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Consumers Are Reminded to Protect Information When Filing Taxes

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminds consumers to be cautious and to protect personal information when preparing and filing the necessary tax documents this year.

Sensitive information like Social Security numbers, finances, birthdays and addresses are some of the many things scammers could easily use to their advantage.

“Scammers know tax season comes at the same time every year,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “They could be waiting in the wings to take advantage of the available information. That’s why it’s extremely important to be mindful of how you handle the information and who handles it on your behalf.”

Consumers can greatly reduce the risk of fraud by filing their return well before the deadline. This gives thieves less time to file a false return since IRS records would show a return in the consumer’s name has already been filed. They also should use a secure Internet connection and never file their return via publicly available wi-fi.

Additional tips include:

  • Never carry a Social Security card, banking information or any other personally identifiable information in a wallet. Keep such documents in a secure location.
  • Cross shred documents. Identity thieves rummage through trash to find information.
  • Be wary of suspicious emails that look legitimate, however are meant to steal personal information.
  • Know the Internal Revenue Service does not contact taxpayers via text message, email or social media.
  • Be aware that unsuspecting victims of tax-related identity theft often receive a letter from the IRS saying it received multiple tax returns filed in the victim’s name or indicate the taxpayer received wages from an employer he or she doesn’t know.

Anyone who receives a letter from the IRS indicating potential impersonation should immediately call the agency’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1.800.908.4490.

Consumers who believe they may be the victim of tax-related identity theft should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1.800.368.8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304.267.0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

Frontier Communication….

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Frontier Won’t Return $4.7M in Broadband Funds to WV

Frontier Communications won’t give back any of the $4.7 million in stimulus funds that the federal government says the state overpaid Frontier as part of a statewide project that aimed to expand high-speed internet, the company told state officials this week.

A federal agency recently ordered the state to return the misspent funds paid to Frontier. The U.S Commerce Department’s payment demand followed an inspector general’s report that found Frontier padded hundreds of invoices with extra charges, and the state improperly reimbursed Frontier for those “unreasonable and unallowable” fees. Federal grant rules barred the state from using stimulus funds to pay such project costs.
In a letter to state Chief Technology Officer John Dunlap this week, Frontier asserts that any funds that state might return to the federal government “are, of course, not recoverable from Frontier.”

Frontier cites a “memorandum of understanding,” signed by the company and state officials, in which the state agreed to use federal funds to pay Frontier for overhead costs – the same expenses the feds now say were prohibited under the grant rules. Frontier said it only signed on to the statewide broadband project after state officials agreed to reimburse the company for all costs – “both indirect and direct,” the letter states.

Frontier also disputed the federal government’s determination that the state must return $4.7 million, urging the state to file an appeal.

“To avoid the waste of millions of West Virginia taxpayer dollars, the [state] should appeal,” wrote Mark McKenzie, a Frontier engineer who oversaw the company’s role in the project,

In 2010, the federal government awarded West Virginia $126.3 million in stimulus funds to expand high-speed internet to schools, libraries, health clinics and government buildings. The grant money included $42 million for a fiber cable network.

The state asked Frontier to install 915 miles of fiber cable to hundreds of public facilities across the state, but scaled back the project to 675 miles. Nonetheless, the state paid Frontier the entire $42 million initially set aside for the project. Frontier finished the project two years ago.

The company improperly tacked on $4.24 million in extra charges to pay for administrative costs, according to the federal report. Frontier labeled those charges as “loadings.”

Another $465,000 in improper payments went to Frontier to process invoices, the report says.

State officials have told investigators that a federal broadband grant administrator gave the state the go-ahead to pay the extra fees. But the federal administrator has denied saying that. The inspector general’s report cites a “miscommunication” between the federal broadband agency and West Virginia officials.

The feds have not directed the state – nor Frontier — to return the stimulus funds.

“As you know, the [state] agreed to pay Frontier for its indirect costs , regardless of whether those costs were eligible under the grant,” Frontier said in it letter to the state.

State officials have declined to say whether they plan to appeal.

The federal government’s $4.7 million payment demand could grow even higher.

The Commerce Department also cites findings that Frontier misled the public about the amount of unused fiber cable – called “maintenance coil” – the company installed across the state. The extra cable, which is stored at public buildings and used for repairs drove up the broadband expansion project’s cost.

Frontier placed 49 miles of spooled-up, unused fiber cable in West Virginia, four times the amount the company had disclosed to state officials.

The feds ordered state officials to find out whether the extra coil was included in the total miles of cable the state claimed that Frontier built with stimulus funds. The state also was directed to get an “explanation from Frontier for the reason it misrepresented the maintenance coil mileage to the public.”

In the letter to Dunlap, Frontier said it didn’t mislead anybody.

In 2013, at the state’s request, a Frontier employee gave an estimate of the amount of extra fiber the company planned to set aside — and bill the state — for maintenance. But the employee was “unaware of factors that often caused the proportion of maintenance coil to be higher,” the company said. Those factors include an “engineer’s judgment,” terrain, the site’s condition and the height of poles used to string the extra coil, according to Frontier’s letter. The employee also told a state official that a “more accurate estimate could be determined” by reviewing engineering maps of the project.

Frontier acknowledged the 49 miles of spooled-up, extra coil was included in its 675-mile total of fiber the company installed across the state, according to the letter to Dunlap. The state wound up paying about $240,000 more for coil compared to the employee’s initial estimate, the letter says.

Last year, Citynet sued Frontier for allegedly stifling competition in West Virginia and using the federal stimulus funds to build a broadband network that solely benefits Frontier. Frontier has disputed the allegations, characterizing Citynet as a disgruntled competitor with a six-year vendetta against Frontier, which is headquartered in Connecticut.

While the state paid Frontier $42 million in federal stimulus funds to bring high-speed fiber service to more than 1,000 public buildings across West Virginia, nobody seems to know how many facilities are using that fiber today.

On September 18, Dunlap posed that question to Frontier. The company wrote back that the state selected the sites, and Frontier doesn’t monitor which public facilities now use the federally funded fiber cable.

Eric Eyre

Opinion: Oil and Natural Gas: A West Virginia Solution

The Free Press WV

West Virginia history shows the success of the tried and true custom of leveraging our abundant natural resources to not only generate revenue statewide, but to lower unemployment and boost the quality of life for our residents.

West Virginia needs to take a stand and increase its recognition of the potential to once again be the leader within the oil and natural gas industry. West Virginia currently ranks 8th nationally in both the number of workers supported by the industry and in total natural gas production, coming in behind Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

So how do we put West Virginia at the forefront and leverage every advantage to not only put more residents to work, but increase funding to our local communities and create a better future? And, how do we decrease out-migration of both the young and old due to lack of hope for gainful employment?

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released a report identifying that the West Virginia oil and natural gas industry supported 70,900 jobs and added $8 billion to the state economy in 2015.  However, we still are experiencing an unemployment rate higher than the national average and an inability to compete with the policies and regulations of neighboring states. What is the solution?

The answer lies in reasonable regulations and progressive legislation. The industry currently has restrictions that are hindering its ability to remain competitive with Pennsylvania and Ohio. West Virginia is not growing at the same pace due to its non-competitive drilling laws. By comparison, last year West Virginia natural gas production increased by 4.3 percent while Pennsylvania saw a 9.37 percent increase. This five percent deficit represents the loss of opportunity for West Virginia to realize tremendous investments in wells and accompanying infrastructure and in the creation of much needed, high-paying new jobs.

We must embrace the potential we have before us, which creates a larger impact through the expansion of downstream opportunities and a dramatic increase of jobs in West Virginia and across the entire Appalachian Basin. 

West Virginia’s legislators must recognize that natural gas development represents the single best hope for resolving the issues which plague our state and allow the economic activity it spawns to give hope to West Virginians. Policy reforms must be made to allow the natural gas industry to reach its fullest potential and create jobs.

~~  Charlie Burd - Executive Director, IOGA WV ~~

Mylan Announces $465 Million Settlement Over Whether Epipen Qualifies as Generic

The Free Press WV

The pharmaceutical company Mylan has announced a $465 million settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over its EpiPen auto-injector products.

The conflict was over whether Mylan misclassified EpiPen as generic to avoid paying Medicaid rebates to the federal government.

Under the settlement, Mylan will reclassify EpiPen for purposes of the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and pay the rebate applicable to innovator products, effective as of this past April 01.

Mylan had earlier indicated that a settlement was reached but today was the first day it was confirmed by the government.

As Bloomberg reported, some U.S. lawmakers criticized the deal as not tough enough on the company.

“As we said when we announced the settlement last year, bringing closure to this matter is the right course of action for Mylan and our stakeholders to allow us to move forward,” Mylan chief executive officer Heather Bresch stated in a news release.

“Over the course of the last year, we have taken significant steps to enhance access to epinephrine auto-injectors, including bringing a solution to the fast-changing healthcare landscape in the U.S. by launching an authorized generic version at less than half the wholesale acquisition cost of the brand and meaningfully expanding our patient access programs.”

Bresch is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, and Gayle Manchin, the secretary of Education and the Arts in Governor Jim Justice’s administration.

She and Mylan have been under scrutiny over the price of Epi-Pen for much of this past year. Mylan acquired the rights to the shot-delivered medicine in 2007 and then raised the price roughly six-fold.

“Mylan has always been committed to providing patients in the U.S. and around the world with access to medicine, and we look forward to continuing to deliver on this mission,” Bresch said in the news release.

The settlement does not contain an admission or finding of wrongdoing.

Mylan also has entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The settlement provides resolution of potential Medicaid rebate liability claims by the federal government, as well as by some hospitals and other covered entities, such as rival drugmaker Sanofi, which sued Mylan last year.

“It was our contention that Mylan’s intentional misclassification of EpiPen allowed them to amass hundreds of millions of dollars which they then used to finance their anticompetitive behavior in the marketplace,” Sanofi said in a statement Thursday.

The settlement allocates money to the Medicaid programs of all 50 states and establishes a framework for resolving all potential state Medicaid rebate liability claims within 60 days.

Medicaid gets a 23 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 13 percent discount on generics.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service indicated that EpiPen had been classified incorrectly as a generic since at least 1997, both by Mylan and previous makers.

The Justice Department claimed in its lawsuit that by misclassifying EpiPen as a generic product rather than a brand name, Mylan profited at the expense of Medicaid, the government’s health-insurance program for the poor.

