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WV Senate Bill 1006 Changes DMV Fees Effective July 01, 2017

The Free Press WV

Due to the passage of Senate Bill 1006, starting Saturday, July 01, 2017, the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will implement changes to its fees for vehicle and driver services, including registrations and driver’s licenses.

Vehicle registrations for regular Class A plates will increase by $21.50 to $51.50. 

Special plates will pay the additional $21.50 on top of the special plate fee. 

DMV customers with July and August renewals that have already received their paperwork in the mail will need to pay the additional $21.50 beyond what is listed in the renewal notice per the new legislation. 

Other vehicle fee changes include:


·      Vehicle Sales Tax, 5% to 6%

·      Title Fee, $10 to $15

·      Duplicate Title, $10 to $15

·      Salvage Title/Cosmetic Loss, $15 to $22.50

·      Reconstructed Title, $10 to $15

·      Legal Heir Title Transfer, $0 to $15

·      Lien Recording, $5 to $10

·      Registration Transfer, $5.50 to $10.50

·      Legal Heir Registration Transfer, $0 to $10.50

·      Duplicate Decals, Plates, and Registrations, $5 to $10


Driver services changes include an increase in fees for the Class E Driver’s License to $5 per year. 

Adult and Child Identification Cards will also increase by $5 per year. 

Additional fees include:

·      Level One GDL Knowledge Test, $7.50 per attempt

·      Level One GDL Permit Test, $7.50

·      Level Two GDL Skills Test, $7.50 per attempt

·      Level Three, Full Class E (18 and over) $5 per year

·      Class E Knowledge Test, 18 and older, $7.50 per attempt

·      Class E Permit, 18 and older, $7.50

·      Duplicate Permits and License, $7.50

·      Docket Fee, $15.00

·      Driving Record, $7.50


All online services, as well as the DMV Now kiosks, will be programmed with these new legislative changes to begin July 01, 2017.

For more information, visit the DMV web site at dmv.wv.gov or call 1.800.642.9066.

McKinley: Brownfields Redevelopment Vital for Economic Growth

Energy and Commerce Passes Bipartisan Bill to Improve Brownfields Program

The Gilmer Free Press

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill sponsored by Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) to improve the Brownfields Program, which provides resources to clean up and redevelop contaminated industrial sites.

The Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3017) passed through the Committee with strong bipartisan support.

“Across the Northern Panhandle and the rest of West Virginia we have hundreds of former industrial sites that sit empty,” said McKinley. “Many of these sites would be attractive for redevelopment but have legacy contamination issues that must be addressed first. The Brownfields Program has been an important tool to turn abandoned eyesores into economic opportunity.”

“Earlier this month, Pietro Fiorentini, a supplier to the natural gas industry, broke ground on a new manufacturing facility located on a site in Weirton that was cleaned up through the Brownfields Program,” said McKinley. “This is just one example of the jobs and investment that can be created by reclaiming these sites.”

“The Brownfields Program benefits communities across the country,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Chairman of the Environment Subcommittee. “In Danville, the largest city in my district, a $400,000 Community Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant recently helped leverage $472,373 in additional funding for a dozen projects. But even with this investment, there is still much more work to be done to create jobs and revitalize local economies. I’m happy to see this bipartisan bill advance today, and I urge the Appropriations Committee to fund the program at the authorized amount.”

In drafting the bill, McKinley and the Committee worked with stakeholders who use the program – including organizations in West Virginia – to suggest improvements.

“These are game changing amendments that expand the benefits of the Brownfields Program to entities that are in a better position to collaborate with multiple stakeholders to leverage private investment on sites most suitable for economic development,” said Pat Ford, Executive Director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.

“Across the nation there are more than 450,000 brownfields sites,” added McKinley. “This bill will improve this program to clean up more sites and increase the impact it has on communities across America.”


Background

The Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 reauthorizes the EPA Brownfields Program for the first time since 2006 and makes a number of reforms including:

  • Creating multipurpose grants, which will provide flexibility to communities trying to cleanup multiple brownfields sites;

  • Increasing the limit for remediation grants from $200,000 to $500,000;

  • Expanding eligibility for non-profit organizations and entities that owned property prior to the original enactment of the brownfields law so that they may receive brownfields grant funding; and

  • Making it easier for small, rural, or disadvantaged communities to participate in the brownfields program.

Governor Jim Justice’s Learning Curve

The Free Press WV

Candidate Jim Justice promised he would be a different kind of Governor, and he has been so far. What is unclear after five months is whether his style and method of governing will be successful.

The early results are mixed.

Justice did manage to win approval for a massive highway plan that, at minimum, will generate another $130 million annually for road construction. The total new spending on roads could reach between $2.5 billion and $2.8 billion if voters approve a bond issue on Saturday, October 07.

The Governor already deserves credit for making the state’s decaying infrastructure a priority.  If he can help win approval for the bond issue then he will have a signature accomplishment for the first year of his administration.

However, the Governor’s budget plan flopped.  He initially proposed $450 million in tax increases to avoid cuts as well as pay for new spending on a classroom teacher pay raise and a Save Our State investment fund.  By the time the regular session and a three week long special session ended, the tax increases were gone, as were his spending initiatives.

The Legislature settled on a $4.2 billion budget. Justice decided to let it become law without his signature. “I can’t possibly put my name on it,” Justice said during a press conference last week.

Okay, but the Governor could not resist parting shots at lawmakers whom he battled with. “I don’t know if Jesus himself could bring this bunch together,” he said. Justice questioned the House leadership, both Republican and Democrat. “I’m really, really disappointed with the Democrats because they were family.”

House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) fumed.  “I could be personal, but I’m not going to be.  I know it’s his first time as Governor,” Miley said on Talkline.  “But for him to blame everyone but himself is a problem that’s going to follow him the next three years.”

“Every time I hear the Governor blame everybody but himself I feel like I’m in junior high school,” Miley said.

Justice operates without a filter, and that is often refreshing. The last election on both the state and national level showed voters were worn out with politics as usual and political correctness. They wanted a shake-up in the political establishment, and they got it.

But being forthright does not mean one has to abandon discretion.  Justice’s outspokenness, while often novel, sometimes makes his job more difficult.  It is possible for him to temper his insults without kowtowing to those who have differing views, or even those he sees as obstinate.

It’s worth noting that the longer the budget debate continued, the less the Governor got of what he wanted. It’s naïve for Justice to not accept some responsibility for that.

Justice’s relentless optimism and willingness to abandon past political narratives still hold promise. The people elected him because he gave them hope of a different path forward and a vision for what West Virginia could be, not a continuation of what it has been.

However, there is a learning curve to governing; the success of the Justice administration and ultimately the state for the next three-and-a-half years will depend on whether the Governor is willing to make an accurate accounting of his successes and failures and apply that knowledge going forward.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  WVU Releases Coal Industry Outlook for W.Va.

Short term coal production in West Virginia is likely to increase, according to a report released by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Those short term gains won’t off set overall production declines in the industry.

