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All 5 of West Virginia’s ski resorts to open

The Free Press WV

All five of West Virginia’s ski resorts will be open this weekend in one of the earliest starts to the state’s winter sports season.

The West Virginia Ski Areas Association tells news outlets that this week’s cold temperatures and natural snowfall have helped resorts’ snow-making efforts, allowing one of their best season debuts in recent history.

The resorts have more than 800,000 visitors annually during the season, creating a $250 million economic impact and 5,000 jobs. The season traditionally begins late November and continues to early April.

Canaan Valley, Timberline Four Seasons, Winterplace and Oglebay will all be open by Saturday with some opening Friday. Snowshoe Mountain had opened for Thanksgiving.

WVU researchers’ diabetes management program funded

The Free Press WV

West Virginia University says its researchers are getting $450,000 from the National Institutes of Health to study how lifestyle modification with support from health coaches helps people control their diabetes and high blood pressure.

The team will develop a 12-week diabetes and hypertension self-management program in Morgantown and Charleston for adults with both Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Participants will meet with each other, public health Professor Ranjita Misra, pharmacy Professor Usha Sambamoorthi and student health coaches to learn strategies.

In a feasibility program by the researchers in Morgantown earlier this year, the coaches addressed ways to incorporate physical activity, navigate restaurant menus, resist social cues that make unhealthful choices attractive and rebut negative thoughts when disease management seems futile.

Harrison County train derailment

The Free Press WV

Environmental Enforcement staff with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are on site again Friday, following the derailment of multiple train cars carrying coal Thursday morning.

Nine cars derailed on the property of Harrison Power Station in Haywood, with two cars falling into Robinson Run, a tributary of the West Fork River. DEP staff are conducting water sampling both upstream and downstream of the spill site.

According to DEP’s twitter, all cars were removed from Robinson Run Thursday night, and water has been pumped from around the spot where coal was spilled.

Murray Energy is currently in the process of collecting the coal that was spilled. The amount of coal lost is unknown at this time.

Governor Jim Justice Appoints Ex-Chief of Staff to State Board

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has appointed his former chief of staff to the state Workers’ Compensation Board of Review.

Charleston lawyer Nick Casey says that his appointment was unexpected and appreciated.

The board is a three-member judicial panel that hears appeals of workers’ compensation claims.

Casey replaces W. Jack Stevens as a Democrat board member. By statute, the position pays a salary of over $103,000.

Justice switched parties from Democrat to Republican on August 03. He said in an August 14 statement that Casey was no longer his chief of staff. Casey, who begins work in his new position on January 02, is also a former state Democratic Party chairman.

The state Senate will have to confirm Casey’s appointment during the 2018 regular session.

Communities to remember Silver Bridge tragedy

The Free Press WV

Truck driver Bill Needham braced for death at the bottom of the Ohio River after a bridge collapse in West Virginia 50 years ago sent his rig and dozens of other vehicles into the frigid waters.

A crucial joint in the 39-year-old Silver Bridge’s eyebar suspension system snapped from years of corrosion and neglect, and the normal vibrations of heavy rush-hour traffic on U.S. Route 35 shook it apart on Dec. 15, 1967. Cars and trucks that had been stuck in traffic on the bridge due to a malfunctioning traffic light tumbled into the river at Point Pleasant, and 46 people perished.

Needham thought he’d be among them.

“I expected to be killed. I really did,” Needham said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Asheboro, North Carolina.

Desperate and determined, Needham tugged a window down far enough to slide out as the truck sank to the bottom of the river. Then 27, Needham made his way to the river’s surface and found a floating box to grab onto.

Rescuers in tugboats pulled him out of the water. He was hospitalized with a broken back. Needham’s truck driving partner, asleep in the cab’s rear, didn’t make it out.

U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph, chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, immediately launched hearings into the collapse of the bridge, which hadn’t been thoroughly inspected in 16 years, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The hearings led to the first federal requirements mandating bridge inspections at least every two years. Since 1988, federal standards have required submerged elements of all bridges with substructures in water must be inspected at regular intervals not exceeding five years. Guidance issued last May allows for underwater inspections every six years on lower-risk bridges when adhering to Federal Highway Administration-approved criteria.

