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Exponent and Telegram editorials for July 1

Salem citizens caught up in unfinished project spat

(Wednesday, July 1) It is hardly fair to the citizens of Salem to be caught in the middle of a squabble between their city government and a construction firm that allegedly left a sewer line replacement job incomplete.

The City of Salem was limited to an appropriation of $25,000 from the state to repair damages that city officials claim were the result of an incomplete job done by Eastern Steel Constructors, Inc., of Fallston, Md. in 1995.

The city is saying the money is but a fraction of what is needed to straighten up the mess. As a result of it, a number of streets received damage and the city government used some of its funds for replacement of them. And some paving still needs to be completed.

The city still needs funds, said Salem Mayor Linda Fluharty, adding that Thrasher Engineering of Clarksburg had estimated the repairs would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000. Therefore, the $25,000 check would be less than 17 percent of what's needed.

The problem stems from a lawsuit filed by Eastern citing breach of contract. The firm says Salem failed to compensate the company for labor, supplies, materials and equipment used after the city demanded additional and accelerated work. Eastern is seeking $3 million in damages from Salem and Kanakanui Associates, a Beckley engineering firm.

The City of Salem is counter-suing in an attempt to recover from the suit the rest of the funds needed to complete repairs, Mayor Fluharty said, remarking that attempts to settle the suit out of court with Eastern were to no avail.

The mayor said, "It has been and will continue to be a major financial drain on the city."

The real shame lies with the fact that a majority of the remaining damage is to private yards and property, with from 25 to 30 homes affected. Therefore, once again it is the private citizen who suffers most from such a mix-up.

Some of the homeowners were able to take it upon themselves to make repairs on their own. Obviously, only a few have been able to do that.

As we see it, regardless of the outcome of the court case, the real losers will be the citizens who continue to have to put up with the unfinished work.

--Robert F. Stealey


Domestic violence: Do rights of offenders top protection of victims?

(Wednesday, July 1) There's something seriously wrong with a law that more strongly emphasizes protection of a violator's rights than addressing concerns involving preserving the safety -- even the life -- of the victim.

There is such a law in West Virginia, and it deals with domestic violence. And last month there was a textbook example of it that resulted in tragic consequences in Elkins.

A Randolph County woman lost her life outside the day care center where she had just dropped off her two children. She was the estranged wife of a man who had previously sent law enforcement authorities signals of a potentially deadly situation.

The shooting death of Michelle Lindsay of Valley Head was a tragedy.

What was also tragic was that it took this needless death in order to grab the attention of lawmakers to finally stand up for victims of domestic violence and protect them from their abusers.

One legislator who has been aware of the extent of the problem is House Majority Leader Joe Martin, D-Randolph. He knows that bringing domestic violence to an end "takes a change in attitudes, not just laws."

He says he's willing to listen to a better answer and to go to work on it.

Those who abuse often ignore stalking laws and protective orders. Martin also knows that sometimes they work, but in Michelle Lindsay's case, they certainly didn't.

Michael Keith Lindsay has had domestic violence orders served on him, but he ignored them. In fact, he had threatened that he was going to do something like what finally did happen. In fact, state police say they'd apparently been called to the Lindsay home several times.

Yet another tragic aspect of the Lindsay story was that Michelle Lindsay had done something many female victims of domestic abuse are afraid to do. She filed a domestic violence petition more than two years before her death. She also sought safety in the Women's Aid and Crisis Center in Elkins.

Elkins Police Chief Joe Jones had made the comment, "The worst thing is there's no way to prevent something like this."

After Michael Lindsay had been arrested, bond was set and he was ordered to stay away from his wife, he was discovered to be in violation of the court system's protective order and was jailed again. That time, a magistrate set bond at a considerably lower amount. And Lindsay's parents had to post only a fraction of that amount to set him free.

How can anybody, notwithstanding an officer of the law, expect us to believe there's really no way to prevent a tragedy like this?

--Robert F. Stealey