The annual report published by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research is titled “Coal Production in West Virginia.“ It sets out both long term and short term outlooks in the industry.

The Summer 2017 report says statewide, coal production will reach an estimated 89 million tons in 2017 and remain in that range through the early 2020s. But a decade later, coal production will once again begin to dip in the state.

Nationally, West Virginia has seen more drastic declines in coal production than any other state in the country, but the report’s author, WVU Research and Assistant Professor Brian Lego, writes that West Virginia coal production is split between two regions which have seen very different results in recent years due to both national and international economic trends.

In northern West Virginia where steam coal is mined, production slightly increased between 2008 and 2016. During that same period though, coal production in southern West Virginia plunged by 61 percent. Mines in the region largely produce metallurgical coal, or coal used to make steel. Lego says steel production in the U.S. is expected to see an uptick through the end of 2018, contributing to that expected short term production increase.

The report also lays out the potential impacts on the industry as natural gas prices fluctuate.


►  School Boards to Receive School Building Authority Grants

The board of West Virginia’s School Building Authority has voted to distribute about $6.7 million to 10 county public school systems that requested the “major improvement project” grant money.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the board gave final approval after discussion in voice votes on Monday with no “nays” heard for the funding in the selected counties: Fayette, Randolph, Webster, Pocahontas, Taylor, Lincoln, Pendleton, Mason, Mercer and Monongalia.

 

Kanawha, Cabell, Mingo and Tucker counties didn’t get any of the funding they had requested from the school building authority.

Counties requested a total of $9 million from the SBA in this year’s “major improvement project” grant cycle. The grants cannot exceed $1 million unlike the SBA’s larger “needs” grants.

The board distributes money to public schools for construction and renovation projects statewide.


►  West Virginia Attorney General Sues Charter Bus Company

West Virginia’s attorney general has asked a state judge to shut down a charter bus company saying it failed to refund nearly $18,000 for two canceled field trips.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says Cav’s Coach Company LLC, based in Cross Lanes, and owner Christopher Todd Cavender defaulted on refund agreements for the field trips meant to celebrate eighth-grade graduations.

Morrisey says the company has a “long history” of defaulting on its consumer obligations since it started in 2005.

He asked the court to permanently bar it from the charter bus business, order refunds for the school field trips and impose $5,000 penalties for every consumer protection law violation.

A phone number listed for the company was not in service Tuesday.


►  October 7th Special Election called by Governor

Secretary of State Mac Warner issued a legal notice to state newspapers today, announcing the details and date of a road bond election.

The West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 6, the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017, at the request of Governor Jim Justice on April 8th. The amendment, if passed by the voters, will give the Legislature authorization to issue and sell state bonds to be used for improvement and construction of state roads.

Governor Jim Justice signed a proclamation on June 28th setting the date for the road bond special election for Saturday, October 7th, 2017. The state Constitution requires that any amendment to the Constitution be submitted to voters for ratification or rejection in a special election.


►  Capito says thousands contacted her about health overhaul

West Virginia’s Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito says she heard from thousands of constituents concerned about their future health care in deciding she couldn’t support the Senate GOP leadership’s proposed overhaul.

She says most affecting are personal stories showing the impact of policy decisions.

She says health care “is a very personal thing and people have very deep feelings about it.“

Many people have told her how the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act gave them or loved ones access to treatment for cancer or long-term health problems.

Small business owners are saying insurance premiums under “Obamacare” are “excruciating,“ having risen 169 percent.

Capito supports ending the tax penalty for people who don’t get insurance, but continuing taxes on the wealthiest to support care for others.


►  After mix-up, group flies correct name over West Virginia

A women’s political advocacy group has taken two tries to fly the correct U.S. senator’s name over West Virginia after a mix-up that had Charleston residents scratching their heads.

UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a third-party vendor jumbled signs targeting Nevada Senator Dean Heller and West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

No one caught the error until the banner reading “Senator Heller: Keep your word, vote no on Trumpcare” was soaring over Charleston on Monday.

The group re-printed the Capito sign and flew it in her state Tuesday afternoon, reading “Senator Capito: Trumpcare hurts WV families.“

The Heller sign may not fly in Nevada due to extreme heat.

UltraViolet flew a third banner targeting Senator Susan Collins over Portland, Maine on Monday.

The three Republicans have not supported a GOP bill to overhaul federal health laws.


►  Dozens protest topless to normalize female bodies

Dozens of topless women silently marched through West Virginia’s capital city to protest for topless equality and normalization of the female body.

Women, men and children marched through Charleston for the “Free the Nip Top Freedom Rally” on Saturday.

The marchers walked from Davis Park to Kanawha Boulevard. Some protesters went topless, while others were fully clothed. Spectators stood yards away and used their phones to film the women undressing.

Protester Jade Magoun says the march is one of the only ways to normalize breastfeeding.

Organizers moved the protest to 6:30 p.m. because a local arts nonprofit, called FestivALL, had several kids’ events planned on the same day.


►  West Virginia University Team Wins Rocket Competition

A team from West Virginia University won first place in the rocket-launching competition in New Mexico.

The university’s Experimental Rocketry team captured first place in the 10,000-foot launch category at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition.

The competition calls on college students to design, build and launch rockets to a targeted altitude. More than 100 teams from around the world competed in the event, which is run by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association.

The team from WVU built a 12-foot long fiberglass rocket that soared to an altitude of more than 9,600 feet while carrying nearly nine pounds of payload.

The team received top scores in all aspects of the competition, beating out 24 teams in their category for the victory.


►  West Virginia hospital hit by ransomware attack

The FBI is investigating the hacking of the computer system at a West Virginia hospital.

Local news outlets report employees at Princeton Community Hospital were hit by a ransomware attack Tuesday morning and were unable to access files. It is unclear if patient records were compromised.

Hospital spokesman Rick Hypes says the hospital has established protocols for situations in which the computer system cannot be accessed, which ensured a continuation of patient care.

PCH vice president Rose Morgan says nothing is yet known about the origin of or reason for the disruption, but the hack was from an outside source. She said no one has contacted the hospital related to the hacking, which prompted users to recover files by purchasing a decryption key for $300 in virtual currency.

West Virginia Public Libraries Roll Out Summer Learning Programs

The West Virginia Library Commission promotes “Build A Better World” summer reading program for 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia public libraries in cooperation with the West Virginia Library Commission have kicked off their Summer Learning programs for 2017. Children, teens and adults are encouraged to participate throughout the summer in a variety of reading and education programs in the state’s 172 public libraries.

Each year, WVLC partners with the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a national consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for readers of all ages. Working with CSLP, the Library Commission has developed a program for Summer 2017 based around the theme “Build A Better World,” which emphasizes how readers can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

WVLC provides a manual for each participating library in the state, training for the “Build A Better World” curriculum, and book recommendations. Each library then determines how it will implement the program, which can include pool parties, teen game rooms, exercise classes, movies nights, book clubs, and more.

