Thursday, May 05, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-6-'11
- Massey Energy announced last week the company wanted to seal the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County where 29 miners were killed in April 2010. Massey has offered the families of the victims $3M each to settle their claims out of court. Thursday afternoon, Massey officials were meeting with a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) official in Beaver, in Raleigh County, to present plans about how to shut the mine down for good when attorneys for the victims families showed up, and Massey cut the meeting short.
- Police are searching for two men who robbed an Exxon convenience store located at 1402 Kanawha Boulevard on the west side of Charleston around 5:00 P.M. Thursday afternoon. Charleston Police Chief Lt. S.A. Cooper says one of the men is about 6 feet tall and was wearing a black shirt and red pants. The other man is slightly shorter and was wearing a plaid shirt. Cooper says the robbery is not connected to a string of robberies on the West Side over the past couple of weeks.
- Average gasoline prices in West Virginia have hit a record $4.15 for a gallon of regular gas, topping the old record of $4.12 a gallon in July 2008. Thursday morning, AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge showed the average cost of a gallon of regular gas is up 9 cents from a week ago, and $1.10 higher than a year ago. Across the state, gas prices range from about $4.28 a gallon in Charleston, Huntington and Parkersburg to about $4 in Weirton.
- Joseph Lavigne Jr. of Hurricane is free on an appeal bond. Thursday, Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Stowers set bond at $150,000 for Lavigne, the man who has already served 15 years in prison for raping his daughter who was five years old when she was brutally attacked. Last week, Putnam County Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding released an order that overturned Lavigne's 1996 rape conviction and called for a new trial. Judge Spaulding cited a number of problems with Lavigne's first trial including improper jury selection, an incorrect limit on character witnesses and insufficient evidence. Public Defender Greg Ayers says there is no physical evidence that links Lavigne to the crime. Lavigne is scheduled to make an initial court appearance in Putnam County Circuit Court on June 30th to set a new trial. His daughter says she believes her father was not the person who attacked her, even though she initially claimed he was.
- Thirty-one year old Angelo "P.J." Miller of St. Albans was sentenced Thursday to 2-10 years on fleeing charges. Police say, in October he was drunk and weaving in and out of traffic in the westbound lanes of MacCorkle Avenue in St. Albans when Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputy A.R. Crawford attempted to stop him. Miller led Crawford on a chase. When they reached a red light at an intersection near the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge, the deputy exited his vehicle to confront Miller, but, when the light turned green, Miller sped off. Near the Amandaville Bridge Miller rear-ended a black pickup driven by Paul Parog, 18, of Hurricane, causing the pickup to roll onto its top. Miller's SUV crossed the median and slammed into a concrete barrier, finally coming to a stop.
- Arron Henry, 21, and Roddruss Clay, 22, both of Clarksburg, have been arrested in connection with the April 26th shooting of Marlan Joseph Robinson, the son of former West Virginia University basketball player Maurice Robinson, a player from 1975 to 1978 and a teammate of current WVU coach Bob Huggins. Robinson is now listed in fair condition at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where he was taken after he was found lying on the ground around 9:15 P.M. in a parking lot off First Street just off WVU's campus. He had been shot once through his forearm and a second time through his stomach. That bullet pierced his spleen and part of his intestines before coming out the other side of his body. Henry is charged with felony first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and wanton endangerment with a firearm. Clay is charged with felony first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and malicious assault.
- Jerry Lee Hanna, 55, of Nicholas County, was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty in January to being a felon in possession of a firearm and money laundering. Hanna admitted he was a member of an Oxycodone distribution ring operating in and around Nicholas County from 2007 through September 2008. During that time, Hanna used money from selling drugs to purchase property, which he titled in someone else's name. In June 2009, police seized nearly 80 firearms and other items from his Craigsville residence. Hanna admitted he stored approximately 24 firearms at the residence in March 2009. Hanna will forfeit two pieces of real property, $9,000 cash and more than 40 firearms.
- The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has issued a notice of violation to the state Department of Environmental Protection in relation to an old Consolidation Coal Co. coal refuse slurry pond in Harrison County that was reclaimed and approved by the Office of Surface Mining more than 20 years ago. Over time, the pond began seeping acid mine drainage. OSM issued a notice of violation in June 2010 and then agreed to DEP’s solution of permitting Coal Valley LLC, a division of Targe Energy of Pittsburgh, to remine and more fully reclaim the site. The site continues to discharge AMD to Bingamon Creek of the West Fork of the Monongahela River and, in late April, OSM issued DEP another 10-day notice of violation as well as a technical report that lists 21 violations.
- The Army of Corps of Engineers Huntington District says it will gradually release water that's been held by dams in the Ohio River Basin to keep flooding from worsening. The decision follows the Ohio River's crest at Cairo, Illinois. The river has reached historic levels this week, and all of West Virginia's dams except Bluestone have been used to hold back water, raising the lakes' levels above normal levels and closing some boat ramps and campgrounds.
- A group of door-to-door salesmen saying they're selling security systems endorsed by the sheriff's department have deputies in Putnam County on high alert. Putnam County Sheriff Mark Smith says they're asking potential customers for information they have no right to be asking. Smith says they have taken reports about the problem from the Winfield and Poca areas where callers say the salesmen said they would put the system in but needed a voided check. Smith says never, ever give anyone a voided check. They can get your account number and possibly your Social Security number.
- A ribbon cutting ceremony took place Thursday afternoon at the Huntington Veterans Affairs Medical Center to celebrate the opening of the new mental health complex located on the west end of the hospital campus. The facilities, which include a 3-story, 18,000 square foot Mental Health Clinic and a 3-story, 10,000 foot Psychological Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, are in buildings originally built in 1932 as housing for nurses and staff. Renovations on the two buildings cost about $7.4 million.
- Less than three months after they were installed, the Capitol Building Commission voted unanimously Thursday to remove the 56 security bollards on the grounds of the state Capitol. General Services spent $63,000 to install the barriers, but they never sought the approval of the Commission which has final say on any physical changes to the inside or outside of the capital complex. Steve Canterbury, a ex officio member of the Commission, says the bollards present a terrible message to the public, as if we're trying to keep them out of "their buildings, their Capitol." Although he is not a voting member of the Commission, Canterbury made a motion for the bollards to be removed, and the three voting members agreed. The state will spend an additional $15,000 to $23,000 to remove the bollards, the metal pipes inside and the cement that was poured into the ground to hold them in place. The total price for taxpayers is $78,000.
- The special primary to select the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor is slated for Saturday, May 14th. State officials are reminding employees that, unless they typically work on a Saturday, they won't get the Friday before the election off as a holiday. The employee handbook for state workers stipulates that if a legal holiday falls on a Saturday, the previous day is to be considered a holiday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, workers are off the following Monday. A memorandum sent this week to cabinet secretaries, bureau chiefs and agency heads from the state Division of Personnel said the State Attorney General's office released an opinion in August stating that such special elections are legal holidays that only affect those employees scheduled to work and working on that day. State employees scheduled to work and working on the Saturday special election are entitled to a comparable day off, not to exceed eight hours.
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