Tuesday, April 05, 2011

 

EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...4-5-'11

Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has proclaimed Tuesday a day of prayer and remembrance for the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion near Montcoal, the deadliest U.S. coal mining accident since 1970. Tomblin has asked for observance to start at 3:01 P.M., the estimated time of the explosion, and for churches in the state to ring their bells 29 times at that time. Massey Energy has announced it will hold a "company-wide, one minute and twenty-nine second moment of silence" Tuesday on the anniversary of the April 5, 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine which killed twenty nine miners. Massey plans to idle production and hold a safety stand down at all 92 of its underground coal mines.


The National Park Service Chief Ranger Jeff West said a second man's body was pulled from the New River on Monday afternoon after three men went missing in a weekend boating accident when their boat capsized Sunday afternoon. Hours earlier, searchers recovered the body of Paul Malone, 23, of Lester. Those reported missing were Malone, Dean Halsey of Lester and Sam Acord of Richmond, Virginia. Two others, Jeff Acord of Sandstone and Daniel Malone of Lester, swam to shore safely.


Darrell Glen Deerfield, 47, of Rush, Kentucky, Joey Williams, 52, of Greenup, Kentucky and Paul David Smith, 40, of Barboursville, West Virginia, were sentenced Monday in federal court in Huntington to one year and one day for conspiring to steal diesel fuel worth more than $900,000 from April 2007 to September 2008. The defendants pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to transport and sell goods stolen from interstate shipments. According to prosecutors, Deerfield worked for CEVA Logistics, Inc., a Texas corporation which contracted with CSX to transport diesel fuel to various locations throughout Kentucky and West Virginia for the purpose of refueling CSX locomotives. Deerfield conspired with Williams and Smith to steal fuel from a facility in Russell, Kentucky. The three men admitted the stolen fuel was subsequently given to Smith who would sell it to various businesses and individuals in West Virginia and Kentucky.


Twenty-three year old Katharine Janelle Boozer of Mercer County is expected to enter a guilty plea  Wednesday to a neglect charge in the death of her 6-month-old son, Joshua Isaiah Boozer, who died in February 2010. Boozer was indicted for first-degree murder and death of a child by abuse in June 2010. Prosecuting attorney Scott Ash says she'll plead to child neglect resulting in injury. That charge carries three to 15 year in prison.


Twenty-three year old Rusty Morrison of Huntington was killed Saturday morning when a blaze broke out at a camp in the Branchland community of Lincoln County. West Virginia State Police say, when the fire started, Rusty woke up Brandon Newton of Altizer, a friend who was also staying at the camp. Newton escaped the burning structure while Morrison died in the fire.


Twenty-eight year old Willard Lewis, an Elkins police officer accused of kidnapping and domestic battery. has been suspended until the charges are resolved. Lewis, who has been on the force since July 2008, is charged with domestic assault on his wife, Roxana.


David Kinney, 32, of Charleston, is accused of shooting and killing 31 year old Jeremy Parsons on Charleston's West Side last July. Kinney was indicted on murder charges by a grand jury in October. Parsons was shot three times at the intersection of Park Avenue and Virginia Street West.


Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has lifted a ban on discretionary pay raises for classified employees of the executive branch of state government. The freeze on discretionary raises had been in place since April 29, 2005. It affected 22,000 classified state employees in 26 pay grades and about 1,007 classifications. Joe Smith, a personnel consultant to Tomblin, says the turnover rate in state government averages about 9.98 percent a year, and that requires significant costs in recruitment and training. Smith says lifting a freeze that is almost six years old could be costly, but reducing turnover could offset some of those costs. The governor’s office will watch pay increases carefully to ensure they don’t cause expenses to get out of line with state revenues, and it will watch agencies to be sure the raises are used to retain employees with critical skills.


This time last year, drivers in West Virginia were paying about $2.87 for a gallon of regular gasoline.  Now, the AAA Fuel Gauge Report puts that price at about $3.67 a gallon. U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller says it isn't all about what's going on in the Middle East, but it's about what's going on on Wall Street. Rockefeller says he believes oil trades by greedy speculators, those guessing at the future price of oil, have driven up prices at the pumps. Rockefeller says, since January, speculator prices have jumped by 35% while U.S. gas prices have grown by 40%. He has called on the Federal Trade Commission to review gas prices to make sure people are paying fair prices for gasoline. In addition, Senator Rockefeller says President Barack Obama needs to be prepared to open the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The AAA Fuel Gauge Report puts the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline at around $3.61 compared with $2.80 this time last year.


Cathy Yarosky, the spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service says a lot of money will be saved now that all of the mail processing operations that had been done in Beckley and some of the mail processing operations that were handled in Huntington have been consolidated in Charleston. After feasibility studies for those moves last June, the U.S. Postal Service announced the consolidation plans in December. Consolidations were finished last month and, Yarosky says, the changes have had little impact on jobs. The Beckley site is no longer handling any mail processing. In Huntington, overnight processing has been moved to Charleston. Daytime processing work continues there and there are no plans to change that. A total of 38 Huntington positions could be impacted because of the change. Feasibility studies continue for the possibilities of moving processing work from Martinsburg to suburban Maryland and from Bluefield to either Charleston or Johnson City, Tennessee.


State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow says collections for the state's Corporate Income Tax surged in March, rocketing ahead of estimates by $25.6 million dollars. The total collected was 700 percent higher than last March. Muchow says corporations have been improving their balance sheets in recent months, while payments  coming in were running over 50 percent higher than last year and refunds to corporations were a good 76 percent below last year. Muchow says that combination created the gain.
Consumer sales tax collections were also up for March...seven percent higher than last year at this time. Muchow says a new federal law that reduces the Social Security tax that employees must pay by 32 percent is helping. State tax collections continue to run about $200 million ahead of estimates for the fiscal year.



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