Melissa Brown, WVLC Librarian says, “Summer learning programs are an integral part of our children’s education. Reading during the summer bridges the gap from one school year to the next, and special summertime activities encourage lifelong learning.”

For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer months where they can access free educational activities and programs. WVLC and the state’s public libraries are proud to provide programs to help students maintain their reading skills during summer vacation and develop positive attitudes about reading, books, and the library.

To learn more about summer learning programs, parents should contact their local library.


West Virginia Library Commission encourages lifelong learning, individual empowerment, civic engagement and an enriched quality of life by enhancing library and information services for all West Virginians. WVLC is an independent agency of the Office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts. To learn more about WVLC, please visit www.librarycommission.wv.gov or call us at 304.558.2041.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Secretary Crouch Comments on Jackie Withrow Hospital and Other Similar DHHR-Owned Facilities

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch issued the following statement:

“Governor Justice has asked that I prepare a comprehensive statewide plan for all of our state facilities that will benefit the patients in our care, reward our dedicated employees, and generate economic development with new construction in the communities where these facilities are located.  I will be working with the legislators from these areas to determine what course they would like to pursue, as well as with the staff of these facilities to get their input.  I will also be meeting with city and county officials to discuss how we can make these projects an integral part of their communities. 

The State of West Virginia loses millions of dollars every year in the operation of DHHR’s facilities.  I believe that by working together, we can save the state millions of dollars annually, improve the care of the patients, ensure our employees retain their jobs, and promote economic development in these communities.  I will be prepared to submit a new plan to the Legislature prior to the next legislative session to replace these aged facilities with new, modern facilities to improve living conditions for our patients.”


►  Marshall University to Fire Professor in Kickback Scheme

The termination process has begun for a university professor who recently pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in connection with a kickback scheme involving the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that a Marshall University official said on Monday the school plans to fire civil engineering professor Andrew P. Nichols, who has taught there since 2007. Nichols’ plea agreement says the 38-year-old admitted to conspiring with a state Division of Highways worker to impede the IRS from collecting proper taxes between 2009 and 2011.

Federal prosecutors allege the scheme illegally diverted $1.5 million worth of state projects to Dennis Corporation, a South Carolina engineering consulting firm.

Marshall spokeswoman Ginny Painter says Nichols has been notified of the university’s intent and has the right to appeal his termination.


►  Committee Holding 4th Meeting on Coal Dust Exposure

A committee looking at how decisions are reached on controlling coal miners’ exposure to coal dust will meet this week in West Virginia.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee is assessing the effectiveness of monitoring and sampling approaches used to make the decisions.

The committee is holding its fourth public meeting Thursday in Morgantown. The open session of the meeting will be from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Morgantown Marriott. Anyone who can’t attend may join online .

The National Academies said in a news release that the committee will hear from representatives of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, followed by a public comment period.


►  Seeking Shutdown of Charter Bus Company, Refund For Canceled Field Trips

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a circuit judge to permanently shut down a charter bus company and its owner based upon its failure to refund nearly $18,000 for two canceled field trips after years of alleged consumer protection law violations.

The lawsuit alleges Cav’s Coach Company LLC and its owner Christopher Todd Cavender defaulted on its agreement to fully refund the canceled field trips, both scheduled to celebrate eighth-grade graduations.

“The filing of this lawsuit was necessitated by Cav’s Coach’s long history of defaulting on its obligations to consumers,“ Attorney General Morrisey said. “Unless the court enters an order permanently prohibiting Cav’s Coach from engaging in the business of offering charter bus and related travel services, the public will continue to be irreparably harmed.“

The field trips, involving students at Kermit Area School and Crum Middle School in southwestern West Virginia, were canceled for different reasons, but in both instances the lawsuit alleges Cav’s Coach refunded less than one-fifth of the agreed upon refund amount.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Mingo County Circuit Court, outlines at least six examples of Cav’s Coach having allegedly failed to fulfill its contractual obligations since it began doing business in 2005.

Consumers have been allegedly stranded along the highway after bus breakdowns or had their trips canceled on the eve of departure. In some instances, the first notice of cancellation was when buses did not show up on the scheduled departure date, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged conduct continued after both the Attorney General and Marshall University sued and obtained separate judgments against the company.

In addition to Cav’s Coach and its owner, the lawsuit lists affiliate AllAboard Tours and Charters LLC as a defendant. All are based in Cross Lanes in western Kanawha County.

The lawsuit sets forth claims of fraud, deception, misrepresentation and the violation of a previous injunction as causes of action, along with the defendants’ failure to comply with its refund policy and provide transportation as contracted.

The Attorney General seeks $17,882 to refund the Kermit and Crum field trips, a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for every violation of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and a court order prohibiting the defendants from engaging in the business of arranging or selling charter bus services, booking travel or any related travel service.


►  I-79 construction to be completed by ‘first part of August

Harrison County residents and those traveling through North Central West Virginia will only have to put up with traffic jams and delays on Interstate 79 for another month, according to a West Virginia Department of Transportation official.

Brent Walker, director of communications for the Department of Transportation, said the department has paid Triton Construction an “incentive” to complete work on several bridges between Anmoore and Lost Creek by the “first part of August.”

“We have worked with the contractor to expedite that,” he said. “We have offered an incentive that will allow them to expedite that project. We were looking at another 45 days, but we think this is going to be a really big help.”

The incentive allows Triton to add more workers to the project, Walker said. However, the amount of the incentive will not be released until the project is complete.

“I don’t know what it will end up costing us to do that,” he said. “Those numbers won’t come in until work is completed. I don’t know the specifics of the incentive. They can come in several forms, but I don’t know the details of how they contracted this.”

The construction project, occurring between mile posts 111 and 117.5 in the northbound and southbound lanes, began in early April.

The decision to undertake the renovation of multiple bridges was an attempt to save time and money, Walker said.

“We are trying to be efficient,” he said. “What we had decided to do with some of those was to take advantage of the timing and clump those together.”

The savings from grouping the projects together should outweigh the cost of paying to speed up completion, Walker said.

“They didn’t cancel themselves out; it still will have saved us some money,” he said.

However, Walker said he did not know how much money was saved by grouping the projects together.

Having multiple bridges in need of repair in close proximity is a unique situation that required affecting a large portion of the interstate, Walker said.

“This particular project has to do with bridge decks,” he said. “You’re not going to have, probably very often, that many bridge decks in a 4- or 5-mile area. That’s just how it worked out, and it made sense to do that.”

The number of vehicle accidents related to the delays could be reduced if drivers were more aware, Walker said.

“We’re having a lot of accidents and a lot of fender-benders,” he said. “At some point, and we’re not saying across the board, those are preventable,” he said. “Fender-benders and those things are oftentimes a sign of distracted driving or just not paying attention.”

Anmoore Police Chief Don Quinn said many drivers seeking alternative routes around the delays are traveling through Anmoore.

