Wednesday, March 09, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-10-'11
- Due to declining enrollment and increased costs, the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese and the financial council at Sacred Heart Church in Williamson decided last year to close Sacred Heart Elementary, the the only Catholic school in a five-county area in southern West Virginia.Supporters say the school needs about $220,000 a year to keep the 28-student school open. Teachers, parents and others are asking the church to help defray the cost. Acting Catholic School Superintendent Richard Banabei is expected to travel to Williamson Thursday to meet with school and church officials.
- Remains found in a cotton field near Albany, Georgia Wednesday afternoon are believed to be those of 85 year old Gladis Russell of Bellefontaine, Ohio who went missing in late February, along with her husband. Richard Russell's body was found near Chattanooga, Tennessee on February 26th, more than 200 miles from where these remains were discovered. Sam Littleton, who was arrested in Princeton, West Virginia on February 23rd, told police he dumped their bodies on his way to Florida. The governor's warrant arrived in Mercer County Wednesday to extradite Littleton back to Ohio for murder. An autopsy on the woman's body has been scheduled for Thursday at the GBI crime lab in Macon.
- Arthur Jackson Byrd III, 33, of St. Albans, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Kanawha Circuit Court Wednesday. He was indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted first-degree murder, malicious wounding and wanton endangerment after being accused of shooting Min Lin, a woman delivering Chinese food in Nitro. Police say Byrd was found with a 12-guage shotgun in the parking lot of his apartment building after Min Lin was shot in the back of the head. Circuit Judge Louis "Duke" Bloom ordered an immediate drug test for Byrd and said he would continue to remain free on a $25,000 bond pending his April 25th trial if the test was clean.
- The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department arrested 48 year old Terry Cantley after a tip led deputies to 45 marijuana plants in his home in East Bank. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department described a "fairly elaborate marijuana growing operation," and seized the 45 plants along with other items used to cultivate marijuana.
- One man was killed in a shooting on Charleston's West Side early Wednesday morning. Police say they got a call around 5:00 A.M. of a vehicle crash in the 1200 block of Madison Street. Seconds later, Metro 911 radioed for additional units reporting an apparent shooting. Michael Jerome Grady, 48, of Charleston was transported from the scene to Charleston Area Medical Center General, where a short time later he was pronounced dead. Police say Grady was shot while driving a van, and, after being shot, Grady lost control of the vehicle and hit a residence on Madison Street. Police are investigating the incident as a murder.
- A man died after a scuffle with police in South Charleston. Police Chief Brad Rinehart says police responded to a call of a disturbance Tuesday in which Michael Atkinson, 47, appeared to be angry, screaming and wandering around the neighborhood throwing things. Police say Atkinson approached officers in an angry manner, and, when they couldn't control him, they wrestled him to the ground. When he got to the ground, he went limp and officers realized he had quit breathing. Officers performed CPR until the fire department arrived and took over. Rinehart says no weapons or pepper spray was used. Atkinson was later pronounced dead.
- Luke W. Pugh of Jane Lew, a former employee of Carter Roag Coal Company’s Pleasant Hill Mine in Randolph County, and Chad J. Ferrell of Nettie, a former employee of Brooks Run Mining Company’s Poplar Ridge No. 1 Deep Mine in Webster County, both pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Elkins Tuesday to making false statements on MSHA documents. Pugh admitted that, from June 2007 to April 2009, he stated in reports 387 times he was certified by the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Education, although he was never certified.Ferrell admitted that, from September 2008 to June 2009, he certified on 489 different occasions he was certified to conduct safety exams. Both face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.
- Steel of West Virginia Inc. anticipates investing $15.1 million in capital improvements at its Huntington plant this year. The improvements primarily involve an upgrade to the plant's No. 2 Rolling Mill. Steel President Timothy R. Duke says the company has fully recovered from the downswing of the recent recession, generating a small profit in 2009 and performing considerably better in 2010. The latest capital investment follows $10 million spent at the plant last year, with half of that going to install new air emission control equipment for the melt shop.
- BrickStreet Mutual Insurance Co., which the West Virginia Legislature set up in 2005 to replace what had been a state-run system to provide workers' compensation insurance, no longer wants to cover state agencies. Committee members quizzed BrickStreet chief executive Greg Burton before endorsing a bill Tuesday that would allow the state insurance commissioner to help agencies obtain coverage from other private insurers. Burton said BrickStreet has lost $30 million over the past three years from claims by state agencies and volunteer fire departments, and, for every dollar it collected from them in premiums BrickStreet paid out $1.36. Last year, these policyholders cost $1.57 for every dollar in premiums. Burton says the company cannot handle that kind of program any longer.
- Under legislation endorsed by a House of Delegates committee Wednesday, Marcellus Shale drillers would have to place horizontal wells 1,000 feet from West Virginians' homes and water wells. Current law allows drillers to place wells within 200 feet of people's homes and water wells. After endorsing the revised bill Wednesday morning, the House Judiciary Committee recommended it go straight to the floor. Delegate Sam Cann, D-Harrison, objected to that, and the bill will now go to the House Finance Committee. House Judiciary Committee members also made changes they said would smooth out tensions between natural gas operators and the coal industry about giving notice to coal mine operators when drilling will occur near mines. Also, committee members added provisions to make drill operators notify surface owners within 30 days of surveying their land for proposed access roads on drill sites and new well work. The committee also amended the bill to change the way the state hires gas well inspectors.
- What was a $600 bonus proposed for lower-income West Virginia public retirees is now a $2,400 payment after the House Finance Committee voted Wednesday to increase the payment meant for retired state workers and teachers. The bonuses would go to retirees with 20 or more years of service and annuities that do not exceed $7,200. Officials estimated nearly 1,400 retired teachers and nearly 800 retired workers or their beneficiaries would qualify. The latest version may end up costing around $4.8 million.
- Wednesday, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin's proposal for a 1 percent reduction on the sales tax on food went from seemingly dead to approved in the Legislature after it was amended into another bill dealing with state sales taxes (SB2971). Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said it was merely a way to keep the tax cut alive and send it to the House. In a surprise move Wednesday evening, the House passed the bill on an 89-4 vote. The bill, which will reduce the sales tax on food from 3 percent to 2 percent on July 1st, is headed to Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
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