| God bless you all,|
Matthew S. Bragg
DON GREENE: WV Radical HOW FAR WILL IT GO?
Like many Americans I am worried about the direction this country is going under the current administration and even more concerned about how far it will go if allowed to remain in power for another term.
The first warning of something not right was the literal stealing of the last presidential election when alleged impartial judges plainly followed the party line and robbed who knows how many voters of their vote, changing the outcome of the election.
Then came the so-called Patriot Act, which robbed us of many of our civil rights and liberties and would have been better named the Fascist Act. A recent update on the implementation of this piece of work has been the refusal by the Justice Department to reveal the names of suspected terrorists trying to buy weapons. This is based on the opinion that the small fact that just because they are suspected terrorists shouldn't interfere with their right to purchase weapons. Huh? I can't believe that is actually happening.
Following this were the deceptively named Healthy Forests and Clear Skies programs. The first intends to save the forest on national lands by cutting them down before they have a chance to burn and hurt someone. I guess the idea that we could just let them burn is too simple. The second is also a slick piece of word jumbling, with the saddest and worst part being the novel idea that carbon monoxide is no longer a threat to the environment, as seen by the hand-picked corporate shills of this President. Our successful Clean Water Act, that is largely responsible for reclaiming the rivers of WV, has been watered down and twisted around to the point where dioxin is no longer considered dangerous or, I suppose, a carcinogenic substance. How far will this sort of double-talking, corporate-feeding, word-twisting stuff go? Maybe more importantly, how far will we let it go? We can stop it.
What many of us see is a return to the corporate-owned America of the late 1800's, when corporate leaders wielded more authority and power in the nation than the government. Looking back, we can see that the same thing happened during the rise to power of the fascists of Europe before WW II. The corporations joined forces with the extreme right of their nations, claiming their extreme measures were necessary because of the threat of terrorists. They then waged almost continual wars and used the claim of patriotism and national security as justification for stripping the citizens of their rights, muzzled the free press and turned the government over to corporate hacks. How far will this go? How far are we willing to let it go?
Letter to Brother Bill
By Evelyne McLaughlin
Dear Brother Bill:
"Christmas is coming, and the geese are getting fat. Please put a nickel in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a nickel, a penny will do. If you haven't got a penny, well, God Bless you." Those familiar words you used to say every Christmas. You told me one time Uncle Grover put a nickel in your hat. I guess you have all the Christmas trimmings and decorations strung up and out. Christmas time brings back wonderful memories of days gone by. You know we did not have electricity until I was ten or eleven, you were about 7. Mom purchased a strand of those Christmas lights, when one goes out they all do. But we thought our tree was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. It would be trimmed with all sorts of homemade items, paper chains, cut outs and whatever. You know our gifts were wrapped with papers we used over and over. Our gifts were opened very gently as to not tear the paper.
I understand you received a few inches of snow and that it is still with you. Just keep that cold stuff up north in Pennsylvania. A little news: Houston Bullard is getting around slowly after his ATV accident a few weeks ago. I heard that your grandson, Adam Nickel, of Transfer, Pa., got a deer. Good for him. I haven't seen many deer going by on vehicles this year. The only one I really saw was beside the road in front of Dixie and Richard Jarvis's home. Guess someone hit it with their car. Aunt Delphia O'Dell of Ovapa, will be 88 this month. A card shower for her would be nice. Her address would be Ovapa Route, Procious, WV 25l64.
CONGRATULATIONS to Chasity Dawson of North Carolina. Chasity was a teacher here in our county before she moved. Her grandmother, Helen Sutton Hunt (Handley's widow), told me that Chasity was married last month in St. Thomas. She said a group of 25 cruised to St. Thomas to attend the wedding. Chasity was a student in my second grade class a few years back. She now teaches in North Carolina. Sometimes it does a body good to get out of Dodge. I wish her and her husband the very best.
We were really sorry to hear that Fran King will no longer be at the Bank of Gassaway. Those of us, who bank there, will surely miss Fran. She helped many folks in and around our county. Get well soon wishes to Bro. Junior Dobbins, of Twistabout. I hear he has been in the hospital.
Phone calls I received this week were from Maxine Starcher Shaffer, of Elkview, Blendine Daubenspeck Blankenship, of Leon, and Barbara Given Richards, of Summersville. Barbara was telling me about her children, grans and even her great-grans. I enjoyed talking to all of these friends. Do you remember Aunt Eva Samples's poem "I Can't Go Home For Christmas"? I am sending it in to Andy for printing in this issue. It is a very nice Christmas poem.
That is about it for this time. Be good, take care and remember always God loves you very much and so do I. Until the next time - Help Us All to be Brave.
| Love, Sis|
Oh, I saw Paul Dobbins of Pumpkin Ridge recently. He told me that he and Bill Samples were the mayors of Pumpkin Ridge. I said "I don't see how, I own property out there and I didn't vote for either one of you."
LEGISLATIVE INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS
From the desks of State Senators
Shirley Love, Democrat
11th Senatorial District, Fayette County
Randy White, Democrat
11th Senatorial District, Webster County
Government Organization Subcommittee A: Lawmakers got their first look at a number of proposed bills intended to revamp decades old zoning laws. Lawmakers are looking at bills seeking changes in planning and zoning, comprehensive plans, boards of appeals and land development ordinances. Through this legislation, lawmakers are attempting to provide counties and cities with those needed tools to cope with growth, tailored to the different regions of the state.
Education Subcommittee A - Higher Education: An issue before the committee concerned Board of Risk and Insurance Management’ (BRIM) coverage of the state’ medical schools. The Board was initially designed as a self insured property and casualty liability fund to cover the liabilities of county commissions, senior citizen centers and municipalities overall. According to the BRIM spokesperson, the medical schools would like to have a go on covering themselves, somewhat like a re-insurance program.
Education Subcommittee B - Public Education: One of the goals of this committee has been to explore options to provide more citizens with access to library facilities because some West Virginia communities do not have public libraries. An option under consideration is to establish collaboration between school libraries and these remote communities.
Equal Pay Commission: Although this commission has made many positive strides toward pay equity in West Virginia, work remains to be done. In light of this, a spokeswoman from the West Virginia Advisory Committee addressed the committee regarding a study of the status of women in the state. This report, which was completed last year, generated statistics outlining how West Virginia’ female population compares among all states and Washington D.C. In composite political participation, West Virginia women ranked 46th in the nation; in composite social and economic autonomy, they ranked 48th; and, in composite health and well being, West Virginia women also ranked 48th.
Forest Management Review Commission – Ginseng: American ginseng, an herb that is native to West Virginia’ forests, can be intentionally grown throughout the state for considerable profit. Wild ginseng from West Virginia, according to representatives from the West Virginia Ginseng Growers Association (WVGGA), has commanded high prices throughout the global market as the industry continues to grow and prosper. Representatives from the WVGGA addressed the Forest Management Review Commission during the November Interims to discuss the ginseng industry and to offer recommendations, which would aid the success of this unique field of agriculture, for the Legislature to review. With nearly 500 pounds of ginseng seed planted during the past few years, an average of 30,000 pounds of dry root can be expected to be harvested, producing over $5 million in sales.
Finance Subcommittee A: Finance Subcommittee A met to discuss the findings and recommendations from the Pacific Health Policy Group regarding the merger of the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and Medicaid and the merger’ potential cost savings. Currently, there are 212,000 individuals insured under PEIA and 345,000 under Medicaid, making these the two largest insurance providers in the state.
Finance Subcommittee B: Finance Subcommittee B met to review property tax issues across the state. Members heard further presentations on the conversion of private lands to public property and the resulting effects on property taxes.
Government Organization Subcommittee C: The committee briefly met to discuss the feasibility of establishing a statewide trail coordinator. The speaker stated that a coordinator would be able to oversee the network of trails around the state for a better understanding of what is available to the state and where money would be better spent.