“Taxpayers rightly expect companies like Mylan that receive payments from taxpayer-funded programs to scrupulously follow the rules,” said William Weinreb, the acting U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts.

WVONGA to Push Again for Mineral Efficiency

The Free Press WV

Natural gas production in West Virginia is not growing as much as it is in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The head of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association blames it on noncompetitive drilling laws.

Specifically, that means West Virginia lacks laws allowing joint development and co-tenancy.

WVONGA will try again in the next legislative session to secure those two items, said Anne Blankenship, WVONGA executive director.

“WVONGA will advocate again in 2018 for the West Virginia Legislature to pass a mineral efficiency bill that will resolve the issue when 100 percent of the mineral interest owners do not consent to the development of oil and gas,” Blankenship said last week. “In many instances, a fraction of one percent of the mineral interest owners can prevent the development of oil and gas against the will of the super majority.

“Our surrounding states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, have laws in place to address this issue, and production is increasing at higher rates in those states than in West Virginia. To become competitive with these states, West Virginia must pass similar laws.”

Co-tenancy would allow drilling when 75 percent of owners of a tract agree to allow development of mineral rights, even if the other 25 percent do not approve or cannot be located. Joint development would allow drilling companies to use horizontal drilling to extract natural gas under land using leases that were bought when shallow, vertical wells were the only drilling technology available.

Both practices have been opposed by landowner rights organizations and the West Virginia Farm Bureau.

Senate Bill 576, which addressed joint development and co-tenancy, passed the state Senate this year but died in committee when it moved to the House of Delegates.

EQT is one of the largest drillers and producers of natural gas in West Virginia. In a recent conference call, EQT CEO Steve Schlotterbeck referred to what he called West Virginia’s “antiquated” oil and gas drilling laws and regulations when discussing EQT’s capital expenditure program and how it plans to drill more in Pennsylvania than in West Virginia.

An EQT spokesperson confirmed that Schlotterbeck was referring to the lack of joint development and co-tenancy in West Virginia.

After this year’s regular session of the Legislature ended, Schlotterbeck said EQT can drill wells with longer laterals in Pennsylvania than it can in West Virginia because of joint development and co-tenancy. He also said West Virginia’s laws are wasteful of natural gas. Because the company cannot drill laterals in West Virginia that are as long as those in Pennsylvania because of co-tenancy restrictions, some gas that could be recovered here is not recovered, he said.

Blankenship’s comments came as WVONGA compared production in West Virginia counties last year. Blankenship said Doddridge County (334,486,963 cubic feet) was by far the largest natural gas producing county in 2016, producing about 334.5 million cubic feet, followed by Wetzel County with 208.7 million.

The next four counties ranked by production were: Marshall, with 143.1 million cubic feet; Ritchie, with 130.8 million; Harrison, with 128.3 million; and Tyler, with 120.9 million.

Statewide, West Virginia wells produced nearly 1.35 billion cubic feet, up about 2.5 percent from 2015, Blankenship said.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, West Virginia’s natural gas production last year increased by about 56.3 million cubic feet, or 4.3 percent. Pennsylvania’s production increased by 450.99 million cubic feet, or 9.37 percent.

Ohio overtook West Virginia in production by producing about 44.5 percent more gas than in 2015, according to the EIA.

~~  Jim Ross ~~

UHC’s Three Germ-Zapping Robots Been Named

Environmental Service Employees Win $100 Gift Cards

United Hospital Center (UHC) recently announced that it has the most Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots in West Virginia. The three robots are being used to enhance environmental cleanliness by disinfecting and destroying hard-to-kill germs, bacteria, and superbugs in hard-to-clean places.

The Environmental Services team participated in a contest to name all three of the robots, as these modern marvels of technology are also included as part of the cleaning team at UHC. Each of the following contest winners received a $100 gift card to the cafeteria:

    • Brenda Morrison with the name “UHC3PO”

    • Karen Minnear with the name “Elroy”

    • Chris Owen with the name U.S.H.E.R. (Ultra Sanitation Healthcare Efficient Robot)

The Free Press WV
Pictured from left front row: Brenda Morrison, Environmental Services, contest winner; Karen Minnear, Environmental Services, contest winner; Chris Owen, Environmental Services, contest winner; Pictured from left back row:  Dr. Mark Povroznik; chief quality officer, vice president of quality; Beth Bond, MBA, BSN, RN, CIC, infection preventionist manager; Annetta Payne, RN, CIC, infection preventionist; and Brian Fijewski, MBA, director of environmental services.


“This was a great opportunity to engage with our Environmental Services staff that is responsible for the room cleaning program,” said Dr. Mark Povroznik, chairman of Infection Control at UHC. “The entire Environmental Services team, including the robots, is critical in the implementation of ultra violet room disinfection.”

Each person could submit up to three names for the contest, as a total of 30 names were submitted. The committee of judges from the UHC Personnel Action Committee (PAC) selected the three winning entries.

“If not properly cleaned some spores, such as C-diff, can live on surfaces for up to five months,” said Dr. Povroznik. “Upon a patient discharge, Environmental Services will clean the room as they would normally and then they terminally clean a room with one of the robots. These robots are just the latest step in UHC’s effort to prevent infections.”

IOGAWV Selects Leadership for 2017-18

The Free Press WV

Marc A. Monteleone, general counsel to WACO Oil and Gas Co. and a partner in the law firm of Bowles Rice, LLP, has been elected to lead the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, Inc. (IOGAWV) as its president for 2017-2018.

Joining Monteleone on the leadership team are Vice President Brett Loflin, Northeast Natural Energy LLC, Secretary-Treasurer Jim Pritt, Enervest Operating, LLC and Immediate Past President Scott Freshwater, ConServ Inc./Reserve Oil and Gas, Inc.

The Free Press WV
Marc A. Monteleone


“I am truly humbled and honored to serve as president of IOGAWV for the coming year,” Monteleone said. “I am ready to work hard and help our members meet the challenges of energy production, environmental stewardship and job creation.”

Monteleone concentrates his practice in oil and gas law, commercial law, federal and state taxation, construction law and real estate development. He has extensive experience in managing oil and gas operations and is the owner of Mountain Lion Enterprises Inc. and Tygart River Oil & Gas, LLC. He serves as general counsel to Waco Oil & Gas Co., Inc., where his duties include overseeing Marcellus Shale exploration, negotiation of gas sales contracts and supervising mineral acquisitions. In addition, he represents many large and small oil and gas production companies. He has an extensive real estate practice in land use and development law, representing both large and small developers proposing commercial and residential projects.

He previously served on the board of directors of IOGAWV from 2010-2013 and served as secretary/treasurer from 2011-2013.  He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from West Virginia University and his masters of law in taxation from New York University.

“IOGAWV is the largest natural gas and oil association in West Virginia, serving all producers in West Virginia,” Monteleone said. “I have large shoes to fill following President Scott Freshwater. He did an outstanding job of leading this organization and expanding its services to the producer community. Luckily, Scott serves another year as immediate past president, so I get to work alongside him and continue many of the initiatives he began this year. He is an amazing person and leader and his dedication to our membership is truly inspiring.”

Frontier Offering Higher Speeds, Discounts as Result Of $160 Million Settlement

The Free Press WV

Frontier Communications’ $160 million settlement with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has led to increased internet speeds and discounts for approximately 40 percent of customers affected.

Frontier Communications entered into the settlement to resolve complaints about internet speeds provided to its customers.

“This agreement already has improved connectivity for thousands of West Virginians, however significant work remains,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey’s office, between 2013 and 2015, received multiple complaints from customers paying for Frontier’s high-speed service, which advertised internet speeds up to 6 megabytes per second. The subsequent investigation found many customers expecting internet speeds “up to 6 Mbps” frequently received speeds 1.5 Mbps or lower.

The discounted monthly rate set bills for approximately 27,500 affected customers at $9.99.

Those with further questions can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

Natural Gas Production Up for A 13th Straight Year in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Although the price of natural gas has been low for several years, production in West Virginia continues to grow stronger.  The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association reports for a 13th straight year, production increased in West Virginia, setting a new all time high in each of those years.  The increase for 2016 is only about 2.5 percent, but according to Association Executive Director Anne Blankenship, that’s still a positive.

“That is all due to the investments made in this state and the advancements in technology which allow our drillers to produce natural gas more efficiently,” she said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.

Improved technology allowed for increased gas production without drilling additional gas wells.  The industry looked at those developments as positive since they reduce the footprint of the industry and its environmental impact.  But, according to Blankenship while West Virginia is seeing increased production, the level of increase pales in comparison to neighboring states.

“The disappointing part is we’re not increasing nearly as much as Ohio and Pennsylvania. ” Blankenship said. “Both of those states have mineral efficiency laws in place.  Ohio has pooling.  Pennsylvania has joint development and co-tenancy. Ohio saw a 43 percent increase in 2016.  Obviously they are doing something right there that we don’t have here.”

The legislature gave the gas industry a cool reception to those mineral efficiency proposals during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, but Blankenship said despite failure of the legislation, progress was made and the industry hoped to keep up the momentum in next year’s session.

“There’s always a lot of education that needs to be done,” she said. “This is not a ‘taking of property rights’ it is a ‘basic majority rules’ concept so we can be in line with surrounding states.”

Blankenship added the lack of any of those efficiency laws along with a relatively high severance tax causes West Virginia to be viewed unfavorably by companies considering drilling in the Mountain State.  Many simply choose to cross the state line and set up according to her.

“We have nothing in place to deal with the inefficient manner in which we are having to produce right now,” Blankenship said. “That’s affecting our ability to bring in companies willing to drill in West Virginia.”

Judge Orderes EQT to Show Formulas Used in Royalty Payments

The Free Press WV

A Judge has ordered EQT to produce the documents and formulas its royalty owners have asked for in a dispute dating back to 2013.

The suit, filed four years ago by the Kay Company LLC and other lessors, accused EQT of improperly deducting post-production costs from their royalty payments.