“In particular, when crashes occur up there, we get a great deal of spillover that tends to come to our municipality to try and get around those crashes. It does create a problem,” he said. “When they have one or two wrecks up there, people immediately get off the interstate and start traversing through Anmoore to get around it and expedite their arrival elsewhere.”

Many drivers traveling though the town are driving unsafely, Quinn said.

“I guess because of lack of familiarity with the speed limits of Anmoore — it is 25 miles an hour — a lot of people are speeding through here,” he said. “That becomes a problem for our citizens, as well as the police department.”

Quinn said he expects the increased volume of traffic to affect road conditions in the town.

“I would certainly think that the more these roads are traveled, the more depreciation of the roads will occur,” he said. “There’s a great deal of potholes, and that increase in traffic is definitely going to make it a little bit worse.”


►  Lewis Commission increases dispatch fees for Gilmer County and city of Weston

The Lewis County Commission approved a contract Monday between the Lewis-Gilmer 911 Center, the Gilmer County Commission and the city of Weston for non-emergency dispatch fees.

It includes a 10-percent increase in fees that have not been raised since 1994, County Administrator Cindy Whetsell said.

The annual contract for dispatch services only will be $38,500 for Gilmer County and $39,600 for the city of Weston.

“This does not include administrative lines for Glenville State College, which were never a part of the contract,” Lewis-Gilmer 911 Director Bill Rowan said. “It excludes after-hour non-emergency calls for the college.”

The contract does not cover emergency or 911 calls, which are funded by landline and wireless phone fees through an ordinance, Whetsell said.

The contract is in effect for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and must be signed by both of the other parties to be executed, Whetsell said.

In other business, the commission clarified a new policy agreed upon last week regarding the retiree health care subsidy.

“The subsidy will not affect current employees,” President Pat Boyle said. “However, there will be changes due to years of service.”

Employees must have tenure of at least 10 years — eight years for the sheriff — in Lewis County to be eligible for the retirement subsidy, effective July 01. Transfers from other counties or state offices will not count toward tenure.

“All new employees hired July 01 or after will not receive the subsidy,” Boyle said.


►  Flags to be Lowered for Former West Virginia Delegate

Governor Jim Justice has ordered that state flags be lowered Tuesday on state buildings at the West Virginia Capitol Complex and in Monroe County, home of former Delegate Mary Pearl Compton.

Groves Funeral Home says Compton died Wednesday in Fairlea after a long illness. She was 86. Her service is Tuesday in Union.

Justice said in a news release that flags should be displayed at half-staff from dawn until dusk on the day of Compton’s service.

Compton was a retired educator and was in the House of Delegates from 1988 to 2002.


►  West Virginians to vote on highway bonds in October

West Virginians will vote October 07 on Governor Jim Justice’s plan to issue bonds to support about $3 billion in projects to repair and rebuild state highways and bridges.

Justice says he believes it will pass and would be “a terrible mistake” for people to not want better roads, thousands of jobs and the economic boost he says the state needs and would get.

The Legislature agreed to hold the referendum and separately to immediately boost the state’s road repairs, supported by an increase in the gasoline tax of 3.5 cents a gallon that takes effect July 01.

Another bill, signed Tuesday by Justice, gives authorization to the state Parkways Authority for construction bonding and setting tolls for the West Virginia Turnpike including an $8 annual fee for passenger vehicles.


►  6 arrested at Charleston office of Senator Capito

Six people demanding Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito vote against the Senate GOP leadership’s proposed health care overhaul have been arrested at her office in Charleston.

Organizers say the six, all Capito constituents, arrived about 11:30 a.m. Monday and were arrested about 5:30 p.m. for refusing to leave after the building was closed.

They said they would stay until Capito declared her opposition.

Ashley Berrang, spokeswoman for the senator, said that Capito is “continuing to review and working to improve the health care legislation released last week.“

The sit-in was organized by Rise Up West Virginia, the West Virginia Citizens Action Group and the Kanawha Valley Democratic Socialists of America.

They say at least 170,000 West Virginians will lose their health coverage under the Senate plan.

ICYMI™: Gilmer County’s 2016 Drinking Water Quality Report

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

What is the quality of your drinking water?

What are new developments and initiatives conducted by the Gilmer County Public Service District?

Where does your water come from?

How is it treated?

The answers to these questions and more are included in the 2016 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, the latest report issued by GCPSD.

Click HERE to review and print the report.


06.27.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

So the prison wants a second water line?
Suppose all customers will have a rate increase to pay for that?

Funny to read Thrasher engineer state that a ‘second line is better than a water truck’?
Right.  Thrasher gets no bucks if a truck is bought.

By citizen  on  06.27.2017

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Recovering WV Addicts Fear for Future If Healthcare Bill Passes

The Free Press WV

One of the big issues in the current healthcare debate is what will happen to Medicaid support for substance abuse treatment. Some in West Virginia say they’re afraid losing it could kill them.

Bailey Hendricks is a single mother from St. Albans, and a recovering opioid addict. She credits substance abuse treatment with saving her life. She said if Medicaid no longer covered the treatment, it would likely be a death sentence for many.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen to all of us,” Hendricks said. “We’re all going to be turned out into the street. Most of us are probably going to die. I don’t even understand why it’s even a thought that they would take it way from us.“

Substance abuse treatment was added to the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. That expansion would be rolled back over time in the GOP bill to repeal the ACA now being debated in the Senate.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito has said she intends to defend funding for substance abuse treatment, but has not said how she plans to vote on the legislation.

In the House bill, known as the American Health Care Act, Medicaid funding would be slashed by 25 percent over ten years. The Senate bill would take longer, but it uses a formula most expect would actually result in deeper cuts.

Unless a specific provision for substance abuse treatment is added, it’s likely those cuts would force states to end Medicaid support for Suboxone clinics like the one Bailey goes to.

“The Suboxone program saved my life. And if they take this part of the healthcare out and I lose my treatment, there is a big uncertainty in my future,” she said.

Bailey said most people have no idea how hard it is to break an addiction. She said the difference between how she was before treatment and now is like night and day.

“Sitting in jail and having my 3-month-old at home was devastating for me,” Bailey said. “And it has completely changed my life. I have my own vehicle, my own house. I have a lot of responsibility at work.“

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to pass the repeal-and-replace legislation by the end of the month. Capito’s is one of the key votes he would need to do that.

More information is available HERE .

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Savings are a Good Start in Fighting Disability Fraud

The Free Press WV

One of life’s little pleasant surprises is reaching into an old coat pocket and finding a few misplaced dollars.

Even better is keeping millions of dollars in the pockets of taxpayers, which is exactly what my office’s Social Security disability fraud unit was created to do.

Since the Mountain State established a Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit in December 2015, it has netted $4.4 million in savings from benefits not paid to those who would try to cheat the system. Our efforts prevent stealing from taxpayers and mucking up the works for those who are in genuine need.

The Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit (CDIU) generated $1.9 million in savings in the first quarter of 2017—nearly as much as the total savings generated in the unit’s entire first year.

