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Yeager Airport officials eyeing new terminal with infrastructure money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials with Yeager Airport are thinking big when it comes to changes at the airport with funding available from the historic infrastructure package signed into law in November.

Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller told MetroNews the facility will receive $10 million over a five-year period from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to use on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved projects involving capitol improvements. Keller said the airport will receive its first round this federal fiscal year by Sept. 30, 2022.

Keller also said the airport is conducting a study into how a new terminal and control tower would look and be built on the property, as the airport plans to apply to a $5 billion competitive grant program for terminals and control towers as part of IIJA. The program will target projects that increase airport capacity and passenger access, and that improve energy efficiency.

Nick Keller

Keller said once the study is done in March, the airport will apply for the new Airport Terminal Improvement program at the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve aging infrastructure. He said the $1 billion is given per year for five years to airports that are approved and 95% is funded by the federal government.

“We have the opportunity to get a brand new terminal building and a brand new control tower. We can get away from a 1950 facility that has been added on to a multitude of times. It’s something that meets our needs for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.

Yeager Airport has the oldest FAA-operated control tower in the country. Keller said if approved in the grant program, eventually the entire terminal would be gone and a new facility would be built.

Keller said the age of the terminal along with the needs changing for different fleet mixes of aircraft will provide justification for the work to be done.

“Imagine coming in and having a new ticket lobby, a new security checkpoint, new everything. All the gates being on the same floor as your ticket lobby like when you go to other airports. Then on your ground floor when you fly in, you have your baggage claim, rental car companies,” Keller said.

Keller also envisions a dual-level roadway that would feature departures on upper levels and arrivals on the bottom floor.

Aviation programs included in IIJA are:

$15 billion for airport infrastructure grants, similar to traditional Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds. Airports would have the flexibility to address broader needs like terminal and gate construction, multi-modal projects, and low-emission ground service vehicles.

$5 billion to upgrade Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control facilities and equipment. $200 million is reserved for FAA-owned contract towers.

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WVU draws Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona on December 28. Kickoff is set for 10:15pm EST and the game will be televised by ESPN. This is WVU’s second appearance in the game. The Mountaineers defeated Arizona State, 43-42 to cap the 2015 season when the game was dubbed the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.

🌵🏈 𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐈𝐂𝐈𝐀𝐋: The 2021 @GuaranteedRate Bowl will feature its new @Big12Conference vs. @BigTenNetwork matchup when @WVUfootball and @GopherFootball hit the field in Downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, live on @ESPN (8:15 pm MST).

🎟 https://t.co/c6Am6jeb2K pic.twitter.com/n8LxdNwjnt

— Guaranteed Rate Bowl (@RateBowl) December 5, 2021

West Virginia (6-6) won their final two games of the season and four of their last six to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season under Neal Brown. This will be WVU’s eighteenth bowl appearance in the last twenty years.

Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) throws a pass (Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)

Just like the Mountaineers, Minnesota (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) went 4-2 in the second half of their regular season. The Gophers and Mountaineers share a common opponent in Maryland. Minnesota defeated the Terps 34-16 on October 23, while Maryland knocked off WVU on the season’s opening weekend.

P.J. Fleck is 34-23 in his fifth year leading the Gophers and was recently rewarded with a new seven-year contract. Offensive linemen Daniel Faalele and Blaise Andries were named to the All-Big Ten First Team. Minnesota owns the fourth-best defense in the Big Ten, yielding just 18.3 points per game.

“We have been eager to kick off the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with teams from the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences and the time has finally come,” said Mike Nealy, Executive Director of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. “Minnesota and West Virginia are both rich in football history. Each has played in this game before, and we welcome the teams and their fans back to Downtown Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun.”

This is the first meeting between the schools. The game will be played at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In other bowl games involving Big 12 teams:

  • Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame – Fiesta Bowl
  • Baylor vs. Mississippi – Sugar Bowl
  • Oklahoma vs. Oregon – Alamo Bowl
  • Iowa State vs. Clemson – CheezIt Bowl
  • Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State – Liberty Bowl
  • Kansas State vs. LSU – Texas Bowl

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No plans to reintroduce coronavirus policies in nursing homes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite a rise in active coronavirus cases and concerns about the omicron variant, nursing homes in West Virginia are not planning to reimplement policies seen earlier in the pandemic.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities reduced visitor restrictions in November following a federal directive allowing visitations. Visitors who are not vaccinated are required to wear a facial covering, and people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or exhibit symptoms are advised to not enter facilities.