EQT had been ordered by federal Magistrate Judge James Seibert to produce the information, despite the company’s characterization of the request as “unduly burdensome.“ EQT also contended the data was “protected work product.“

But U.S. District Judge John Bailey affirmed Seibert’s ruling in a 13-page order filed July 18. In it, Bailey noted that EQT had claimed there are “so many individual types of lease language that a class is improper and unmanageable.“

“This court is not totally convinced that the resistance is meritorious in that West Virginia has limited the categories of leases,“ Bailey wrote, pointing out the lessors were “seeking information as to how (EQT) classifies the numerous leases in the payment of royalties.“

“These attempts have been thwarted or delayed by the actions of the defendants,“ Bailey wrote. “For example, when asked about a list by which the defendants determine how to pay royalties to the various lessors, (EQT) took the position that such a list did not exist or that the list was work product. This court found such a position untenable.“

Bailey cited the transcript from the magisterial proceeding, in which Siebert had asked the lawyers who, at EQT, makes a mathematical calculation on how to pay and was told, “they look at it lease by lease.“

“Finally, after over four years, someone has admitted that they have two or more formulae for calculating royalty payments,“ Bailey wrote. “As a corollary, therefore, the defendants have to have a list as to which leases are determined by which formula.“

EQT’s legal team could not be reached for comment.

What Happened When Walmart Left

In West Virginia, the people of McDowell County can’t get jobs, and recently lost their biggest employer – the local Walmart store.

They describe the devastating loss of jobs, community and access to fresh food
The Free Press WV

When Walmart left town, it didn’t linger over the goodbyes. It slashed the prices on all its products, stripped the shelves bare, and vanished, leaving behind only the ghostly shadow of its famous brand name and gold star logo on the front wall of a deserted shell.

The departure was so quick that telltale signs remain of the getaway, like smoldering ashes in the fireplaces of an evacuated town. Notices still taped to the glass entranceway record with tombstone-like precision the exact moment that the supercenter was shuttered: “Store closed at 7pm, Thursday 28 January 2016.”

Ten years. That’s all the time it took for the store to rise up in a clearing of the lush forest of West Virginia’s coal country and then disappear again, as though it had never been there.
The Inequality Project: the Guardian’s in-depth look at our unequal world

But for the people of McDowell County – proud country folk laboring under the burdens of high unemployment, low income and endemic ill health – even such a fleeting visit to this rural backwater by the world’s largest retailer had a profound impact. Both in the arrival, and in the hasty leaving.

Wanda Church was present for both of these book-ends of the Walmart story – one of a few workers who helped set up the store in October 2005 and then gut it 10 years, three months and two days later. She remembers the feeling of excitement and expectation as they stocked the supercenter for the very first time, turning it in just 20 days from an empty building into a teeming cathedral of retail capitalism.

“It was amazing what we were able to do, stocking the shelves from nothing to full in such a short time,” she said, talking as she waited for her car to be repaired at a gas station over the road from the disused store. As if to underscore her enduring attachment to the corporation, she was wearing one of her old Walmart T-shirts.

She was there at the supercenter, too, on that fateful day last year when she and her fellow Walmart workers walked out of the store for the last time. “We were all crying. It was a sad day for a lot of people. It was a sad day for me – I spent more of those 10 years at Walmart than I did at my own home.”

Much has been written about what happens when the corporate giant opens up in an area, with numerous studies recording how it sucks the energy out of a locality, overpowering the competition through sheer scale and forcing the closure of mom-and-pop stores for up to 20 miles around. A more pressing, and much less-well-understood, question is what are the consequences when Walmart screeches into reverse: when it ups and quits, leaving behind a trail of lost jobs and broken promises.

The Free Press WV


The subject is gathering increasing urgency as the megacorporation rethinks its business strategy. Rural areas like McDowell County, where Walmart focused its expansion plans in the 1990s, are experiencing accelerating depopulation that is putting a strain on the firm’s boundless ambitions.

Hit hard by the longterm decline in coal mining that is the mainstay of the area, McDowell County has seen a devastating and sustained erosion of its people, from almost 100,000 in 1950 when coal was king, to about 18,000 today. That depleted population is today scattered widely across small towns and in mountain hollows (pronounced “hollers”), accentuating the sense of sparseness and emptiness.

The Walmart supercenter is located about five miles from the county seat, Welch, which still boasts imposing brick buildings as a memory of better times. But the glow of coal’s legacy has cooled, as the boarding up of many of the town’s shops and restaurants attests.

When you combine the county’s economic malaise with Walmart’s increasingly ferocious battle against Amazon for dominance over online retailing, you can see why outsized physical presences could seem surplus to requirements. “There has been a wave of closings across the US, most acutely in small towns and rural communities that have had heavy population loss,” said Michael Hicks, an economics professor at Ball State University who is an authority on Walmart’s local impact.

On 15 January 2016, those winds of change swept across the country with a fury. Walmart announced that it was closing 269 stores worldwide, 154 of them in the US. Of those, 14 were supercenters, the gargantuan “big boxes” that have become the familiar face of the company since the first opened in Missouri in 1988.

One of those supercenters was in McDowell County.

“It was a big thing for people round here when Walmart pulled out. People didn’t know what to do. Young people started leaving because there’s nothing for them here. It’s like we’re existing, but not existing.”

The words are spoken by Henrietta Banks, 60, who lives just up the hill from the mothballed supercenter. We’re sitting in her front room where she spends much of her time in a hospital bed that has been set up for her as she is treated for congenital heart disease.

She remembers the excitement when the supercenter opened. “People welcomed it with open arms, we needed the jobs,” she said.

But in the end the expectation that Walmart would usher in a new, better era for McDowell County proved illusory. Her late husband Arthur, a former sharpshooter in the US Army who died in 2010, worked as a greeter at Walmart for a few years. He took the job largely in the hope of securing healthcare insurance for Henrietta, but he was told that coverage wasn’t part of the package, and the couple had to make do with Medicaid.

Their daughter Nicole, 25, is sitting beside her mother holding her hand. She works as a corrections officer in a nearby prison, but her dream is to become a therapist.

Given her mother’s health issues, Nicole Banks tries to compensate for Walmart’s departure by seeking out fresh fruit and vegetables in the surrounding area. But it’s not easy. The nearest replacement store, Goodsons, is too expensive, she says, and other Walmarts are an hour’s drive away along Appalachian roads that are as tightly coiled as the copperhead snakes that live in the local forest.

Already, she spends half her $1,200 post-tax monthly salary on car insurance and repayments, and gas for the long drive for groceries eats into the little that is left. So she and her mom grab food where they can, opting for less pricey meals of hamburgers or spaghetti rather than fresh salad that takes another big chunk out of her income.

It’s not great for her mother’s health, but then Nicole thinks that’s typical for McDowell County people since Walmart left town. She has noticed that processed foods seem popular again; there are long lines again at the local McDonald’s.

“There’s a lot of people getting sick since the store closed because they’re not getting the right diet. It’s sad to me, but bad food is cheap.”

Nicole Banks is the first person in her family to go to college. With a degree in sociology, how would she sum up the impact of Walmart leaving?

She pauses to think for a while, and when she replies, she does so with unexpected vehemence. “It’s ridiculous,” she says. “People round here can’t get healthcare, they can’t get jobs and now the good food has gone. We are not getting our basic needs met. People are dying young.”

Banks is not exaggerating. Of the 3,142 counties in the US, McDowell County comes in at No 3,142 in terms of life expectancy. For men, that’s 64 years, a statistic that, as Bernie Sanders likes to point out, is the same for men in Namibia.

Clearly, such endemic health problems cannot be laid exclusively at the door of Walmart. But for Sabrina Shrader, a community organizer who was born and bred in the area, it provides the context for understanding the effect of the corporation’s decision, and that of its controlling family, to pack its bags and quit.

“The Walton family are billionaires,” she said (also no exaggeration – their collective worth is put at about $150bn). “They developed a system that just made us worse off, and then they took even that away from us.”

McDowell County forms part of the largest mixed mesophyte forest in the world, a relic of the ancient woodland that once covered much of North America. Wherever you look, majestic sugar maples, hickory, oaks and tulip trees tower overhead, hugging the steep slopes of the Appalachians.

It was into this stunning setting that Walmart descended in 2005 on the site of an old Kmart, like the spacecraft of alien botanists that lands in the forest at the start of the movie ET. And there it sat: a massive gash of concrete encircled by nature’s abundance.

Peep into the glass doors of the front of the store and you can start to appreciate the brutal simplicity of the Walmart concept. There is nothing inside its windowless walls, just 103,000sq ft of air. A Walmart supercenter is no more, no less than the name implies: a big box, an empty stage on which to wave a magic wand and summon up a million retail dreams.

Pack it with 80,000 products, and the people will come. Not just from all over McDowell County, but from far beyond. Over the 10 short years of the supercenter’s existence, many of those people grew dependent on it in so many ways.

Top of the list of dependencies: jobs.

“It’s all about jobs,” says Melissa Nester, publisher of the local newspaper, The Welch News, which sells 4,500 copies three times a week and doggedly refuses to have a website. “Dollar stores have picked up some of the trade left by Walmart, but they haven’t created many jobs.”

At its peak, Walmart employed 300 people in the McDowell County supercenter. That was down to about 140 by the end, but it still made it the largest employer in the area.

Wanda Church has been unemployed since that day when she cried as Walmart’s doors were closed for the last time; the company offered her a night shift at the next store along, but she couldn’t stomach the hour’s drive either way and wasn’t prepared to leave her home. Other employees felt they had no choice and are either commuting long distances or have relocated to work at other Walmart outlets, some as far off as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, some 375 miles away.

There were knock-on effects, too, for local businesses that used to tender to workers and shoppers drawn into the area by the supercenter. Restaurants in a radius of several miles from the store complain of empty tables, while houses and shops in its close vicinity are now up for sale.

“It has affected this place real much, nobody stays here no more,” says Jessie Swims, 67, sitting on a bench at the Big Four motel across the road from the supercenter, drinking a soda. Swims has lived in one of the motel’s 15 rooms for the past five years, paying $600 a month out of his retirement money. Big Four used to be full, he says, now most of the rooms are empty and it too has been put on the market.

After jobs, taxes are the next things to go. The town of Kimball in which the supercenter is located used to receive $145,000 a year in taxes from Walmart, and when that went it had to cut back its workforce and put all remaining staff on a four-day week.

The county government also lost $68,000 in taxes, most of which went to schools, and all its staff were given a 10% pay cut. “All Walmart was interested in was how many millions of dollars they made, they weren’t interested in helping the community,” says McDowell County commissioner Gordon Lambert. “When they didn’t make the profit they wanted, they left.”

Walmart’s total revenue in the year in which the company closed the McDowell County store was $485.9bn.

I asked Walmart why it quit McDowell County. A spokeswoman said that closing a store was never easy, but it was “a necessary part of keeping a business healthy and positioned for future growth”. A number of factors had driven this particular decision, she said, including “financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans”.