The CDIU is staffed by investigators and an analyst from our office whose salaries are covered by the federal government. They work diligently to reduce Social Security fraud in partnership with the Social Security Administration, its Office of the Inspector General and the state’s Disability Determination Section.

The unit assists in making informed decisions and ensuring payment accuracy, a formula that will continue to generate significant savings into the future. The return on our invested time and effort, in just a few months, has been tremendous.

Those who lie about having a disability rob the poor, disabled and retired.

Rather than keeping the money in Social Security coffers, these thieves contribute to the potential exhaustion of available funds for those properly receiving benefits. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are spent on those who need it most.

Just as our disability unit demonstrates, I am also committed to reducing fraud, waste and abuse in all areas of government.

As a state, we also need to more aggressively pursue Medicaid fraud.

Our state’s approach has left millions on the table for far too long. For instance, a September 2013 performance audit revealed 171 backlogged referrals within the existing unit operated by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Of those cases, 23 were dated as far back as five years with reports that suspicious billings can remain uninvestigated for years.

That is totally unacceptable.

It is the prime reason why I continue to urge the Legislature to transfer our state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to our office. Such a move would fix deficiencies in the existing unit and bring West Virginia in line with the rest of the nation as 43 of 50 units are housed within the state attorney general’s office.

The potential savings in rooting out Medicaid fraud, coupled with the tremendous kickoff to our disability unit, can lead to significant budgetary savings and greater economic development for West Virginia.

The $4.4 million in savings already generated by our disability unit demonstrates our aggressive approach to fighting fraud works.

By continuing this crucial fight we secure the disability program for those who need it the most, while also identifying and punishing those who would steal from their neighbors.

Our success helps keep millions of dollars in taxpayers’ pockets. That is one of the ways we will help West Virginia reach her full potential.

Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.

The Free Press WV

St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiilary Holds Annual Recognitin Dinner 2017

President Carolyn Hornbeck welcomed everyone and introduced Hospital Administrator, Skip Gjolberg. 

Gjolberg gave the Auxiliary an update on the hospital and its transition into the UHC/WVU Medicine family. 

Hornbeck then presented the hospital with a check for $10,000 from funds raised by the Auxiliary.

The Free Press WV
Karen Trent, Patty McComas, Carolyn Hornbeck, Beverly Reger and UHC Auxiliary Coordinator Denise Steffich


Pins were presented in recognition of hours of service to:

  • 15,500 hours: Shirley Lewis
  • 7500 hours: Colleen Simmons
  • 5500 hours: Carolyn Hornbeck
  • 3000 hours:  Vonnie Hager
  • 2500 hours: Esther Dyer
  • 2000 hours: Boots Marino
  • 1000 hours: Cathy Debarr
  • 500 hours: Patty McComas and Beverly Reger
  • 100 hours: Geraldine Howard

Denise Steffich, Auxiliary Coordinator at UHC, installed the new officers for 2017-2018.

They are:

  • Carolyn Hornbeck, President
  • Pat McComas, Vice President
  • Beverly Reger, Secretary
  • Karen Trent, Treasurer

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  WVDEP Offering Training on Natural Gas Electronic Permitting

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is offering free in-person training on the G70-D General Permit Electronic Submission System (ESS) for the natural gas industry and consultants.

The training session will be held Tuesday, July 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at WVDEP headquarters in Charleston.

An ESS portal is being developed for the G70-D Natural Gas Production Facilities Class II General Permit registration application. The training will detail how to properly complete an electronic application, which will be available August 01.

Seating is limited and is being offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. To register, email Jennifer Rice at no later than Friday, July 21.

For more information on WVDEP’s ESS, go to https://apps.dep.wv.gov/eplogin.cfm.


►  Most Elkview Mall Stores Returning After Bridge Repair

A bridge that was washed out in flooding last year is being replaced at a mall in West Virginia, and almost all of the businesses are expected to reopen.

The representatives of the businesses and rent documents from Crossings Mall owner Tara Retail Group indicate 23 of the 26 businesses open at the Elkview mall when the June 23, 2016, flood occurred are expected to reopen.

The new bridge is expected to be ready to cross in July.

The bridge connected hundreds of West Virginia residents to their workplace, but bankruptcy sparked legal battles and delayed the repairs until a federal bankruptcy judge approved a bridge financing plan.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says the return of most of the businesses shows the community’s resiliency.


►  West Virginia Expert Offers Tips to Avoid Tick Attacks

A West Virginia University Extension Service expert wants to help residents of the state avoid attacks by ticks this summer.

Entomology specialist Daniel Frank says three things that can help are mowing grass frequently, trimming trees and using insecticide when appropriate.

The university says the most common tick varieties found in West Virginia are lone star tick, blacklegged tick and American dog tick.

Frank said in a news release from the university that one good way to avoid tick-borne diseases is to inspect your body regularly for ticks. If one is found, just remove it and kill it.

Frank says the longer an infected tick is attached to the body, the more likely it becomes that it could transmit a disease-causing pathoGeneral He says with Lyme disease, for instance, ticks would have to be attached at least 36 to 48 hours.


►  YouthBuild assists WVDNR with Shavers Fork River trout habitat project

Students with Elkins-based YouthBuild North Central recently worked with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program to restore fish and wildlife habitats at the site of the historic logging town of Spruce, near the head of the Shavers Fork River. Since the old town was abandoned and demolished in the 1940s, the site had remained largely unforested.

With the cooperation of the State Rail Authority, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, Cass Scenic Railroad, Snowshoe and landowner Steve Callen, DNR and West Virginia University led an ambitious reforestation project at the remote site, with a primary goal of improving trout habitat in Upper Shavers Fork.

Two dozen students and staff from YouthBuild North Central worked with DNR and WVU staff on the project. They planted, limed and fertilized more than 2,600 trees and shrubs over the course of a week in May.

The goal of YouthBuild is to give young adults the tools to find and keep a good job. YouthBuild helps young adults become responsible members of their families and communities by strengthening their educational backgrounds, teaching them marketable skills and entrepreneurship, and instilling leadership values that relate to home, work and community. YouthBuild participants earn money while they get valuable hands-on work experience.

David Thorne, a DNR Fisheries biologist who oversaw the project, explained that the reforestation effort was focused on establishing fast-growing trees on riverbanks to shade the water and reduce water temperatures to levels preferred by trout. Riverbanks on both sides of more than a mile of Shavers Fork and a tributary received plantings during the project. Thorne praised the work of the YouthBuild participants as essential to the effort.

“Our planting window was very tight and we simply could not have completed this ambitious project without the great work of YouthBuild,” Thorne said.

This work is reinforced with classroom instruction, job shadowing and personal guidance. GED preparation and testing is another key component of the program. Out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 are eligible to apply.

The program, which lasts between six and 10 months, is funded from a variety of state, federal and nonprofit grants. More information can be found online at the YouthBuild website: rchawv.org/youthbuild/youthbuild-3.html.

