Letters to the editor - 6/11

June 11, 2003

W.Va. workers' comp system must be fixed

To the editor:

As a West Virginia employer and secretary of the West Virginia Roundtable, I recognize the immeasurable importance of the upcoming Special Session of the West Virginia Legislature and the critical need for enactment of significant, powerful legislation to reform the state's Workers' Compensation System.

Without question, the current system threatens our ability to retain and create jobs. Consequently, the ability of West Virginia citizens to improve their economic condition will be significantly impaired, perhaps for decades to come, unless the Legislature passes comprehensive legislation that addresses the system's governance structure, internal management and growing deficit.

First and foremost, the system must be restored to meet its original intent: A no-fault insurance program for injured workers, not a supplement to unemployment benefits.


Next, a professional, independent governance body with the requisite powers to manage the system must be established to provide oversight and policy development that serves the best long-term interests of the system.

Additionally, the system must focus its efforts on safety and return-to-work programs that meet the needs of both workers and their employers.

It must ferret out and eliminate all forms of fraud committed by employers, claimants, service providers and others.

And, an impartial, timely adjudication process must be developed that streamlines appeals and reduces the burden of excessive litigation.

Finally, the system's financial condition must be stabilized. Otherwise, future benefit payments to injured workers will be jeopardized and ever-increasing employers' premiums will become motives for relocating or eliminating jobs.

I respectfully implore all of the members of the West Virginia Legislature to demonstrate courageous political leadership as they deal with this serious public policy issue.

The result of their actions will have lasting impact on the state and its citizens.

Richard J. Shearer

President & CEO

U.S. Silica Company

Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Blues Fest let us down

To the editor:

I feel compelled to share some views from a paying Blues Fest patron, about the Saturday, May 31 cancellation of the program schedule for the Western Maryland Blues Fest. My views have also been expressed to the Blues Fest staff through the e-mail connection provided on their Web site.

My husband and I have enjoyed the Western Maryland Blues Fest for several years running. We travel from Harrisburg, Pa., just to attend this yearly event. We purchase entry to the Saturday portion of the festival, and then stay over in Hagerstown to also participate in the free Sunday public park event. Considering our pocketbooks, we spend a fair amount of tourism money - hotel, restaurants, picnic items, etc. - in the city of Hagerstown. We are extremely unhappy at the way the cancellation of this year's Saturday concert was handled.

Current economic times mean that my husband and I carefully choose items for our limited entertainment budget. We purchased two patron wristbands for this year's Saturday event, at a cost of $50. We arrived at this year's festival at about 2:20 pm, on Saturday, May 31.

We were sure that we were in time to catch part or all, of many of our favorite performers' acts in what promised to be a superior program of popular, legendary blues performers. It looked to be an excellent value for the money spent.

We understood going in that we would be attending an out-of-doors event, and were willing to endure the vicissitudes of the weather to see our favorite performers. Public perception of the policy of a no-refund "rain or shine" event means that the event takes place whether the weather is rain or shine. For our $50 outlay, we received less than a half an hour of music.

A no-refund policy should not include paying for entertainment when the organizers failed to deliver a major portion of the schedule.

We are sympathetic that the Saturday event cancellation was a difficult choice, and that it had to be made for the safety of the public and the artists. It is understood that the artists had to be compensated; but we were roundly shocked that no refunds or other compensatory efforts to those who paid to attend were even considered. At the Sunday concert I spoke with Julie Donat, one of the organizers. Donat was very courteous, but made no intonation that the entry fees paid by the Saturday crowd for what was a near non-event was a cause for serious consideration on the part of the Blues Fest.

Frankly, I am still sorting out my feelings about whether or not to attend next year's event. I do have some suggestions about ways that the organizers might have "mended fences" with their paying patrons, who paid for, but did not get to see, most of the headliners for the Saturday portion.

If it is ever again necessary to cancel the major portion of the paid event, I suggest that the organizers tell the patrons to keep their proof of purchase (i.e., the wristband) and upon presenting it, that they consider either a partial refund, or a merchandise credit of some sort. If such a policy is adopted, will I be there? After this experience, I'll have to think it over.

Sandi Boyle

Harrisburg, Pa.

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