Snowshoe Mountain announces $4 million in new snowmaking investments

The Free Press WV

Snowshoe Mountain has announced this morning that it will be investing nearly $4 million in upgrades to its snowmaking and grooming technology this summer. Resort officials anticipate that the investment will allow them to open significantly more of their ski trails by early December and maintain a high-quality snow surface throughout the ski season; all while greatly reducing the mountain’s carbon footprint.

“This is the single most important investment our new owners, Alterra Mountain Company, could make in Snowshoe,” said Frank DeBerry, Snowshoe’s President and Chief Operating Officer in a release. “As this past season demonstrates, Snowshoe’s unique microclimate and elevation provide us with the cold and snow we need to provide the best and most skiing and riding in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast. This investment further boosts and protects our greatest strength, all while taking yet another step towards reducing our impact on the environment.”

The re-tooled snowmaking system will cut the resort’s energy costs and consumption significantly, and return more than 5,000,000kwh back to the grid. 5,000,000kwh is enough to power 500 homes for an entire year.

The new Snowguns and automation equipment will include more than 160 new snowguns to be positioned in key, fixed locations around the mountain, as well as the equipment needed to further automate the snowmaking system.

The guns will include 75 Fixed Position Tower Fan Guns. These are high production/Low Energy DemacLenko Titan 2.0. The most powerful snowgun currently on the market and capable of making massive amounts of snow in short windows of time.

There will be 90 Low-Energy “Stick” Guns. These Super energy-efficient SnowLogic DV7’s use less than 10% of the energy required of traditional snowmaking equipment. This will allow the resort to maintain high-quality surface conditions with minimal energy usage.

The resort will also be getting new automation hardware and software further automating the mountain’s snowmaking system will increase efficiency, giving it the maximum amount of production time during even brief snowmaking opportunities.

Each snowgun will have access to temperature and humidity sensors that trigger the automation software and adjust air/water ratios to ensure both high quality snow and maximum snow production.

This weekend, Snowshoe Mountain is hosting their sixth annual Ballhooter Spring Break Festival, set for March 09-11.

Headlining this year’s “Spring Break of the Dead” will be Theory of a Deadman, the hip-hop group Nappy Roots, and local favorite Shawn Owen.

Offered during spring break season, the festival draws thousands to Snowshoe every March, according to the release.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Spring Break of the Dead” which will include costume contests, live DJ parties, games and the Friday night “March of the Dead” party procession in the Snowshoe Village.

Find more information as well as the entire schedule of events for this year’s Ballhooter Spring Break festival HERE.

The resort, which is the largest of West Virginia’s five downhill ski areas, also is selling its annual season pass, for the 2018/2019 season. The cost is $229 (regular price $479) through Thursday, March 15.

For more information call 877.441.4386 or visit at

Governor Justice signs co-tenancy bill

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice signed HB 4268 that will allow oil and gas development to occur in cases where there are seven or more royalty owners and at least 75 percent of the undivided interest owners of the oil and gas that consent to development.

“This co-tenancy law will allow for oil and gas development while protecting the rights of surface, mineral and landowners,” said Governor Justice.

The law will take effect on July 01, 2018.

West Virginia lawmakers want ability to cut court budget

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Legislature has voted to bring the state courts’ budget partly under its control, backing a constitutional change that requires voter approval.

The resolution was approved 93-1 on Friday by the House and unanimously by the Senate. It says lawmakers can reduce the judiciary budget up to 10 percent from the previous year but need a two-thirds vote to cut it more.

It says the chief justice has a duty to answer questions about spending.

The state’s five-member Supreme Court has faced recent criticism over $3.7 million spent to renovate court offices over the past several years and reports last year that Chief Justice Alan Loughry took a desk and leather couch home.

Loughry returned them.

In February, the court elected Justice Margaret Workman to replace Loughry as chief.

West Virginia Senate: Criminalize online bullying of minors

The Free Press WV

Cyberbullying minors would become a crime in West Virginia, with penalties up to a $500 fine, a year in jail or both, under legislation passed unanimously on Friday by the state Senate.

The House of Delegates approved its version 94-1 in February.

The bill would outlaw using a computer or network to harass, bully or intimidate anyone under 18.