The goal of the DNR Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program is to enhance aquatic habitats for fish and anglers. The program is funded with fishing license revenue, federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and frequent grant funding from the National Fish Habitat Partnership. The WVU Natural Resource Analysis Program is an integral partner with DNR in the statewide habitat effort.


►  EQT moves to next phase of shale gas strategy

The Marcellus Shale gas revolution is moving out of its first phase of growth at any cost and is transitioning to its second phase of focusing on shareholder returns.

That’s the philosophy EQT Corp. is taking following its announced $6.7 billion acquisition of Rice Energy. Once it closes, the acquisition creates the largest natural gas drilling company in the nation based on fourth-quarter 2016 production numbers.

The deal also triples EQT’s pipeline capacity to move gas from Appalachia to customers and ports on the Gulf Coast.

“It is my belief that we are in the second phase of the shale gas — I guess you can call it revolution. And the high-growth models of the first phase I don’t think are going to work in phase two. We really need to be focused on creating real value and getting that value directly back to shareholders,” EQT President and CEO Steve Schlotterbeck said June 19 in a conference call with investment analysts following the announcement of the merger.

“We will have to determine what the appropriate growth rate is, but that growth will likely be certainly within cash flow and most likely below our cash flow so that we can return cash to shareholders,” he said. “And we will have to study what the best method of doing that is, whether it’s share buybacks or reestablishing a meaningful dividend. But I think it’s critically important that we get there really as soon as practical.”


The Deal

Under terms of the deal, each Rice shareholder will receive 0.37 of a share of EQT stock, plus $5.30 in cash for each share of Rice. EQT will issue $5.4 billion in equity, pay $1.3 billion in cash and assume about $1.5 billion of Rice’s net debt and preferred equity. EQT’s shareholders will own 65 percent of the combined company, and Rice will nominate two directors to EQT’s board.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter. In it, EQT acquires 187,000 acres of Marcellus Shale from Rice in Greene and Washington counties in Western Pennsylvania. It also acquires 64,000 acres of Upper Devonian Shale in Pennsylvania, 105,000 acres of Utica Shale in Pennsylvania and 65,000 Utica Shale acres in Ohio. Rice has no acreage under its control in West Virginia.

EQT also acquires Rice’s midstream assets, which it will drop down to its own midstream operation after the deal closes.

“This transaction brings together two of the top Marcellus and Utica producers to form a natural gas operating position that will be unmatched in the industry,” Schlotterbeck said in the company’s news release announcing the acquisition. “Rice has built an outstanding company with an acreage footprint that is largely contiguous to our existing acreage, which will provide substantial synergies and make this transaction significantly accretive in the first year.”

Most of the acreage EQT acquires from Rice is contiguous with acreage EQT controls in Pennsylvania. Schlotterbeck said the consolidation of acreage will allow wells to have longer laterals.

“This transaction is driven by our strategy to significantly improve returns on invested capital and capture capital and operational synergies, driven by a 50 percent increase in lateral length in Greene and Washington counties,” Schlotterbeck said in the conference call.

“By extending laterals from 8,000 to 12,000 feet, the well returns will increase from 50 percent to 70 percent at a $3 NYMEX gas price,” he said. “We also will capture operational efficiencies through sharing of technical data and best practices, rig allocation, pad sites, water, access roads, etc.”


WV Impact

Although Rice has no holdings in West Virginia, but its experience in drilling in the Utica Shale in Ohio could help EQT’s test drilling of Utica wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Utica has drilled at least one Utica shale well in Wetzel County and has plans to drill another. It has also drilled Utica wells in Greene County.

EQT executives have said they want to get the cost of their West Virginia and Pennsylvania wells in the Utica down to the point they are competitive with Marcellus wells.

In the call, Schlotterbeck talked about what the Rice properties in Pennsylvania could do for EQT once the deal closes. He would not say how EQT will allocate its capital expenditure money next year. The deal won’t close until the fourth quarter, so it does not affect this year’s cap ex plans. Next year’s cap ex plan won’t be decided and announced until December, Schlotterbeck said.

One analyst asked about EQT’s plans for further development in West Virginia and Ohio, given its enthusiasm for what the deal means for returns in Pennsylvania.

“It will depend on the returns that are available in all of those areas,” Schlotterbeck said. “So, when we do our business planning, that will be one of the primary drivers.

“Ohio is pretty contiguous acreage and fairly long laterals. So, I think it’s got a good job to compete. And West Virginia, the consolidation efforts we’ve had over the past year have allowed us to lengthen laterals pretty considerably. So, there will certainly be areas in West Virginia, particularly when you include the liquids-rich areas of West Virginia that we won’t have in Pennsylvania.”

Schlotterbeck said from an economic standpoint, there will be areas in West Virginia that have shorter average laterals, but equivalent returns.

“So, I think there’ll be a place in our development strategy or development plans for that,” he said.

All three states will have a place in EQT’s cap ex plan for next year, but analysts can expect to see a strong focus on the core areas of Pennsylvania “where we have some excellent rock and the significant synergy potential between the two sets of assets,” Schlotterbeck said.


Looking Forward

“We’ll be weighing all of the factors and determining exactly when we get there and how far we go,” Schlotterbeck said.

“But I think it’s important for a company our size and in this phase of the shale gas economy, I guess I’d say, to start looking at more moderate growth rates, generating profits and returning those profits to shareholders.”

Schlotterbeck said that’s where EQT is headed throughout the next several years.

“I’m a strong believer that the grow-as-fast-as-you-can-at-any-cost model, while probably necessary early in the shale revolution, doesn’t work anymore and isn’t going to work anymore,” he said. “And for a company our size, you know, that’s far too risky of a strategy. So, we’re going to be more prudent. We’re going to have a moderate growth rate. …

“I think we will have the leading natural gas cost structure in the country with a long, long runway of opportunity. And I think that will generate the ability to grow at pretty attractive rates while giving cash back to shareholders. I think it’s going to be a pretty attractive value proposition.”    ~~  Jim Ross ~~


►  Swearengin prepares for campaign fight against Manchin

Paula Jean Swearengin spent the first 12 years of her life in Wyoming County before moving to North Carolina. She said she still remembers the color of the water she drank and bathed in prior to her move.

“Our water was orange with a blue or purple film. People called it ‘copper water’ back then,” she said. “Later it was tested, and it was acid mine drainage.”

“I thought my hair was red until I was 12 years old.”

Swearengin — whose grandfather, father, stepfather and uncle were coal miners — said coal mining has been damaging to her family and communities across the state.

“I’ve seen the regression, the boom and bust,” she said. “I’ve buried a lot of my family members because of coal. If they are still around, they are suffering from black lung.”

Swearengin moved back to West Virginia in 2001 after her grandfather was diagnosed with black lung disease. That spurned Swearengin to researching and advocating against mountaintop removal, going to political town halls and reaching out to elected officials about providing clean resources.

