Throughout the State | Prime Story

The city’s Planning Commission is recommending the site of a former high school football stadium remain with its current zoning designation after learning of some potential development opportunities for the property.

Following a request from city council, the commission, Wednesday, was tasked with conducting a study and providing a recommendation as to whether the former Jimmy Carey Stadium property, located on Virginia Avenue, should remain with its current M2 zoning.

Planning and Development Director Jessica Gumm explained the property previously had been zoned R2, but was changed at the request of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle — its current owner — to prepare for the development of a proposed battery recycling plant.

“This was done in 2015 and there hasn’t been any mobilization,” she said.

On hand for Wednesday’s meeting was Marvin Six, executive director of the BDC, who explained while the company which had proposed the battery recycling plant — which has been known as both Metal Conversion Technologies Inc. and Mountaineer Metal Management LLC — had taken the project elsewhere, they still held a lease on the site.

The Brooke County Commission has accepted a bid from a Pittsburgh business to collect core samples from the future site of the county courthouse’s judicial annex.

The commissioners, during their meeting Tuesday, accepted a bid of $9,633 from Intertek PSI for the job at the recommendation of McKinley Architecture & Engineering of Wheeling, which is designing the addition.

Plans call for the addition to be built in the open lot between the courthouse and the corner of Eighth and Charles streets and include courtrooms and offices for the circuit, magistrate and family courts.

Bids ranging from $9,460 to $15,216 were submitted by eight businesses for the collection of core samples.

Commission President A.J. Thomas said Intertek PSI, which submitted the second lowest bid, was chosen because the firm could start and complete the work earlier than the others.

They are expected to start early next month.

Thomas said the core samples are required for the project and the commission doesn’t anticipate any issues that would hinder the project.

He noted designs for the addition must be approved by the state Supreme Court, which sets standards for circuit and magistrate court facilities in the state.

Wheeling city officials are exploring expanding the city police department’s fleet of cruisers and implementing a take-home vehicle policy for all of its officers — an estimated seven-figure investment.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, who has advocated a take-home cruiser policy for years, spoke before the city council’s Public Safety Committee Tuesday night to explain his position.

“Currently about 50 percent of the sworn staff today has take-home vehicles,” said Schwertfeger, who has previously noted that it has been department policy that officers with ranks of sergeant or higher typically have their own assigned vehicles. “That’s roughly 35 of the 73 — a little less than 50 percent.

“We could outfit the remaining officers with an assigned vehicle at approximately $50,000 per vehicle for a price tag of about $1.3 million,” he continued. “That’s an investment that I think stings when you first hear it. But down the road, the return on investment is there, no doubt about it.”

Schwertfeger explained that the department cruisers that are shared are typically driven regularly during all shifts without down time. When a patrolman completes his shift, he hands the keys to another officer on the next shift, and the vehicle keeps going.

— The Intelligencer/ Wheeling News-Register

The city of Wheeling now doesn’t have to pay Ohio County more than $1 million in taxes owed on the former Ohio Valley Medical Center property, and the Ohio County Board of Education is on board with that.

The Ohio County Commission has approved a tax abatement of more than $1 million for the city of Wheeling, which assumed ownership of the former OVMC site in the summer of 2020.

As part of last year’s deal to acquire the former OVMC from previous owner Medical Properties Trust or MPT, the city agreed to pay legal and brokerage fees associated with the transaction, as well as any outstanding property taxes owed.

Also as part of the agreement, MPT had requested the sale be completed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30 for tax purposes. That left the city of Wheeling to pay what would have been MPT’s tax bill.

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron explained MPT had been current on its taxes — so technically there were not outstanding “back taxes” owed, just the last remaining bill for the 2020 tax year through the end of June

Once the city took ownership, the land became government property and is tax exempt.

— The Intelligencer/ Wheeling News-Register

The City of Elkins will be seeking input from both the community and government officials on what to do with the estimated $2.91 million the city is expected to receive from the American Rescue Act.

The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, signed by President Joe Biden last week, is expected to provide $4 billion for the state of West Virginia, including $5.57 million for Randolph County.

The city has not yet received any official guidance concerning allowed uses or other restrictions involving the funding, a City of Elkins press release stated late Monday afternoon.

“This payment is one of the biggest things to happen to Elkins in generations,” Finance Committee Chairman Charlie Friddle said in the release. “We need to think carefully about what the highest and best uses for it would be.

“Frankly, we don’t know any more about this funding than what has appeared in the news,” he said. “The federal government hasn’t communicated with us in any way about this yet, so we really don’t know how this money can be spent.”

American Rescue Act funds for local governments are expected to be disbursed in two payments, one in April and one about a year later, according to statewide organizations and news reports.

Will E.T. be able to phone home from Etam?

Records show the former AT&T International Earth Station property instantly recognizable by its four huge satellite dishes changed hands in December.

The station was purchased from AT&T by Deep Space Network LLC for $1.65 million.

