Wednesday, February 02, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...2-3-'11
- Teachers and officials at Chapmanville Regional High School are monitoring computer labs, and, when not in use, laptops are locked up. What started as a student's practical joke turned out to be not so funny when the Secret Service showed up to investigate after a student logged on to a government website and sent a threatening comment to President Barack Obama. The Secret Service chose not to file any charges.
- A group devoted to creating alternative energy jobs in Central Appalachia is building a 40- by 15-foot rooftop solar array, assembled by unemployed and underemployed coal miners and contractors, on a doctor's office in Williamson. The Jobs Project, which is trying to create renewable energy job opportunities in West Virginia and Kentucky, says, in no way is it against coal or trying to replace coal. The Jobs Project teamed up about a year ago with a solar energy company from the Eastern Panhandle, Mountain View Solar & Wind of Berkeley Springs, to develop the privately funded job-training program.
- About 72 Local 721 Braskem Chemical Plant steelworkers in Kenova remain on the picket line after failed contract negotiations. The workers' contract expired in June. After a couple months of extensions, union members went on strike August 15th. Since then, the company has put three "last, best and final offers" on the table. The guys on the picket line say all they're looking for is a fair, equal contract, but Braskem says what it has offered is fair, and it's planning on hiring temporary workers while this contract dispute continues. Local 721 president, Terry Carpenter, says he is filing "bad-faith" charges against Braskem Thursday.
- Angela Ridley has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and her husband Morris Ridley, both of Charleston, has been sentenced to 41 months in prison. In February 2010, Angela Ridley pleaded guilty to possessing nearly an ounce of crack cocaine with the intent to sell, and her husband pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to his wife's crime after he initially lied to police and told them her cocaine was his.
- State Mine Health, Safety and Training Acting Director C.A. Phillips says last week's accident at Baylor Mining's Jim's Branch operation in Wyoming County that claimed the life of John C. Lester, Jr., 19, a red hat miner, was entirely preventable. Phillips says red hats should be with a black hat until they become a black hat. State investigators are re-interviewing several co-workers this week to get more details about the incident, but Phillips says they know Lester got on the belt line and lost his life.
- Kevin Joshua Jackson, who was sentenced to a year in jail in July after a fatal car accident, was released Wednesday. Jackson was sentenced to the maximum for DUI causing death when 19 year old Willy Shuman died in the accident. Any inmate is eligible to earn 60 days of "good time" on any sentence that exceeds six months. Jackson earned additional good-time for participating in various programs and working as a trustee.
- The West Virginia Senate Wednesday approved a measure that adopts the House of Delegate's date for a special primary gubernatorial election to be held Saturday, May 14th. Senators, however, opted to stick with October 4th as the date for the special general election. The House version calls for a September 13th general election.
- Both the House of Delegates and state Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed similar proposals (HB2505, SB63) to make it illegal to possess or distribute synthetic cocaine and marijuana in West Virginia. Fake marijuana is sold under brand names including K2, Spice and Genie. It's marketed as incense or potpourri, but people smoke it to get high. Some users have experienced hallucinations, severe agitation, vomiting and convulsions. Synthetic cocaine is sold as "bath salts" under brand names such as Ivory Wave and Vanilla Sky.
- Robin Marie Steadman, also known as Robin Ward, and Joseph Eads were arrested following a high-speed police chase that began when officers tried to stop a stolen pickup truck in Putnam County and ended when Eads crashed near the old Milton Middle School in Cabell County. Eads was charged with felony fleeing and charges related to the stolen vehicle. Ward was wanted on forgery charges and uttering in Kanawha County.
- Two Putnam County residents, Bernie Russell Collins, of Winfield, and James McGraw, have been arrested. Collins was charged with possession with the intent to deliver drugs, while McGraw was charged with possession of a controlled substance. A couple had called police to tell them they took $400 to Collins' trailer on Harmon's Branch to buy some baby formula, but the purchase had "gone bad." Investigators seized $14,000 in cash and a large amount of pills. Other arrests are pending.
- Michael Savilla, 19, of St. Albans, has been charged with underage consumption and operating a vehicle while under the influence causing bodily injury. Police say, Sunday morning, he hit two female pedestrians with his car in Buckhannon, sending one to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown with head injuries.