Joint Standing Committee on Finance: Members of the committee heard an update from a representative of the state Information Services and Communications office (IS&C) regarding a situation that arose when three major long-distance providers reported the state owed them over $10 million. Improvements in invoicing and auditing helped IS&C determine that AT&T had overcharged the state $1.3 million in FY 2002 because the company had failed to charge the state at contracted rates.
Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary: The committee discussed and passed out of committee to the full Legislature two separate bills related to All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) safety. The first bill would require helmets for riders and passengers under 18. It would only allow a young rider to carry a passenger on an ATV designed for passengers. The bill would ban night riding without adult supervision. It would also include safety training and certification requirements to limit child riders to machines of proportional size.
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Select Committee C - Turnpike/Wireless Phone & 911 Services: The committee met this month to discuss safety factors and the Wireless 911 capabilities covering the West Virginia Turnpike. A representative from the Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority spoke on the possibility of providing funding for the construction of the cellular towers along the West Virginia Turnpike.
Safety issues along the Turnpike also were briefly discussed. When going southbound on the Turnpike, there is only one place to stop if a traveler needs to rest or make a phone call. When accidents occur on the Turnpike, the state uses overhead displays to notify travelers of any possible delays. Once the traveler is in between the two toll booths from Charleston to Beckley, there is little or no way to notify travelers of delays. It was stated that there is a need to make the Turnpike more consumer- friendly for those traveling. A further look at where sign placement and overhead sign boards could be needed, will take place during the future meeting.
Joint Stand Committee on Pensions & Retirement: During the interim session, lawmakers heard a report from representatives of Gabriel, Roeder, Smith and Company (GRS), a comprehensive actuarial and benefit consulting services company, regarding police and fire pension plans in West Virginia’ largest cities. The representatives stated that those pension plans account for the majority of the $511 million shortfall in promised benefits owed collectively by these local plans. Huntington’ police pension fund has about 2 percent of the funding it needs. The plans for both Charleston’ police and fire departments, meanwhile, are about 18 percent funded. These plans will fall short of promised benefits over the long term by $511 million. The actuaries traced part of the problem to an alternative funding method relied upon by three-fourths of the plans, particularly those in the state’ largest municipalities.
For legislative assistance, write either
Senator Shirley Love, Room 203, or Senator Randy White, Room 204, at the Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305.
CCB 1, TAXPAYERS 0
It’ been a lengthy battle but a local bank has finally been given the court’ permission to sell $90,000 worth of taxpayer paid for property. This lead story should provide insight into how one out-of-town’ made a mockery of local elected and appointed officials, received preferential treatment by one time Clay County Bank president J.D. Morris and how one local attorney sat on all sides of the table. Take off your shoes and get a cup of coffee, here comes the final installment of an economic development tale gone sour.
Briefly, former county commissioner Tim Butcher told the world a filter manufacturing company was coming to Clayberry with promises of 300 jobs. That was nearly four years ago. Clayberry responded by rolling out the red carpet; luncheons were held, CAEZ provided $140,000 in low interest loans to help move Filcon, Inc. into the county. The Clay County Business Development Authority (BDA) cut a deal for Filcon owner Manfred Kuentzer. If Kuentzer would provide 10 full time jobs in the county, the BDA would give Filcon $90,000 in land near Valley Fork to build his building. The county purchased the land from the Sizemore family and the King family with local coal severance dollars.
To protect the interest of the taxpayer, the BDA signed an agreement that stipulated: if Filcon fails to live up to the terms, the land would revert back to the BDA. AND, Filcon was not to put any liens on the property without prior BDA OK. Being a slickster, Kuentzer negotiated to get a deed for the Ovapa holdings. The BDA obliged. On the day of the deed signing, Manfred also signed a lien for $255,000, a first mortgage on the note.
Kuentzer absconded from the county with money in his pocket in early 2001, and the hopes and dreams of many in this county went with him. Since then the Clay County Bank tried to foreclose on the land. The sale was cancelled as a lawsuit between the BDA and bank picked up steam. The trial was to be heard June 13, 2002 but didn’ happen. On that morning, attorney Kevin Duffy’ office (located above Wayne King’ office space on Main Street) burned to the ground. On the 13th, Duffy stood before the Court and said the only thing he had left in his possession was the stuff he had taken home a night previous in the back of his car.
18 months later and after much court ordered mediation, on December 2, 2003 at 9 am, the BDA/County Commission vs. the Clay County Bank trial was ready to begin. This is the story of what we saw during two days of testimony and bickering.
Up front on the left was bank attorney Kevin Duffy with former bank president Greg Gency. To the right, BDA attorney Barbara Schamberger and BDA Chair Paige Willis. On the far end of the table, coming in late, was Clay County Prosecutor Daniel Grindo representing the County Commission. Both sides had mounds of paperwork. The peanut gallery was packed. For almost a half hour back room negotiating was under way. Out front sat Willis. From the peanut gallery, “s there a deal being made?” Tim Butcher was seen leaving from the back exit. Commissioner Jimmy Sams headed for the back. When asked, Circuit Clerk Mike Asbury responded, “hey’e all back there. I don’ know what they’e doing.”Duffy took Don Moore to the broom closet beside the court room for discussions.
Judge Facemire explained to all that issues needed to be addressed with the lawyers that will save us 3 or 4 hours in the long run. Facemire, “ welcome you to your court room.”Here’ a zinger. During the jury selection process, attorney Duffy asked if any of them had heard of the Filcon Case. Not one of them raised their hands! Not a one, even after years of media attention which included a 5 day front page expose in the Charleston Gazette last spring. Not One Of Them!
Of course it’ the off the record stuff that makes court room reporting fun. Like, during one of the breaks, as BDA Boardster Arthur Jarrett was talking to in-attendance Magistrate Jeff Boggs. Jarrett, “re you a lawyer?”Boggs, “Better than that *** up there!”Referring to Grindo? During the juror “triking”process, as things got confusing, Bailiff Gene King, “ don’ know what’ going on!”Light laughter in the back and grins up front. Further background has to include the strife between attorney Barbara Schamberger and Prosecutor Grindo. Schamberger has a lawsuit against the CCC and Grindo over the appointment of Grindo to the prosecutor’ position by the CCC one year ago this week.
After Facemire explained to the jury what they were and weren’ to do, opening remarks came from the plaintiff’ side and Schamb. They included: this isn’ easy to explain; this is much like telling kids not to do something and then they go ahead and do it; the BDA still owns the Ovapa property; and Filcon violated the terms of the land use agreement; that before Filcon could get a lien placed on the taxpayer’ land, the BDA had to agree to the deal; the BDA NEVER gave permission for the bank to place a deed of trust on the BDA land, Never!; the bank put a lien on it without permission; the bank decided to sell the property; and, “t’ the property of the people of Clay County and the people were not asked!”
In a much quicker opening, Grindo held up the BDA agreement with Filcon and said “t comes down to— it’ in there!”just like in the Ragu TV commercials; and the bank made a mistake when they secured the deed of trust without BDA OK.
Within a nano second of Grindo finishing, Duffy, “’ not as good with words,… THIS IS HOGWASH!!!… This is a simple case… The BDA has EGG on it’ face!!!!!! Filcon flim-flamed everybody!!”Duffy’ opening included: This Filcon loan was just like any other Clay County Bank (CCB) loan and “he BDA KNEW Manfred borrowed the money.. The Chair signed the deed to Filcon… When Manfred Kuentzer secured the debt at the CCB, PAIGE WILLIS STOOD RIGHT THERE.”Duffy asked that the jury use common sense and added that the bank’ attorney at the time was Wayne King, the BDA asked Wayne King to prepare the BDA agreement with Kuentzer, the BDA attached the amended agreement to the deed, and that amended agreement allowed for the CCB to put a lien on the Filcon property and the BDA knew about the deed of trust (the lien) all along.
