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Pratt residents vote to sell water system

Chris Dorst
Newly re-elected Mayor Bill Pauley of Marmet (left) is congratulated by Pratt Mayor Gary Fields after receiving election results at the Kanawha County Voters Registration office Tuesday night. Pauley topped two other candidates and Fields ran unopposed. Voters in Clendenin, Marmet, Pratt, Buffalo and Winfield went to the polls Tuesday night to pick city leaders and vote on other town business.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Residents of Pratt overwhelmingly voted to sell the town's ailing water system to West Virginia American Water during the town's election Tuesday.     The vote was 153 for and only 7 against.Also Tuesday, voters in Clendenin, Marmet, Buffalo and Winfield went to the polls to pick city leaders and vote on other town business. Residents re-elected longtime Marmet Mayor Bill Pauley and Pratt Mayor Gary Fields.Built in 1978, Pratt's water plant sucks water directly out of the Kanawha River from a pipe that is constantly being damaged by passing barges.Officials for West Virginia American Water have agreed to buy the aging water system and tie customers in Pratt and nearby communities into their existing water lines.West Virginia American spokeswoman Laura Jordan previously told the Gazette that the water company has agreed to pay $437,000 for the system and will retire the town's debts on the water plant. The company has agreed to spend another $400,000 on pipeline upgrades and other improvements.With the proposal, the existing water plant would be taken offline and bypassed. A new underwater water line would cross the Kanawha River to supply Pratt and the surrounding area.In Marmet, longtime Mayor Bill Pauley won re-election with 211 votes, while challenger Robert L. "Bob" Wells was close with 189 votes. Ruth Meadows finished third with 122 votes.Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said Pauley had to survive a "nasty" anonymous letter that made its way around Marmet. The letter said that Pauley was too old for the job."It was mean and stupid," said Carper, who added that Pauley "knows who sent it out."Pauley said the Secretary of State's office received a confession from the person who wrote the letter. Pauley, however, did not want to name them. "I think the letter really helped me," he said. "I won, didn't I?"     Pauley, who has served for 30 years as mayor and also six years as a council member, said back surgery had prevented him from campaigning but he's looking forward to continuing as mayor."I'm all right now," he said. "I'm ready to roll, just maybe not as fast."Also in Marmet, Tammy Kersey beat Jill Runnion in the race for recorder, 274 to 230.
In the City Council race, challengers Terry W. Russell, Travis W. Walker and Debbie Skeens will join incumbents Bill Tardy and Jerry McGhee on council. Russell received the most votes, with 305, followed by Walker with 280.Incumbent Ron Wilson was not among the top five candidates, and finished with nine votes fewer than McGhee's 198.
Meanwhile, Fields, who's been in office as Pratt's mayor for four years, was unopposed. Ellen Hopkins, a candidate for town recorder, also faced no opposition.Incumbent council members Charlotte Calhoun, Kaye Ford and Chris Tincher and newcomers Herbert R. Hoover Jr. and Eric M. Holcomb were unofficially elected to City Council, defeating incumbent Rose Perry and newcomer Don Adams.In Clendenin, incumbent Mayor Bob Ore was driving home shortly before 11 p.m., as he and others waited unsuccessfully for election results for several hours.By press time, Town Recorder David Ross had not returned a phone message and election results were not immediately available.
Ore was running against former Town Councilman Gary Bledsoe and former Town Recorder Robert Evans.Ross faced challenger Cathy Deel.Four town council members also were trying to hold onto their seats. Incumbents Ron Deel, Sidney Oliver, John Shelton Jr. and Mike Stout faced opposition from former town Councilman Kenneth Payne, local activist Martha Mitchell and William Ore, who is the nephew of the mayor.Clendenin's fifth council member, Councilman Darris Holcomb, died in March.Town residents also voted on a referendum to lengthen the term of city officials from two years to four years. Ore said a two-year term doesn't give officials enough time to get anything accomplished.In Winfield, incumbent Mayor Randy Barrett defeated newcomer Dick Whitney.Five candidates were elected to the town council: incumbent Joe Rumbaugh, Frank Bannister, Kevin Karnes, Steve Hanna and Ryan C. Powers. They defeated incumbents Charles W. Eshenaur, Dana L. Campbell and Charles H. Keefer and challengers Hilton Ingraham, Phillip Wilmoth, John Marshall, Ron Stone and Pat Woodrum.Recorder Jackie Hunter ran unopposed.In Buffalo, three challenged ballots could change the unofficial results in the council race.Barbara Reed, with 75 votes; Joey Casto, 74; Lewis Reedy, 74; and Joe Martin, 59, appear to have secured four of five council seats.But Toni Hart received 49 votes and Leah Higginbotham received 48, and Buffalo Mayor Gary Tucker said those three challenged ballots could make a big difference.       Also, Bill Martin received 42 votes and George Henson 41 in the council race.Tucker ran unopposed, as did Recorder Lori Deweese. 
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