“The Silver Bridge collapse was a national wake-up call and inspired a much more aggressive effort to inspect and maintain bridges across the country,” acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “In fact, this tragedy propelled the nation into a new era” of bridge safety. Federal data shows that while nearly one-fourth of the nation’s 611,000 bridges were either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2015, that’s a drop from more than 30 percent in 2000. Most structurally deficient bridges are in rural areas.

President Donald Trump has said he’s working to streamline the permit process to get major infrastructure projects like roadways and bridges finished faster. A $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s roads and bridges is a key item on his domestic agenda — but one that’s gained little traction.

Interstate highway construction accelerated during the 1950s and early 1960s. Now, bridges along major highways “are coming to the point where they’re going to need significant rehabilitation, or in some cases, replacement,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transportation research group TRIP.

Federal data shows there are about 73,000 bridges nationwide at least 75 years old, including 12,241 past the century mark. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, bridges are typically constructed with a design life of 50 years, and those built from 1957 to 1976 show the greatest need for maintenance, reconditioning or replacement.

In about a dozen states, including West Virginia, 30 percent or more of their bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. In October, state voters passed a $1.6 billion bond referendum for road and bridge repairs and construction.

Needham returned to work in 1968 and continued his North Carolina-to-Ohio route for the next eight years, carrying him over the Silver Memorial Bridge, built in 1969 a few hundred yards downstream from the old bridge.

The new bridge “was built as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar,” Needham said.

Officials plan to mark Friday’s anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse with a ceremony. Needham said he once had a closet full of newspapers with stories about the collapse. But no longer.

“I just threw them all away,” he said. “I wanted to wipe myself away from it.”

Nicholas County Mediation

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine and Nicholas County Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick today issued a statement following a meeting with FEMA officials and a dispute resolution contractor regarding Nicholas County Schools:

We are pleased to report that representatives from the State Board of Education and the Nicholas County Board of Education had a very productive meeting with representatives from FEMA this week. The meeting focused on how we can work together to identify a facilities plan that meets the needs of all students in Nicholas County. We collectively agreed to work as a team to be innovative and develop a plan that best serves all stakeholders. Our meeting laid the foundation for a path forward and we are committed to supporting each other through a joint and open dialogue to identify a resolution.

We want to assure the public that we are working toward a solution together and believe the best days in Nicholas County are yet to come.

West Virginia nurse admits to illegally distributing drugs

The Free Press WV

A registered nurse has admitted to illegally distributing drugs used to treat opioid addiction through her job at a clinic in West Virginia’s northern panhandle from 2008 through 2016.

Sharon E. Jackson of Wellsburg pleaded guilty Monday to one conspiracy charge in federal court, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors and forfeit $253,000 described in court papers as her proceeds from the drug offense at an addiction treatment center, Advance Healthcare Inc., in Weirton.

The 46-year-old Jackson could face up to 10 years in prison at sentencing.

The criminal complaint filed in November says Jackson, who incorporated the business, called in prescriptions using doctors’ authorization for Suboxone, Subutex, and buprenorphine for patients who paid cash and seldom if ever saw the two doctors who each worked there one evening a week.

WV AG’s Drug Prevention Program

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s expanded partnership with colleges in West Virginia reached more than 4,600 students this semester as nursing and pharmacy students teamed with his office to visit middle schools across the state.

“We received positive feedback from numerous teachers, principals and guidance counselors,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Students were actively engaged, asking questions and sharing personal stories. In fact, many of the students indicated they already have been prescribed an opioid painkiller. That reality motivates our effort and underscores the need to connect with this age group.”

The initiative, launched in March with West Virginia University’s School of Nursing, expanded this fall to also include Marshall University’s School of Nursing, West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy and Shepherd University’s Department of Nursing Education.

That broadened the program’s geographic reach and enabled the team to visit 27 schools during the fall semester. The program is set to reach more students this spring and potentially add partnerships with other colleges.

“About one in four of our students from grades 7 through 12 can name a friend or family member who has overdosed or died as a result of opioid overdose,” said Patrick Leggett, counselor at Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High. “Opioids don’t discriminate, and the students see it but may think it won’t affect them. We are grateful Attorney General Morrisey’s Office is doing this program, since the drug epidemic is something people often don’t want to talk about.”