- Speaking Wednesday at the West Virginia Mining Symposium in Charleston, Bill Maloney of Morgantown, the former owner of North American Drilling, said he's in hot pursuit of his idea to create a program that puts drilling equipment on constant standby in the event of a mining disaster. Maloney, who helped organize and stage the work that led to the rescue of the trapped miners in Chile, said, during a normal coal mine disaster with toxic gasses and fires, you've got to get those guys out quickly and you've got to have everything ready to go.
- MSHA oversees 14,500 mines across the country. Speaking at the West Virginia Mining Symposium, MSHA Chief Joe Main said a vast majority of those are attempting to comply with federal and state regulations, but a small group of mines continue to put their employees in jeopardy. Main stressed MSHA will continue to strictly enforce the laws including impact inspections.
- A celebration was held Wednesday afternoon in honor of Mercer County Magistrate Roy Compton. After more than 40 years of overseeing court proceedings and having served as an elected constable, Justice of the Peace, deputy and magistrate court judge, Compton is retiring.
- Under current West Virginia law, a person can be imprisoned from one to five years in cases where people expose children to the manufacturing of meth. The penalty increases to a range of three to 15 years in prison if the child is seriously injured. A bill proposed in the House of Delegates would set a range of five to 30 years in prison for exposing a child to meth manufacturing. The minimum would increase to 10 years if the child were to be seriously injured.
- John Shannon, who lives 3.5 miles outside Hurricane's city limits, plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of West Virginia after his lawsuit against the city of Hurricane, over the city's watershed fee, was shut down in court last month. Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards says the fee is a part of the Federal Clean Water Act and is mandated by the state, but Shannon says the fee goes way beyond the city's boundaries.
- State lawmakers are considering domestic violence bills which target incidents where someone is detained through threats or coercion. House and Senate proposals for Celena's Law would create the misdemeanor crime of unlawful restraint. Another measure would allow protective orders in sexual assault and stalking cases, while a third would extend unemployment benefits to workers forced by domestic violence to leave their jobs.
- Twenty-three housing programs across West Virginia will share more than $3.9 million in federal grants from the Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance program which will be used to provide assistance such as transitional and permanent housing, job training, health care, mental health assessments, substance abuse treatments, child care and street outreach.
- As part of the national "Go Red For Women" event Friday, Charleston Town Center is having a "Charleston Goes Red Celebration" in the Center Court starting at 8:00 A.M. meant to encourage people to fight heart disease and strokes. St. Francis Hospital will provide free blood pressure screenings. At 8:30 A.M., the American Heart Association will have a press conference featuring information about heart health. In Huntington, a "Go Red for Women" event will be at 16th Street Baptist Church, 1647 9th Avenue.
- Union officials associated with the AFL-CIO want the Legislature to amend one of several bills being considered to regulate the natural gas industry. The Union wants the companies to be required to hire local workers or face a fine. The proposal, not yet introduced, would be similar to the West Virginia Jobs Act which requires companies doing construction work with state tax dollars to seek construction workers from within the state or from counties in other states that fall within a 50-mile radius of West Virginia's borders.
- House Republicans have introduced a bill that would require random drug testing for those on welfare and state legislators. Anyone who failed an initial test would be required to take the test again within 60 or 90 days. If they failed that test, they would be barred from receiving any welfare assistance for a period of two years and would have to pass a new drug test if they reapplied for assistance. A similar provision would apply to legislators. If they failed the second drug test, they would be barred from receiving their legislative salary or expense money during their term in the Legislature.
- Delegate Ron Fragale, D-Harrison, has confirmed that lawmakers are drafting a proposal to repeal the portion of the state's "blue laws," as they're known, that ban the sale of liquor in bottles on Election Day.
- The state Parkways Authority has postponed a meeting about a toll road project for U.S. Route 35 in Putnam and Mason counties. The construction bid on the final 14.6 miles of the four-lane highway was opened last year, but the bid is only good until February 21st. State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox says interest rates since November have added more than $20 million to the project, which already has a price tag of more than $200 million. The Parkways Authority was set to take a final vote Thursday, but the state Department of Transportation says it needs another week to work on the financing plan.
- Federal Magistrate Mary E. Stanley signed off on a judgment order in August that requires Bianchi of Syracuse, New York to pay $205,000 in fringe benefits to the West Virginia Laborers' District Council and its affiliates who completed demolition work at the BayerCrop Science plant in Institute. The union group has filed a Chapter 7 involuntary bankruptcy petition against Bianchi, alleging the firm has failed to pay. In May 2009, a federal lawsuit alleged Bianchi breached its collective-bargaining agreement because the company didn't pay health and pension benefits to about 40 employees.
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