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Video Contest on the Constitution Open to Students

West Virginia secondary school students could win as much as $500 for developing a video about the U.S. Constitution and what it's meant to them. The state Department of Education and the West Virginia State Bar are sponsoring a video contest for students in grades 6 through 12, with a top prize of $500 and second prize of $250 in each category. Deadline for entry is March 27.

Sobriety Checkpoint Planned Tonight

The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program will be conducting a high visibility sobriety checkpoint tonight from 7:00 p.m. to midnight on Midland Drive near Rand. The Sheriff’s Office says it has zero tolerance for impaired driving and this is one of many checkpoints this year.

Bridge Jumpers Have New Security Option

Bridge Day organizers have approved an optional security measure to address privacy concerns about fingerprint scans. The Bridge Day Commission plans to require BASE jumpers, rappellers and vendors to submit to the scans. The fingerprints will be checked against a terrorism watch list. The Register-Herald reports that the commission has added the option of a paid background check. The fingerprint scans will be free. Commission chairwoman Sharon Cruikshanks says background checks would be conducted by a third-party security company. Bridge Day is the only time that BASE jumping is allowed from the New River Gorge Bridge. Some jumpers have said they will skip this year's event because of the fingerprint scans. BASE stands for building, antenna, span and Earth, the fixed objects from which jumpers leap with parachutes.

More to Come Next Week on Chemical Spill Cleanup Plan

The public will learn next week about plans to clean up a chemical storage site on the Elk River. The Tuesday meeting in Charleston will include consultants from Freedom Industries and officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection. They'll explain plans under the department's voluntary industrial remediation program. The Charleston Gazette reports that the meeting comes amid a deadline for Freedom to reach agreement with the state on the next step in the cleanup. The company also has to explain its plan for completing its bankruptcy case, resolving millions of dollars in claims.

State Lawmakers Ok New Budget

West Virginia lawmakers have cleared a budget that relies on almost $23 million in reserves. The state Legislature voted Wednesday on the House-Senate budget agreement. Some votes crossed party lines.
The plan wouldn't depend on major tax or fee increases, like the cigarette tax hike that fizzled during the 60-day legislative session. In a difficult budget year, there aren't major pay increases, either. A small pocket of nationally certified teachers in low performing schools would get $2,000 raises. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's budget calls for $15.5 million from reserves. Republican Sen. Mike Hall says Tomblin's budget depends on millions more from two bills that didn't pass. Tomblin can veto or reduce individual budget items.

East End and West Side Team Up

The East End and the West Side are teaming up. This week the East End Main Street board voted to form an administrative connections with West Side Main Street, and they'll keep individual boards and programming, but call themselves Charleston Main Streets. The Charleston Gazette reports the vote was passed 13 to three with four abstentions.

Mountaintop Removal Review Questioned

West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney questioned the need for the review on studies linking mountaintop removal mining with health problems in nearby communities. Environmental groups have argued the mining method defaces the landscape and sends toxic substances into waterways, endangering human health. Tomblin told The Associated Press Tuesday that "if there's enough scientific evidence that something needs to be changed," then he's sure DEP Secretary Randy Huffman will give him recommendations.

Former Freedom Plant Manager Enters Plea

A former plant manager at Freedom Industries has pleaded guilty to a pollution charge in last year's chemical spill into a river in West Virginia. Michael Burdette entered the plea to negligent discharge of a pollutant Wednesday in federal court in Charleston. He faces up to a year in prison. Freedom Industries environmental consultant Robert Reynolds also was expected to plead guilty later Wednesday to a similar charge. Ex-owners Charles Herzing and William Tis pleaded guilty Monday to causing an unlawful discharge into the river. Ex-Freedom owner Dennis Farrell and former President Gary Southern face trial later this year in the spill. Southern also faces charges related to Freedom's bankruptcy.

Charge Dismissed Against Former Principal Giles

A misdemeanor charge against former Capital High School principal Clinton Giles has been dismissed. Giles had been charged with failing to immediately report a sexual assault at the school, but Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Carrie Webster granted a defense request to dismiss the charge on Wednesday and said the prosecution of Giles wasn't supported by state law. After the hearing, Giles said in a statement that he was wrongfully prosecuted and subjected to character assassination. Giles retired after he was charged on Feb. 3. He was accused of taking no action on the day a counselor reported the assault to him. A 17-year-old male student pleaded guilty on Tuesday to forcing a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him at the school on Jan. 26.

Contractor Picked to Tear Down Slack Street Recycling Center

The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority picked a company yesterday to demolish the Slack Street Recycling Center facility. The lowest bidder will be awarded the contract for $54,900, and that's Rodney Loftis and Son. The next closest bid was $74,400, and two other bids that came in to the Solid Waste Authority were over $350,000. The county is in the process of reinventing the recycling program, and part of that process is tearing down the troubled Slack Street facility.

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