Breaking Local News
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed next year's state budget after reducing about $11 million set aside for a variety of grants and programs. The vetoes Tuesday made it possible to take only about $15 million from state reserves in a difficult budget year. The budget passed by the Republican-led Legislature depended on about $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund. Tomblin reduced 46 line items. They include millions of dollars in combined reductions from state higher education, the state police forensics lab, free health clinics, vehicle purchasing, the veterans cemetery and other spending. Tomblin's vetoes also take $2 million from capital outlay and maintenance, reducing the fund to $250,000. He called the reductions to various grants and services difficult, but necessary. The next budget year starts in July.
Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in a mine safety case. Blankenship entered his plea on Tuesday at an arraignment hearing in U.S. District Court in Beckley. The hearing was based on a new, superseding indictment handed up earlier this month. Blankenship also pleaded not guilty during his first arraignment in November. He is charged with conspiring to violate safety standards, falsifying coal dust samples and defrauding federal financial regulators related to Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 men in 2010. It was the deadliest U.S. coal mine accident in four decades. Blankenship could face up to three decades in prison, if convicted.
Transit officials are looking for funding to keep buses running between Charleston and Huntington. The Intelligent Transit bus service's funding will expire on June 30. Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority assistant general manager Doug Hartley says unspent repair money will allow the service to operate for at least a few more months.
Hartley tells the Charleston Daily Mail that KRT is working with state and federal officials to find additional funding. The bus service is a joint operation of KRT and the Tri-State Authority in Huntington. Hartley says it costs about $150,000 annually. When it launched in 2009, the bus service carried 9,066 passengers. Since then, ridership has increased to 13,451 in 2014.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department has a new executive director. Dr. Rahul Gupta left in January to take a new position as the state health officer, and the board announced yesterday that Michael Brumage will replace him. Brumage is retiring from the army to take the position and will start in August. An interim executive director and a separate interim health officer are in place in the meantime.
A southern West Virginia pain clinic under investigation by the federal government has reopened four days after authorities conducted a raid. Hope Pain Clinic manager Mark Radcliffe says the clinic in Beaver reopened to patients yesterday. Officers removed boxes of files from the clinic on Thursday and turned away patients. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has said the clinic is under investigation but he couldn't comment further. A U.S. magistrate has sealed search warrants related to the case. No charges have been filed. Radcliffe says the clinic has cooperated fully with investigators
There's been one arrest after a Monday afternoon stabbing in Charleston. It happened at Patrick Street and 7th Avenue, and one woman suffered a stab wound after an argument. One man was arrested, and the woman was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Freedom Industries had its day in court Monday, and pleaded guilty to three pollution charges related to last year's chemical spill into the Elk River. Mark Welch, chief restructuring officer of Freedom Industries, entered the plea on behalf of the company Monday in federal court in Charleston. Freedom faces a maximum $900,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled June 29. Two former Freedom owners and two lower-level employees pleaded guilty to a pollution charge last week and will be sentenced in June. Another former Freedom owner, Dennis Farrell, and former President Gary Southern face trial later this year on spill-related charges. Southern also faces charges related to Freedom's bankruptcy.
A woman reported missing in Kanawha County was found over the weekend, and her mother was criminally charges. 29-year old Hannah Jenami was found Friday night after Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies spent the day interviewing witnesses and following up on tips. Deputies say she was hiding under a blanket in a bedroom closet of her mother’s home, and the mother, Goldie Jenami admitted she didn’t report it to deputies who kept looking for her. The mother faces a misdemeanor filing a false police report.
The Charleston Area Alliance has launched the Small Business Innovation Research assistance program to help small businesses with applications and give incentives. The Charleston Gazette says the program will have two phases, and in phase 1 companies can receive up to $150,000 for a six-month period to prove a concept works. Phase two focuses on the research and development and companies can receive $1 million during that phase. Applications for the program are available starting today through the Alliance.
Beckley residents will begin voting on a new city logo this week. Today is the deadline for artists and designers to submit entries for the city's logo contest. Public voting begins Saturday and runs through April 11. The Register-Herald says the top five designs will be submitted to the city's Logo Selection Committee. The winning design will be announced on April 14 at a City Council meeting. The winner will receive $500 from the city, along with other prizes.