All of this led to Saturday when the 43-year-old, single mother-of-four Swearengin was handing out fliers and knocking on doors in Charleston as part of a canvassing event for her 2018 U.S. Senate campaign. Swearengin said after years of advocacy, something else had to be done.

“It’s gone on deaf ears,” she said. “We’ve had community support, but we haven’t had any support from our leadership.”

One of those political leaders is Senator Joe Manchin, who Swearengin is challenging for the Democratic nomination.

“He’s made it clear that he serves the coal industry and not coal miners and their communities,” she said. “It’s obvious that our leaders are not going to do anything and when coal is gone, we really don’t have a plan ‘B.’ We deserve a diverse and equal and fair economic infrastructure.”

Manchin and Swearengin have crossed paths before; when he was governor, Swearengin said she raised concerns directly to him regarding water quality in the state. After Manchin was elected to the Senate in 2010, Swearengin continued adding pressuring, attending forums and similar events Manchin held across the state.

That includes a town hall last February in South Charleston. Swearengin said she only knew about the town hall an hour before it began, and drove 75 minutes from her Coal City home to attend. She stood in line next to a coal miner waiting to talk to Manchin.

“When I got up to talk to him and I told him we deserve clean and safe jobs, he tried to put the coal miners and the crowd against me, saying we would have to agree to disagree,” Swearengin recalled.

“My family has died to power this nation, and he acted like he was immune and angered because we were begging for clean water.”

Swearengin said she has not contacted Manchin’s office since, adding there is no use after so many attempts.

Swearengin launched her campaign on May 9 in a Facebook video. In the video, she talks about the dangers of the state’s economy being based heavily on coal.

“We have to invest in ourselves, and we have to fight back,” she said.

Swearengin was then contacted by Brand New Congress, a political action committee formed by volunteers and staffers from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. The Independent Senator won West Virginia’s Democratic Primary, beating eventual candidate Hillary Clinton 51 percent to 36 percent.

Swearengin is one of 14 candidates the organization is supporting, and the only Senate candidate currently under its banner.

At the canvass Saturday, volunteers were wearing purple shirts with Brand New Congress’ logo, which underneath read “Paula Jean 2018 for U.S. Senate, West Virginia.”

Justice Democrats, another political action committee, is also supporting the ticket.

Swearengin said she is not “against the coal miner,” but rather the silence regarding coal mining’s effects and its future. In the state’s current Democratic Party, however, she has not found a leader to guide West Virginia to a post-coal economy.

“Ken Hechler was a true public leader, a true Democrat,” she said. “He protested against mountaintop removal. He got arrested for West Virginia. He was a true public servant, and I admire him for that.”

Hechler died in December 2016 at the age of 102. Prior to his death, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as West Virginia Secretary of State. He was arrested in 2009 with 29 other marchers protesting coal mine sludge ponds in Boone County.

Another person Swearengin said she admired was Sanders, who she met during a March 2017 visit to McDowell County. She was seen Sunday at a Charleston rally Sanders spoke at regarding the Senate Republican health care legislation draft.

“Paula Jean 2018!” some yelled before Sanders took the stage, resulting in some audience members applauding.

Swearengin said Saturday she felt Sanders had real solutions to address the United States’ prominent concerns.

“People voted for Donald Trump because they are desperate to feed their children, but (Sanders) was the only one giving us real promises,” she said.

She added while Trump has repeatedly offered to bring back mining jobs, getting rid of regulations like the Stream Protection Rule is not the best solution.

“People will die from that. People will get cancer from that,” she said. “And what do we have to offer people? Still no jobs.”

Chuck Nelson was one of the dozen volunteers who walked door-to-door Saturday. A former coal miner who spent 29 years underground, he argued something has to be done regarding coal.

“I know how these companies and politicians treat the miners and the people of West Virginia,” he said. “Joe Manchin is a friend of the industry. He likes to paint the picture like he cares for the miner.”

Nelson said he met Swearengin through mountaintop removal activism.

“I remember when she first came on board and started this fight with us,” he said. “Paula has just turned into one of those leaders not only in our community but everywhere she goes.”

“She cares about people and the future of West Virginia.”

Swearengin said like Hechler someone needs to stand up for the average West Virginian.

“He was a hellraiser, and that’s the thing our leadership needs to know,” Swearengin said. “We have fought generation after generation of labor struggles. It’s not going to end in this generation. I’m a hellraiser, too, and I’m going to fight back.”

Swearengin is not the first person to announce their 2018 plans; Manchin and Representative Evan Jenkins, R-WV, have announced plans to run for Senate.

Former coal miner Bo Copley released a video in announcing May his intention to capture the Republican nomination, and an official campaign kickoff is scheduled for Monday.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in early June a decision regarding plans to challenge Jenkins and Copley will come in the next two months.


►  State School Building Authority Meeting Report

State School Building Authority member Tom Lange criticized SBA Executive Director Frank “Bucky” Blackwell and state School Superintendent Steve Paine Monday for a recent development involving the Nicholas County school system.

During Monday’s SBA meeting, Lange spoke out and said he didn’t like the way Blackwell and Paine worked together on an alternate proposal to the Nicholas County Board of Education’s consolidation plan.

“I just support letting the local boards of education do what they have to do in working in conjunction with the SBA,” Lange said. “Not the SBA developing plans for the (state Board of Education) and surprising them saying, ‘Here it is,‘” Lange said.

The Nicholas BOE voted in March to consolidate Nicholas and Richwood high schools along with the county’s technical center into one school. The plan also would combine Summersville and Richwood middle schools. The June 2016 flood destroyed three schools.

The state Board of Education refused to approve the plan at a meeting earlier this month and instead heard an alternate plan from SBA Director of School Planning and Construction Scott Raines. The plan would consolidate Richwood Middle and Richwood High into one school while merging Summersville Middle and Nicholas County High into a separate school.

Lange said the Nicholas County BOE should have been involved in the discussions of the alternative plan instead of it hearing about it for the first time at the state BOE meeting.

“Our executive director (Blackwell), who has been here for four months, he has our staff put a plan together without any knowledge to the Nicholas County Board of Education–that’s not fair to them,” Lange said. “I’m not for consolidation one way or another, I’m just defending the right for the (local) boards of education to do what they have to do.”

Lange said he is concerned the Nicholas County move may erode the trust other county superintendents have in the SBA.

“There’s a trust factor involved, ‘Do we trust the SBA to go along with our plan and if they haven’t are they going to surprise us and not share with us?’ That’s my concern–we have to be open and transparent,” Lange said.

Also during its meeting Monday, the SBA agreed on the allocation of $6.7 million to 10 school districts for Major Improvement Projects (MIP) funding. Fayette County received the most at $1 million for a project at Oak Hill High School.


06.27.2017
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Public Service Announcement…One of the best methods, “which the state will not mention” to control ticks, is to control the host varmints in your back yard. As a victim of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in my youth, I would not wish that on you, your children or grandchildren. Besides the fact it can damage your internal organs, the most intense part is the rash on your feet and ankles, and no amount of calamine lotion will help. It gets so bad sometimes, you are tempted to dip your feet in boiling water.