Pretty good opening by all. Business Development Authority (BDA) Chair Paige Willis dressed in his finest Sunday go to meeting clothes took the stand as all other potential witnesses were told to skedaddle. Under questioning by Schamberger, Willis did the usual … he came here in 1971...the BDA was set up to grow the county and provide jobs...and then, the good stuff!
Willis said he was at the bank along with J.D. Morris, Steve Zarichi, Wayne King, and Manfred Kuentzer when the deed was signed over to Filcon, but he saw NO other documents that morning being signed. Willis provided some background: He and Norman Wilson went to Roane County to pick up a sample agreement to serve as an outline for the BDA’ deal with Filcon; Wayne King wrote the agreement based on the Roane County example; J.D. Morris agreed to King preparing the BDA’ agreement; the BDA paid no money to King for his services; and, in the agreement Filcon was not allowed to even make improvements without BDA OK.
Willis read from the group’ bylaws and then from one section of the agreement which seemed to jive with Willis’interpretation, “he parties cannot cause a lien”without prior BDA OK. Willis gave a brief history of the mess: Commissioner Butcher was first to support the Filcon misadventure and the BDA paid expenses for CAEZ Director Jerry Sizemore to go to Kuentzer’ home operation in upper New York and to assess the viability of the operation. Sizemore returned with a favorable response for what he saw. Willis went on with: the BDA purchased the property from Velt and Marie King (Wayne King’ parents) and a Ms Sizemore; and Wayne King did the deed for the purchase. Without fail, Willis was adamant, when he was at the bank for the deed signing, (the BDA agreement was attached to the deed), he knew nothing of the bank’ plans to put a lien on the land with a CCB deed of trust. Adamant. The jury listened intently.
Duffy began his cross examination loudly, “ou sat there QUIETLY????”Willis, “o... but I didn’ object to the Clay Bank loaning money!”Duffy provided a blow up page from the BDA’ meeting agenda dated March 1, 2001 where the BDA voted on the Filcon agreement. The brash Duffy was pitted nose to nose with equally unbending Willis. Neither budged. During the exchanges it came out: (then) Prosecutor Jeff Davis reviewed Wayne King’ work and the BDA agreed to modify the agreement. Duffy zeroed in on one clause of the BDA agreement , a section C which gave Filcon “he right to finance improvements” That section C part is very important readers. Back and forth they went. Between clause C giving Filcon the right to indebtedness and paragraph F which stated the BDA would get the property back from Filcon if Filcon failed to live up to the agreement, neither side would budge. Duffy employed visual aids like the chalk board and poster boards to enhance the bank’ position. Willis remained on the stand for much of the afternoon.
And now for some side notes. During the trial Shamberger and Duffy exchanged little “arbs” little digs, little smacks. You could almost see the lather foaming over. During many of the up-front, away from the jury whispering sessions, it looked like Judge Facemire was more of a “arent.”Facemire with two little kids at war over a ball or other toy. During the just before noon up front encounter, with all parties up there whispering, at one point Facemire could be seen grinning as the lawyers bickered.
Duffy tried to wear Willis down and get something into record That something was: Willis knew the bank was also getting signed a deed of trust against the BDA’ interest at the Ovapa site. Willis wouldn’ budge, “ didn’ set there like a door mat!!”Duffy, “ou KNEW Filcon was borrowing!!”Willis, “ wasn’ aware of that!”Willis explained that he had permission to sign the deed over to Filcon and nothing else.
Again the sides were up front and this time, very close to lunch, Facemire wasn’ grinning. The whispering got louder. Just before chow break, Duffy had Willis read again the section giving Filcon the right to enter into any loan to improve the property. The jury seemed to be listening.
Right after lunch, and out of order, Clay County Bank board member Don Moore testified he knew nothing of the BDA agreement and had he known, he would not have been in favor of the bank’ deed of trust. Moore left.
Duffy wasn’ done with Willis. Back up front Willis went for more of the same questions. You have authority to represent the BDA? Yes. You made no statements in favor of the bank loan the day of the signing? No Sir! During the deed signing you didn’ protest?
No. At one point Willis got into the many bogus bills submitted by Kuentzer to receive questionable payments from the bank. All ‘’broke loose with Duffy objecting to about every word spoken by Schamberger during the cross. Duffy was working hard to keep the background info away from the jury’ ears. The cat and dog fight was on again!
In between the objections, the world found out, $147,000 of the $255,000.00 CCB loan did not go to improving the BDA property, many of the invoices submitted by Kuentzer for payment were forgeries forged by Kuentzer, much of the partially built building is NOT paid for, and some of the grant money ($50,000) was also misspent by Kuentzer.
At one point during the lawyerly bickering, Judge Facemire, “LEASE don’ run over each other!”Humor popped up again when Willis was asked about Wayne King making the agreement changes right away, Willis, “ayne never does anything right away.”Laugher was heard.
And then Duffy stepped over the line. Duffy challenged Facemire. Duffy asked a question, Facemire said that the answer was already established by the “ench”… that’ the Judge. Facemire to Duffy, “hat’ Not true Mr. Duffy! Approach the bench!” Duffy had stepped on the Judge’ toe and Facemire didn’ like it one bit… the Judge was not grinning... Although they were supposed to be whispering, Duffy was heard saying, “ apologize your honor..”Schamberger appeared to grin a small smirk on her way back to her seat. Duffy had crossed the wrong line.
Finally Willis got off the stand and Wayne King got in the hot seat. King admitted to doing all the documents for all the parties. During the deed signing, witness Wayne King said all were happy to get “he matter rolling” he heard no objections by anyone during the signing, he was the only attorney present during the signing, and from Mr. King, “r. Willis knew it was a lien. Did I personally say that? I don’ know, but everyone knew it was a deed and a lien..”Facemire asked a few of his own questions. King’ response included: the property purchased by the BDA came from an original deed from his wife Sandra; his parents wanted to build a house on the land years ago; his parents sold the land and he prepared the deed; and… according to Wayne King, no title search was done by King although he was the bank’ attorney at the time; King did not know if Kuentzer had permission from his corporate board to enter into the contract; the bank most certainly knew about the BDA agreement on the property before the deed and deed of trust signing, that J.D. Morris asked him (King) to do the BDA agreement!
Wow, what a mouth full. King wrote the BDA agreement, had a position in the land being sold to the BDA, was the bank’ attorney for the deed and deed of trust, and J.D. Morris handled the Filcon loan himself.
BDA members Glady Lanham and King Arthur Jarrett were called to testify. Greg Gency was called. Go freshen the coffee, we’e not done yet readers. That’ the end of trial day one. Go ahead, we’l wait. ….
Day Two started away from the jury with the attorney’ posturing. At one point attorney Duffy all but called Willis a liar, Duffy, “e believe that’ not credible testimony [from Paige]… We don’ like to say that but that’ what we believe.”Facemire corrected Duffy again saying that the BDA is it’ own “ody” it takes a vote of the body to make a decision, and even if Willis knew of the bank loan, that’ still not enough, “hat’ black letter law”Duffy didn’ stop, “. .Our position is the BDA had knowledge of the deed, Willis had an OK because the BDA knew of the other clause.”Back and forth they went with Schamberger getting her two cents worth in. In the end, the Judge had the final word. The BDA did NOT vote on the deed of trust or it’ not in the minutes….. The BDA owns that property.. if the lien [Bank] is valid, they have right to foreclose.”With the jury back in position…. Dressed in suit and tie and under oath, one time interim Clay County Bank president Greg Gency went up front.
