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The Voice of West Virginia

Education leaders provide job opportunities to West Virginians leaving prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An effort to help more West Virginians enter the workforce following drug recovery or incarceration is underway.

Jacob Green

Across the state, there are more job openings than people applying. Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to see high numbers of people suffering from drug addiction.

Jacob Green, superintendent of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Schools of Diversion and Transition (WVSDT), told MetroNews most of those individuals need help navigating their options.

“In the state of West Virginia, when they step out of prison, they have 851 potential barriers they have to get to simply because they have a criminal record,” Green said. “That could cause them issue with access to employment, housing, transportation, the list goes on.”

Green spoke during a Re-Entry and Recovery Works Conference at the Charleston Marriott Town Center last week. The goal of the conference was to highlight education and job opportunities to people who have trouble securing a good job.

Mendy Marshall, director of the WV Office of Adult Education, took part in the conference. Carrie Hodousek/WVMetroNews

“We know that if we can get someone a job and a living wage, all those other barriers become a little easier,” Green said.

Recent data from the WVDE shows the number of West Virginians incarcerated has grow five-fold over the last 30 years, meaning there will be a lot of people who will eventually re-enter society after serving their time.

“Regional jails are short term, but even prisons with the new early parole there’s a lot more people getting out now than there was five years ago,” Green said.

Many people in the state’s prison system remain unemployed a year after their release.

The WVSDT provides educational services to more than 6,000 juveniles and adults in residential and other state-operated facilities.

Mendy Marshall, director of the WVDE’s Office of Adult Education, had a booth set up at the conference to showcase their work.

“It’s a service that we provide to adults who maybe lack their high school equivalency, maybe they had to drop out of school or they need skills to enter into the workforce, or even transition to post-secondary education and training,” Marshall explained.

The office offers high school equivalency testing and testing prep, along with customer service
skills, Microsoft Office certifications and more.

Virtual training is offered in addition to a device loan program.

“If they don’t have a device at home and they’ve enrolled in our classroom, they can check out a device so that they can work on it at home. We try to eliminate as many barriers as we can to help them be successful,” Marshall said.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Drug Control Policy held the conference in partnership with the WVSDT. Last month, office director Dr. Matthew Christiansen told state lawmakers, during a presentation overdose deaths, more people are using the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Christianan added at the time he’s “hopeful” the numbers have peaked since the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital visits related to drug over doses have leveled off, according to the DHHR’s dashboard.

The additional sponsors at last week’s conference include Jobs & Hope WV, Marshall University Health, REACH, Right On Crime, the U.S. Department of Justice, WorkForce West Virginia, the state Division of Rehabilitation Services and West Virginia Reentry Councils.

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Property owners can challenge updated flood maps in 2 counties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents of Greenbrier and Kanawha Counties are encouraged to take a look at the preliminary flood maps updated by FEMA in the wake of the 2016 floods.

The maps, which denote the floodplains in those counties, have been adjusted according to data collected in the wake of the highwater event.

“Anytime we adjust the maps we use the latest data we have and in this case after the 2016 flood, the USGS went out into the field and collected high water marks so that we understood where the flooding took place,” said Maggie Dunn, Outreach Coordinator in the Mitigation Division of FEMA Region 3.

The adjustments could mean property which was previously not in the floodplain is now included. In some cases it may also reveal property in the areas for potential flooding is no longer in that zone. Property owners have the opportunity to challenge the preliminary maps if they disagree with the findings. However, Dunn said, you need more than just anecdotal evidence.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Hey it’s never flooded here before, I want to appeal the map.’ In order for it to be a valid appeal we need people to submit appropriate technical data to show why we should make a change in the preliminary map,” she said.

The maps out for comment in Greenbrier and Kanawha County are posted on-line at the West Virginia mapping tool.

According to Dunn the idea is to let people know they now have property in a flood zone. People are still able to use the property and are not required to make any changes to their homes or other structures.  However, there are different rules of compliance for structures in a floodplain and there are mitigation grants available for anyone wanting to upgrade the structure to those standards. For anybody wanting to build a new structure, compliance with the FEMA standards is required.

But Dunn said one thing that will change if you’re now in a floodplain is you may be required to get flood insurance. If you have your property financed with a federally backed loan it’s a requirement.  Any loan from a bank insured through FDIC is considered a federally backed loan.

