Friday, April 08, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...4-9-'11
- The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued citations to the Cobalt's Westchester Mine in McDowell County where Spike TV’s show “Coal” was filmed. During the March 30th premiere episode of the show, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors noticed a miner using a 12-inch pick hammer to pull down loose roof rock for a dramatic collapse that was caught on camera. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said the tool was too small for the job and put workers at risk of being struck by falling rock. Another violation was issued for the mine’s continuous mining machine being moved when it was not in the process of cutting coal and allowing a worker to walk alongside, creating the potential for a crushing injury.
- The coal industry's growing demand for younger miners can mesh with the constant push to improve safety underground. That was the message from both industry and labor leaders Friday during a West Virginia conference on mining health and safety. Patriot Coal President and Chief Executive Rick Whiting said the industry expects to enjoy growth over the next several years. But at the same time, a significant number of experienced miners are reaching retirement age. He touted his company's training programs, including a six-week course for new miners. United Mine Workers Union President Cecil Roberts said the companies will reap rewards by promoting safety early among new miners. He said operators will benefit if their apprentice red hat miners believe everyone from the CEO on down wants a safe work place.
- A Kanawha County magistrate has approved a motion to postpone Friday's preliminary hearing for accused murderer Shawn Lester, who allegedly shot and killed Jeanie Patton outside the Speedway in Campbell's Creek. Patton's death was one of three in the 2003 Kanawha County sniper shootings. The same gun was used in all three deaths, but Lester has, so far, only been charged in connection with Patton's death. The defense sought the continuance because of a scheduling conflict. Lester remains in jail without bail, while awaiting a preliminary hearing rescheduled for April 25th.
- The jury in the case against Misty Dawn Linger of Buckhannon has deadlocked, prompting the judge to declare a hung jury. Linger was charged with child neglect by a parent, guardian, or custodian resulting in death after her 3-year-old son was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital. Police say Linger called 911 in May 2009 after finding her son in a car outside her home with the windows rolled up. After opening statements, the judge allowed the jury to visit Linger's home so they could consider whether the statement she gave police was plausible.
- Shawn Davis, 27, from Detroit, has been sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in December to distribution of heroin in Charleston. Davis admitted to participating in an arranged drug transaction on April 22, 2010, with a confidential informant working with law enforcement. Davis admitted to giving the informant a quantity of heroin and two 80-milligram Oxycontin pills in exchange for $280 in cash.
- Charles Lester, owner of Porky's Bar in Welch, in McDowell County, was arrested by state tax agents Thursday night on charges of failing to keep records of gambling and possession of alcoholic liquors on an unlicensed premise. Welch Police officers executed a search warrant at the bar last Friday, and, during that raid, Fred Renko, of Welch, was arrested and charged with obstructing an officer. Glen Kirk, of Welch, was charged with obstructing an officer and possession of Oxycodone, and Samatha Justice was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
- Federal prosecutors in West Virginia say they've charged two Ohio men involved in a large-scale, interstate prescription drug ring. Forty-two year old David Lee Kidd of Martins Ferry and 24 year old Christopher Grigg of Bridgeport were both recently arrested in Volusia County, Florida. They are charged with possession and intent to distribute Oxycodone and other prescription drugs in Marshall and Ohio counties between May 2010 and March 26, 2011. U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld says they acquired tens of thousands of pills from pain clinics in Florida and other southern states, then sold them in Ohio and West Virginia.
- A 15 year old male student at Buckhannon Upshur High School has been charged with second-degree arson after allegedly setting a fire in a high school bathroom. The fire caused about $5,000 in damage. If tried as an adult, the student would face one to 10 years in prison.
- Shane Blake Peck, 19, of Sissonville and Joseph Michael Gibson, 18, of Charleston. two teenagers accused of beating and robbing 79 year old Geraldine Gibson of Big Chimney, have each pleaded not guilty. Peck and Gibson have been held at South Central Regional Jail since they were arrested a few days after the March 3rd attack on Gibson. Police said Gibson was tied up and beaten and her home was ransacked. She suffered numerous injuries, including fractures, and was hospitalized. Kanawha Circuit Judge Louis "Duke" Bloom set a May 16th trial. Peck and Gibson will go on trial Monday after being indicted by a grand jury in February on charges of burglary, conspiracy and breaking and entering an automobile.