Gency testified that he attended Glenville, was a used car salesman…. He started at the bank Sept 1986. During the questioning and cross the jabs kept coming between Schamberger and Duffy, at one point, Duffy, “ am trying to remain civil!”Basically, Mr. G added: no title search was done because the BDA was guaranteeing the property; the bank normally requires a bunch of background information but this time didn’; the bank instead relied on the CAEZ’ favorable report on Filcon as the basis for the loan; and J.D. Morris handled the Filcon loan himself.
During Gency’ answers, it came out that although this was a construction loan, normal bank procedures were not followed. Instead of the normal practice of the client submitting invoices and the bank covering the expenses, Filcon was provided a one time draw down. Duffy went at the objections with vigor. He had to keep his side away from this area. Duffy hammered. Schamberger hammered right back. The fire flew. Even Grindo got into the objection game. At one point, Judge Facemire, “r. Duffy, you’e beating this horse..”
By this time, the jury appeared to be at a loss.
Gency provided more… The bank did no background investigation of Filcon; they relied solely on Jerry Sizemore’ “ositive favorable reports”to Filcon; and, the CCB tried to speed things up and help the county get new jobs. Schamberger tried to get answers on the bank’ most recent questionable loan practices (federal cease and desist order in place) but the Judge stopped that line real quick, “ot relevant.”
Both sides rested before noon Dec 3. The jury heard their instructions followed by 20 minute closing remarks from both sides. During the closing, those two attorneys were at it some more. Objections rang out.
Even with the BDA owning the property, the only issue before the jury: Does the Clay County Bank have the right to exercise their lien, their deed of trust against the taxpayer’ land? Translation: can the bank sell the people’ property? Around 2:30, the jury retired. Their unanimous decision was made public around 5:45 pm. The BDA lost. The Clay County Bank has the right to foreclose and take the land from the people.
Other than some last ditch, last minute appeals or stays, another chapter in the Clayberry story is nearly complete and the people are out tons of loot. Sheriff Fields once said he felt the total amount heisted was well over $500,000. For most of us, we’l just shake our heads and go on. AW
On October 17th Thomas King Jr. was found guilty of driving a 4 wheeler on a paved road without a driver’ license in the courtroom of Magistrate Mitchell King. As a note, the two Kings are not related as far as we can tell. With his sentence on hold, King appealed the lower court’ decision to the Circuit Court where Judge Facemire tossed the jury decision, citing several screw ups. He ordered the case back to Magistrate Court for a new decision. In the way of an update….Since then, and before being heard before the local Magistrate again, both the State (that’ new Asst. Prosecutor Barry Koerber) and King’ attorney David Karickhoff have asked the WV Supreme Court for a decision: Is an ATV considered a motor vehicle in this state? No response from the Supreme Court as of pres time.
Sounds simple enough. An ATV has a motor so of course it’ a motor vehicle. Wrong. State code has several exceptions to motor vehicle law. For example, a farm tractor can be used on paved roads without the need for a driver’ license. In that same exception is the language for “ff road vehicles” AKA 4 wheelers. We’l keep you posted on this landmark issue.
|· Last edition, we hung a nickname, a tag, on Commissioner Matthew Bragg. His new name, “e Ain’ Comin (HAC)”Bragg. Matthew called last weekend and asked if we would print a reply. He’ set down and come up with some thoughts “rom the heart”and with the help of Alice Faye Bragg, his mother, put together a statement. That full response from is elsewhere in this edition.|
??? DID YOU KNOW ???
|1. Dried bread is better with love than fried chicken with fear and trembling.|
2. More than 60 patients who received popular new drug-coated heart stent have died, a surprising increase since the last health warning just months ago.
3. The number of Americans who believe it’ OK to “heat a little here and there”on their taxes has risen 50 percent in the past four years.
4. Bankruptcies have nearly doubled in the past decade, including more than 1.6 million people who filed for personal bankruptcy this fiscal year.
5. A Harvard Nurses Health study showed a 58 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer among women who took two or more aspirin pills a week for 20 years or more.
6. Pet owners spent $19 billion on Vet. services in 2001, up from $11 billion in 1996.
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been voted the most popular NASCAR driver; he received more than 1.3 million of the more than 3 million votes cast.
8. Within the last five years, 1,330 nurses have sought licenses in other states.
9. Skin cancers affect more than 1 million Americans each year.
10. Four in ten Americans are drinking more bottled water than they did two years ago.
11. The most popular breakfast is hot or cold cereal.
12. In 1978 there were more than 3 million children with elevated levels of lead in their blood.
13. In 1997, 3.1 million students were suspended from school mostly for non-violent acts.
14. 4.5 million children are being raised by grandparents.
15. In 2002, 386 people were killed in automobile accidents in the state.
16. Doctors say that anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of the population suffer from chronic daily headaches.
17. Second homes, classified as seasonal recreational or vacation homes have increased by more than 15,000 during the past decade in West Virginia.
18. More than 400 schools have been closed in the last decade across the state.
19. Last month the Ford Motor Company produced its 300 millionth vehicle, a crimson red Mustang GT convertible.
20. According to the Jed Foundation, the suicide rate for 15 to 25 year olds is 300 percent higher than it was in the 1950’. LMM
POLITICS Gene King made it official December 2, he is not running for Sheriff in the 2004 election year. He said his health just wasn’ good enough right now to take on the rigors of running for office and the job itself. With the number one vote getter in the county out of the running, and the number of candidates growing almost daily, next year’ race is shaping up to be a dandy. Current Sheriff Harald Fields is not eligible (too ugly) for a third term in office and is planning to run for the District A County Commission slot being vacated by Commissioner Matthew “AC”Bragg.
Sounds confusing? Oh, it’l get better as the months roll along. Sheriff Fields is running for Bragg’ seat and Bragg is running for the Sheriff’ position. Add to the blend others reportedly running for the Top Cop spot, Dave Mullins, Don Samples, Randy Holcomb, Morgan Gibson, and Roger Hunt.
CLAY COUNTY PSD ON TRACK Clay County PSD met in regular session December 9th at 10 am. Financially, the water provider ended November in the black: beginning balance $984.05; Income $18345.44, Expenses $18,000.78, Ending balance for Nov. 2003 $1328.71
During the meeting maintenance man Sam Taylor gave the Board an update on flood damages and boil water orders as a result of broken lines. The PSD plans to apply for FEMA funds to repair a creek crossing damaged by high water. With members of the Lizemore ‘e Want Water”group present, an update was given by Cindy Schoolcraft and Chair Keith King. Schoolcraft had talked to Phase I water line extension engineer Greg Belcher who said everything was “n track”with construction bidding planned for January 2004 and necessary title work in the hands of attorney Jim Lane who will handle condemnation proceedings.
We Want Water Committee front man Barry McCune asked about rumors of the Lizemores funding being removed if the project doesn’ get moving by March 2004. According to Schoolcraft, engineer Greg Belcher, “here’ no truth to that.”McCune also told the Board, many potential customers along the extension project route are concerned over the poor quality of treated water produced by the Clay town plant. With nods seen around the conference room table, Cindy explained that Clay County PSD issues a Boil Water Order every time a line breaks and the BWOs are for the customers’safety. As far as the town making poor water, it was strangely silent with no one venturing out on that limb.
Finally from Clay County PSD, the employee policy and procedure manual was revised to reflect sexual harassment and American Disability Act revisions and changes in employee evaluations. A motion was made and passed to allow employees to carry vacation and comp time over into the new year.
SOLID WASTE AUTHORIY Last edition we printed in part: During the small talk, while waiting for truant boardsters, discussion centered on the their auditor’ requirements to tighten up book keeping procedures …” Since then we received an email from Solid Waste Sec. Dawn Whitely who asked for a retraction. According to Ms Whitely, the auditor didn't say the Solid Waste Authority needed to keep better records, he said the "grant coordinator" needed to keep all the stuff that had to do with the grant in the office and not at home in order to keep better records,…
CLAY RADIO Last summer Clay County Communications received their construction permit to build a low power FM radio station to serve the county. The non profit group secured some “reebee”funds from the Governor’ Budget Digest and have since been raising additional dollars with a membership campaign. In Dec., WYAP-LP (their call letters) began the third leg of their capital campaign, business underwriting and sponsorships. In addition to a Commission on Religion in Appalachia grant for documentaries and the Budget Digest funds, Clay Radio needs to raise around $6000 for the transmitter, antennae and cabling. Until the needed funds and equipment is secured, the community based station will continue to broadcast around the world on the internet.