“If a property becomes part of the special flood hazard area and they have a federally backed mortgage they would be required to buy flood insurance,” she said.

The comment period started last week and runs for three months if people want to challenge the map before it becomes final.

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WVU, Monongalia County set to welcome lawmakers for interim meetings

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — State lawmakers haven’t taken their interim meetings on the road for more than a decade so when that happens Sunday in Morgantown, WVU and Monongalia County officials plan to put on their collective best efforts.

Rob Alsop

“We’re thrilled and grateful,” WVU Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said about the three days of meetings that WVU will host. “We think we have a lot to showcase with Morgantown, Mon County and WVU, lots of planning and I think we’re ready to go with a successful few days of interims.”

Alsop said WVU wants to show members of the House of Delegates and state Senate that WVU is “an incredibly important part of our state.”

Areas to be showcased include how WVU plays a role in diversifying the state’s economy and helping to improve health care. There will also be a tour of the new Reynolds Hall under construction on the downtown campus.

“We’ll really focus in on a new kind of learning (at Reynolds Hall) for business and finance leaders in our state and with the new children’s hospital coming on line we think we’ve got a lot to show our friends and colleagues in the legislature,” Alsop said.

Alsop said WVU is hoping to highlight how all of the state dollars that come to the university are used.

“We have a real good story to tell about how Mon County is helping lead our state from an economic perspective,” Alsop said.

Monongalia County field trip

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town” Friday, Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said county leaders will take some lawmakers on a field trip Monday.

The Mylan Park Aquatic Center & Track Complex

“Monday afternoon we are bussing them over to the new Harmony Grove intersection and we’ll explain that, then we’ll go to the new Mountaintop Bottling Company and we’re finishing up with the the Mylan Park Aquatic Center & Track Complex.”

After the tour of the Swimming and Track Complex, lawmakers will have a pork roast dinner prepared by Monongalia County Delegate Joe Statler with a selection of desserts. The desserts are prepared by the non-profit Healthy Kids program from the new Mylan Park Community Food Innovation Center.

While lawmakers select from the variety of desserts they’ll be engaged with different exhibits highlighting Monongalia County economic development.

“We will have Mountaintop, the Mon County Airport Commerce Park, the city’s airport runway extension program, Richwood Hills Development, Mountaineer Country Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, WestRidge, Morgantown Industrial Park all things that are unique to Monongalia County,” Bloom said.

Local leaders want to show how a company like Mountaintop Bottling not only creates jobs and generate tax revenue, but attract partner industries to the area. For example, reports indicate Mountaintop will have a large need for wooden pallets, that need could draw another tenant to the Morgantown Industrial Park that would create more jobs and tax revenue.

Tom Bloom

“We’re going to able to show them how it’s going to affect other areas in the state and how we want to work together,” Bloom said. “The key is we want to show them what we’ve done with our money, their money- the people’s money actually.”

The last time interims went on the road was in 2014 in Bridgeport- eight years ago. Before that, 2013 in Wheeling, but lawmakers have no set plan to hold the meetings on the road in the future.

“We’ve never had this opportunity before, Bloom said. “I think this is a golden opportunity to promote Mon County.”

In the last year, Mountaintop Bottling and Owens & Minor have announced expansion plans and start up battery-maker Sparkz has not ruled out Monongalia County for their proposed manufacturing or separate research and development facility. Those announcements amount to about 500 new jobs coming to the Morgantown area.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican area, this is a Monongalia County, West Virginia area that wants to work with the state and here’s what we have to offer,” Bloom said. “Let’s work together so we can get more jobs and get more people a better quality of life.”

The meetings will be hosted by WVU and held at the Erickson Alumni Center and WVU College of Law.

A link to the meeting schedule is here.

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Vehicle crashes through front of Dairy Queen in Putnam County

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — A driver lost control of a vehicle Saturday evening and it went through the front of the Dairy Queen in the Putnam County community of Scott Depot.

Security video from a business across the street shows at around 7:10 p.m. the driver of a Kia Soul shooting across Scott Lane and ramming through the right-side front of the building. It doesn’t appear that brakes were applied.

The driver was taken to the hospital.

The Dairy Queen was open at the time but there were no injuries.

Worker Jacob Bayliss told MetroNews it all happened very quickly.