The company had worked with all the employees who had lost their jobs to find them suitable transfers or give them severance pay. “We look forward to continuing to serve our Kimball area customers when they visit our stores in Bluefield, Princeton and MacArthur,” she said, (without referencing the hour’s drive.)

Economic losses are only one aspect of the hurt felt locally as a result of Walmart’s passing. There is something intangible, less material – and more chilling – about the fallout, something that seems to flow from the dependency the people of McDowell County developed on the retail magic conjured up inside that big box.

The Free Press WV


It’s touched upon by Wanda Church when she tries to explain why she cried that day. It was because, she says, she lost her family when Walmart closed.

Her family?

“The people I worked with, I relied on them if I needed help. The customers, they were our family.”

You hear it from Darrell Williams, 42, a truck driver picking wild raspberries on the side of the road to make a fruit cobbler. He recalls that his twin boys acquired their nicknames inside the supercenter. “My kids grew up in there. They called them the Screamers, because they used to scream if they didn’t get what they wanted.”

For Dan Phillips, Walmart was a way of coping with bereavement after his wife died a few years ago. “If you were lonely and had nothing to do, you’d go to Walmart to talk to folk. It was a great social network.”

Being a schoolteacher, Phillips has a theory for what happened when the store closed. “Socialization. We lost our socialization factor. Now it’s hard to keep track of people, there’s no other place like it where you can stand and chat.”

There was something else Phillips lost with Walmart’s departure. To illustrate the point, he reaches into his red pick-up truck and pulls out a loaded Para Ordnance Warthog .45 handgun and waves it at us, telling us not to freak as the safety is on.

“Bought this in the Walmart parking lot,” he says. “Guy sees me reading a gun magazine and asks me was I carrying. He offered to sell me the Para warthog and I got it for $775.” Phillips took his new possession home and added to his collection of 140 firearms.

“They screwed us real hard by leaving us like that,” he says, reflecting on the various ways his life has changed. “It’s so sad they thought they could just walk away.”

There are some rays of hope piercing through the dense ancient forest of McDowell County. Some families are trying to avoid the long drive to alternative outlets and the heavy prices by growing their own food.

In a hollow on Hensley Mountain, Alma McNelly, 53, affectionately known as “Maw”, and her husband Randy or “Paw”, live with 11 chihuahuas, a cockerel who wakes them at 5am every day and a horse called Snowman. Maw grows cauliflowers, tomatoes, carrots and strawberries. She shares the produce out to friends and family at the end of the pay month when times are lean and people start to go hungry.

She also collects six eggs a day from her brood of wyandotte hens. The only downside is that Paw doesn’t trust fresh-laid eggs unless they’re pickled, so she still has to make a monthly run to a supermarket to get factory-farmed eggs.

Down the road, Deana Lucion, 29, six months pregnant and with her 18-month-old daughter Trinity in her arms, tells us that she has started growing cucumbers, squash, peppers and corn. Her husband Phillip Lucion, 35, also supplements his income as a mechanic in a coalmine by catching trout in the nearby lake.

They make ends meet, but to the couple it’s a constant slog. “We do live in a great place,” Phillip says, “but I feel like a slave sometimes.”

When things get really rough at the end of the month – the money has run out, there are no food stamps left and the petrol tank is dry – people can always turn to the local food bank Five Loaves and Two Fishes run by Linda McKinney and her son Joel. On the third Saturday of the month they supply canned food and daily necessities such as toilet paper to up to 150 people who often sleep in their cars in the parking lot overnight to ensure they receive help.

For the last two years of its existence, the Walmart supercenter provided the food bank with close to 200,000lb of meat, dairy, pies and bread, allowing the McKinneys to increase the frequency of their giving. Now that’s gone, they try to make up for the shortfall by growing tomatoes, arugula and peppers in a greenhouse.

Linda McKinney says that the fresh food they received from Walmart, or “waste” as the corporation classed it, is sorely missed. But, like many of the other residents of McDowell County, she says she also mourns the communal aspect of the supercenter, its quality as a “social hub”.

McKinney rattles off a list of all the community facilities that disappeared from the region in recent years as the population declined and the culture of mega-chains like Walmart took root.

There used to be 28 churches of her United Methodist denomination in the county, now there are six; there were seven bars in Welch, all but one have closed; there were three cinemas, now it’s down to one; there are no community centers left; many of the corner shops have gone. “There’s nothing here,” McKinney says.

McKinney has one other, rather astonishing, reason to regret that the store closed. Walking.

Walking?

“I went to Walmart for the walk,” she says. “I went early and I got a cart and I walked all over the store. I loved walking around it. I would walk and talk, talk and walk. I could walk the store all day.”

That’s a statement that will reverberate far beyond the boundaries of McDowell County, or West Virginia. It could be applied to small towns and rural areas right across the US. This is the statement of communities that have had the communal bled out of them.

Filling the void, as well as helping to create it, came a sparkling new phenomenon: a big box, 103,000 square feet of windowless air, where you could catch up with friends, trade guns, shop to your heart’s content and even take a hike, all within a concrete gash carved out of one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful ancient forests.

And now that too is gone.

~~  Ed Pilkington in McDowell County, West Virginia ~~

What the Gutting of Sears Tells Us About America

The Free Press WV

Sears is fading. Fast. The 124-year-old retailer — the place where all America once shopped — is tumbling into a shopping horror.

At some Sears stores, recent news accounts report, ceilings are collapsing, rats are racing, and toilets aren’t working “for weeks on end.” Job cutbacks and a decade of under-investment have left store shelves bare — and customers on their own.

“You could fire a cannon in any direction and not hit one salesperson,” Michael Looney, a former Sears employee in California, recently told Business Insider.


Lampert’s Way

Meanwhile, the hedge-fund billionaire who’s been running Sears the last dozen years is keeping up a brave front. Eddie Lampert is sticking to his story that Sears is wondrously transforming itself into a “member”-oriented retailer for the online age.

But business analysts have been ridiculing these claims ever since Lampert started making them. They see the Ayn Rand acolyte as an ideologue who’s left Sears “ravaged by infighting.” In 2014, one business media survey found that Lampert had more negative ratings from employees than any other major top exec in America.

By standard bottom-line yardsticks, Lampert’s reign at Sears has been one of the biggest disasters in modern business history. Between 2011 and 2016, the giant retailer’s revenues plummeted by almost half. The company lost $8.2 billion over that span. Over the last decade, meanwhile, Sears stock price has sunk from nearly $200 per share to under $10.

Lampert’s colossal failure at Sears, some observers believe, simply reflects a broader trend, the epochal economic shift from bricks-and-mortar to online retail. Few major enterprises built for success in one business epoch, the argument goes, have ever been able to prosper in another.

But Sears as an enterprise has, ironically, already pulled off an epochal transformation. That epochal shift came in the middle of the 20th century under Robert E. Wood, the West Point-trained, former Army general who led Sears from just before the Great Depression into the 1950s.


What Wood Would Do

Wood understood early on that the automobile had changed the retail landscape. Before the auto age, average Americans had shopped by mail-order catalog, a retail category Sears dominated. With cars a mass phenomenon, Wood realized, shoppers could now drive to shop. The future belonged to general merchandise department stores, and Sears, under Wood, would open up hundreds of them. By Wood’s 1954 retirement, Sears towered over American retail.

Why did Wood succeed where Lampert fails? Sheer genius on Wood’s part? Hardly. The more important factor: Wood understood a basic element of enterprise effectiveness. Successful enterprises share, he believed, both credit and rewards.

Wood didn’t prance about Sears as a self-styled savior. Nor did he tolerate pomposity from anyone else in Sears management. During Wood’s tenure, editors at the Sears employee newspaper regularly ran articles that irreverently teased top Sears execs.

Sears execs would also receive no special perks. Seniority at Sears, not corporate rank, determined benefits like vacation and sick days. General Wood also kept management salaries below their level at other retailers. Wood wanted Sears known as the “workingman’s friend.”

The Sears profit-sharing plan bolstered that reputation. The plan applied to Sears workers who stuck with the company more than a year. Those who worked 15 years would see the company put into the “Savings and Profit Sharing Pension Fund of Sears, Roebuck and Co.” a sum that equaled five times the employee contribution.

These dollars would be invested in various assets, mostly Sears stock, and the assets would pay dividends than went to profit-sharing participants. Veteran employees would routinely receive more from profit-sharing payouts than their wages. Janitors making $40 a week could waltz into retirement with $2,500 in savings.

During Wood’s tenure, current and retired Sears employees would end up holding a third of the company’s shares, the highest employee-share percentage anywhere in Corporate America.

What explains Wood’s readiness to share? Did he grow up in abject poverty? Did he come from a family of progressive political activists? None of the above.

Wood had a conventional, conservative business political outlook. By 1938, he had emerged as a strong critic of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. After World War II, he moved into America’s right-wing fringes.


Unions and Taxes Matter

So why did this right-winger share the wealth at Sears? He had little choice. Robert E. Wood operated in an America where two major institutions — the tax system and the labor market — were combining to make a sharing of sorts the national default.

The federal income tax throughout the mid-century Sears golden years subjected individual income over $200,000 to a tax rate that hovered around 90 percent. That left top executives like Wood with little incentive to feather their own nests. Why bother? They had little personally to gain from squeezing workers or cooking corporate books.

Trade unions, meanwhile, dominated the labor market. In major metro areas outside the South, most private-sector workers carried union cards. But not at Sears. Unions in the mid-century United States represented less than 8 percent of the Sears domestic workforce.

Wood liked things that way. He kept unions away, notes historian James Worthy, by having Sears match the gains unions at other companies were bargaining to win. Sears offered life and health insurance, sick pay, vacations, and separation allowances “long before they became common practice in American industry.”

Sears would be an outlier in the nonunion private sector. Few nonunion concerns worked as hard as Sears to provide economic security to their employees. But most all major nonunion companies — outside the South — made some effort to ratchet up worker pay and benefits. With unions representing such a significant share of the workforce, nonunion concerns had to try to approximate union-level wages and fringes or go without workers.

The result? The bottom 90 percent of American families would see their incomes soar in the post-war years, from a $10,513 average — in current dollars — in 1940 to $20,036 in 1950 to $26,665 in 1960.


Fast Forward

Sears chief Eddie Lampert, by contrast, is operating today in an entirely different economic environment. In huge swatches of the private sector, unions have no presence at all. Lampert has been able to shortchange workers left and right and not worry about any consequences.