Marty Wright (File)

Marty Wright, the chief executive of the West Virginia Health Care Association, told MetroNews that officials are monitoring developments with the pandemic.

“Between the vaccine and what we’ve learned through various control measures, I don’t foresee the omicron posing the risk right now,” he said. “I think we can definitely enjoy loved ones and share some time with them during the holidays.”

Wright said allowing visitors for Thanksgiving posed few risks to health care facilities.

“It was great to see,” he said.

The number of active coronavirus cases in West Virginia has increased since Thanksgiving, and health officials have expressed concerns about people spending more time indoors due to colder weather.

Wright said positive cases in facilities have been tied to community outbreaks. He added vaccination doses and booster shots are important for protecting workers and residents.

“Right now, any new positive cases we are seeing are vaccine breakthrough cases,” he said. “That goes to the drive to get everyone boosted, to get that immunity back up where it needs to be.”

The state Department of Health and Human Resources has identified active coronavirus outbreaks at 40 long-term care facilities in West Virginia. The largest outbreaks have happened at facilities in Marion, Ohio, Cabell and Harrison counties.

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Boone County hunter charged after shooting man his mistook as a bear

BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. — A Boone County hunter has been charged after allegedly shooting a man he mistook for a bear.

According to authorities, 70-year-old Jimmy Castle was hunting on Wednesday when he saw what he thought was a bear. Castle fired his gun but did not see anything fall. He and another person returned to the area later but did not find anything.

The state Division of Natural Resources said Harvey shot 30-year-old David Green, who was root digging while wearing a black shirt.

Green’s family reported him missing on Thursday, and first responders found his body with a gunshot wound. Castle contacted authorities about the body, saying he may have been involved in the incident.

Castle faces charges of misdemeanor negligent shooting and felony failure to render aid.

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Crouse appointed to House seat while also looking at 2022 election

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The next six months are going to be busy for Delegate Kathie Hess Crouse (R-Putnam).

Appointed to her seat just two weeks ago by Gov. Jim Justice, Crouse is looking at the legislative session while also running a campaign for election in May 2022. Justice appointed Crouse, a Buffalo native, to the district to cover the vacancy created by the resignation of Josh Higginbotham. The district covers parts of Putnam, Jackson, and Mason counties.

Kathie Hess Crouse

Crouse recently appeared on MetroNews flagship 580-WCHS in Charleston and said she is ready to hit the ground running on issues, even predicting she’ll be popular among second amendment advocates.

“Taxes. I want to look at tax reform with income taxes, property taxes, how can we fix that. I want to look at mental health and addiction. Of course, we need to protect the second amendment. I am a big second amendment advocate and plan to stay that way while in the legislature,” Crouse said.

Crouse said there needs to be answers for how better to help those in addiction and mental health crisis.

“As a parent trying to get help for a child over the age of 18, it’s very difficult. I think we need to look at how can families help children who are now grown adults get the help they need,” she said.

Crouse said she is also an advocate of homeschooling, being the president of the West Virginia Home Educators. She also wants to work on broadband infrastructure.

Crouse ran for the House of Delegates in 2016 but was defeated in the primary. She ran for West Virginia Senate District 8 in 2020 but was defeated in the general election by Glenn Jefferies (D-Putnam).

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Active coronavirus cases remain above 8,000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Active coronavirus cases in West Virginia remain above 8,000, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The agency on Sunday reported 8,051 active cases, including 833 new cases received since Saturday’s report. The daily positive test rate was 8.19%.

Officials have confirmed 4,962 deaths related to the pandemic.

According to the agency, 585 West Virginians are hospitalized with the coronavirus, in which 189 West Virginians are receiving intensive care unit treatment and 98 people are on ventilators.

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Morrisey continues push toward halting federal vaccine mandates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State General Patrick Morrisey says there are several aspects of federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates that he is working toward halting.

Patrick Morrisey

The first has to do with health care workers who work for Medicare of Medicaid providers.

“Every health care worker can go up to their employer and say ‘wait a minute, you need to wait until that issue is resolved in the court,'” Morrisey said on MetroNews affiliate WEMP in Martinsburg last week.

Another vaccine mandate has been run through OSHA, and according to Morrisey, it has been paused.

