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Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

The Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission learned Thursday that the logger responsible for illegally timbering more than 300 trees in Coonskin Park last summer has been notified of the parks commission's proposed settlement agreement.

However, at least one local resident believes the commission should be asking for more from the logger.

In November, the parks commission approved an offer that Bowen pay it about $150,000, plus attorney fees, or face a civil lawsuit. The Kanawha County Commission approved that proposal in December.

Jordan Herrick, an attorney who works for Parks Commission Attorney Chuck Bailey's law firm, said a letter with the settlement option was mailed Jan. 9. Bowen will have 60 days to respond.

But Charleston resident Nancy Ward, who has previously expressed concern and anger about the Coonskin timbering incident, said the parks commission should have asked for the full amount to which it is entitled.

Ward cited a West Virginia state law that entitles property owners to three times the value of the timber if it is illegally taken from the property.

That law is West Virginia Code 61-3-48.

Applied to the $149,608 timber value parks commission attorneys calculated, the state law means the parks commission is entitled to almost $449,000 from Bowen.

"If there was ever a case for (using this law), it should be applied here," Ward said, calling the Coonskin incident a "poster child" for the timbering law.

Herrick said in a draft of a civil lawsuit drawn up for the parks commission, the triple value of the stolen timber is requested.

Herrick said later in the meeting that Bowen had obtained legal counsel and wouldn't speak to park commission attorneys.

"As soon as it elevated to this level, nobody's been in contact with him," he said.

In other business, the commission:

-Learned Lucie Mellert will take the reins as president of the commission after Anna Dailey resigned her post over obligations with the law firm for which she works.

Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said Dailey had been appointed to the board of directors at the law firm and would need to travel more often for her responsibilities.

Dailey works for the Dinsmore law firm, which has offices in four states and Washington, D.C. Dailey is based at Dinsmore's Charleston office.

Dailey will remain a member of the parks commission. She wasn't at the commission's meeting Thursday.

Mellert has been on the parks commission since 2000. She has plans to move to Mason County, but said she has not yet moved. She will remain on the commission as long as she is a resident of Kanawha County.

-Received an update about the damaged turf at the Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium at Coonskin Park.

Earlier this year, the turf began to fail after a heavy rain. While the remaining turf is safe to use, some of the "blades" have come off the field.

The turf was manufactured by FieldTurf, a division of Tarkett Sports, and installed just six years ago. Premature failures of similar fields around the country have also been reported, including at professional and collegiate stadiums.

Hutchinson said the turf is under warranty and was supposed to last for more than a decade.

However, FieldTurf is only offering a discount on a new field, Hutchinson said. Instead of paying the full cost of a new field at a little more than $5 per square foot, FieldTurf is offering a discounted rate of $3.95 per square foot.

The offer means it would cost the cash-strapped parks commission around $360,000 to install a new field.

However, neither Hutchinson nor parks commission members were satisfied with that offer.

"I don't even see how they can charge anything," Mellert said.

Hutchinson said he would continue to contact the maker of the turf.

-Received the parks commission's annual audit report.

Kelly Shafer, an accountant with the Suttle & Stalnaker firm, said the parks commission received a "clear opinion," meaning the accounting firm found no major problems with the commission's financial records.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him on Twitter @DMLocalGov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Daily MailLocalGov.

 

January 17, 2014

 

 
 
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