And the tax system? The top federal tax rate on income has, over the past three decades, bounced around between 28 and 39.6 percent, less than half the top rate that Wood faced.

In other words, power suits like Lampert can keep, after taxes, the vast bulk of whatever income they can grab. That gives them a powerful incentive to grab, by any means necessary, as much as they can. Lampert has been free, in effect, to run Sears into the ground — and enrich himself in the process.

The most arrogant instance of this enriching? Two years ago, with Sears already on the ropes, Lampert and the hedge fund he also runs created a real-estate investment trust, then engineered a deal that had Sears sell to the trust over 200 of its best brick-and-mortar stores.

Lampert’s real-estate trust then rented space in the stores back to Sears, retaining the right to rent to other retailers as well. The deal guaranteed Lampert’s trust $135 million in rent money the first year and 2 percent annual hikes starting in the second.

Sears does get to cut the lease short on stores that prove “unprofitable,” but only if the Lampert-run retailer pays the Lampert-run trust an extra year’s rent and a year’s worth of operating expenses.

This maneuvering understandably outraged a good many Sears shareholders. They subsequently filed a lawsuit charging that Lampert was stripping Sears of its most valuable assets for his own personal gain.

The Lampert-friendly Sears board of directors vigorously denied that charge, then, this past February, agreed to pay out $40 million to settle the shareholder lawsuit.

Various other shifty moves have left Lampert well-positioned to survive any Sears bankruptcy and continue his lush luxury life. Should Sears go under, Lampert figures to be able to spend more time at his $40-million waterfront getaway on South Florida’s ultra-exclusive Indian Creek Island, a 32-home enclave that has its own mayor and full-time police force.


The Trump Connection

Eddie Lampert, living large at the expense of hard-working men and women of modest means, may just personify almost everything wrong with the modern American economy. He seems like just the kind of “swamp” creature Donald Trump once railed against.

But Eddie Lampert isn’t worrying about anybody draining his particular chunk of swampland, and he has some excellent reasons to feel confident.

Here’s one: Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin didn’t just room with Lampert at Yale and didn’t just get his wheeling and dealing start in life, like Lampert, as a mover and shaker at Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin, before stepping down this past December to join the Trump cabinet, had spent the last 12 years sitting on the Sears board of directors.

~~  Sam Pizzigati ~~

Frontier Files Lawsuit on Broadband Bill Section

The Free Press WV

Frontier, no fan of West Virginia’s plan for broadening broadband coverage, has gone to federal court to block part of a new state law allowing providers to make changes to a competitor’s poles.

HB 3093, designed to expand and enhance broadband coverage in West Virginia, established a state Broadband Council to track broadband service and create broadband expansion policy. It also allows communities or businesses to form broadband co-ops to access federal grant money to extend service, in addition to allowing them to access utility poles belonging to Frontier and other companies.

The broadband expansion bill, signed by Governor Jim Justice in April, was designed to make sure all West Virginians have access to high-speed internet. But during the 2017 legislative session, Frontier insisted lawmakers would be better served to target areas where there is no internet access.

In a suit filed July 07 in Charleston, Frontier said it has no problem with broadband co-ops but contends giving competitors access to other carriers’ poles runs counter to federal law and FCC regulations.

“Frontier supports efforts to expand and improve broadband access in West Virginia. In fact, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars to do just that,“ the company said July 10 in an emailed statement from spokesman Andy Malinoski. “And, we aren’t challenging House Bill 3093’s broadband provisions. Our issue is with House Bill 3093’s technical requirements of all providers, including Frontier, to follow when attaching to utility poles. Those requirements are inconsistent with preexisting federal requirements established under federal law and by the FCC. We’re simply seeking a ruling that the federal requirements prevail.”

The suit names Governor Jim Justice, Public Service Commission Chairman Michael A. Albert and PSC Commissioners Brooks F. McCabe Jr. and Renee A. Larrick as defendants.

Delegate Roger Hanshaw, the Clay County Republican who served as lead sponsor of HB 3093, sees the lawsuit as a smokescreen.

“I know there was some objection to the provision during the legislative session,“ Hanshaw said. “I think it’s important to pause for a minute ... and ask why the Legislature felt it had to pass the law in the first place. It wouldn’t be necessary if (everyone in West Virginia) simply had service; it was adopted because people in West Virginia have no service or inadequate service.“

Hanshaw said it was clear from the start Frontier didn’t like the bill.

“Frontier seems to have taken it as a direct shot at them, (but) we really don’t care who provides service,“ he said. “If Frontier wants to provide service to every customer in West Virginia, they’re welcome to. It’s not about incentivizing or punishing one company or another, it’s about providing the service.

“I don’t care if Frontier has every customer in West Virginia, but if they want that level of customer base they simply need to provide the service. It’s frustrating that the company would rather file lawsuits than provide service.“

Frontier says the new law states companies can relocate or alter equipment on a competitor’s poles without prior notice in some cases, requiring a 45-day advance notice only if the work “would cause, or would reasonably be expected to cause, a customer outage.“ If the existing company doesn’t respond within that 45-day time frame, competitors can make whatever changes they deem necessary.

Frontier insists the provision increases the risk of service interruptions and will make it harder for them to track the source of connectivity problems and says it also could interfere with its contractual obligations with cable television providers.

“Either Frontier will not be notified at all of the location or nature of (the work) or, even where Frontier is entitled to notice, it may not know of the location and type of work until the new attacher actually provides the notice of completion of the work, if ever,“ the company said in the complaint.

But Hanshaw called that “another red herring” and said the bill gives the existing pole owner the right to say no.

“It’s only if they refuse to communicate with the requester that folks can go on their poles (and change connections). All they have to do is say no,“ he said.

Hanshaw also points out internet access is vital in today’s economy, not just for residential users but for business and industries. He said his family operates a small business in Clay County “and there are days we can’t process a credit card sale, the connection is so slow and unreliable. That’s simply inexcusable in this economy.“

“There was some perception by Frontier during the session that (HB 3093) was targeted at their company, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth,“ Hanshaw added. “Truth is, I don’t care who provides service to West Virginia. I do care that it meets the needs I have and my constituents have and West Virginia homeowners and businesses have; that’s not the case now. If they don’t want to provide that service, why in the world would they go to such lengths to prevent people from helping themselves?“

Frontier wants a court order barring the state from permitting others to access their poles, saying the company faces “imminent, irreparable harm” if the provision isn’t struck down.

~~  Linda Harris ~~

Glenville State College Accounting Professor Named President of WVSCPA

Glenville State College Accounting Professor Named President of WVSCPAGlenville State College Associate Professor of Accounting and Chair of the Department of Business Cheryl F. McKinney has been elected President of the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (WVSCPA) for the 2017-2018 year. McKinney was installed during the Society’s Annual Meeting, which was held at The Greenbrier on June 16. She becomes the 99th president of the WVSCPA. It is also believed that McKinney is the first sitting educator or professor in almost forty years to be president of the Society.

The Free Press WV


McKinney is a tenured professor at GSC and has taught accounting courses since 1983. In addition to teaching, she previously operated an independent CPA firm, preparing taxes and providing accounting consultancy to her customers. For a time she also worked for the major accounting services firm Ernst & Whinney (now known as Ernst & Young or, simply, EY). The multitalented McKinney also performs alongside the student and alumni members of GSC’s Percussion Ensemble which is under the direction of her husband John.

“This is a tremendous achievement for Professor McKinney and indicative of the quality of faculty here at Glenville State College. Her election as President of the West Virginia Society of CPAs demonstrates the confidence that the other members of that professional association have in her abilities,” said incoming Glenville State College President Dr. Tracy Pellett. “In the short amount of time that I’ve been at Glenville State, the faculty and staff have truly impressed me with the work they do both on and off campus. I know the rest of the Pioneer family joins me in congratulating Mrs. McKinney on this accomplishment.”

“We are so proud that Cheryl McKinney has been elected President of the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants for the 2017-2018 year. She is the ultimate accounting professor and will serve the presidency with honor and integrity. This new role is a positive reflection on Mrs. McKinney, her department, and all of our faculty as a whole,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Milan Vavrek.

The WVSCPA is the leading professional association dedicated to enhancing the success and professionalism of all Certified Public Accountants in West Virginia and to serving the public by providing financial information and training.

State Computer Consultants Run Up Gigantic Bills

The Free Press WV

West Virginia government officials had a good idea back in 2010—create software that would link all state department computer systems to dramatically improve business functions and the payroll system while also providing more transparency for the public.

Seven years later the system, called wvOASIS, is mostly, but not entirely in place, and the estimated cost has skyrocketed from $90 million to approximately $150 million. The delays and cost overruns are bad enough, but a new report by the West Virginia Legislature’s Post Audit Division reveals the state has spent millions on consultants from Information Services Group (ISG) to provide “project oversight” for wvOASIS.

“Over the life of the consultant relationship with ISG, from May 2010 to January 2017, a total of 31 consultants have billed over $24 million for services rendered,” the report said. “This equates to an average monthly invoice of $299,115 over 81 months.”

Some of the consultants ran up huge bills.  “Since 2010, there have been 29 instances where an individual consultant billed in excess of $40,000 in one month.”  Nine consultants billed the state for over $1 million during the contract. Making matters worse, the auditors could not find any specific details “about times clocked in and out, nor a summary of the work conducted during these hours.”

Let that sink in.  The state spends $150 million on a new computer system and pays $24 million of taxpayer dollars to consultants to run it?  Most damaging is the report’s finding that even after all that time and all that money, the state is still dependent on consultants to process the state payroll.

IT, software support and upgrades are absolutely critical to keep a complicated system operating, so it’s understandable that the state would need continuing help. However, it looks like the taxpayers have been taken for an expensive ride here.

“Due to the size, scope and cost of this project, the inability to verify the accuracy of over $24 million invoiced for 134,867 consulting hours worked is a concerning hindrance to ensuring the state is being invoiced correctly,” the report said.

Well, that’s an understatement.

The Enterprise Resource Planning Board, which is made up of representatives from the offices of the Governor, Auditor and Treasurer, was created to implement wvOASIS, and it’s evident this massive project got away from them. Newly elected Auditor J.B. McCuskey is trying to right the ship.