The Attorney General’s Office coordinated events and provided the college students with a detailed curriculum, which they then presented to eighth grade students. The curriculum covers multiple aspects of the opioid epidemic, including the connection between prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction, prevention and the long-term impact of drug use.

The program was well-received by school administrators, including North Middle School Principal Rebekah C. Eyler of Martinsburg.

“With the White House Office of National Drug Control documenting that 90% of today’s adult addicts started using drugs during their teen years, I believe offering 8th grade students this information is critical,” she said upon the program’s visit to her school.

The collaboration with each university represents one initiative through which the Attorney General has sought to combat West Virginia’s drug overdose death rate. It follows last year’s widely successful Kids Kick Opioids public service announcement contest, also targeted at raising drug prevention awareness with elementary and middle school students.

Other efforts include criminal prosecutions, civil litigation, major change of drug policies, multistate partnerships, awareness initiatives, engagement with the faith-based community and a best practices toolkit endorsed by more than 25 national and state stakeholders.

Capito favors net neutrality repeal

The Free Press WV

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on repealing the net neutrality rule, with the commission’s three Republican members likely to vote for the change over the two Democrats.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed November 21 to scrap the rule, which has only been in place for two years. The previous commission — then controlled by Democrats under former President Barack Obama — approved the policy of net neutrality, which is aimed at ensuring equal internet access by banning companies from controlling internet traffic.

“On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake,” Pai said of the past commission. “It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”

Congress does not have a role in Thursday’s decision.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is among those in favor of the FCC’s expected move, saying dropping net neutrality will result in fewer regulations and increased online development.

“I want to make sure what’s occurred over the last 20 years, which has been great innovation and investment, is allowed to go forward,” she said in a phone call Tuesday.

Capito discussed her relationship with Pa, including a visit the two made to Moorefield and Capon Springs in July. The trip, according to Capito, was centered on understanding how to improve internet access and in turn economic development.

“I have a good relationship (with Pai),” she said. “I’m in favor of what Chairman Pai is doing, which is rewriting the regulations to make sure that we can have flourishing and innovative internet like we’ve had over the last 20 years.”

Capito said the 2015 decision caused a decline of investments in broadband services. Press secretary Kelley Moore pointed to an article posted on the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation website, in which economist Hal Singer said broadband investment declined 5.6 percent following the net neutrality decision. Advocacy group Free Press, however, reported investment rose by 5.3 percent in 2015 and 2016.

“We want to make sure that we have fair, open, reasonable and innovative internet that I think spurs more investment from different providers,” Capito said.

Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, voted in October to confirm Pai as FCC chairman, which was approved in a 52-41 vote.

When asked if Manchin supported the repeal of net neutrality, spokesperson Jonathan Kott said the senior senator is concerned about the decision and the impact on keeping the internet open.

“He hopes that this controversial decision will bring his colleagues to the negotiating table so that Congress – not unelected bureaucrats – can resolve this issue once and for all with a responsible, balanced, bipartisan solution,” he said.

Kott added Manchin’s confirmation vote was in support of Pai’s efforts to increase broadband internet access in rural areas, including the adoption of a $4.5 billion mobility fund.

“Senator Manchin hoped that Congress would be able to come to a bipartisan solution to address this issue instead of having an independent agency take action,” Kott said of net neutrality.

Elizabeth Cohen, assistant professor of communication studies at West Virginia University, said the repeal of net neutrality could open the door for internet companies to control the type of content people can access.

“It’s always been an underlying philosophy beneath our current use of the internet, but as people started to challenge net neutrality, that’s when there had to be more legal action to define it,” she said.

The net neutrality rule was implemented after online companies, such as Netflix, complained internet service providers were restricting access to protect their own products.

Cohen, along with other proponents of net neutrality, worry if the rule is scrapped, nothing will stop internet service providers from limiting access to websites and other products to protect their preferred services.

“If any other social network site wanted to come and offer some competition to Facebook, this is going to make it a lot harder for them to do it because Facebook is going to be the one that already has people paying for these services through these internet service providers,” she said. “It’s going to make it hard for somebody else to break through.”

She added the number of companies was limited in most communities prior to the implementation of net neutrality, with residents in urban areas having two or three options at most.