It would specifically prohibit posting or encouraging others to post “private, personal, or sexual information” about a minor or any obscene material in a real or doctored image.

Underage violators would be prosecuted as juveniles subject to findings of delinquency, unless prosecutors think their crimes belong in adult court.

It also would outlaw doing anything online that would create a minor’s reasonable fear of physical harm or property damage.

West Virginia food worker tests positive for hepatitis A

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia health department says a food service worker has tested positive for hepatitis A.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said in a Friday release the department investigated food-handling practices at the Cold Spot in Nitro and determined there’s no indication restaurant patrons need to be immunized for possible exposure.

The department says the worker is no longer employed after the diagnosis, and coworkers and relatives have been immunized as a precaution.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by oral contact with fecal matter, unlike the blood-borne hepatitis B and C.

This is the second hepatitis A case the department has investigated this year, but prior to January, no confirmed cases had been reported in more than two years.

That January case was attributed to the outbreak in neighboring Kentucky.

Report: Man pulled gun on Frontier Communications striker

The Free Press WV

A Georgia man has been accused of pulling a pistol and telling a striking Frontier Communications worker in West Virginia “don’t mess with me.“

A report filed with state police as saying the striker had yelled “you’re taking our jobs” at the Lawrenceville man Tuesday near Flatwoods.

The report says 44-year-old Ato Oronde Clark was charged with one count of brandishing a weapon. It is unclear if he has a lawyer.

A Communications Workers of America statement says Frontier started hiring out-of-state workers to maintain operations after roughly 1,400 employees went on strike Sunday. The strike began after union leaders and the company failed to reach a contract agreement.

Frontier spokesman Andy Malinoski says Clark had not done work yet and his contractor has terminated him.

West Virginia lawmakers OK employee guns in locked cars

The Free Press WV

Employees in West Virginia could bring their loaded guns to work as long as they are locked in their cars, according to a measure approved by the Legislature.

The Senate’s 32-1 approval Friday followed previous 85-14 House passage.

It says the property owner cannot prohibit any customer, employee or invitee from having a legally owned gun in its parking lot provided the weapon is inside a locked vehicle or compartment.

Businesses would be prohibited from even asking whether anyone has a gun locked in a car or truck. Violations would be subject to civil penalties up to $5,000.

Supporters say it would expand Second Amendment rights in West Virginia.

Critics said it would make workplaces more dangerous and West Virginia less attractive to companies that want to control their premises.

West Virginia legislators approve budgets with raises

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s House and Senate have unanimously approved a budget for the state government with $4.38 billion in general revenues for the fiscal year starting July 01, including raises for teachers, prison guards and many other state workers.

The 5 percent raises approved to end a nine-day strike by teachers and school service personnel are based on pay averages and apply to personnel paid from the state funds.

Legislators say it contains no new taxes.

They attribute the $156 million of higher spending than the current budget mainly to the pay packages, plus funding to freeze workers’ health care premiums, deductibles and co-payments under the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Guards at the state’s jails and prisons, which have been chronically understaffed, will get three annual $2,000 pay increases.

West Virginia Recorded 872 Overdoses in 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s death toll from drug overdoses has improved slightly, with 872 deaths last year.

The state hit a grim record in 2016 of 887 fatal overdoses, or 52 per 100,000 residents, the highest drug-related death toll in the nation.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta said he’s cautiously optimistic about progress, including their study that identified risk factors for fatalities to help frame their response.  That has drawn interest from other states, he said.

West Virginia is taking action with new laws to limit initial painkiller prescriptions to three, four or seven days, depending on who writes them. Another law would require reporting both deadly and non-fatal overdoses by emergency responders and hospitals and equip all emergency responders with opioid antidotes. Both measures await the governor’s signature.

A health bureau report described how fatal overdoses soared from just 212 in 2001, initially driven by pharmaceuticals and then a shift to illicit heroin 2012, followed with more potent fentanyl being added to street drugs. The report says 750 of last year’s deaths involved at least one opiate, including 508 with fentanyl.

It called for increasing treatment options for patients. More than 30,000 West Virginians are already in drug treatment. The 2017 fatalities could yet rise with late reports.

The Bureau of Public Health found that 81 percent people who died from overdoses had interacted with health systems, 56 percent had been jailed, and 71 percent were on Medicaid. Males were twice as likely to die from overdoses as females.

