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West Virginia University Glitch Delays Pay for up to 15,000

The Free Press WV

An unspecified glitch has caused a delay in paycheck deposits for up to 15,000 employees at West Virginia University.

The paychecks weren’t deposited as scheduled on Friday morning.

Rob Alsop, the university’s vice president for strategic initiatives, said payroll information has been resubmitted to the state for processing, but that deposits would likely not occur until Monday because of federal deadlines.

“We also have been working with the state treasurer and banking institutions in the hopes that the banks of our employees will waive any overdraft charges resulting from this issue,“ he said. “As a university, we are committed to helping our employees with any such situation.“

Between 11,500 and 15,000 accounts are affected by the delay, according to the university. Alsop said affected employees should contact the university’s payroll office, but said they should not send account numbers or other personal information over email.

“I want to assure all employees that we will take the necessary steps and precautions to avoid any future disruptions in payroll,“ Alsop said. “We will do everything we can to make sure it does not happen again.“

Gov. Jim Justice’s office said some state employees’ pay was also not deposited on time, but it was unclear how widespread the problem was. A spokesman referred questions to the state auditor’s and treasurer’s offices. Both were closed for the holiday weekend.

No Injuries After Small Plane Runs Off West Virginia Runway

The Free Press WV

A small plane failed to maneuver a turn and ran off a runway in West Virginia.

There were no injuries in the Friday morning incident.

Yeager Airport spokeswoman Dominique Ranieri says the plane carrying two adults made a successful landing, but undershot the turn onto the taxiway.

Ranieri describes the incident as minor and says it didn’t affect operations at the airport.

She says the plane’s wing clipped a sign along the runway, but no other substantial damage to the airport facility was reported.

Damage to the plane also appeared superficial, but it was towed to a hangar to make a more detailed inspection.

Small Business Saturday

The Free Press WV

For the eighth year, businesses across the United States will be participating in Small Business Saturday, an effort to encourage consumers to shop at local businesses.

The effort, which was started by American Express Comoany, has spurned actions across the country, including West Virginia, to encourage shopping at locally-owned businesses. The Charleston City Council approved an ordinance at its meeting Monday declaring November 25 as Small Business Saturday.

Nikki Bowmar, the public affairs specialist for the West Virginia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said there are more than 115,000 small businesses in the state.

“About 99 percent of businesses in West Virginia are considered small,” she said.

Bowmar added Americans spent $15.4 billion at “independent retailers and restaurants” on Small Business Saturday in 2016, which provides consumers with unique goods that may not be found at national big-box stores as well as community benefits

“You’re able to provide your family with something that looks like you put a little more thought into,” she said.

“Those small businesses are turning around and putting the dollar back into your community, because they’re the ones that sponsor your little league team or provide gifts for raffles and, above all, they are providing that paycheck.”

According to American Express, 112 million Americans participated in Small Business Saturday last year.

U.S. Mail Truck Wrecks on Interstate 79

The Free Press WV

A truck hauling U.S. Mail wrecked on Interstate 79 Friday morning in Roane County.

The crash happened at just before 5 a.m. in the northbound lanes between the Amma and Wallback exits.

A piece of large equipment was dispatched to the scene to get the truck upright.

Traffic was moving again by 10:30 a.m.

There was no initial word on possible injuries.

North Central Regional Jail, InmateBroke out of The Van While Being Transported to UHC

The Free Press WV

An inmate of North Central Regional Jail is facing additional charges escaping a transport vehicle on route to the hospital.

Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny said the inmate, Brian Northcraft, broke out of the van while being transported to United Hospital Center in Bridgeport.

The incident occurred on U.S. 50 near Sun Valley Road just before 1 p.m. Thursday.

Northcraft was apprehended by the correctional officer driving the van before deputies arrived on scene.

Northcraft was then transported to UHC via Harrison County EMS, Matheny said.

There is no update on Northcraft’s condition. He has been charged with attempted escape.