“You’re going to tell me that if the internet service providers get more power that’s going to somehow make them want to go into more places and make these investments? There is something missing from that argument,” she said.

Amid concerns of what repeal could mean, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Congress should pass legislative protections to assure websites and services are not blocked by internet companies.

“If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and those who claim to support net neutrality rules want to enshrine protections for consumers with the backing of the law, I call on you today to join me in discussing legislation to do just that,” said Thune, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“While we won’t agree on everything, I believe there is much room for compromise. So many of us in Congress already agree on many of the principles of net neutrality.”

Capito agreed with Thune, saying lawmakers should “provide the certainty” that internet companies cannot throttle websites.

“I hope that we can get a bipartisan group together to do that,” she noted.

The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for monitoring internet service providers and protecting consumers under Pai’s proposal. A federal court is reviewing litigation between the FTC and AT&T Inc. about the handling of related complaints, in which a ruling against the FTC could limit its abilities to go after violators.

~~  Alex Thomas ~~

Tennessee Company Sues The Greenbrier Hotel Corporation

The Free Press WV

A Tennessee company has filed a lawsuit against The Greenbrier Hotel Corporation in West Virginia and two affiliated companies, citing The Greenbrier resort’s failure to pay out on damaged rental equipment.

The Special Event Service and Rental accuses the resort of receiving a roughly $623,000 insurance reimbursement and failing to transfer the funds to the lender.

According to the filing, The Greenbrier rented equipment from the company to host the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, which was canceled in the days after flooding in 2016.

The lawsuit also names Old White Charities in the lawsuit, which helped put on the tournament, and “John Doe Insurance Companies 1 through 20,“ which insured the equipment.

Winter Safety Tips by WV State Fire Marshal’s Office

The Free Press WV

Children experience Christmas magic through deaf Santa event

The Free Press WV

Ernest Williams didn’t say a word when the children rushed to his side as he and his wife, Vickie, entered the room, but his face and the faces of the children he hugged spoke beyond mere words.

In a language as intricate as any one spoken, his white gloves flurried into the simple but well-known sign of the pointer, pinky and thumb extended: “I love you.”

It meant nothing short of the world to the children living in a world not built with them in mind. Santa Claus himself knew their language and understood them. They returned the sign, “I love you.”

For more than a decade, the Williamses, a deaf couple from Hurricane, West Virginia, have appeared as Santa and Mrs. Claus at Mountwest Community & Technical College’s annual Brunch with Deaf Santa at its campus in Huntington. About 250 children, parents and interpreters from all over the region — as far as Wellston, Ohio, and Charleston — packed the facility for the only “real” Santa they know, said Leigh-Ann Brewer of Mountwest’s American Sign Language program.

“What these kids tell me is that there are a lot of fake Santas at the mall and such, but we know where the real Santa is,” she explained. “For them, this is the real Santa because he knows our language, too. So to be real, you have to be able to communicate with us, too.”

The celebration began decades earlier after MCTC’s ASL program members, many deaf themselves, decided to remedy a problem from their own childhoods: not being able to communicate with Santa Claus. What started as the Williamses greeting a dozen or so children with a sack of dollar store toys has spiraled into a full Christmas haul for each child, Brewer said.

Children begin writing letters to Deaf Santa in the summer, essentially signing orders for community volunteers to rush from store to store to fill. Each child receives around five to six gifts — this year including some of the most in-demand toys: Fingerling Monkeys and Hatchimals, or anything on which a child’s heart may be set. For some, Brewer added, Saturday may be the only Christmas they have this year.

Eleven-year-old Ray Harvey, of Huntington, unwrapped a package from his pile of gifts as his family handed them over. The deaf-blind Spring Hill Elementary School student needed no help in realizing Santa had brought just what he wanted.

“A fire truck!” he shouted as soon as his hands felt the toy’s windshield.

“You can tell he’s just overjoyed,” said Callie Smith, Harvey’s interpreter. “Starting right after Halloween, he’s always saying, ‘I’m going to see Deaf Santa soon.’”

Eri Toda has brought her two daughters, Makayla, 8, and Akari, 4, from Charleston each year since Makayla was just 6 months old. The two girls dug into gift bags stacked taller than themselves, comparing gifts and trading laughs as siblings do.

