Coal Waste Plant in Fight in Struggle to Stay Open

The Free Press WV

A coal waste plant at risk of shutting down in West Virginia is hoping to stay open through state proceedings.

The Grant Town Power Plant’s owner, American Bituminous Power Partners, has teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, according to company filings.

In May, the state Public Service Commission denied the company’s proposal to increase its electric energy purchase agreement with FirstEnergy company Mon Power from $34.25 per megawatt hour to $40 per megawatt hour, which would have bumped up customer rates, so it could have a better chance at staying open.

But the PSC kept the company’s EEPA rate the same to allow American Bituminous an opportunity to continue operating while renegotiating its business structure.

Environmental activists have appealed, saying the PSC’s order contained “legal errors.“

West Virginia labor battle site regains historic designation

The Free Press WV

The National Register of Historic Places has placed a protected designation on the site of a West Virginia battle that broke out in the 1920s when coal miners tried to unionize.

The Blair Mountain Battlefield was removed from the registry in 2009 after a law firm representing a group of coal companies challenged the designation. Several historical and environmental groups fought the ruling, and in 2016 a federal court ruled that the site shouldn’t have been removed from the register. It was restored this week.

The battle pitted thousands of miners against forces backed by the mining companies over five days in 1921.

The Sierra Club says in a release announcing the victory that “countless people have devoted years of time and effort” to restore the site’s historic designation.

Medicaid recipients to get more substance abuse services

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Medicaid recipients will soon receive the second phase of new services under a federal waiver as part of efforts by Governor Jim Justice’s administration to provide substance abuse treatment.

The statement by the state Department of Health and Human Resources says the expanded coverage started Sunday.

It says the state will add Medicaid coverage for residential treatment programs for adult substance abuse sufferers, including those with mental health disorders.

It also will include peer recovery support services to extend treatment into a community and home environment, and coverage to stabilize intoxicated people through withdrawal management services.

The first phase of services that started in January included screening and treatment needs for Medicaid recipients, methadone treatment and administration. It also included statewide distribution of the overdose antidote naloxone.

Report: Governor’s Mansion has hosted 7 events this year

The Free Press WV

The Governor’s Mansion in West Virginia has hosted seven private receptions, luncheons or dinners since January 01.

That works out to one event every 25 days so far this year.

Most of the events were held during the legislative session, according to the newspaper, which obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

It says only two events have occurred since February, and those were within a three-day period recently.

Governor Jim Justice has defended his refusal to live at the Governor’s Mansion, telling reporters recently that the mansion is “really busy” hosting receptions, luncheons, dinners and tours in his absence.

The governor argues he’s saving the state money by not living in the mansion. Justice has sometimes commuted to the Capitol from his home in Lewisburg.

Legislators from both political parties have raised concerns on the topic. Justice has dismissed the complaints as political posturing, saying modern technology keeps him apprised of everything happening at the Capitol.

During a recent news conference, Justice said mansion employees — including two chefs and two housekeepers — were kept busy hosting paid events under a new policy adopted by his administration.

Documents obtained from the governor’s office show that the Governor’s Mansion has hosted seven private events since January 01.

The events were:

— February 10: A West Virginia Music Hall of Fame reception.

— February 12: An Independent Insurance Agents of West Virginia reception. A hand-written notation states $2,718.50 was paid. (The document misidentifies the group as the IAWV, rather than the IIAWV.)

— February 13: A luncheon for Marshall University men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni, $60.

— February 27: A reception for Mercer County Day at the Legislature.

—February 28: A dinner for the United Telecommunications and Energy Coalition, $1,390. The group represents electric, natural gas, solid waste, telecommunications and water utilities. Members include First Energy, Frontier Communications, Verizon, West Virginia-American Water, Waste Management Inc., Appalachian Power, AT&T, Columbia Pipeline Group, Dominion Energy and EQT Corp.

—June 05: An International Public Management Association dinner, $1,390.

—June 07: A Charleston Pilot Club event.

The West Virginia Beverage Association, which represents the soft drink industry, reserved the mansion for a luncheon on February 21 but canceled. The group paid a $450 cancellation fee.