- Michael Lee Crist, 35, of Oak Hill, was awaiting arraignment in Fayette Magistrate Court about 5:00 P.M. Wednesday on charges of driving on a suspended license and failure to pay child support when he jumped out a window and escaped on foot. Crist was found within half an hour near the White Horse Bed and Breakfast in Fayetteville and was taken to back to Magistrate Court to face a further charge of escape from custody. While looking for Crist, authorities discovered his girlfriend, Leslie Miller, 28, of Gauley Bridge, was allegedly trying to help him escape. Authorities found Miller nearby and arrested her on a capias warrant for failure to appear for a court hearing on driving on a revoked license.
- MSHA official Dave Chirdon says, since 1984, equipment has fatally crushed 70 miners, all but five in coal mines, leaving federal regulators pushing for ways to warn miners of nearby machinery. Nearly half the deaths involved continuous mining machines, most of those victims had remote controls that operate the machines. Speaking at an industry conference in West Virginia Friday, Chirdon said his agency is seeking information on proximity detection systems. These can include devices miners can wear on their belts that would flash lights when they're too close to machinery.
- For the first time in West Virginia, election ballots are in the mail. The city of Morgantown is pilot-testing the state's first vote-by-mail program with its municipal elections this month. The city hired Morgantown Printing and Binding to print the ballots, and city and state elections officials oversaw the process. The packets include an instruction sheet, a ballot and two envelopes, one to protect the voter's identity and one to return the ballot.
- There's going to be some additional work for crews hired to renovate Building 2000 on the campus of the new Higher Education Research Park in South Charleston which was damaged in Monday evening's storm. HEPC Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Paul Hill says one side of the building has been open to aid in an asbestos abatement project, and that may have helped the heavy winds do their damage. The wind entered the building and pushed out the end of the south wing where the damage occurred. Several toppled trees in the park bent exhaust pipes on a few other buildings. The research park, formerly owned by Dow Chemical, now belongs to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Building 2000 will be home to Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College starting with the fall semester in 2012.
- The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority is feeling the pinch of increasing fuel costs. Authority officials budgeted about $480,000 to cover fuel costs, but Joe Lynch, executive director of the Ambulance Authority, says the agency is running about 13 percent over the amount allotted to cover fuel costs so far this fiscal year. Lynch says he believes the agency will be able to cover its fuel costs, but, if not, services provided by the ambulance authority would have to be cut. Those services could include non-emergency transports for senior citizens who use the service to get from nursing homes to doctor's appointments. Lynch says the agency responds to about 30,000 non-emergency calls a year. The authority is currently paying $2.40 per gallon for gasoline and $2.50 per gallon for diesel fuel.
- During a meeting Thursday, some members of the state Ethics Commission voiced concerns that some public employees could circumvent a new ethics law by becoming independent contractors. The law, which goes into effect July 1st, requires state-level elected officials and agency chiefs, and even some staffers, to wait a year before becoming lobbyists. It also increases public officials’ financial disclosures. A legislative lawyer who works as a per-diem staffer asked the commission whether the ban would apply to him if he becomes an independent contractor before the law takes effect. Commissioners tabled the lawyer’s request, saying they want the commission’s lawyers to do more research.
- West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck wants the Board of Governors to consider allowing controlled beer sales at Mountaineer football games. Luck said Friday he believes fan behavior will improve with controlled sales inside the stadium. Luck said many college stadiums, including all of WVU's Big East counterparts, are selling beer in some capacity, and, with responsible serving practices and proper vendor training, coupled with the elimination of stadium re-entry, he believes the consumption of alcohol can be controlled. Board chairwoman Carolyn Long says allowing sales would require changes to existing policy. Details of the proposed changes will be available on the board's website sometime next week and will be subjected to a 30-day comment period. Beer has never been sold for general consumption at Mountaineer Field.
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