“They’re excited, but I think I’m more excited to watch them,” Toda said. “It’s a really great experience for them, and as a parent it’s exciting to see them — that they can communicate with Santa Claus — that is so special.”

Man featured in ‘Farmers for America’ documentary

The Free Press WV

Calvin Riggleman, 36, got his start in farming the way many do.

He grew up on his family’s multigenerational farm in Hampshire County, working in his grandparents’ orchard.

“It’s something I did all the time, and it was never like I had to go to work,” he said. “It’s something I enjoyed.”

When Riggleman graduated from high school, not much had changed at the family fruit stand — an offshoot of the orchard — since the 1940s. And the industry that had sustained his family since before the American Revolution was becoming less reliable.

Despite this and pressure to further his education at a higher institution, he planned to continue to work at the orchard once he turned 18 — which makes him a rarity in West Virginia.

Farmers are getting older, and the next generation is lagging behind.

Currently, the average age of farmers in the West Virginia and the United States is pushing 60, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Despite the pride many farmers take in producing food for their communities, younger farmers face obstacles in getting their farms started and finding resources to support them.

A new documentary attempts to bring light to this issue. “Farmers for America,” a film narrated by Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” travels around the U.S. following the lives of young farmers.

The documentary examines young farmers’ joys and everyday successes, as well as the challenges they face trying to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams.

“I was talking to a lot of farmers all across the country, and everyone was saying it was hard for young farmers to get started,” said the film’s director, Graham Meriwether. “So I started filming with young people around the country who have successful farms and also who face some challenges.”

Riggleman, now the owner of Bigg Riggs Farm in Augusta, is featured in the film, which was shown at his farm recently. Locals and workers in attendance cheered as Riggleman made his debut.

In it, he explains his commitment to agriculture and love of farming — the life he always knew he wanted.

Upon graduation from high school, Riggleman joined the Marine Reserves and left for basic training at 19. Three years later, in 2003, he was deployed for the invasion of Iraq.

Unsure of the life he would come home to, while overseas, he pondered ways to better his family’s business.

“I needed more of an income for myself because nothing had really changed for a long time at my grandparents’ farm,” Riggleman said.

While discussing ideas with his comrades from larger cities, he learned about farmers markets — an opportunity to reach a larger audience without selling his produce at wholesale prices.

“I saw an opportunity to make more of an income for myself with farmers markets,” Riggleman said. “And I could provide more for my family by being able to sell our produce for more value.”

He also chose to invest in value-added products, such as jams and jellies, which, to his surprise, sold for nearly double the money of the produce at his grandparents’ stand.

He attended his first farmers market in Cascades, Virginia, around 2004. Despite a few hiccups — including his tent flying away — he said the sale was a success.

“I was impressed with my first year, going from only a few dollars an hour to feeling like I was supporting myself,” Riggleman said.

Eventually, the young farmer purchased more land with a friend and chose to continue growing.

Today, Riggleman co-owns a commercial kitchen on the property where he produces more than 70 products, including pasta sauce, salsa, dips and jellies. He also owns Flying Buck Distillery, which produces moonshine.

Bigg Riggs Farm now sells at four farmers markets in Northern Virginia, as well as select Whole Foods locations.

He said the markets give him opportunities to build relationships with his customers.

“I can tell them our strawberries are blooming, just to give people a heads up on what to look forward to,” he said. “They can ask any questions they want about our growing practices. They’re definitely interested in where their food comes from.”

Riggleman was deployed again in 2006, but this time, he wouldn’t return home without a plan. He ordered seeds to be delivered to his mom, who then took them to the local high school to be planted in its greenhouse.

On the day he returned home, he was in the fields planting broccoli.

“If you don’t do it, then no one is going to do it for you,” Riggleman said. “It’s a pretty committed occupation.”

Looking back, Riggleman said without the help of his grandparents, this dream would have been nearly impossible. Acquiring the land and equipment to make farming possible comes at a high price.

“When I was in school, all I ever heard was, ’You need to go to college to get a job,’” Riggleman said. “That’s not true.”

He said it was an honor to be featured in the documentary because the film gives a voice to people like him who chose to farm when it “wasn’t cool.”