“I was working the window—I had my back turned and all of the sudden I just hear a big loud, basically explosion. I thought something in the kitchen blew up,” Bayliss said. “I got done handed out whatever order I was handing out and I walked over there and there was a car basically up into the ceiling that had rammed through the front door.”

The vehicle was pulled out of the restaurant leaving behind significant damage.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

MetroNews reporter Taylor Kennedy contributed to this story.

Full thread:

 

 

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Doddridge surges past Ritchie in final event to defend their Class A state title

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All eighteen events were needed to settle the Class A state boys track championship Saturday and border rivals Doddridge County and Ritchie County entered the 4×400 meter relay separated by just two points. The Bulldogs erased the deficit by winning the final event to secure their third consecutive state title.

Doddridge won just two events in the entire meet but their depth in the field events set the stage for the heroics on the track as the Bulldogs held off the Rebels 86-80.

“We knew it could come down to that last race,” said Doddridge County head coach Bobby Burnside. “It was back-and-forth. We really had a big day yesterday to put us in position to make it tight. It was back-and-forth all meet. The effort we gave across from the field events to every running event — every single point mattered. At the end, we had to dig deep. Everyone was tired. We got the victory in exciting fashion.”

Doddridge started the meet well on Friday night by finishing second, third and fourth in the pole vault. Adam Burnside earned six points with a third place finish in the shot put early on Saturday. Leo Stinespring sprinted to victory in the 200 meters and he ran the anchor leg on the 4×400 relay win to secure the school’s eleventh state title.

The Rebels took the lead after the second-to-last event by winning the shuttle hurdle relays. Gus Morrison won the 300 meter hurdles early Saturday morning. He would earn individual high point honors after winning the long jump and 400 meters on Friday.

Saint Marys finished in third place with 58 points. Josh Roush won the 100 meters in 11.36 seconds and Braden Hashman won the 110 high hurdles.

Wheeling Central Catholic won four events on the final day. The Maroon Knights finished fourth. Aidan Scott backed up his two-mile win Friday night with victories in the 1600 meters and the 800 meters on Saturday. Central’s 4×100 and 4×200 relay squads also won titles.

In other competitions on Saturday, Magnolia won the 4×800 meter relay. Wahama’s Rowen Gerlach completed a sweep of the throwing events by winning the shot put. And Haiden Huffman of James Monroe held off Webster County’s Peyton Amos by clearing 6 feet, 2 inches to win the high jump.

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Williamstown cruises to Class A girls track state championship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With wins in nine of the eighteen events, Williamstown won their third consecutive championship in the WVSSAC girls track and field state meet. The Yellowjackets rolled up 148 points with dominating performances in the relays and the distance events.

Freshman Alyssa Sauro won three individual events and a relay in her first state meet. After winning the two-mile run Friday night, Sauro won the 1600 meters and the 800 meters Saturday. She set a new state record in the 800 with a time of 2 minutes, 17.42 seconds.

“I am so happy. These girls push me every day at practice. We just make each other better. I am really happy with everything,” Sauro said.

Williamstown also swept the 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800 relay runs, as the Yellowjackets secured the state title with several events still left to finish on Saturday.

“We have seen Ritchie County, Doddridge County pretty much every meet in the LKC. If we can win the LKC, that is our state title too. We just have to show up for another week,” said Williamstown head coach Zach Hall.

Doddridge County scored 88 points en route to runner-up honors. Abby McDonough won the pole vault by clearing ten feet. Distance runner Lexie Lamb scored 24 points for the Bulldogs by finishing second in the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs.

Ritchie County senior Olivia Cress capped her high school career by winning all four of her events. After winning the high jump on Friday, Cress swept the long jump, 300 meter hurdles and 100 meter hurdles. Cress won individual high point honors as the Rebels finished third in the team competition.

In other competitions, St. Marys sprinter Erica Davis became a double-winner. She crossed the line first in the 100 meter and 200 meter runs.

Elsewhere, South Harrison’s Shellie Baughman won the discus with a throw of 109 feet, 7 inches. And Tygarts Valley is bringing a title back to Mill Creek. The Bulldogs won the second-to-last event in the shuttle hurdle relay.

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Photo gallery: WVU caps regular season with a series sweep of Kansas State

(Photo gallery courtesy of Teran Malone)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia completed a series sweep of Kansas State Saturday with a 5-1 victory at Monongalia County Ballpark/Wagener Field. With the win, WVU collected their 14th Big 12 victory. That is their highest total of league victories since joining the conference in 2013.