Boulder with ‘1814’ Engraving Given to Beckley

The Free Press WV

A boulder whose engraving may be two centuries old has been given to the city of Beckley.

Councilman Tom Sopher, also president of the Raleigh County Historical Society, says it predates the city’s founding and indicates the area’s early civilization.

The 500-pound (227-kilogram) rock has been in the yard of city residents who officially transferred custody to Beckley.

The engraving says: “S. Ferguson, F. County 1814.“

Sopher says it will be temporarily placed on the trail going toward the Beckley mill ruin, a National Register of Historic Places site in the gorge where Piney Creek flows.

Workers building the Piney Creek sewer plant found it nearly obscured in the creek in 1988. It was moved to the yard, then owned by a Sanitary Board worker.

Suits Over West Virginia Warehouse Fire in Federal Court

The Free Press WV

Three lawsuits seeking damages following the industrial warehouse fire that burned for a week in Parkersburg have been moved from state to federal court.

The defendants sought the transfer from Wood County Circuit Court because of the large number of plaintiffs and sum of money in question.

The blaze began October 21 in the 420,000-square-foot (39,000-square-meter) property owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc., or IEI Plastics.

The lawsuits allege IEI and others failed to take appropriate steps to prevent the fire, that people in West Virginia and Ohio exposed to the smoke and airborne particles will require medical monitoring and that possible damages exceed $5 million.

AAA Warns of Holiday Parking Lot Accidents

The Free Press WV

AAA reminds shoppers to keep a watchful eye out for vehicles and pedestrians this holiday season.

With Thanksgiving marking the official start of the holiday shopping season, the number of shoppers visiting stores will increase dramatically. Officials say vehicle and pedestrian accidents likewise will increase, and while authorities often warn drivers to be watchful while traveling, many collisions and injuries happen closer to home.

“It is easy to become distracted by the hustle and bustle of the season, but traffic safety should be at the top of everybody’s list,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs. “According to AAA data, in 2016, 29 percent of all vehicle collisions took place in parking lots.”

Podguski said shoppers can take steps to protect themselves and those around them.

  • Drive slowly inside parking lots and garages. Getting that great deal is not worth the risks of speeding around to find a space

  • Stay off your mobile device and always watch for pedestrians and other vehicles. Remember, they may not be paying attention to their surroundings.

  • Back out slowly from your parking space, especially if you’re near large vehicles. Pause once you can see beyond the vehicles parked next to you; this allows passing drivers to see you.

  • If you feel comfortable doing so, back into your parking space. This means you’ll be able to pull straight out of your spot with better visibility.

  • Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Parking further will help you avoid a possible collision, and you’ll likely face less pressure from impatient shoppers to find the “perfect” spot.

  • See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier.

  • Don’t trap yourself. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.

  • Keep an eye out for pedestrians and small children. Kids can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe in traffic.

  • Always wear your seatbelt. Even at a low speed, injuries can occur. Make sure all passengers are strapped in while the car is moving.

Podguski said while parking lot collisions may occur at slow speeds, even a crash wherein nobody is injured can put a damper on the holiday spirit and cost drivers thousands of dollars in repairs.

West Virginia Congressman: Grant Awarded to Sheriff’s Office

The Free Press WV

The Cabell County Sheriff’s Department has been given a $125,000 federal grant for an additional sheriff’s deputy.

U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins announced the award from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services.

Jenkins’ office said in a news release that he wrote a letter of support for the grant.

The release says the hiring program grants allow state and local law enforcement to respond to community needs and focus on preventing crime.

Jenkins said the grant will allow the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department to continue fighting the opioid and fentanyl problem.

Loaded Gun Found In Man’s Luggage At West Virginia Airport

The Free Press WV

Federal authorities say they found a loaded gun in a man’s carry-on luggage on Thanksgiving day at the security checkpoint in a West Virginia airport.

According to a U.S. Transportation Security Administration news release, a TSA officer spotted the .380 caliber handgun loaded with three bullets early Thursday morning on a checkpoint X-ray monitor at Yeager Airport.