“It was just good to get recognized, because when I started farming, there were no organizations or groups trying to get young people into farming,” Riggleman said. “I literally felt like I was the only person that was 20 years old when I started farming.”

Riggleman wasn’t quite the only 20-something who was farming at the time, but he was one of few.

In 2007, only about 4.2 percent of farmers in West Virginia were under the age of 35, according to the USDA census report. In 2012, that number was 4.1 percent.

West Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture, Kent Leonhardt, admitted how difficult starting a farm can be without inheriting property or a family business. He said he relates to this on a personal level.

Leonhardt did not grow up on a farm, but growing a garden with his family piqued his interest in agriculture as a child. He knew he wanted to farm while on active duty in the military.

“There’s nothing like the rewards,” he said. “The birth of a new animal or the crops sprouting from the ground, it’s a refreshing experience.”

He purchased land and began paying it off before he retired from the Marine Corps, and he truly began farming in his 40s. His retirement income supplemented his regular income as he built his farm.

To Leonhardt, farming is an opportunity to attract younger workers sick of the “hustle and bustle” of a big city or who would rather be outside than sitting at a desk.

“Starting part-time is a very viable option,” Leonhardt said. “People can have a job, but they have to be willing to put the hours in after the regular working day.”

Leonhardt said it’s important to prove to potential young farmers that though starting a farm requires a lot of work, it’s worth it.

Agriculture has the potential to grow West Virginia’s economy while providing more healthy food choices for residents, he said.

“We have to get the message out there that it’s possible,” he said. “It’s going to take some hard work, but it’s doable.”

Riggleman echoed a similar attitude.

“I think that people see that it’s an opportunity now, where before it wasn’t; only old people did it,” he said. “My best advice would be to start small and not go too big their first time, or to work at a farm and get their feet wet to decide if it’s something they want to sacrifice everything they have for.”

A father of two, Riggleman said he’s raising the next generation of farmers.

“That’s what they want to do when they grow up,” he said. “I’m trying to teach them not to be lazy. I lead by example.”

For now, the little ones, 6 and 4, help with simple, fun tasks, like picking peppers.

Years down the road, they’ll likely wake by 6 a.m. to harvest produce and can sauces and vegetables with their father.

At least, Riggleman said he hopes so.

WVDEP Announces Winning Photographers For 2018 Roadsides in Bloom Calendar

The Free Press WV

The photographers whose work will appear in the 2018 Roadsides in Bloom calendar have been announced.

The free calendar, which is sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and Department of Transportation (WVDOT), includes 12 pictures of Mountain State wildflowers growing naturally along roadways or in Operation Wildflower beds planted by the Division of Highways.

The winning photographers are: Ronda Knight of St. Marys, whose picture of Goldenrod growing next to a barn in Pleasants County will be on the cover of the calendar; Ed Rehbein of Beckley; Mindy Armstrong of Monterey, Va; Rebecca Byars of Crawley; Sharon Carper of Parkersburg; Kathryn Davis of Hambleton; Pat Johnson of Mt Lookout; Michael Juratovac of Belington; Sandra Miller of Buckhannon; Alan Tucker of Buckhannon; Ann Walker of Hillsboro; and Eugene Walker of Hillsboro.

The pictures were chosen from dozens of entries submitted by photographers from West Virginia and surrounding states. West Virginia’s Operation Wildflower beautification program is a joint effort between the WVDEP and the WVDOT. It includes more than 250 acres of wildflowers grown along West Virginia’s roadways.

The calendars are available here on the WVDEP website: https://apps.dep.wv.gov/reap/CalendarSignUp.cfm.

West Virginia Agency OKs Funds for School Building Projects

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia School Building Authority has voted to fund $59.1 million in facilities projects statewide.

Monday’s vote includes construction and renovation projects for public school systems in 22 counties. The $49.2 million comes from this year’s “needs” grant funding cycle and $9.9 million is from next year’s cycle.

The board voted to spend $10.7 million for a new prekindergarten through second-grade school in Mercer County and $7.5 million for expansion of the Wood County Technical Center in Parkersburg.

Other projects include $7 million to fix heating and cooling issues and replace part of the roof of the Ben Franklin Career Center in Kanawha County, and $6.6 million toward a new Highlawn Elementary School in Huntington.

Twenty-seven counties had sought $89.8 million in funding.

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