The state did not renew the contract with ISG and instead has cut a one-year deal with Dataview to finish the wvOASIS installation and train state workers to operate the system. “There was not a real push to train,” McCuskey said, adding that his office is now shifting emphasis from “consultants forever to consultants training state workers.”

The timing of the audit report is significant; it comes as the Governor and state lawmakers are struggling to balance next year’s budget. The concept of cutting government spending further has lost momentum, but this report reveals an area where poor management has cost the taxpayers millions.

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During intervention the State had dictatorial control of our school system to include all decisions related to the GCES.

One result is that the GCES was built too small.

An investigation is needed to determine who was responsible for the bad decision, and what role the no-bid architectural firm had in designing and constructing the school.

Something major happened to cause the GCES to be built too small. Was something dropped at the expense of adequate class room space as a result of having to spend extra money because a poor site was selected?

Minimally, gross incompetency on the State’s part is the explanation for the disaster foisted onto the County.

A question pertains to the new gym. Lots of effort was taken by the State to try to convince the public that a competition gym instead of a regular gym was needed.

Did the competition gym cost extra money at the expense of needed classroom space? If the answer is affirmative who was responsible for deciding on the more expensive gym?

What about the enormous pit at the GCES? Was money spent on it at the expense of classrooms because something was wrong with the school’s site that was selected by the State?

Nothing similar to the pit has been seen at other sites where new WV schools were built.

Why has there been a failure for a thorough investigation to have occurred to expose the facts?

The obvious explanation is that powerful elitists in control do not want tracks leading to them, and they have veto power over a meaningful investigation including one done by a leading newspaper.

By GCES Built Too Small Scandal on 01.15.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Pat McGroyne is spot on.
High speed internet is simply another failure of WV state government.

If the elected in our state, were doing the job expected by voters….we should have very few problems or issues?

By Gilmer resident on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Muddling has another distinct symptom. It is the tendency for administrators in control to emphasize processes and procedures while avoiding disclosure of progress, or the lack thereof, in achieving learning results.

The purpose is another way to avoid personal accountability for school system failures.

By Muddling Epidemic In WV School Systems on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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West Virginia is number one!
Our politicians are the best that can be had.
They are also the lobbyers dream come true.
No one—-can out-muddle our elected reps !

By we know it on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Suggestion after reading strategic plans for the GCHS and the GCES.

How about the school board requiring that for each school an informative executive summary be written to include——where each school stands on reading, math, and science proficiency, what the term proficiency means to eliminate the confusion, student proficiency goals for the two school, target time to expect goals to be achieved, and a statement to commit to keeping the public informed of progress in achieving the goals at designated intervals (e.g. quarterly) during a school year.

Omit confusing abbreviations and technical terms understood only by a select few in the education field, and written for comprehension by reasonable persons.

Leave it up to the County’s professional educators to determine how to get the job done with continual laser-like focus on getting results.

By Student Learning at GCHS and GCES on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Muddling infects federal, state, and local government entities where personal accountability for top officials to get measurable results rarely exists.

Muddling practitioners are famous for passing off information unrelated to measurable proof that effective problem-solving has occurred. A common example is emphasizing how much public money is being spent to attempt to convince tax payers that magnitudes of expenditures are always directly correlated to levels of problem-solving successes.

Muddling by an organization is characterized by the existence of thick planning documents replete with vagueness and lack of clarity, undefined technical terms, and mysterious acronyms.

Muddling thrives on intentional ambiguity and confusion designed to protect muddlers and their organizations.

By Muddling 101 on 01.11.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Gilmer County is not the only place in the USA that has been faced with its students failing to meet proficiency standards for science, reading, and math.

The difference here is that evidence is lacking to conclusively demonstrate that Gilmer County’s officials in control have exerted proper efforts to profit form powerful lessons learned elsewhere to use that knowledge to help solve learning deficiencies in our schools.

In fact, a convincing argument could be made that the approach in the County has been the one professional planners designate as muddling through.

Classic symptoms of muddling through include failure to thoroughly analyze categories of causes contributing to problems followed up by using the information to develop a comprehensive plan to do the most good in getting better results by treating key causes instead of symptoms.

Muddling typically involves officials assigning blame for lack of progress to outside forces e.g., the “culture”, the State did it to us, and poverty. Haven’t we heard plenty of that?

Muddling must be eliminated if we want progress in solving non-performance problems within the County’s school system. Does anyone disagree?

By End School System Muddling on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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It is unclear after reading school board meeting minutes what progress if any is being made by GCHS and GCES principals in improving student proficiency in reading, math and science.

Why not allocate a few sentences in the minutes to summarize what the two principals reported to the school board?

All it would take to get the critical information out to citizens would be for the new school board to act on this.

Does anyone have a problem with the suggested change to keep Gilmer’s bill paying public informed?

By Need Specifics For Principal's Reports on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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“High speed broadband – a necessity for today’s homes, businesses and other institutions – remains a huge unmet need for rural residents, despite promises by a succession of Governors from both parties (a contributing factor in why we’re losing population at a rate higher than any other state).“

I disagree with much of what Mr.Boggs believes.  That said, high-speed broadband is the single most important step the State of WV could take to improve the business climate and provide more opportunities for its citizens.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Conversation at local eatery.
Shortly after election.
Individuals were educators.

‘You think we have school problems now, wait until these new folks take the steering wheel’.

‘Students, parents, staff are all going to be in the soup’.

Sounds as if Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving vacation-deer season times have all taken a big hit.  If that is true, the union teachers need to come together, stand their ground, along with parents, and hold this new board accountable.

Have a local strike if need be.
Request resignations.
Vote of no confidence.

Schools employees can win.
You have done it before.
Just stick together.

By overheard conversation on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Scholarship must be the most important focus in Gilmer County’s schools.

Brought up the ZOOMWV Data Dashboard site to review the most recent State achievement test results for GCHS’s 11th grade.

Folks, Gilmer is in serious trouble. Proficiency for math=24%, reading=41%, and science=24%.

On an A through F grading scales the GCHS gets an F for all three subject areas.

What does the new school board have to show for inroads it has made since last July to make critically needed proficiency improvements at the HS? Citizens deserve answers to the question.

By ZOOMWV Data Dashboard on 01.07.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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A thorough accounting for where all the public money went could be easily achieved by a competent accountant.

Isn’t there a special account at the County’s school board office for expenditures related to all bills paid and who got the money?

Following the money trail always gets results along with verification of means, motives, and access.

By Let An Accountant Dig It Out on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If central office financial records for all public money paid out for everything from site planning, site studies and development, and everything else to get to completion of the GCES and the LES—- what is the reason?

It is known that money was spent on the Arbuckle site and Cedar Creek, and public money was paid out for the LES too.

Were County records for the spending purged and if that happened who ordered the action? The records are either in the County’s central office or they aren’t.

By End Financial Secrecy on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Hasn’t the time come to finally start naming names and making people accountable?

By Get It Done on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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How about the “BIG WV WINDFALL”....?

For 3 or 4 months now we keep hearing about the millions of dollars of tax revenue collected.

Millions and millions above ‘estimates’.  Were those ‘estimates’ honest, or fudged to begin with, so as to request higher tax rates?

Well, Justice and the Legislature now have our dollars, what will become of this windfall? Will we see tax rates lowered?  Doubt full, but we should.

Likely this windfall, created by “over-taxation”, will simply create a “party atmosphere” of legislative spending. Watch the Charleston ‘gangsters’ get their wish lists ready this coming session.

By taxpayers always lose on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Yes.  The blame Does seem to fall to ‘local’ people. In small places like Gilmer County, it’s just a poker game, boys, and the deep pockets win.  Money speaks volumes where ‘officials’ stay silent.  Go ask for the records, see what they’ve got.

By CheatersNeverWin on 11.20.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Teachers and staff knew from the beginning that the GCES was going to be too small. They were ordered by the State to keep quiet about the shortfall and other serious concerns too.

A sixth grader could understood how many rooms were needed by dividing total student numbers to attend the school by how many students should be in a classroom.

Under sizing was the State’s fault and it cannot be rationalized any other way including to assign the blame to local people. Same applies to the over sized LCES.

By Corrupt State Intervention on 11.19.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There will never be a full, public accounting of the gross mishandling of tax dollars during WVDOE intervention.
Too many local jobs and too many embarrassments of both elected and appointed bureaucrats.
These types cover dirt for each other.

Any local whistle blowers?  Doubtful.

One school built short 4 classrooms and another built with 5 too many.  Can it get more stupid than that?
Mr. Degree and Ms. Common Sense seldom travel together.

By Full accounting will never be revealed. Never. on 11.18.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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GCBOE when the two principals give reports at board meeting could the gist of what they said be summarized in minutes to keep the County informed?

It was a welcomed development by the Board to require principals to give reports particularly if there are required updates on progress designed to improve student learning for reading, math, and other subjects.

We still have not been informed about the status of science proficiency at the GCHS based on the latest testing. Why has the State failed to release the data? Were results too dismal?

By More Specifics For Principal's Reports on 11.17.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If it is going to cost extra money to eliminate over crowding at the GCES the financial information referenced by Do It Ourselves should be presented to Charleston and the press too.

That would help frame a solid case that crowding problems were not caused by Gilmer County because all decisions related to facilities were dictated by officials over whom the County had no oversight authority during the State’s intervention.

By Follow The Money on 11.16.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is assumed that all records for spending to include money paid out for the LCES, dropped Arbuckle site, dropped Cedar Creek site, and all bills for the GCES are in the Gilmer Schools central office.

The new GCBOE has authority to get to the truth by demanding a thorough accounting for all the spending.

Afterwards the financial officer in the central office could easily access existing computerized records and to use the information for a report to the GCBOE and the public.

By Do It Ourselves on 11.15.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Notice that most of the ‘officials’ in Gilmer County also hold regular day jobs - sometimes working on more than one paying ‘job’ at a time in the same office space. This common practice is concerning for many reasons, and it needs to be talked about when so many go without.

By QuestionablePractice on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There are two views in the County related to the under built GCES. Although the State built the school with inadequate classrooms one group believes that we should move on to let go of the past.

Isn’t this a form of advocacy for a coverup to prevent accountability for the State’s incompetence and mismanagement?

The other group believes that there should be a full accounting for all public money spent up to the time the GCES was completed to include disclosure of recipients of the public money. 

The accounting should be done for all public money spent at the LCES, the Arbuckle site, Cedar Creek, and finally the GCES.

Reasons for the under built GCES should be fully disclosed too. When the State was in control this information was kept secret from the public with loud claims that there was adequate space at the GCES.