The list did not include a “teacher recognition” event in April that a reporter was told was private but was attended by the state schools superintendent and state school board members.

The response also mentioned three events that were held in 2017 but weren’t paid for until 2018: two dinners for “Moody’s” totaling $159.81 on August 29; an event for the Charleston and Charleston Vandalia Rotary clubs on December 06 that totaled $3,172.50; and a Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation event on December 14 that totaled $1,350

Insurance task force panels hear report from public meetings

The Free Press WV

A member of a task force studying funding for West Virginia public employees’ health insurance program said most town hall participants believe a dedicated source of revenue is needed for the program.

Helen Matheny of West Virginia University Health Sciences Center is chairwoman of the Public Outreach Subcommittee of the Public Employees Insurance Agency Taskforce. She gave a report to a joint meeting of two subcommittees Wednesday.

Ideas for revenue streams for expected $50 million annual increases include increasing the soda tax, bringing back the food tax, taxing medical cannabis or raising natural gas severance taxes.

News outlets report Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told the group that severance taxes can be extremely volatile.

The task force held 21 public meetings around the state to hear from public employees on how to best fix PEIA.

Doll of West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice Unveiled

The Free Press WV

West Virginia first lady Cathy Justice has unveiled a doll in her likeness.

The doll introduced at a ceremony Wednesday will become part of the First Ladies of West Virginia Collection at the state Culture Center in Charleston. It was made by Washington D.C.-based artist Ping Lau and features Justice in her inaugural ball gown.

Working with drawings and photographs, Lau also has designed the dolls of former first ladies Dee Caperton, Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, Sandy Wise and Rachael Worby since 2013.

The West Virginia Federation of Women’s Clubs commissioned the first ladies doll collection in 1976. Charleston-based ceramic artist Edna Henderson created 29 first lady dolls before she died in 1999. In 2006, Joanne Gelin created the Gayle Manchin doll.

West Virginia State President’s Contract Extended by Five Years

A five-year contract extension has been approved for West Virginia State University’s president.

President Anthony L. Jenkins’ new contract goes into effect July 01 and ends in 2023.

The Free Press WV
West Virginia State University President Anthony L. Jenkins speaking at the May 2018 Graduation

The contract was approved Friday by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

He was first hired on a two-year contract in July 2016.

A university release says additional compensation based on performance is included in the contract and will be paid by the West Virginia State University Foundation.

It says Jenkins annual base salary will increase from $235,000 to $255,000.

The commission also approved a five-year contract extension on Friday for Shepherd University President Mary Hendrix.

The contract extension raises her annual base salary from $271,000 to around $284,000.

Ex-prison official admits having to sex with inmates

The Free Press WV

A former security official at a federal prison in West Virginia has admitted to having sex with female inmates.

Federal prosecutors say 39-year-old Jarred Grimes of Inverness, Florida, pleaded guilty to having sex with four inmates and other sexual activity with two other inmates at the Federal Prison Camp at Alderson between November 2016 and December 2017, when he resigned.

Grimes was in charge of correctional and security functions at the prison and was a captain when the crimes occurred.

Grimes faces up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing has been set for October 17 in federal court in Beckley.

Ground broken for West Virginia insulation production plant

The Free Press WV

A stone wool insulation producer has broken ground on a $150 million manufacturing facility in West Virginia.

Rockwool North America held a ceremony Tuesday in Ranson.

The company says in a news release the 460,000-square-foot facility will employ about 150 people.

Production is expected to start in early 2020.

Rockwool has production facilities in Byhalia, Mississippi; Milton, Ontario, and Grand Forks, British Columbia.

Stone wool is a fiber-based insulation produced from natural stone and recycled content.

West Virginia Ride for Fallen Service Heroes set

The Free Press WV

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia will participate in a motorcycle ride honoring fallen U.S. service members.

The fourth annual Ride for Fallen Service Heroes will be held Saturday. The round-trip ride will travel from South Charleston to Millwood, ending in a free picnic at the National Guard headquarters at Coonskin Park in Charleston.

Manchin says in a news release the ride is one way to honor the service of the nation’s service members “and it’s a profound honor to be part of it.”

