As many of you are aware, the Jefferson County Board of Education is an intervenor in the PATH case. As many of you may also be aware, the Board did not come to the table by their own initiative, but were pressured to intervene by a massive email and telephone campaign on the part of StopPATH WV members.
Here’s something you may not know -- Once the board did intervene, they immediately outsourced the case to the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson to act on their behalf, although the board does have a full-time attorney on staff. Steptoe & Johnson submitted eight discovery questions, which were very basic regarding the location of PATH in relation to our schools. The answers to these questions could have been obtained by reading the application or docket, and that’s basically the answer they got from counsel for PATH.
Since then, there has been no activity in the case or communication with StopPATH WV, although we did make a personal visit to the board’s staff attorney to discuss the case and ways we could become cooperative parties in the case.
Recently, members of StopPATH WV attended the Board of Education candidate forum in Shepherdstown. Three distinctly different PATH-related questions were submitted for the candidates, however they were combined into one question by the moderator. The question posed to the candidates was, "The school board is an intervenor in the PATH case but has had minimal involvement in the case. Do you think the Board should take a more active role and hire expert witnesses to advise and testify during the hearings and do you think EMF is harmful?"
Incumbent Pete Dougherty stated that the Board has become an intervenor and he feels that is enough action. His money is for education only and no more should be spent on the PSC case. The Board has asked PATH to move the line away from the school and perhaps as the case before the PSC is undertaken with other parties' witnesses, and with what is happening in the VA & MD cases, the project will die and then the Board won't have "wasted" any money. In his closing he kept emphasizing how he has made our schools "safe".
Incumbent Mariland Dunn Lee's response was very similar -- she feels the board has done everything it can.
Candidate Laurie Ogden had a strong response. She thinks PATH is a bad idea and doesn't want it anywhere near a school or anyone's home. She wouldn’t want it in her backyard or near the school her child attends. She believes from studying the science that EMF is harmful. Read Ogden’s biography here http://abc.eznettools.net/D300003/X380798/Elections%202010/LaurieOgdenBio2.pdf and contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candidate Karan Townsend's response was pretty much a non-answer -- I think she doesn't really know what PATH is but could be educated. In talking with her after the forum, she seems to want to be a "team" with Ogden, if elected, so I think she would approach the PATH case with an open mind. You may contact her at KaranTownsend@gmail.com
Incumbent Scott Sudduth did not attend the forum due to a prior commitment, but he has been the only one on the Board who has shown concern about PATH and testified against the project at the County Commission’s PATH hearing in February, 2009.
We hope that everyone will turn out to cast their votes for the school board on May 11 and that we may be able to change what is currently an adversarial relationship with the Board of Education into a cooperative relationship where the safety and welfare of the children and staff of South Jefferson Elementary School is of primary concern. We hope that a cooperative relationship, such as we currently enjoy with the County Commission, could result in sharing of expert witness expenses, but at the very least will result in a united front at the PSC hearings this fall.
The Board of Education is comprised of five members from various districts. You are not restricted to voting only for those from your district. You may vote for more than one candidate from any particular district. Of the five seats, three are up for election on May 11. When casting your vote, you will be allowed to choose any three out of the five candidates. The three candidates with the most votes will be elected to serve on our school board.
Remember to vote on May 11!