By Trespasser Will  on  06.27.2017

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Critics Attack “Bailout of Dirty, Expensive” Power Plant

The Monongahela Power Company is asking ratepayers to pay more to bail out a Marion County power plant that critics charge is dirty, already expensive and damaging to the air, land and water.

Customers currently pay a bit above the market rate for the Grant Town Power Plant because the small power station was designed to burn waste coal – low-energy gob from old mines.

But Jim Kotcon, chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, says Monongahela Power is asking the Public Service Commission to make ratepayers pay even more to keep an especially dirty power plant running, and keep its operators out of bankruptcy.

The Free Press WV
The Grant Town Power Plant is in the middle of a contentious argument at the West Virginia Public Service Commission.


“Mon Power really doesn’t need that generation, and they certainly shouldn’t have to force their customers to pay higher rates in order to keep that plant on-line,“ he states.

Monongahela Power argues that it does need the generating capacity and that Grant Town is helping to clean up an environmental issue.

Kotcon argues the environmental benefit is “marginal at best,“ and Grant Town is one of most expensive and polluting power sources in West Virginia.

Kotcon says if the PSC agrees to another in what is becoming a series of the coal plant bailouts, ratepayers would pay about twice the rate that wholesale electricity could be bought for off the grid. In return, he says they sustain a power plant that has some of the highest air pollution numbers in the West Virginia.

“Some of these gob piles are getting cleaned up, but at the same time they’re creating new mines that require reclamation,” he stresses. “In addition the ash leads to leaching of salts and heavy metals and other problems going into the water.“

The fly ash from Grant Town is being applied to mine remediation sites to reduce acid mine drainage.

But Kotcon points out the ash from gob is high in heavy metals, which are free to leach into the surface water from the old mines. He says there are cheaper, cleaner options that are less of a risk than the already subsidized Grant Town plant.

“Even at that inflated price, they are on the verge of bankruptcy,” Kotcon points out. “It is certainly not one that is competitive, given how cheap natural gas or wind power or even solar power would be.“

Grant Town supporters say closing the power plant would be hard on the community and the 170 employees. The proposal would raise the cost of power from the plant by 14 percent.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

HEPC Reports Increase In Student Success Rates Following Education Reform

The Free Press WV

More Mountain State students are succeeding in college thanks, in part, to an overhaul in the way entry-level courses are taught. Earlier today during a meeting of the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), state officials announced that recent efforts to reform developmental, or “remedial,” education are helping more students pass first-year math and English courses.

Historically, one in four students at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities has been required to take developmental math or English classes because their high school grade point averages (GPAs) or entrance exam scores were below the threshold at which students are considered ready for college-level work. These courses, which typically do not count toward a degree, often lead to students’ dropping out of college.

“In the past, developmental education too often has led to a dead end for students,” Dr. Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor, said. “It’s discouraging, because not only are they taking and paying for classes that don’t count toward their degrees, but they often are being asked to re-learn information at a snail’s pace. Our new model of administering remediation allows students to catch up quickly and maintain momentum toward earning a college diploma.”

Working closely with Complete College America, HEPC and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System (CTCS) have worked with the state’s public colleges and universities to redesign developmental education using a “co-requisite model.” The new format provides students who have low GPAs or test scores with extra help, such as required tutoring or extra lab classes, while simultaneously allowing them to complete college-level coursework that counts toward their degrees. West Virginia is one of just five states to implement the model across the entire public higher education system.

Data presented during the HEPC meeting showed that the redesign has resulted in a major boost for course completion rates. For example, at Fairmont State University, the number of students completing entry-level math jumped from 28.1 percent to 81.8 percent after the school switched to providing co-requisite courses. Similarly, pass rates in English at West Liberty University jumped from 46.4 percent to 90.7 percent. And institutions across West Virginia are seeing similarly impressive results.

“Ultimately, we expect this to have a major impact on college graduation rates,” Dr. Corley Dennison, HEPC’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said. “Instead of completely re-teaching a subject to students who may only need a bit of extra help, we are able to enroll them in the credit-bearing class and then pinpoint areas in which their knowledge and skills are lacking. That saves our students time, money and unnecessary frustration — and reduces barriers that may have previously prevented them from earning a degree.”

Dr. Hill said the new model is also a more cost-efficient method of offering classes.

“Previously, our colleges and universities had to dedicate faculty, space and class time for an entire semester to conduct high-school-level courses in order to prepare students for college work,” Dr. Hill said. “Now we are integrating the developmental work into first-year college courses and utilizing existing campus services, such as tutoring and faculty office hours, to offer extra support for the students who need it.”

The CTCS was one of the first higher education systems in the nation to test the co-requisite model of developmental education. The model is now nationally recognized as a best practice in state higher education policy.


06.26.2017
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If West Virginia K - 12 public education were effective….there would be NO need of higher education to remediate students?  Would there?

HEPC self edifying horn blowers?

By More DOE lip service?  on  06.26.2017

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Alzheimer’s Disease Was Highlighted On Longest Day Of The Year

The Free Press WV

With the longest day of the year upon us, many are thankful for the extra daylight hours; but for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, every day can seem like the longest day of the year.

That is why the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alpha Omicron Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority have come together to raise awareness and provide support for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their families.

“The Longest Day is really an opportunity to shine a light on Alzheimer’s,” said Christy Day, vice president of Alpha Omricon Omega. “We are hoping that people and families suffering from Alzheimer’s can come and share their stories and give a sense of hope to those who may not be as far along on the journey.”

Day said she has a personal history with the disease, as her father suffered from it.

“My father had dementia and when we first realized what was going on it was devastating,” Day said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 39 percent of residential care community members had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in nursing homes that number rose to 50 percent. Alzheimer’s disease was responsible for 93,541 deaths in 2014.

West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association member Nikole Kinder said over 37,000 people in West Virginia alone suffer from the disease.

“This disease is truly something that affects your whole family,” Kinder said. “Family members have to reduce work hours, take on extra stress, stretch their finances, and be a caregiver.”

Kinder said the 37,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s amounts to about 107,000 caregivers, most likely a family member, that are usually unpaid.

Day said the goal of the event is simply to help the community understand that there are resources to support families dealing with this disease, and that they do not have to go on the journey alone.

Day said experiencing the disease for the first time with her father was a terrifying ordeal.

“One of the first signs we experienced was that he didn’t realize my sister had passed,” Day said. “Instead of cowering in our fear, we realized it wasn’t going to get better. Our family worked together to come up with a plan, and that is my advice.”

Day said the situation can be tough, but self-pity will not help anyone.

“You are where you are, whether it be fair or not fair,” Day said. “Get some help and get a plan because you are going to be better off in the long run.”

The event will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Grace Bible Church on Kanawha Boulevard.

Families affected by the disease will have a chance to get together to sing and give personal testimonies and advice. Information about Alzheimer’s disease will also be presented.

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