The ride will benefit the West Virginia National Guard Foundation, the families of fallen service members and the establishment of a new Gold Star monument in West Virginia.



Auditors Seek Answers on State Supreme Court Spending

The Free Press WV

Legislative auditors have expressed concern on how the West Virginia Supreme Court accumulated around $29 million in its excess revenue funds in fiscal year 2012.

Justin Robinson with the legislative auditor’s office says the court had $1.4 million in its rainy-day fund in fiscal year 2007. He says the court accumulated $29 million in its rainy-day fund by fiscal year 2012.

News outlets reported Sunday that a memo indicated the court had spent that rainy-day fund to around $333,000 at the start of fiscal year 2016.

An ongoing legislative audit shows the court is on pace to accumulate around $19 million in its own rainy-day fund by the current fiscal year as West Virginians prepare to vote on whether the Legislature should have more control over the court’s funds.

06.27.2018 NewsWest Virginia

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

If you can’t trust judges to do the right thing…. is there any reason to trust our whole system of government?  One has to wonder.

Now we are reading a judge likely to be impeached as well as the legislature is considering impeaching the governor?

Are the any honest people running for offices?

By crooks everywhere?  on  06.27.2018

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West Virginia Apartments to House Women in Drug Treatment

The Free Press WV

Renovations have started on a building that will become apartments for women undergoing treatment for substance abuse in West Virginia.

Marshall University said in a news release Monday its health provider group, Marshall Health, and the Huntington City Mission have begun construction on the 15,000-square-foot building next to the mission.

Each of the 18 apartments will consist of up to three bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and kitchenette. They will enable women suffering from substance abuse to live with their children.

A grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is funding the program, called Project Hope for Women and Children. Marshall School of Medicine spokeswoman Sheanna Spence said the $2.8 million grant covers renovations and program expenses.

The statement says some services, including family therapy, will be provided on site while many others such as medication-assisted treatment will be in outpatient locations. The renovations are expected to be completed by October.

The project “will help residents put life skills into practice, give their children a sense of stability and teach them to raise their children in a way that promotes healthy habits early on,“ said Dr. Stephen M. Petrany, chairman of the Marshall School of Medicine’s department of family and community health.

In a state of 1.8 million residents, more than 30,000 people are in drug treatment in West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate.

West Virginia Resort to Use FanDuel for Sports Wagering

The Free Press WV

FanDuel will provide interactive sports wagering services at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

The Greenbrier announced Tuesday that New York-based FanDuel will handle retail, online and mobile sports wagering for the resort in White Sulphur Springs.

The resort’s onsite betting will take place at The Casino Club, which is open only to resort guests and event participants, golf and tennis members and Greenbrier Sporting Club members.

West Virginia lawmakers this year approved sports betting at the state’s five casinos and on approved mobile apps, shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that had banned most sports betting.

The state Lottery Commission approved sports betting rules last week. The goal is to have sports betting underway by the start of football season in September.

Private island in West Virginia up for auction next month

The Free Press WV

A private island in West Virginia is going on the auction block next month.

News outlets report the 17-acre Eastern Wheeler Island in the Kanawha River in Fayette County will be sold on July 19.

The auction is taking place at Montgomery City Hall.

Demarcus Smith has owned the island since 1985. He bought it to restore a former World War II airstrip but had to abandon the work.

Smith says the island would be a great place for a private camp or a public campground or cabins. The island is eight miles from Kanawha Falls.

Joe R. Pyle Auction and Realty Service is in charge of the auction.

Teacher of the Year finalists named

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Education announced Friday the five finalists for the 2019 State Teacher of the Year award.

The finalists were winners of their respective county teacher of the year honors.

The finalists this year are:

— Adrin Fisher, English teacher at Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont;

— Summer McClintock, fourth-grade teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School in Hedgesville;

— Jada Reeves, fifth-grade teacher at Bradley Elementary School in Beckley;

— Clifford Sullivan, fifth-grade teacher at Mount Hope Elementary School in Mount Hope; and

— Joy Van Scyoc, rotational art teacher at Moundsville Middle School in Moundsville.

The state teacher of the year will be announced during a ceremony on September 12 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

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