Currently they are providing local information like weather, event notices, news items from area papers, and international wire feeds from independent news agencies like Free Speech Radio, Vatican News, Between the Lines, and Counter Spin. Four Clay High students and two senior citizens take over the microphones Monday through Friday afternoons beginning at 4 pm.
According to a group spokesman, the public is encouraged to stop by the station any afternoon “o take a gander” Local musicians are encouraged to submit CDs for on air broadcast.
Clay’ Elementary Schools Win Praise From WV Department of Education
The Clay County Board of Education held their regular meeting at the administrative office in Clay on Monday, December 1, 2003. All members of the Board were present – Gene King (already back on the job despite recent surgery!), David Pierson, Scott Legg, Fran King, and Board President R.B. Legg, Jr.
The room was filled with Clay County’ elementary school principals and teachers from those schools – Dr. Stephen Payne from the WV Department of Education had come to recognize the five elementary schools in Clay County.
After offering a prayer R.B. Legg opened the meeting, and Superintendent Jerry Linkinogger introduced Dr. Payne as the second-in-command, after State Superintendent Dave Stewart, at the Department of Education. Payne said they were recognizing schools throughout West Virginia which have shown notable improvement, and that 85% have attained some form of recognition from the State Department. He noted that although their efforts had received negative media coverage they want to point out what’ right about the schools.
Dr. Payne presented certificates to the principals, and members of their staffs, of Clay Elementary, Ivydale Elementary, Lizemore Elementary, Valley Fork Elementary and H.E. White Elementary. He said each had met a high quality standard or met adequate yearly progress.
Payne spoke briefly about the No Child Left Behind Act. His concerns included funding, due to spending cuts, penalizing schools for missing even one of the 37 criteria (he feels more common sense is needed), and special education. He said it was not fair to require all special education students to learn at the same rate. What he finds good about No Child Left Behind is that it endorses the concept that all children can learn.
Business conducted by the Board: approved previous meeting minutes, payment of current bills, and a Testing-Out Policy for Clay County High students (required by the State Board), all without discussion. All motions passed unanimously.
Business Manager/Treasurer Loretta Gray gave a quick financial update on the month of November. Receipts included money reimbursed from RESA for substitute costs, money from the insurance company for repairs to Bus #52, a SBA project payment, 2 months reimbursement for food service, and payments from several grants. Disbursements included money for coaches that are not regular employees, payments for textbooks, repairs to Bus #52, and some computers, scanners, and printers were purchased. There were no questions or discussion on the update.
Linkinogger brought to the Board’ attention a matter that has languished for 12 years. In 1991 Charles Paul Jordan moved to Arizona. His wife, who died, loved to read, so Jordan donated his ½ interest in two pieces of property in the Camp Creek area to Clay County High School to be sold for library books. Linkinogger said two different lawyers during the past 12 years had not accomplished anything, and asked the Board if they’ like him to try another lawyer. David Pierson suggested that it would save trouble to just sell their ½ interest themselves, but it has to be sold at public auction. Joe Summers owns the other half of one of the tracts. Linkinogger will check into selling the property.
Linkinogger reported that the previous week he went to the School Building Authority (SBA) to make his presentation to them. Most county school systems in West Virginia are asking the SBA to fund their projects from the $200 million they have to give away this year. Clay County is asking for $3.8 million to build a new school in the Big Otter area. Linkinogger said they allowed him to speak for 25 minutes and State Board President Clacy Williams told him it was the best presentation Clay County had ever given. He said Williams also asked if the $3.8 million gets awarded, would Clay accept the SBA’ guarantee to give the money next year, giving the Board time to upgrade the road and get the land. He said it sounded very positive.
Next regular board meeting Monday, December 15 at Valley Fork Elementary School. TK
TOURISIM: Clay’ Future
Jobs! Jobs has been the battle cry for elected and “ant-ta-be”elected officials for years in this county. Federally funded report after report have said the same thing, study after study, in a nutshell, if Clay County had just a few more working at even minimum wage, many of our social and economic woes would disappear.
Over the last 7 months you may have a noticed a difference in economic development plans for Clay County. There has been a shift from attracting manufacturing plants in industrial parks to putting emphasis on promoting tourism in our fair county. The first glimmer of change popped up as CAEZ Director Jerry Sizemore spoke on developing an ATV trail through Clay and Nicholas Counties. That was in May 2003. Within weeks, a brief CAEZ inspired report surfaced on using the Elk River as a draw for out-of-staters with money to burn. Even our Business Development Authority (BDA) has been upbeat on tourism opportunities.
During the December 2nd CAEZ meeting, a more in depth look at tourism opportunities was presented to the Board. The bound, 26 page feasibility study was prepared by Paul Melton, Wayne Morris, and Leah Higginbotham in November 2003. From the report: The trend in tourism has changed over the years, whereby there are a greater number of visitors – locally and internationally – who are seeking adventure in remote regions and/or moving away from traditional metropolitan vacations. There is a greater demand for outdoor activities amongst travelers…According to Travel Industry Association, of the 98 million Americans who have taken as adventure trip in the past 5 years, approximately 31 million adults participated in “ard adventure”activities such as mountain biking and whitewater rafting….
Author Paul Melton targeted mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, backpacking, bike road tours, downhill cross country skiing, fishing, hunting, canoeing, snowmobiling, ATV, camping and railway excursions as possible areas for growth in his study area. That study area was basically the area bordered by Route 16, 19 and 39.
From the reports introduction page, Tourism has been deemed by the World Tourism Organization as the driving force for poverty alleviation, job creation and social harmony…. The low population density of rural communities appears to be a positive factor for the growing trend amongst adventure travelers and visitors who seek trail activities… there is a greater attraction to smaller populated regions by users of trails…. The proximity of large metropolitan regions and excellent access to the area of study, should appeal to persons seeking a natural, undeveloped environment for recreational activities…
As for our little part of the country being suitable for various recreational activities, we have potential. Melton referenced the area’ rugged interior mountainous terrain with heavy foliage and the existing railroad right of way winding alongside the Elk River. Vast remote areas of land remain unused. There should be a network of coal and logging roads and trails that could provide opportunities for motorized and non motorized adventures. The area offers the opportunity for trail diversification. In other words, the landscape, small towns, climate and topography offer all season opportunities…
Sounds pretty good so far doesn’ it? In common terms: we’e located in the outback but still close to big cities. During the reports presentation CAEZ Tourism Lead person Connie Lupardus reminded all in attendance that we sometimes overlook the natural Appalachian beauty, we just overlook what we see everyday.
Tourism can create a demand for jobs, new jobs, as well as indirectly. Translation: more workers for motels, restaurants, grocery stores and retail establishments. Currently and according to the report, Clay County does not currently have many businesses that could provide the recreational businesses with needed goods or services nor does it have adequate motels, restaurants and other facilities that would be demanded by large numbers of tourists….. It does not appear that river activities would be sufficient to significantly stimulate economic growth in the area… the number of new jobs created would be minimal… the terrain and existence of potentially thousands of acres in the area, however, make it ideal to combine these activities [fishing, boating] with other multi day activities such as campgrounds, cabins, ATV trails and horseback riding. The new report suggests that job growth would come maintaining the various trails, cabins, and campgrounds in part.