TSA says Yeager Airport Police responded and confiscated the gun. There was no impact to airport operations.

TSA says the man is from Huntington, West Virginia, but did not identify him further.

The agency says passengers who bring guns to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges and civil penalties from TSA of up to $12,000.

Snowshoe, Canaan Valley Gearing Up For Holiday Recreation

The Free Press WV

As West Virginians take part in Thanksgiving activities this week, some will also be hitting the slopes to enjoy the start of the skiing season.

Snowshoe Mountain is preparing to kick off skiing season this Friday, as Canaan Valley Resort will hold its opening day on Dec. 15. Both resorts have been using its snow guns to prepare for skiers.

Canaan Valley’s tube park will not open until Dec. 15 because of warm conditions.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance for snow showers at Snowshoe early Wednesday morning, with a high temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit expected on Friday.

While the slopes will not be ready at Canaan Valley, visitors will be able to take part in ice skating beginning Thursday.

Skiing season in West Virginia goes through April.

West Virginia Reports Increasing Lyme Disease Cases

The Free Press WV

Tick-borne Lyme disease has spread across West Virginia over the past six years with cases reported in 52 of the state’s 55 counties, according to state health officials.

Most cases are reported in the northern and eastern panhandles probably because of their proximity to the high-incidence states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Resources said.

In an advisory Monday to health care providers, Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta wrote that the increase could be from increased reporting or from more ticks infected with the bacteria. Most cases appear between May and September, but ticks have become more active in winter months, he said.

According to the department, 580 cases have been reported so far this year, up from 97 statewide in 2012.

“Based on the change, West Virginia is considered a high incidence Lyme disease state,“ Gupta wrote.

Patients treated early with antibiotics usually recover quickly. He recommended a two-step blood test to confirm evidence of antibodies against the Lyme disease bacteria.

Symptoms often include a circular rash around a tick bite and fever, headaches and fatigue, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The CDC says there were more than 36,000 probable cases in the U.S. last year, with 26,203 confirmed.

West Virginia Families Impacted by 2016 Floods Get New Homes

The Free Press WV

Several families impacted by flooding last year in West Virginia have received new homes.

WVVA-TV reports the Rainelle residents were handed keys to their homes on Monday. The homes have 8-foot (2-meter) support beams should severe weather come again.

The work was done by Appalachia Service Project, a Christian ministry focused on home repair and replacement in central parts of the region. The organization has built more than 50 homes for those who lost theirs in the 2016 flood.

Darlenia Killen says she lived more than a year in a single bedroom apartment and Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer. She walked into her new home saying, “I could not be more appreciative, I’m afraid I might cry.“

The families also received Thanksgiving baskets with turkeys.

Bill Broadens Allowed Volunteer Work In Lieu Of Fines, Jail

The Free Press WV    A West Virginia city council has passed a bill allowing people to perform community service at nonprofit organizations and public entities in lieu of incarceration or paying fines to municipal court.

The bill passed by the Charleston City Council on Monday broadens the scope of permissible volunteer work, which was previously restricted by an ordinance requiring community service to be done for the city.

City Attorney Paul Ellis says that those who chose the community service option have been working at the Civic Center.

Ellis says his office will speak with area nonprofits about how community service work could benefit their missions.

The municipal court will have to approve both the organization and community service work.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Free Press WV

Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are suing the three members of the Fayette County Commission, saying they’ve unreasonably delayed progress on the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion project.

The pipeline developers dispute the commissioners’ decision last week to deny a rezoning application to build one of three compressor stations along the pipeline route.

The developers filed their lawsuit Friday in federal court in Charleston against Fayette County Commissioners Matthew D. Wender, Denise Scalph and John Brenemen.

They contend the federal Natural Gas Act and the Pipeline Safety Act preempt Fayette County’s zoning ordinance. They argue that approval of a certificate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission specifically authorizes construction and operation of the compressor station.