Now it is known that there is inadequate space at the GCES and the problem is left to Gilmer County to fix. Only in WV!

By Citizens For Financial Disclosure on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Unprofessional issues,rude commentsand rolling eyes at the high school has become an issue. Being on cell phone talking to boyfriends,when parents etc.going into the office. Since the teachers were ask not to be on them while students in the classroom. The one in the office should not be allowed to talk personal to her boyfriend, or whoever. Also, I hope this is corrected, the personal days, etc that the board provides to staff shouldn’t be allowed to use to work or operate a second job. Let’s get the priorities straight.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Regular Meeting Minutes'.

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GULMER COUNTY BOE. It is time for me to let you know some issues that is going on at the High school.  I’m hoping this will be addressed at the next board meeting. 1. It should not matter if an employee has a second job or run a business. The priority job is for the board. One should not be allowed to use any time from the board to run your business. There is going on
If they want to run your business than go but not on the boards time. I would like for all employees be treated the equal. They should not be allowed to use the time the board gives them for other jobs.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Regular Meeting Minutes'.

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While at it there should be an investigation of why the LES was build with too many classrooms and the GCES was built with too few. At the very least what happened is a WV horror story example of the State’s waste and mismanagement.

By Where Is The Investigation? on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is obvious that the GCES has a major space problem.

What options for dealing with the State’s mismanagement to cause the serious blunder are being considered by the Board of Education?

Could the original architectural design for the dropped Cedar Creek site be compared to what resulted at the GCES to accurately determine the extent of classroom space alterations?

If the architectural design at the GCES is different than the original plan for Cedar Creek the next step should be to determine reasons for the changes and where the money originally planned for needed classrooms went.

By INFO REQUEST TO GCBOE on 11.09.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It’s long been known that Justice doesn’t happen in Gilmer County “because it all comes down to money”. And for those in charge of handling it and making decisions, it comes down to being competent to do the job,  keep accurate books and accounts and I’m sorry to say, that is seriously lacking in Gilmer County.

By Follow the Paycheck(s) on 11.06.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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What is GSC’s BOG’s plan for getting money for the next payment on the $38,000,000 bond loan the Gilmer County Commission approved?

Will the State pay or will the money come from private donations?

Money will have to come from somewhere to avoid a default.

By Where Is The Money? on 11.05.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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So sorry to hear of Kendall’s passing. I have fond memories of him at Uncle Paul’s store and the family reunions. I’m sure he will be missed greatly by those closest to him.
Please accept condolences from me and my family.

By Steve Lewis on 11.04.2018

From the entry: 'Kendall Goodwin'.

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GSC’s present plight is no secret and its future existence is in question.

Instead of expressing attitudes that GSC is being picked on could the Blue Ribbon Commission reveal why the College “tested out” as it did to fail to get more State money?

Was the “grading system” based on student enrollment trends, retention, time taken to get a degree, academic reputation, inept governance and administration, and other factors to block more funding? Informative specifics were not disclosed.

Teachers know that concerned students who want to do better always seek advice on what needs to be done to get better grades.

Similar to concerned students GSC’s supporters should be informed of what needs to be done to position the College for improved chances for survival to include eligibility for more State funding.

Saying that GSC is being picked on does nothing to help solve its nagging problems.

By What Was The Grading System? on 10.30.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Well thank you, Details Please,  for asking!  So many problems in Gilmer and education is just one.  Look at the town, take a good look around.  Remember who runs unopposed at election time.  Vote.  Make a difference.  Hold authority figures responsible.  Allow videos, minutes and more to be shared on GFP again, for transparency.  Know your neighbors, help a friend.  Be good to each other. Amen.

By Reader7 on 10.29.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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I will truly miss my Uncle Stephen.  Telling me so much information about from gardening to canning. Just to listening to him talk with such passion for everything that he does… he had a sense of humor that always warms my heart.. listening to him play the banjo sometimes even when he didn’t feel good. he is always willing to share his recipes and his ways of doing things… his solar information he was always studying something ... I’m remember one time we asked him where he got his blackberries when it wasn’t Blackberry season and he go there’s a store down the road it’s called Walmart they have everything… He was so funny.  I love you.. xoxo.

By Robin Nunez on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Sorry for your loss. He sure did look like his father.

By Buck Edwards on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Reader 7, please give details for your suggested solutions to the County’s concerns you addressed.

The information would be helpful for consideration by school system administrators and the general public.

By Details Please on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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There is speculation that the plan is for GSC to convert to an education center for low risk federal inmates. Is this something the County and central WV needs?

By GSC's New Mission? on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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Dr. Pellett’s commentary in the 10/26/2018 issue of the Gazette includes a statement that GSC is responsible for injecting $28,000,000 into the local economy.

If GSC were to close loss of the money would cause the County to have more severe poverty than it has now.

The pressing challenge is for GSC’s administrators including its Board of Governors to exercise effective leadership to prevent closure.

Why can’t GSC take action on the long standing suggestion for it to be an innovator by establishing a five year teacher education program to enable students to earn a masters degree by graduation time?

Something must be done in WV to deal with the 700 positions for which certified teachers including those for math, science and special education are not in the classrooms.

Dr. Pellett and GSC’s Board of Governors why is a new teacher education program at the College not a viable option? Nothing else seems to be working.

The need exists, a similar program of excellence does not exist anywhere in the State, and GSC’s status would be elevated by having a masters degree program.

By GSC Alumni on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'Paine: Plan to improve math scores to focus on algebra where a third of teachers aren’t certified'.

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GSC could make a valuable contribution to WV by doing a study to report on how grade and elementary schools with excellent results in math and reading did it.

Then, other schools could use the information as guidance instead of going it alone to reinvent the wheel.

With the Ed.D. expertise at GSC it would be a natural to take on the assignment. Dr. Pellett, would you back the initiative?

By Opportunity for GSC on 10.23.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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There is reference to signing an agreement with the State for math4life for all WV school districts. What has Gilmer County agreed to do to fix our problems?

By Agreements Matter on 10.22.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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This important news has potential for making significant progress in improving math and reading outcomes in WV.

It hinges on how quickly advantage can be taken from lessons learned in schools that excelled.

The WVBE could do an analysis of reasons for excelling and to quickly provide guidance information to other schools.

That is the way the private sector approaches problem-solving because chronic failures have consequences and the unfit are weeded out.

Dr. O’Cull could help if the WVBE is not responsive. There could be panels of individuals from excelling schools to make presentations at WV School Board Association meetings to explain what their schools did to make the achievements.

By Why Reinvent The Wheel? on 10.22.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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A characteristic of a good strategic plan is to simplify language to enable a clear understanding of all its details.

Regarding the comment about abbreviations, a simple fix for them and terms (e.g. lexile) would be to insert an asterisk or a footnote symbol the first time one of them is used to refer readers to a section at the end of the documents where the entries are defined.

This comment is not intended to be a criticism. All specialty fields have a language of their own including the teaching profession.

Suggested clarity improvements in the plans would not be time consuming for principals at the County’s two schools.

By Clarity Is Always Good on 10.18.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Looked at the strategic plan for the GCES. It is a major achievement for the new GCBE to provide the information to the public.

Suggestion. Could the GCBOE post a meaning of all abbreviations in the plan? Doing that would make it far easier for readers to understand details in the plan.

By Help Understanding on 10.17.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Thanks Mrs. Lowther and the BOE for providing meeting minutes for the public to read.

Those of us who voted for the levy would appreciate receiving specific information for what is being done at the grade school and the high school to make needed improvements for college and career readiness.

Could a current overview and updates throughout the school year be provided to the public?

Why not put the details on websites of the two schools to give the principals a chance to shine?

By Levy Supporter on 10.16.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Regular Meeting Minutes'.

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“engage in pedantic colloquy?“

No Bill.

By WEKNOWYOU on 10.14.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Correct.  I do not wish to engage in back and forth useless ‘banter’ with big words and no results.  What I AM interested in is Gilmer County, in all it’s ways.  Education, Food, Law and Transparency.  Fancy words are often used to hide, divide, and distract..  Plain words speaking truth for the safety and well being of the people is what I’m looking for..  Gilmer is suffering… I want it to stop. I want to see the citizens healthy, educated and strong. I want to see more jobs instead of food banks.  I want Committee meetings for all to see. I want the law to do what it should, when it should.  Plain english would work fine.  Thanks for asking.

By Reader7 on 10.14.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Lol 7, you do not wish to engage in a pedantic colloquy?

By Smart Feller on 10.13.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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All nice but a small request? Can we simplify some of the language?  Don’t mean to be rude, but fancy works aren’t needed for the Truth.

By Reader7 on 10.12.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Stop living the delusion the state will fix education.
They have caused the problem.
Remember, for them, job one IS job protection.

Rare in history, that the cause of a problem, has come forth with a solution to what they have caused. They keep resetting testing standards so as not have any ‘yardstick’ they can be measured against.  Apparently people just don’t get it?  And the WVBOE is so happy about that.

By it-ain't-a-gonna-happen. period. on 10.12.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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There is a continuum for sophistication regarding what is done with data.

Collecting and compiling it is at the low end of sophistication.

Synthesis is at the high end.

This means using results and other information to make specific recommendations for making improvements.

The State took its typical easy way out by failing to go beyond the data compilation stage.

By Easy Way Out on 10.10.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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The comment about need to find out what was done at high performance schools to determine what we could do in Gilmer County to get the same results merits a comment.

The comment flags what is wrong with the State BOE in failing to provide effective leadership.

Does anyone recall a single instance, after tens of millions of dollars were spent on amassing data, when the State BOE did anything to effectively address lessons learned at high performance schools for application at other schools?

Of course not! It is the easy way out for those in high income brackets in Charleston to collect data instead of using it to the maximum to take full advantage of lessons learned.

Could the WV School Board Association help fill the gap?

By Lost Opportunity on 10.07.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Harry, So sorry to hear of the passing of your wife.  I’m also sorry that I never got to know her because if she was anything like you, I’m sure she was pretty special.  Please know that you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.  May God’s love be with you my friend.

By Greg Garvin on 10.04.2018

From the entry: 'Judith “Judy” Carolyn Buckley Rich'.

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What is the BOE’s proficiency goal for English and mathematics and what is the time frame for achieving the goal? That is news citizens want.

Then too, how can citizens at large get involved to honor and to encourage students who improve, and what of a similar nature could be done to give special recognition to outstanding teachers who contribute to improved learning for English and math?