The report says a lot of things we already knew. Things we’e been told before in other reports. But if the direction of Clayberry is now fleecing tourists, this report offers some concrete direction. Stuff like: We feel that, with the proper strategies employed, the area has the potential to attract a substantial number of tourists. And: We do not feel that the river alone can draw and keep visitors in the area to impact the economy significantly, it does appear to be a resource that can be developed quite quickly and reasonably inexpensively. It is also felt that the river has the potential to draw enough visitors to the area to make it known as a recreational area… the diversity and expansive miles of the river offer an excellent opportunity to develop it into a visible tourist attraction.
So what have we got to do to get started? 6 items were singled out as strategic: improved existing river access ramps and parking areas; acquire property between Duck and Clay for access and parking; acquire property for camping including showers, potable water, and portable johns; grow a committee to organize the whole plan and develop brochures, maps, signs, and other points of interest; and finally, advertise, advertise, advertise!
Sounds simple enough doesn’ it? Come up with a game plan and then follow it. With another study in hand, only time will tell if any of the promising ideas are realized o if the study will set on a back shelf as so many others are currently doing. AW
BOB CLARKE Curmudgeon’ Corner
The last few weeks have presented a stunning, virtually awesome display, illustrating the power and total control of the corporate media. As soon as CBS began to broadcast notices of its forthcoming drama, “he Reagans,”the chattering classes on talk TV, assuming any possible negative criticism of the “reat Communicator”began their assault. That title, almost universally bestowed, it seems, continues to be a mystery to those of us who love and respect the English language. When the annals of 20th century rhetoric are written, Ronald Reagan will be remembered for two utterances. The first is: “here you go again,”which is what he said whenever confronted by a tough question. The other is: “r. Gorbochev, tear down this wall,”which, by the way, was written for him. A warm smile and a handsome face can cover a multitude of inadequacies.
It can be mean spirited to criticize a 92 year old man who is facing near-death and the ravages of Alzheimer’, but the growing movement that seems bent to elevate a political figure to a position above rational judgment calls for a certain degree of objectivity. No man, emperor, king or president is above criticism. As journalists might say: “et’ look at the record.” During Reagan’ tenure, more members of his administration were indicted and convicted than in any other presidential term in American history. It was a period of out-of-control defense spending that resulted in a deficit second only to that incurred by the current White House resident. In an attempt to check the juggernaut of constant Reagan glorification, Representative John Dingell, D-Michigan and others have attempted to inject a small dose of reality. Minor items left out of the mini-series were: $640 Pentagon toilet seats; catsup as a vegetable; union-busting, the firing of striking air-traffic controllers; Iran-Contra (briefly mentioned) selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; the retreat from Beirut after the massacre of our marines, lying to Congress, financing an illegal war in Nicaragua, a friendly relationship with Saddam Hussein. This is a man who once warned that the communists in Central America were only 90 miles from Texas, implying that the ragtag group was on the verge of invading the U.S. These are the fruits of a leader whose suppliants are daily trumpeting the “eagan Revolution.” Some historians who, it may be argued, have taken leave of their senses, are currently ranking him above Lincoln. That must have been a time when those of us with a sincere interest in political history were living on another planet.
To depart from kicking a man when he is down, it is time to return to the tawdry behavior of CBS. Anticipating that the Reagan mini-series might suggest that its main character would be portrayed with even the tiniest human flaw, the conservatives mounted a furious attack on the network based on a drama they had not even seen: nothing like reviewing a book one has not read. Predictably, CBS caved in, and moved the special to Showtime. Network CEOs are intelligent people. They know where the money is. Moving the drama to cable involved an inevitable loss in the ratings, and in revenue, but not in the long run. The big bucks are in advertising as we all know, and the business moguls who control the purse strings tend to be of the conservative persuasion, hence, the bottom line trumps free expression, as it so often does in these unhappy times. Surely, there is here at least a faint echo of the dreaded word, “ensorship.”
It has always been mystifying to some of us that the Thought Police have never understood the concept of forbidden fruit. Tell the kiddies that they should not see a particular movie or read a certain book and the stampede is sure to begin. The results are not yet in, but it is a good bet that the controversy over “he Reagans”created a market significantly larger than the product merited. Adults are equally susceptible to the same reverse psychology, intended or otherwise. As a drama, the show was a testament to mediocrity. James Brolin, who played Reagan, captured the voice amazingly well, and the physical resemblance was striking. Judy Davis, a superb actress, played Nancy Reagan. Here, the Reagan idol-worshippers may have had cause for alarm, for the script apparently called for her to play the part as the dragon lady. One of the more silly objections to the casting of Brolin was that he is married to Barbra Streisand, whose ego may be more of a detriment than of value to the liberal cause. The writers did work in Nancy Reagan’ addiction to astrology: no outraged clamor about this foolishness here. It is historical fact.
From the Big Sky country comes another incredible dog story. In Butte, the Montana Resources Company owns a mile-wide bowl which was a former copper mine. The pit holds 30 billion gallons of water so contaminated by heavy metals that nearly 350 snow geese died when they landed on it in 1955. In 1986 a wild dog was spotted near the toxic pit. His frequent appearance caused the miners to adopt him as their unofficial mascot. They loved him for his sheer toughness. They named him The Auditor because he always seemed to appear when least expected. He often disappeared for weeks. When in the vicinity he could usually be expected to appear for dinner supplied by the miners. According to the Great Falls Tribune:
…His thick, filthy coat, matted almost to the point of armor, hid any clue to the dog’ breed and showed only its hardened snout.
The miners had built a shanty for the dog, made a bed of rags for him and, on the advice of a veterinarian, added baby aspirin to help his arthritic condition. This indomitable, dreadlocked mongrel had survived more than 17 tears in this bleak country. He was a solitary creature whose story may well become a legend in canine history. The Auditor died two weeks ago, peacefully in his sleep. He was cremated. His ashes will be buried at the Granite Mountain Memorial that overlooks Butte. Holly Peterson, an engineering professor at Montana Tech has started a fund-raising drive to erect a life-size bronze sculpture of The Auditor. He deserves the honor.
And another thing…
| Letter of Response|
I was just handed the Short Shorts article from your last publication which included an item concerning the death of Leon Runion with comments from Betsy. I would like to clarify some items, if I may.
1. Yes, Betsy and Leon lived together for a number of years, during which time he worked faithfully. At the time of his death, he was disabled with a back problem and was fighting for his Disability Social Security Award. (His award was received only a few weeks after his death.)
2. Betsy failed to mention that they had recently split. They had been having problems since Leon had no income. During a visit to our residence, on September 21, 2003, she drove off and left him here in Charleston, going back to their residence in Clay. We did not hear the conversation, so cannot say what the problem was – she just left. Later she phoned and he told her, we could not help but overhear, to “ave her clothes and all her stuff out of the house when he came home.” We loaned him a vehicle to make the trip. If she failed to remove clothes for herself and Jessie, her daughter, then I cannot see where she blames Deputy Delk, of the Clay County Sheriff’ Department because they had no clothes to wear. Leon set up two appointments with her later for the full removal of her belongings, but she failed to appear either time. The last one was on Sunday, September 28, 2003. I know these details as fact because he was unable to support himself and had moved in with us at that time.
3. Another item of contention seems to be Deputy Delk’ refusal to let her enter the residence. NO ONE outside the investigators were allowed entrance. It was a crime scene and as such was sealed. When the investigation was complete, the residence was classed as a severe biohazard scene and needed professional decontamination. A crew of three bio-cleaning technicians had to be brought in from Colfax, North Carolina to disinfect, sanitize, and deodorize the residence. If Deputy Delk had allowed Betsy and her daughter entrance and they became ill from the contaminates, the Clay County Sheriff’ Department could have been sued. During this process no one, other than the professionals, were allowed entrance. We were notified on October 23rd that the clean-up was completed and scheduled the key pick up on Friday afternoon, October 24th. We talked to Betsy that evening and made arrangements to meet her, along with Leon’ son and heir, at the residence on Saturday to allow removal of her belongings.