“That’s actually pending in the 6th circuit, but it’s very significant. That’s on hold for the foreseeable future because we expect that it probably won’t get resolved until sometime next year,”

Last week, Morrisey joined forces with his counterparts in several other states who have filed motions attempting to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.

There’s a temporary hold on the federal requirement and is currently being appealed by federal officials.

In places like the Eastern Panhandle, where there are a larger number of residents employed as federal contractors, Morrisey argued government agencies do not possess the authority to establish vaccine mandates.

“Congress never really delegated these types of authorities to these agencies, so they don’t possess the ability to do what the government is saying they can do,” he said.

Morrisey called the mandates “an unlawful attempt to federalize national vaccine policy and override the states’ police powers on matters of health and safety.

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New River Gorge fire 95% contained; NPS ‘confident’ in full containment on Sunday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A fire in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is 95% contained, the National Park Service announced on Saturday.

“The crews put in another day of good work, and we feel confident that the crews will have full containment by the end of shift on Sunday,” an official told MetroNews.

The fire in the Beauty Mountain area was first reported on Nov. 29 and had grown to 150 acres at one point.

Resource management staff are working on a rehabilitation plan for the fire. Officials said the low-burning fire was ecologically beneficial, and there will be minimal work on fire suppression efforts.

A fire suppression module from Pennsylvania has left the scene to assist with a different effort in Virginia.

The National Park Service is anticipating a gusty Sunday afternoon and rain on Monday morning. An official said the agency expects to “release our resources back to their home units” on Monday.

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In lawsuit, W.Va. officials say authorizing charter schools is no constitutional runaround

West Virginia government leaders contend a new path to approve charter schools does not circumvent the state Constitution.

The legal question is whether allowing a new Professional Charter Schools Board to approve new schools violates a clause that says no new school district or organization may be created without a vote of people in existing districts.

How a judge interprets that clause will be a key to the case: Is it a matter of procedure, or a matter of geography?

Moreover, does a constitutional clause dating to the late 1800s apply to current consideration of charter schools?

A lawsuit filed earlier this year contends state leaders skirted constitutional restrictions by establishing the new Professional Charter Schools Board, which went on to approve new freestanding schools in Morgantown, Nitro and Jefferson County.

That lawsuit named as defendants Gov. Jim Justice, Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, saying they were responsible for the new policy.

In responses filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, lawyers for the defendants contend it defies logic that the Professional Charter Schools Board isn’t named as a defendant instead.

And they say there’s no legal way to force the governor, the Senate president and the House speaker to change a law or to hold a vote on any public matter. For the court to force such a vote, they say, would be a violation of separation of powers.

Moreover, lawyers contend the original lawsuit misinterprets the state Constitution, saying that clause “does not prohibit the authorization of charter schools. Nor does it require that they be voted upon before they are approved.”

Those lawyers say that clause goes way back to an era when the Legislature was dividing the geography of school districts without the consent of communities. And they contend the Constitution needs to be interpreted within the scope of what the framers intended.

The legal challenge is based on a portion of the state Constitution that says “no independent free school district, or organization shall hereafter be created, except with the consent of the school district or districts out of which the same is to be created, expressed by a majority of the voters voting on the question.”

The lawsuit contends the current path for charter school approval steers around that requirement.

The defendants disagree, describing ‘recruitment areas’ for students who may attend charter schools, rather than carving out a school district: “None of the territory of the county districts where a charter school operates is ‘annexed’ to that charter school.

The filings for the defendants focus on history shortly after West Virginia’s creation, describing schools administered by local townships. In those days, the Legislature created school districts independent of those townships, carving out a new school district from the geography of another.

In 1872, the state Constitution included a limitation that the Legislature could not alter the territory of an existing school district to create a new, independent one.

Attorneys for the defendants contend the issue of carving out districts became moot in 1933 when the Legislature established a county district system.

West Virginia passed a law allowing charter schools for the first time in 2019. Charter schools would receive financial support from the state’s public education system and would be given greater operational latitude in exchange for the possibility of losing their right to operate if they fail.

Initially, authorization went only through county boards — or the state school board in a few instances. The first applicant was rejected last year by the Monongalia and Preston county boards.

So this year, the Legislature established a new pathway to approval, adding a West Virginia Professional Charter School Board as an authorizer. Board members are appointed by the governor and then go through confirmation by the state Senate.

There is not a public vote of county residents in those cases.