By Positive Changes Made By New BOE on 10.04.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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The BOE and Mrs Lowther deserve high praise for disclosing proficiency information to the public.

It is the first time since 2011 anything like this has happened.

We still do not know about results for science, and it is understood that Charleston is still “working” on it.

Now we know our serious shortcomings in math and English and there is new hope for burrowing out of the mess with everyone in Gilmer working together.

By Thanks Gilmer BOE on 10.03.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Well, dear citizen… sometimes the local ‘law’ gets it wrong.  #truth #JusticeForGilmer

By Transparency matters on 09.30.2018

From the entry: '33 charged in methamphetamine distribution operations in Harrison, Marion, and Monongalia Counties'.

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Soooo…...why do we never see a big drug bust in Gilmer?
With the college and others, there are plenty sources.
Seems strange?

By citizen 3 on 09.23.2018

From the entry: '33 charged in methamphetamine distribution operations in Harrison, Marion, and Monongalia Counties'.

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If you access http://www.mywvschool.com it is evident that some schools outpace others for math and English.

For examples look at data for Lizemore Elementary in Clay County, Alum Creek Elementary in Kanawha County, Rock Branch Elementary in Putnam county, and Greenmont Elementary in Wood County.

Gilmer BOE why not assign someone to evaluate what is being done at those school and others to make them State standouts and to apply lessons learned to our elementary schools?

The same applies to learning from others regarding how to get high marks at GCHS.

By Learn What Works From Others on 09.23.2018

From the entry: 'WV and Area Counties Balanced Scorecard for School Year 2017-2018'.

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I have not read anyone blaming our teachers.  Quite the contrary.
There have been some well thought out comments submitted too.
I am old enough to remember when we had few issues about quality education.

Forget Charleston? Better not.
Believe we are still in their “probation” period.
You better check out just what that means.

By GC--still on state probation? on 09.22.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Why not go for it on our own and use the tried and widely accepted Iowa Test of Basic Skills to evaluate learning proficiency of our children?

It is the longest running test in America and it goes back to 1936.

One outcome of using the test is that each grade would be evaluated and compared to performances to schools in other parts of America.

We would probably have to go through hoop jumps of the State’s everchanging testing too.

By Iowa Test For Gilmer on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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To compound complexity of the issue, Gilmer is different from McDowell and both are different than Monongahela.

The implication is that getting out of the crisis must be county-specific and there is no one size that will fit all of WV’s 55 school systems.

Each county is on its own and ones with the best planning, local boards of education, and administrators will shine. Forget about Charleston!

By County-Specific on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Similar to most complex problems there are several categories contributing to WV’s dismal failure in improving education results in our grade and high schools.

Information in referred journal is beginning to show up. Some of the categories include curriculum issues in high schools, block scheduling failures in high schools, inordinate emphasis on sports at the expense of academics, inadequate prep of grade schoolers to ensure that they get firm foundations in math and English Language Arts, failure to instill need for life long learning at early ages, failure for school systems to fund continuing education of teachers to prepare them for newly emerged practices for enhanced student learning, cultural impediments including failure of some families to encourage children and to give them extra learning help at home, dysfunctional families for children to grow up in caused by drug and alcohol abuse and chronic unemployment, grade inflation characterized by too many As and Bs and attitudes that nobody fails so pass them along, failure of school boards to hire the best qualified superintendents and teachers because of local emphasis on favoring “home grow” individuals, failure of school boards to define performance expectations for superintendents to make effective accountability impossible, constantly changing types of State mandated testing to cause chaos and morale problems, poor compensation of teachers necessary to attract and keep the best and the brightest, etc.

To blame all problems on teachers is a cruel travesty.

One of the weakest links contributing to a lack of progress in improving WV schools is that instead of analyzing the full spectrum of contributing problems and focusing on ones with the biggest payoff potential, the trend in Charleston is to constantly apply band aid approaches with hopes that “cures” will be stumbled on accidentally.

By Do Not Blame It All On Our Teachers on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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The problem with preK-12 education in WV is that a holistic and and technically defensible evaluation of contributing factors to cause WV’s problems and how to deal with them has not occurred.

Instead, under direction of clueless politicians ineffective muddling prevails while selling what is done at a particular time as the definitive solution.

How many times have we witnessed muddling over the past 20-30 Years? It still goes on in Charleston.

Why not obtain a grant to have qualified experts analyze success stories around the Nation and use findings to craft a demonstration project in Gilmer County to improve our school system?

Regardless of what we do there must be open minds in seeking out what to do in homes, schools,  teacher education programs in our institutions of higher learning, continuing education for classroom teachers, and to involve various factions in our community to achieve acceptable results. Everyone must band together as a unified team to make it work.

One trap is over emphasis of sports. If the same magnitude of attention and importance were to be focused on solving preK-12 education problems in WV, great strides could be made to benefit deserving children.

By Muddling on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Mr. Ron. I too know this pain of losing a beloved father. Both of these men were taken way too soon. Praying maybe Mr.Ron, my Dad, and all the former Westinghouse employees in heaven are getting together. Love and prayers from, Adrienne and family.

By Adrienne (Trimper) Johnson on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'Ronald J. Vanskiver'.

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West Virginia’s educational failures is NOT because of classroom teachers.

It IS because of the WV Board of Education’s failures of the past 20-30 years.

That 9 member, lopsided governor board is a crime against children and education in WV as a whole.

It needs 3 teachers, 3 general public parent members, and 3 governor appointees.

Until that governors click gang is broken up, you simply see repeats of the past.  NO progress in education.

It will take the legislature to fix it, but they are too busy with the legislature created court system failure, while trying to line pockets with gas and oil money.

By Tell It Like It Is ! on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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What is the plausible rationale for Gilmer not disclosing detailed facts similar to what Superintendent Hosaflook did?

Wood County reported 11,176 students in its 27 schools for the full FY 2018 school year.

In comparison Gilmer had 734 reported students in our two schools for the full FY 2018 school year.

Wood County had 15 times more students than Gilmer and it is reasonable to assume that it was 15 times more demanding to administer with its 27 schools.

If Wood County could get detailed facts out to the public with its significantly higher work load what keeps tiny Gilmer from doing the same?

By Why Gilmer BOE? on 09.18.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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We have not had a responsible, functioning, WVBE for 20 years.
Not one that would accept any responsibility.

They just keep changing ‘score keeping’ so there can be no accurate tracking of student progress.

State ranks 48th or 49th on educational outcomes. Still.
Colleges still have to give remedial classes.

The ONLY thing that changes are the names of the governor appointed players.
And just look at the ‘cost-per-pupil’ spending!
We are about the highest in the nation.

West Virginia State Board of Education = complete failure.  Nothing less.

By just more smoke and mirrors on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released for Public Schools in West Virginia'.

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Never could figure out why working people, retirees, volunteers are picking up trash left by adults?

Not when we have the numbers of bored prisoners we have locked up doing nothing??

By No solution here- on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Adopt-A-Highway Fall Statewide Cleanup Set for September 29'.

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Go to http://www.mywvschool.org to access more official State information about Gilmer’s schools. There are serious red flags in need of immediate corrective attention.

If you access Lewis County schools on the same web site you can review info for LES. Look at the red flags there. Worse than GES.

Instead of using the info to criticize it can be useful in seeking out opportunities for making immediate improvements.

For those who take apologetic stands that Gilmer is doing as well as some other WV counties and everything is fine, it does not mean that inferior educations for our children are acceptable.

By Look At Red Flags on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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Who is responsible for Gilmer’s oversight of the LES?

If you access the State’s website you will learn that math and reading is red flagged for the LCES to be as bad as it can get.

Why is it that nothing is reported in Gilmer County about how that school is doing when we know that our sixth grade finishers from over there will go to the GCHS to finish their educations? 

It is like our students who attend LCES are forgotten about. Someone needs to be watching out for them.

By Who Minds The Store on 09.15.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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The really sad stories are left out.
The students who accrue debt and for whatever reasons, drop out of school after a year or two.

They have little hope of improving incomes, but still have debt.
More of them than you think.

By More sad ones to be told. on 09.14.2018

From the entry: 'Student-Loan Debts a "Loss of Freedom" for Some in WV'.

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Information made ‘public’ forces accountability.
Do not hold your breath lest you turn blue.

‘They’ want elected. Get their place at the trough.
Then discover ‘exposure’ makes their work more difficult.

Informed citizens make informed decisions.
Why do we see the same names being elected over and over and over?

By WHEN we're allowed to see it......? on 09.14.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Lots of work to be done with schools in Gilmer County. 2017-2018 Summative Assessments out today for student achievement.

Gilmer County High School.

For Math
*Exceed or Meet Standards=40% of Students.
*Fail to Meet Standards=60% of Students

For Reading
*Exceed or Meet Standards=36% of Students
*Fail to Meet Standards=64%

The scores speak volumes. What was done to accurately determine causes of failures and what will be done about it? BOE, the public has a right to know answers.

By Public Demands Answers on 09.13.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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The Founding Fathers screwed up, we should not have to work and pay our bills. Let that man behind the tree work and pay for it all.
Free education should be a right.
Free food should be a right.
Free healthcare should be a right. 
Free transportation should be a right.
Free entertainment should be a right.

By Smart Feller on 09.13.2018

From the entry: 'Student-Loan Debts a "Loss of Freedom" for Some in WV'.

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Thank you BOE members and Mrs. Lowther. Let’s work together at all community levels to make Gilmer County an educational power house in West Virginia. We can do it as an effective team and provision of information will be the key to success.

By Better Times On The Way on 09.12.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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Accountability - good point - and across Gilmer County.  We’ve seen glimpses and pieces of news WHEN we’re allowed to see it, mere mortals that we are. But never any follow up.  And the information come in bits and pieces (remember when we actually got to SEE what the Gilmer County Commission was up to?)  My question is, why do we never see the accountability or repercussion for actions of current Gilmer ‘elite’??

By Transparency matters on 09.12.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Encouraging news that the superintendent will present her goals for Gilmer Schools on 9/10.

We assume that there will be a commitment for specific goals to achieve, measurable outcomes, completion dates for different steps and final goal achievement, and a meaningful monitoring program to determine if we are on track or there is need for mid-course fine tuning.

If any of this is missing there will not be meaningful accountability. Excellent business plans have all the components addressed above.

By Waiting To See on 09.09.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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