4. As for Betsy’ comment that she isn’ told anything because she isn’ family, there is nothing to tell. We ARE family and we know nothing. Test results still haven’ been returned. We have received no decision, no death certificate. These things take time and I’ sure when a definite decision as to the cause of death is made, she, along with the rest of us, will be told.
5. As for making payments on the house, I’ sure she did, as did both Leon’ sisters, one making one payment and the other making two. Continued on the next page
We had made four. That’ what families do in a time of trouble – help each other out. As a matter of fact, we had gone to the bank and signed papers that we would take full responsibility for the house payments until Leon received his disability award. We had paid another debt he owed in full and “aught up”his power bill which was in default. So if anyone is thinking he was depressed, it was just the opposite. At the time of his death, he was in better shape financially than he had been in some months. With the final hearing coming up on his disability, he was making plans for the future.
6. “ couldn’ even go to the funeral.” That comment is blatantly false. We personally invited her during a phone conversation the day previous. She said that she just “asn’ coming because she felt guilty – she had left him and she was afraid the family would blame her.”
7. During the funeral one family member in particular complained about getting calls “very two or three hours”from either Betsy or her mother wanting to know “hat was going on?” Another member said they would call Deputy Delk and ask him to please tell her not to call any more. We know nothing more than that.
| We are really upset about this article which appears to be direct quotes from Betsy. We always considered her a friend and have tried to be supportive. This is a trying time for all of us. Sincerely,|
Janet and Terry Runion
A Second Letter of Response
I am the niece of Leon Runion. After receiving copies of your articles relating to the shooting of my uncle, I would like to clarify a few things. I hope you will give me the same courtesy that was given to Betsy Lee and this will be printed in your paper, The Communicator.
My father is Leon’ brother. Even though my father is next to the oldest and Leon was the baby of the family, they have always been close. They spent much time together over the years. It was only natural that Heath (Leon’ only child) and I were close. We basically grew up together.
My father is ill and doesn’ handle stress very well. His oldest brother died the last of June 2003. So you can only imagine what Leon’ death did to him. My father and mother were and still are devastated. My father and mother could not even talk to anyone on the telephone. They were so upset.
Upon receiving the telephone call from my mother, I drove from my home in Pendleton County to Charleston to be with my family.
The role of handling all arrangements fell on my shoulders. If you have never been in a situation like this, you have no understanding of what takes place. Every time you hang up the telephone, it rings again. We were trying to notify all members of our family, talk with the Clay Co. Sheriff’ Department, Armstrong Funeral Home and with the medical examiners office to find documentation to identify my uncle. The medical examiners office would not release the body of my uncle until he was positively identified. For this process, we needed dental records. It took three days to locate the dentist. He made a special trip from Charleston to Whitesville for his records. At this point in time, I was running on empty. I had to take care of my father, mother, sister and Heath. I didn’ have time to think of anyone else and if Betsy felt like she was treated as a second-class citizen, I am sorry. My top priority was my father and Heath. This is what families do. They stick together and help each other when it is needed.
When the time came to make arrangements for the funeral, Heath and I went to the funeral home. I helped Jim Armstrong with the obituary. He asked for family information. That is what was provided. I was told the only time that you include live-ins is when they are still together. If Betsy had still been living with my uncle, she would have been at the funeral home and helped with the arrangements instead of me. Betsy left my uncle. They were never married. I don’ know if you are aware of this, but West Virginia is not a common law state. Common law wives are not recognized in the State of West Virginia. My uncle was not Jessie’ father. Jessie has a father. Yes, they lived together with my uncle for 13 years and he loved Jessie and he took care of them, but they moved out. Betsy left my uncle at my parent’ home without a vehicle to get home in. Betsy told my family “essie hates Leon. I have lost one daughter because of him (Leon) and I am not going to lose another one.”
Betsy called my mother at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, October 2, 2003, the day after my uncle was found and told her that she (Betsy) had to go to the
Continued on the last page
bank to let them know that Leon had died. She was not making the payments on the home. My parents were. Betsy kept calling my great aunt on Coal River begging her to call my father to find out what was going on in the investigation. I am the one who asked Deputy Delk to have her stop calling our family. I told Betsy’ mother that we did not know anything and we would notify her as soon as we did know something.
As of December 10, 2003, we still do not know anything. Robert Stonacker, Medical Examiner’ Office, and Deputy Delk have been very kind and understanding to my family. If they have been short with Betsy, it is because of something she said or did.
No one kept Betsy from entering the house. It was a sealed crime scene. No one could enter until the Biohazard was cleaned up. The reason it took so long was because of a small matter called RESPONSIBILITY. Who would be responsible for payment of the clean up? And believe me that was one bill that didn’ come cheap. Once we got the ok to enter, we let her get her items out. I don’ understand why she stated that we would not let her remove hers and Jessie’ clothing from the residence. She should have taken those when she left to begin with. Instead of taking the time to remove important items, she took the time to remove a DVD player that was not hers. We have asked for it three times and she still has not returned it.
Betsy also stated that Leon had been drinking heavily before the shooting. I don’ understand how she could have known that, when she had not seen him for days. My uncle did not tell anyone in our family that he was going to kill himself. If he had, we would have done something about it. You will never convince me or anyone in our family that it was a suicide, and undoubtedly the Clay County Sheriff and the medical examiners are having a hard time buying that theory also, or this matter would have been settled by now.
Kimberly Runion Pitsenbarger
LEVY VOTE COMING
Lots of people turned up for the December 8th County Commission meeting, even Matthew “AC”Bragg. With around 20 in the peanut gallery, a couple important issues, a new tax, and emergency communications, took center stage. First the junk..
People are finding out that the names commonly associated with roads in the county are changing. One of those folks, Don Samples, asked the Commission to change the road he lives along to Left Fork of Twistabout instead of Harold Road. Samples was wound up pretty tight as he told the story of long dead, pig raising, Ira Harold of whom the road was recently named after. At one point Samples (a candidate for Sheriff in 2004), referring to Ira Harold, “ can talk to the dead!” Commissioner Bragg, also a Sheriff candidate, back to Samples, “s long as they don’ vote for you.” Laughter was heard through out the room. Bragg later asked Samples what district he lived in. Motion passed after the submission of a petition, to change the name to Left Fork of Twistabout.
Number 9 on the Agenda: EXCESS LEVY for Emergency Services. Here it is in a nutshell readers. County Commission is considering adding an Emergency Service Excess Levy question for the voter to decide. The idea was first brought to the CCC’ attention in an emergency services report which cited the need for additional funds. Early this past summer Big Otter Fire Department volunteer Marlyn Starcher asked the elected ones to put the vote on the ballot. Assembled on this date were reps from Big Otter and Clay VFDs. Both groups spoke in favor of such a vote with the amount to be raised at $170,000, up from $150,000 just three months ago.
The plan calls to split the levy dollars (if approved by the voters) between the ambulance service and the fire departments. Commission President Sams told those in the crowd, the fire departments would all have to be in support of such an idea for the notion to have any chance of success. As with any thing in Clayberry, there is a hitch or hitches. First, rumors are floating around that the Lizemores FD, or several members of the group, are against such a plan. Lizemores FD rep Cookie Johnson said their board was scheduled to meet later that day and a decision would be made. Greg Fitzwater from Clay FD said he would support such a levy ONLY if the money was divided equally between the FDs and the ambulance gang.
Here’ another hitch. Sams replied that he would vote to put the issue to the voter if, and only if, the ambulance service got ½ of the proceeds with the balance going to the three fire departments in the county. Sams, “he ambulance service needs more..” Sams admitted that in the past the ambulance service was not run right, but now, under the direction of Mitzie Adkins, things are looking up and the emergency ambulance service is keeping their heads above water, but just barely. Sams, “30,000 won’ put a second crew on [duty], they need some help..”
