pickups, I think this will be an excellent year," Johansen said.

Local and area news in brief

Lost Creek woman is sentenced in USDA fraud case

A Lost Creek woman was sentenced in federal court in Clarksburg Friday to two years probation and ordered to serve 100 hours of community service for an earlier guilty plea to defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ruth Marie Farrell was sentenced by Northern District Judge Irene Keeley after Farrell pleaded guilty to the charge in June.
Farrell was indicted for making a false and fictitious entry and record in the account of a borrower with the intent to deceive and defraud the Department of Agriculture in July 1996 in Mount Clare. Farrell allegedly created a receipt for sale of equipment and livestock totaling about $25,916 while she worked for the department.
Also on Friday, Chief Judge Frederick Stamp accepted a guilty plea from Michelle Aimee Brady, 26, of Bridgeport. Brady pleaded to an information charging her with embezzling about $13,300 while she worked for an unspecified Bridgeport bank.
Brady is free on bond pending sentencing. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.

PSC chairwoman named president of bar association

CHARLESTON (AP) -- The chairwoman of the state Public Service Commission has been elected president of the West Virginia State Bar Association.
Charlotte Lane's election marks the first time in the association's 113-year history that a woman will serve as president. Association members picked Lane at their annual meeting over the weekend.
Gov. Cecil Underwood appointed Lane to the PSC in May 1997. The Charleston lawyer also served as one of the PSC's three commissioners between 1984 and 1988. The PSC regulates the state's utilities.
The association is a voluntary organization established in 1886 to work on legal issues in the state.

Humphreys to run for Congress

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Former state Sen. Jim Humphreys announced Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.
Humphreys said he will travel today to Martinsburg, Weston and Charleston to make his candidacy announcements.
The 2nd District, which stretches from the Ohio River to the Eastern Panhandle, is up for grabs next year as Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., has decided to seek the party's nomination for governor.

Man indicted in daughter's drowning

WHEELING (AP) -- The father of a 19-month-old girl who drowned in a neighbor's pool over the summer has been indicted on a felony charge of child neglect resulting in death.
Randy E. Keys, 35, formerly of Chester, was indicted by a Hancock County grand jury last week. He is now living in East Liverpool, Ohio, and could face as many as 15 years in prison if convicted.
Jennifer Keys drowned June 24 in Chester. Jennifer and a 3-year-old sibling apparently had wandered into the neighbor's yard while their mother was at work and the father was at home. The neighbor had already sent them home once before the accident, prosecutors said.

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