The lawsuit asks for the Fayette commissioners to be prevented from enforcing the local zoning ordinance.

“While MVP has attempted in good faith to cooperate with the Fayette County Commission (consistent with the requirement imposed by the MVP certificate), the Fayette County Commission has now delayed the local permitting process so much that MVP’s construction schedule will be unreasonably delayed if MVP continues to seek issuance of a rezoning approval and required permits under the Fayette County zoning ordinance,” wrote lawyers for the pipeline developers.

“If construction of the Stallworth Station is delayed in the manner described above, MVP will be unable to work according to its construction schedule and will incur additional delay, fees and contractor costs.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.

The pipeline would go through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties.

The pipeline developers want to build a compressor station on three parcels of land currently zoned for residential uses in Fayette County. The property collectively is called the Stallworth Station.

Compressor stations increase the pressure on natural gas to keep it moving through the pipeline.

The Sierra Club earlier issued a statement contending that compressor stations are known for leaks of methane and other toxic chemicals that can cause negative health effects to people who are exposed.

“No community should be saddled with the dangers of a compressor station, which would threaten their health and enjoyment of their community,” stated Bill Price, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative.

“Allowing the change in zoning goes against the Comprehensive Plan that the people in Fayette County are proud of. The Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport dirty, dangerous fracked gas through Fayette County, threatening the community’s air, water and property values. The compressor station for the project must be rejected before it can threaten the rural lifestyle of Fayette County residents.”

At the conclusion of a public hearing on November 17, The Fayette County Commission denied MVP’s rezoning application.

“Even if MVP pursues a legal challenge to the decision (which, as explained below, involves an uncertain procedural course), the rezoning denial will result in an unreasonable delay in the construction of the Stallworth Station that will increase MVP’s expense, diminish its revenue, and delay the delivery of significant benefits that the MVP Project will bring to the public,” the lawyers for the pipeline developers wrote in their lawsuit.

The referenced procedural course open to MVP — aside from the federal lawsuit — would be to go to Fayette County’s Board of Zoning Appeals while also filing a challenge of the denial in Fayette Circuit Court.

“Regardless of which entity would ultimately hear the merits of such an appeal, the proceedings to hear MVP’s challenge to the Rezoning Denial would undoubtedly require a significant time before a decision was issued, and would have the effect of delaying the construction of the Southworth Station for an indeterminate time,” lawyers for MVP wrote.

The Stallworth Property is currently zoned in a rural-residential district designed for single-family housing. MVP would need for the project to be rezoned as an “H-1 District” that would allow for special uses. The pipeline developers say it’s optimal for the compressor station to be built on a relatively secluded tract of land.

“The Stallworth Property was selected because it was far superior to other potential sites in terms of topography, site access, surrounding land use (including population density and distance from residences) and overall environmental considerations,” lawyers for the developers wrote.

“It will require significantly less cut and fill to achieve a buildable site, is easily accessible from the nearby County Route 29 and is located on the top of a hill with dense deciduous forest all around it.”

The developers contend they have been trying to work with Fayette County officials in a way that would satisfy local ordinances. They note that they took part in several public meetings about the proposed compressor stations.

MVP says it anticipates being in a position to start access road construction for the Stallworth Station by mid December and then full construction by early this coming January.

The pipeline developers say it’s essential for the Stallworth Station to be in service by December, 2018.

The other proposed compressor stations for the MVP project are in Wetzel and Braxton counties.

The developers of Mountain Valley Pipeline also filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 24 to gain eminent domain access to properties along the proposed route through West Virginia. The West Virginia lawsuit lists more than 140 pieces of property where the pipeline developers say they need access for easements.

A similar lawsuit focusing on properties along the pipeline’s path in Virginia was filed on the same date in Roanoke. The Virginia lawsuit names more than 300 private properties.

Both cases ask for immediate access and entry to be granted prior to just compensation for the property being determined.

~~  Brad McElhinny ~~

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