West Virginia (33-20, 14-10) received a stellar start from Aidan Major. He tossed five innings of one-run ball and he struck out five batters. Major improved to 3-0 on the season. Noah Short and Trey Braithwaite each tossed two scoreless innings of relief.

Parkersburg South graduate Grant Hussey connected for his tenth home run of the season. Dayne Leonard went 2-for-4 for West Virginia.

West Virginia will open up play in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Arlington, Texas on Wednesday. The Mountaineers are the No. 6 seed in the double-elimination tourney and they will face No. 3 Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m.

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West Virginia officials mark May as Foster Care Month

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice signed a proclamation earlier this month recognizing May as Foster Care Month in West Virginia.

May is National Foster Care Month, which is focused on raising awareness and recognizing foster parents and volunteers dedicated to helping children.

“National Foster Care Month is not only a time to share the need for foster parents in West Virginia, but it is also an opportunity to highlight the hard work of DHHR staff and those who provide homes and stability for West Virginia youth,” said Jeff Pack, the commissioner of the state Bureau for Social Services.

“We are thankful for all who join us in our mission to ensure child safety, permanency, and well-being through foster care and adoption.”

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, there are nearly 7,000 West Virginia children living in out-of-home care.

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West Virginia Suffragist Memorial Committee seeking input for Capitol grounds memorial

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Suffragist Memorial Committee is seeking public input on the design and construction of a memorial on the State Capitol grounds to celebrate West Virginia’s role in securing the right of women to vote.

The committee, whose nine members are appointed by Gov. Jim Justice and was established in 2021 by the West Virginia Legislature, hopes to have a West Virginia Women’s Suffrage Memorial on the grounds by 2024.

West Virginia Suffragist Memorial Committee Co-Chair Renate Pore told MetroNews that the memorial should be a permanent reminder of the impact of the suffragists on West Virginia’s past, present, and future. She also noted the fact that there is not much women’s representation in memorials on the current ground.

Renate Pore

“Men and women, they worked for over 70 years from when they first asked for the vote and when they finally got it. It was a long, hard fight. People really devoted themselves to it, some people gave their entire lives to it,” Pore said.

Pore said 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote but celebrations and memorials were not able to happen due to COVID-19. She said in that period, she was able to learn more about the Suffragist movement memorials across the county. Pore said a lot of them are women in 19th-century clothes, holding banners but her committee is open to anything.

“A memorial doesn’t have to be a bronze statue, it can be something else. but it should inspire people, it should educate people. There are a whole variety of things that could be done,” Pore said.

Pore said by this fall, the committee hopes to gather enough public input to potentially make a decision and find a West Virginia artist to begin preparation. According to the committee’s website, 2023 is the year it hopes to identify a location on the grounds and begin and complete construction of the memorial with an early 2024 opening.

Support for the Committee is provided by the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs (HHOMA) and the West Virginia Women’s Commission. Pore said the committee will also be doing fundraising later in 2022 for the memorial.

To submit ideas, request a virtual or in-person presentation, obtain additional information, printed materials, or to become a sponsor, contact Pore at [email protected] or 304-444-9681. The committee’s website is westvirginiasuffragistmemorial.com.

“We want to hear from the public. We’d like to know what they think and the ideas they have,” Pore said.

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Hardy County man charged with threatening restaurant employee
Eric Phares

MOOREFIELD, W.Va. — A Hardy County man is jailed after witnesses claim he puled an AK-47 rifle on a restaurant employee during an argument.

The incident happened April 29th at the Burger King in Moorefield, W.Va. According to the criminal complain, Eric Phares, 28, of Moorefield and his wife got into an argument with an employee who had brought their food out to their vehicle. The restaurant’s assistant manager says surveillance video shows Phares getting out of the vehicle an pulling out the rifle and pointing it at the employee and the restaurant. He then laid the rifle back in his car.

The manager also claimed Phares called Burger King and threatened to “…shoot up the establishment with his AK-47.”

When confronted about the incident by investigators, Phares denied owning such a firearm and said he never pulled one on anybody. He also said he called the restaurant to apologize for the argument

.

He’s charged with threats of terrorist acts and wanton endangerment. He is being held at Potomac Highlands Regional Jail on a $50,000 bond.

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