Lawyers for the defendants wrote, “It allows an authorizer (including the PCSB) to ‘review’ charter school applications and to ‘approve or reject ‘ them without holding a county-wide vote. HB 2012 would have to be rewritten to add such a requirement.”

The legal challenge was brought by Sam Brunett of Marion County and Robert McCloud of Kanawha County, both parents and educators. They contend they will  suffer irreparable harm if the charter schools are created without the consent of a majority of voters in the county or counties where the charter schools operate.

Their lawyers wrote, “In 1872, the people of West Virginia safeguarded their right to vote on public school matters in the West Virginia Constitution, ratifying article 12, section 10, which prohibits the creation of independent school organizations absent the consent of county voters.

“In 2021, the Legislature and Governor disregarded this clear legal right and their legal duty by enacting H.B. 2012, authorizing the creation of certain charter schools as independent school organizations without the consent of county voters.”

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Taylor’s triple helps Thundering Herd edge Duquesne, 72-71

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Duquesne’s lead just grew and grew. A 10-0 run by the Dukes gave them a 28-11 lead over Marshall when Primo Spears nailed a 3-pointer with 6:12 left in the half.

At that point, the Thundering Herd dug down deep and started down the comeback trail. Even though Andy Taylor made just one triple, it turned out to be the eventual game-winner with 9 seconds left and when Marko Sarenac blocked a shot at the buzzer, Marshall escaped with the win, 72-71, in front of 4,367 fans Saturday night at Cam Henderson Center.

“You know we’ve got a never quit mentality and that takes you a long way,” the Herd’s Taevion Kinsey said. “We went out there and they were beating us bad the first half. We came out the second half and shot like that first half never happened. That was definitely a hard-fought win.”

Marshall (5-3) managed to cut the deficit to 33-26 at halftime despite missing all 13 three-point shots and the Dukes nailed five. The Herd had good fortune to close on a 15-5 run.

Sarenac connected on a three-pointer with 10:42 left to give Marshall its first lead at 48-46 and the two teams went back and forth from that point. Kevin Easley’s jumper with 1:58 to play put Duquesne up, 71-69.

After that, Kinsey missed two shots and the Herd suffered a turnover, but the Dukes (3-6) didn’t cash in to expand the lead. Spears missed a shot with 17 seconds left.

Marshall got the rebound and Kinsey found Taylor open for a three and he drained the shot for the lead, 72-71. Sarenac got the closing block at the end, and after confirmation by the officials, time was out and the Herd made up a bit for letting one get away Wednesday at Akron (88-86 loss).

“Obviously it was a slow start. I’m going to attribute it to the lineup change (the insertion of David Early and Obinna Anochili-Killen into Saturday’s starting lineup),” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’re young, but they fought. We were down seven, 0-for-13 from the three at the end of the first half. They gave you their heart and that’s all you can ask for.”

Kinsey led the Herd with 21 points to go with six rebounds and six assists and zero turnovers in 40 minutes. Anochili-Killen, who got into foul trouble and failed to score or block a shot at Akron, tallied 13 points and rejected four shots. Darius George led in rebounds with eight.

Primo led all scorers with a career-high 23 points. Tre Williamson had 14, Tyson Acuff 11 and Kevin Easley 10.
A made free throw by Anochili-Killen tied the game, 69-69, with 2:13 left, but Easley’s jumper gave the Dukes their final lead.

On the decisive play, Kinsey got a rebound with 14 seconds left, rushed the ball up the court and dished it to Taylor. The point guard gave a pump fake, and nailed a corner three for the lead.

“I’m just glad I hit the last one,” Taylor said. “I feel like it was just a blessing from God to hit that last one. I feel like we had some defensive breakdowns and I’m older so I cannot be doing that. I have to watch film and be a better leader for the guys.”

Marshall, which likes the three in D’Antoni’s system, missed 15 straight before Anochili-Killen nailed one with 13:33 left to play. That basket triggered a 13-0 Marshall run over the next three minutes, which included two more threes, to give the Herd a 48-46 lead with 10:42 to play.

Kinsey, a senior from Columbus, Ohio, reached double figures for the 42nd straight game. The Herd has made a three in 978 straight games. The last game without a triple was Feb. 27, 1989 in a win over Appalachian State.

For Early and Anochili-Killen, it was their first starts of the season. It was Anochili-Killen’s 18th career start and No. 2 for Early.

Marshall’s next game is Wednesday at home against Bluefield University. Game time is 7 p.m.

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