Deep Space Network is a part of NASA. It is comprised of international array of giant radio antennas that support interplanetary spacecraft missions, plus a few that orbit Earth. The DSN also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve the understanding of the solar system and the larger universe, according to its website.

Deep Space Network did not immediately return requests for comment on how the Etam property will be used.

Etam Earth Station sits just off W.Va. 72 and has four giant parabolic dish antennas.

The property was a principal site in the United States for receiving transmissions from orbiting communication satellites.

Etam Earth Station was built by COMSAT and began operations on Christmas Eve 1968.

The Etam International Earth Station was the first U.S. station to operate with INTELSAT III satellites.

Other achievements include being the first to introduce the SPADE system in 1973, which kept a pool of frequencies available for users as needed.

— Preston County News and Journal

Kingwood’s transfer station on Shower Bath Road has problems with daily back-ups, and customers not being able to dump their loads by the 2:30 p.m. deadline.

The city council met at the site Wednesday to discuss options to make things move a little faster. The transfer station property is bordered by Shower Bath Road and Morgan Run Creek. The property is 6.92 acres, according to records at the Preston County Assessor.

One of the first thoughts of the council was to put in a second set of scales, but City Supervisor Bruce Pyles said there was no room to expand on the property.

“So we can’t expand across the street?” Mayor Jean Manuel Guillot asked.

“No, that is state land,” Pyles replied.

Recorder Bill Robertson said he is trying to keep an open mind and see whether anything works, and then narrow it down before starting to eliminate things.

Guillot inquired whether it would be expensive to move the whole operation back toward Morgan Run Creek.

“How are you going to do it with trucks coming in?” Pyles asked. “There is only a little room where the drivers are backing up. There is not a whole lot of room, and you have to have room.”

Councilman Mike Lipscomb was explaining when a truck like his own with a trailer comes to the dump, they pull in between the gates to get rid of their loads.

— Preston County News and Journal

The West Virginia University School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a nearly 3% weekly increase in the number of people who wore masks.

This was part of the third week of “MASCUP!”, an ongoing mask observation study.

“The purpose of the study is to estimate the percentage of people within the WVU community wearing masks correctly and, ultimately, increase the proportion of people who use masks correctly,” according to a release.

WVU is one of 60 colleges and universities across the country participating in MASCUP!, which stands for Mask Adherence Surveillance at Colleges and Universities Project.

Per the release, “observing mask use can assist universities with determining the adherence among students, faculty and staff to inform public health decision-making.”

Following are the results from the third week, March 1-7, of observations, during which 414 people were observed.

Observations are being conducted by eight CDC-trained students from the School of Public Health.

18 (4.3%) did not wear masks; and

351 (88.6%) of those wearing masks wore them correctly.

Additionally, observers noted the most common mask type was a cloth mask.

Kent Marshall, first-year medical student at West Virginia University, potentially saved his neighbor’s life just by studying for an exam.

Marshall took home a Vscan portable ultrasound device to practice skills he learned in lectures. He did not imagine a device no larger than his cell phone could have such a big effect on a close family friend.

“I hadn’t intended to change anyone’s life, it was absolutely a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment,” Marshall in a release. “The department allows students to bring home Vscans so we can practice and refine our skills. My plan was to practice on my wife’s knee, finding and identifying the normal ligaments, veins and arteries.”

Marshall may have averted a medical emergency by identifying a potential case of deep vein thrombosis that could have led to a critical health problem for a man he identifies as his “adopted grandfather,” William “Bill” Tribett.

While Marshall was studying, Tribett came by and mentioned that he had twisted his knee while getting out of his truck earlier. He offered the medical student a chance to look at it.

The Charles Town City Council moved to give the green light to the design concept of a new stormwater management system earlier this week as city officials hope to alleviate flooding in downtown Charles Town.

The go-ahead came after the council heard from Randy Kepler, who works for Martinsburg’s Greenway Engineering, and has been developing a concept plan for managing flood water on East Liberty Street. Funds for the design plan came from a Chesapeake Bay Foundation grant, which, at $170,000, needs to be used by the end of June and was why Kepler stressed that it was important to approve the engineering design now, as Greenway has been operating under an expedited process due to the deadline.

“We are just looking to see if the concept is acceptable as we get into detail,” Kepler said. “If anybody on council has heard anything about street layouts, or heard comments from citizens saying the city needs to look in a certain direction, we want to know.”

The plan, which was labeled by both Kepler and City Manager Daryl Hennessy as a “high-level concept,” is aimed at addressing the flooding issues through gravel layers and soil layers, which will flow the water into an underground drainage system that would then go into the stormwater system and eventually be moved down into a creek.

The Berkeley County Council shared its support of a bill which would allow pre-certified officers to transfer departments quicker and agreed it would, should the bill pass in the coming weeks, do its best to help support any corresponding action needed to ensure the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department was able to support any incoming deputy transfers.

During its regularly scheduled Thursday morning meeting, Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon presented potential payroll requests to the Berkeley County Council, explaining their necessity should the recently introduced Civil Service Amendment be passed at the state level.