From the back came comments from Kathy Schuler who said her end of the county had been forgotten for so long, she wasn’ about to vote in favor of more taxes. She went on to mention the recent school excess levy where she was told by R.B. Legg that her property taxes would go up a little and in fact they more than tripled. Schuler, “’l never vote for another levy.”On the other hand, George Jones, yep George Jones (and he doesn’ look a bit like he does on TV) commented, “e need it in the county… If we don’ start now, no one will have anything…. We have to take care of ourselves.”
Look for the County Commission to vote on the issue in January 2004.
Finally from the meeting came finger pointing on poor 911 radio communications in the county. Sheriff Fields was talking about the many times his officers are out and about in the county where their car radios don’ work and his men are without a means to ask for backup. Fields said of the guy in charge of 911 for the county, Dave King, “e’e got the wrong man on it if there’ no action!… Someone needs to light a fire under him!”Sams agreed that the county needed better communications and the county has the money (over $200,000 from 911 monthly fees) to make the improvements. Fields offered that King needed to do more than just show secretaries how to run a computer, “e’ sitting there not being used. He needs to get off the stick.”King, who was working right next door on a computer, is paid $1500 per month for the part time job. Our 99 year old Sheriff listed areas of no or low coverage and offered, “ have harped about this for a long time. We need some action on this!…. We’e going to get somebody killed! We have one stumbling block and you all can guess who he is!”
And, and, and, long time readers, here it is for the first time! Commission President Jimmy Sams made mention that maybe the 911 center for Clay, now located in Nicholas County, should be moved into Clayberry. Now it was just a brief mention, but the mention was made!
Stay tuned readers, with the election year just around the corner, watch for much more colorful action at County Commission meetings. Come out and enjoy a public meeting, for the most part they don’ bite! AW
CAEZ That ever so quiet little grass roots group, Central Appalachia Empowerment Zone (CAEZ) met December 2nd at their Main Street digs beside DHHR. For the most part, little went on. There were a couple of nuggets worth mentioning.
CAEZ Director Jerry Sizemore is moving along with plans to set up a firewood cutting and distribution business in Clay County. The plan calls for a co-op to be set up. The goal is to provide local jobs, cutting firewood, which would then be sold to consumers in major cities along the east coast. According to Sizemore, $250,000 would be needed to get the doors open and properly equipped. Another issue is land for the business. Sizemore approached reps for Bill Bright about use of land located just past the new State Road garage. That location is not available. As for the needed $250,000.00, grants are being applied for.
Connie Lupardus will be hosting a leadership and tourism workshop in mid December. 100 invitations were mailed out. Scott Bass and Bill Monterosso from Workforce Investment spoke to the CAEZ on their agency’ involvement in tourism and the youth labor force which may be able to help with cleaning up the county.
During a recent Clay County Commission meeting our elected ones appointed Mardell Nevans to the CAEZ Board after attempts to hold a CAEZ election went without response. According to long time Boardster Elizabeth Sampson, the bylaws mandate all reps to be elected by the citizens and not appointed by a Commission. A report on the appointment will be provided during the next meeting.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY For the most part, the BDA spent December 4th licking their wounds after their court defeat one day prior. As for the court thumping, Chair Paige Willis, “ was up to my neck all the way. Any blame , I’l accept it!.. We are a nation of laws, we had one day in court and we have to live with it..”The assembled were told that their attorney was going back to the court with a motion to set aside the verdict ( I think that’ what Willis said anyway). All spoke with hope that the Ovapa property would some day turn into a place for jobs and not a trailer park or junk yard.
As for the next BDA adventure, down the road, Chair Willis, “ hope we have gained some knowledge, and if necessary [we’l] go out of county for a lawyer!”Of course the Chair was pointing a finger at Wayne King and his involvement on all sides of the Filcon debacle. After mentioning that attorney King penned the failed agreement and after Prosecutor Jeff Davis made modifications to the document, Willis, “ don’ know how I could have done anything else…. I should have done a better job…”
CAEZ Director Jerry Sizemore took a thumpin as one short guy in the crowd reminded all that it was Sizemore who provided a “avorable report”on the Filcon operation. Note: Sizemore traveled to Oswego, New York at BDA expense and got a first hand look at Manfred Kuentzer’ operation there and brought back a handful of shiny pictures. He also suggested the filter making equipment he viewed was worth well over $ 1million. In response to the public comments from the short guy, Sizemore, “ learned as well as others, I’e learned some lessons.”
DAM SAMPSON During the BDA meeting citizen activist Fred Sampson provided a report on his one man struggle to secure a 14 acre lake near Wallback. The dam would be paid for from Fola Coal mitigation funds totaling $1.2 million. According to Sampson, the DNR and Fola have entered into a contract to build the dam with Fola donating another $450,000 additional dollars to complete the project. Even with those good words, Sampson was skeptical, “ Run Dam is still a possibility.”Sampson was referring to the county waiting over 10 years for the long stalled recreational facility. He went into other mitigation fund problems relating to Fola’ operation, Sampson, “he DEP is making some bad mistakes with Fola.”After such a knock on the head (Filcon), the BDA perked up a bit and looked optimistic for once. Some suggested that since Sampson was the only person in the county working to secure the facility , it should be called Dam Sampson.
Paige Willis summed up the years of work with Filcon and the loss of the hard earned tax dollar property with, “e had a long hard pull with that Filcon business.”
TOWN OF CLAY Mayor King Arthur Jarrett was absent from the December 2nd Town Council meeting which was run by Recorder Dwana Murphy. A couple little morsels were gleaned from the gathering. 1) Town Cop Buckshot Butcher does not follow standard purchasing procedures, purchase orders, before buying for the police department according to Dwana. 2) The town is in the grease over an injured CWEP worker and the claim filed against the town. According to council person Phil Morris, the worker was near Velt King’ home when a rock rolled down the hill and hurt his knee. After completing the days work he later told a hospital worker the rock landed on him.
Mr. Morris guided Town leadership into a discussion on parking meters, parking tickets, and maybe offering monthly parking permits for $10. Consensus of some in the group: Until they get a Municipal Judge to enforce parking ordinances, why even have them? Billie Zegeer questioned whether it was even legal to have parking meters along a state highway, Main Street.
From the peanut gallery came questions on the posting of meeting agendas as required by Open Meeting Laws. Recorder Murphy said the practice is to post the agenda at the close of the business day, one day prior to the meetings. After questions, Ms Murphy agreed to ask the Ethics Commission or the State Attorney General’ office for an opinion on compliance with State Code.
Finally, during the 30 minute get together, discussion came on erecting a gate in front of the Johnnny Woooofter Log Factory ( Sewer Plant) in an attempt to get “arkers”out of the area.
BOARD OF HEALTH Changes are coming to the local health department. They almost came December 9th. With one RN off work with a Worker’ Comp claim, another nurse leaving in mid Dec. and a practitioner leaving Feb. 1st 2004, the twice a month, Family Planning and Breast & Cervical Cancer Clinics are understaffed and loosing money. Director Dawson asked the Board for guidance in shutting down the services. The Board hesitated. Dawson, “e’e got to do something. Tammy is leaving in December.” New man on the board, Joe Morris, “’ not in favor of doing away with the services.” After much talk about the need for locals to provide medical help to the county, the Board asked Dawson to put the decision on hold and look at other options and/or partnerships before shutting down the services. Note: Look for an emergency meeting of the Board in January to deal with the issue.
Also at risk are the homemakers services. Currently the Health Dept has just 28 clients and some of the paid homemakers are without clients. Somewhere in the discussion someone mentioned Clay Development’ name and “ome of them don’ like it.”