The mandatory reporting of nonfatal overdoses is intended to further identify to scope of the problem but more importantly help in arranging outreach for those people, Gupta said.

West Virginia House to create 100 districts of equal size

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Legislature has voted to reorganize the state electoral map into 100 separate legislative districts for the House of Delegates.

The Senate’s 30-3 approval Friday follows January passage in the House, where its 100 members together represent 67 districts.

More densely populated areas have two, three, four or five delegates.

Supporters say it will make each lawmaker more responsive and accessible. Critics say the change would cement more incumbents in office.

The Republican-sponsored bill, which passed the House 72-25 with several Democratic votes, would have lawmakers represent about 18,000 constituents each after the 2020 Census, evenly dividing the state’s nearly 1.8 million residents among them.

Denied student housing permit, lot to open homeless retreat

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia contractor who was denied permission to build student housing now says he’s going to turn the lot into a retreat for the homeless.

Raleigh County Planning and Zoning Commission member and contractor Kevin Reedy said he’s got a permit to move a doublewide trailer on to the Beckley lot, which he’ll furnish with utilities and open up for the city’s homeless population.

He originally intended to build a duplex for student housing, pointing out WVU-Tech’s student housing shortage, but the Beckley Common Council voted down his request for rezoning last month, a decision that he says left him “stunned.”

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold says that there are no homeless people in the city, and fears the shelter could “attract the wrong element.”

Ex-naval base to become substance abuse treatment center

The Free Press WV

A former Navy base in West Virginia is being converted into a substance abuse treatment center.

Brentwood, Tennessee-based Meridian Behavioral Health Systems announced Wednesday the former Naval Information Operations Center support base in Pendleton County will become a 95-bed treatment facility.

Officials announced the Highlands at Sugar Grove treatment center is expected to open by July.

Meridian last year bought Charleston’s Highland Hospital, outpatient provider Process Strategies and Highland Health Center, a 16-bed substance abuse treatment and detoxification program.

The 123-acre (50-hectare) Sugar Grove property was decommissioned in 2015 and sold at auction for $4 million in 2016. Mellivora Partners of Birmingham, Alabama, had hoped to convert the property to a health care campus for active-duty military personnel and West Virginia residents.

HD Media successful bidder for bankrupt West Virginia paper

The Free Press WV

The owner of The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, is the successful bidder to buy the bankrupt Charleston Gazette-Mail after another media group dropped out.

News outlets report HD Media made the lone bid of $11.4 million at an auction Thursday. Representatives of Wheeling-based Ogden Newspapers, which earlier bid $10.9 million, didn’t attend the auction.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge is expected to rule on the sale Friday.

In January, the Gazette-Mail filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and issued a 60-day layoff notice to employees. It won a Pulitzer Prize last year for Eric Eyre’s investigative reporting of the state’s opioid drug crisis.

Huntington-based HD Media also owns The Wayne County News, the Logan Banner, Williamson Daily News, the Coal Valley News and The Pineville Independent Herald.

West Virginia neighborhood seeks national historic listing

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia city could have a portion of one neighborhood added to the National Register of Historic Places.

News outlets report groups in Wheeling are seeking to have more than 100 properties in South Wheeling listed as a historic district. Residents of the area met Tuesday night with Wheeling Heritage and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Wheeling Heritage Project Manager Rebekah Karelis says the designation is mostly an honor, but does offer some advantages like tax credits and development grants that can help offset costs of restoring historic structures.

South Wheeling became part of Wheeling in 1870, and the area developed as a significant industrial center at the turn of the 20th Century.

The neighborhood could have to wait until early 2019 to learn if it is officially listed.

Application deadline for merit-based scholarship extended

The Free Press WV

A deadline for West Virginia students to apply for a merit-based college scholarship this fall has been extended following a statewide teacher strike.

The Higher Education Policy Commission says the deadline for the PROMISE scholarship has been pushed back to March 30. The original application deadline was March 01.

In a news release, commission Chancellor Paul Hill says the teacher work stoppage prevented some students from completing the application because schools were closed and they did not have access to high school counselors.

The PROMISE scholarship pays up to $4,750 for tuition and mandatory fees for any in-state student who meets grade and college entrance exam requirements.

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