Introduced to the West Virginia House this week, the Civil Service amendment, Bill 3243, says, “any deputy who has met all qualifications for appointment to a county or municipal police force may transfer to any other county or municipal police force within the civil service system and such person may transfer without the need for retaking an additional written examination or other requirements, upon successfully completing: (1) a medical examination ensuring the transferring person does not have any underlying conditions that could result in his or her incapacity or limit his or her ability to perform the job duties, and (2) completing a background screening.”

The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory has teamed with the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University to develop the skilled workforce it needs to maintain operations of its numerous radio telescopes and other instruments, observing the universe to unlock the mysteries of outer space.

The Observatory’s Mechanical Division manufactures large structural parts for the instruments and smaller high-precision receiver components from aluminum, brass, copper and steel.

Like many private machine shops, the Mechanical Division faces the prospect of losing highly trained machinists to retirement. Several of the division’s nine employees are approaching retirement age, said Tracy Samples, human resources manager for the Observatory.

“There’s virtually no better option in our area than to grow our own talent,” Samples said.

RCBI’s Apprenticeship Works initiative provides the framework, support and training to do just that. Through the nationwide advanced manufacturing apprenticeship partnership, RCBI assists companies and organizations in 19 states in establishing registered apprenticeship programs in 20 manufacturing occupations.

Hino Trucks announced plans to use Cummins engines to resume production this fall at its North American plants, including the facility in Wood County.

After pausing production multiple times in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hino announced just before Christmas it would halt vehicle production in North America due to issues related to the U.S. certification testing process for engines in its new model year vehicles.

The company indicated it hoped to resume production in October, and an arrangement announced during last week’s virtual 2021 NTEA Work Truck Show appears poised to make that a reality.

“We are thrilled to offer Cummins’ proven B6.7 and L9 engines,” said Bob Petz, senior vice president of vehicle and parts sales, in a release from the company. “The reliability, performance and durability presented with Cummins engines coupled with the award-winning Hino conventional cab will provide our customers the ultimate ownership experience.”

A Hino spokesman said the Cummins engines will replace those Hino manufactured and used in the Hino L Series and XL Series produced at the local facility.

— Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens played a recording of one of his deputies in need of assistance from last fall to illustrate the point of needing additional deputies as county officials went before the Wood County Commission Monday with their budget requests.

Stephens, Assessor David Nohe, Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, Circuit Clerk Celeste Ridgway, Extension Agents Jodi Smith and Gwen Crum, 911 Director Rick Woodyard, Day Report Center Director Hernando Escandon and Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes appeared before the commission on Monday to make requests and talk about what they needed as officials continue working on the 2021-2022 budget.

Stephens told commissioners that he would like to have three additional deputies and three new vehicles.

“I could use 10, but I am asking for three,” he said. He currently has 38 deputies.

He played a recording of the call from last October of Lt. J.W. Allen needing assistance during an incident where he used deadly force when he was physically attacked by three subjects during a disturbance on Stillwell Road, killing Paul M. Bailey, 21, of Walker. Earlier this year the Wood County Grand Jury ruled Allen’s actions were justified.

Stephens said he wasn’t trying to be “overly dramatic” in playing the call, but wanted to illustrate the challenges his people faced when out on calls.

— Parkersburg News and Sentinel

A virtual public hearing Wednesday on legislation to make it illegal to remove or relocate Confederate monuments from public places drew 19 people who spoke against the bill, none who spoke for it — and only one legislator.

After the 19 speakers had condemned the legislation as an attempt to preserve statuary promoting white supremacy, and as way to assure that West Virginia retains its image as a backward, unwelcoming and racist state, Government Organization Chairman Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, conceded that he was the only legislator participating in the Zoom teleconference.

House Bill 2174, the West Virginia Monument and Memorial Protection Act, advanced from the committee on a party-line 19-6 vote Monday. It will be on amendment stage on the House floor Thursday.

“Does this bill do anything to help average West Virginians?” asked James Cochran, head of West Virginians Against Confederate Commemoration, which has a petition signed by more than 10,000 people calling for relocation of the Stonewall Jackson statue on the Capitol grounds. “Why are you fighting to protect monuments to people who fought a armed rebellion against the United States to maintain the institution of slavery?”

— Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday that checks the rule-making authority of county boards of health.

Senate Bill 12 requires any rule set by county boards of health to be approved by the county commission and any other appointing authority after a public comment period. For example, rules set by the Cabell County Board of Health will need approval by the Cabell County Commission and the Huntington City Council, as they both have authority to appoint members to the board of health. The appointing authorities can approve, disapprove and amend rules.

This could result in separate public health rules in the city versus the county.

Current rules will not need to be approved unless they are amended.

If there is a public health emergency, rules can go into effect immediately but still need approval within 30 days. If the governor declares a public health emergency, county boards must follow guidance set by the state health officer.

The bill is effective June 2.

Supporters of the bill say it balances public health with politics, giving more authority over policy to elected officials.

The legislation was opposed by the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, the state association for public health officers, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.

— Charleston Gazette-Mail

Comments are closed.