Breaking Local News

Bus Ridership is Up

A new bus service between Charleston and Morgantown is becoming a popular choice for travelers. Cindy Fish with the state Division of Transit says ridership on the I-Ride 79 bus service is growing daily. In October, 763 passengers, or about 25 per day, rode the buses. Fish tells The State Journal that the bus service is seeing a lot of repeat business. The Division of Public Transit launched the I-Ride 79 service on July 1. The service includes stops in Clendenin, Flatwoods, Weston, Clarksburg and Fairmont. Baron Bus Lines operates the buses for the state. Barons vice president John Goebel tells the newspaper that the service attracts a diverse group of riders, including college students and senior citizens.

Open Enrollment Period For Health Insurance is Underway

A second enrollment period has started for coverage under West Virginia's health insurance exchange. Sign-up events were held across the state Saturday for the state-sponsored marketplace. The enrollment period runs through Feb. 15. According to federal government figures, West Virginia had the lowest percent of enrollees between the ages of 18 and 34 during the round of signups from October 2013 to March. The Affordable Care Act prohibits denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Putnam County Sheriff's Office Reports Jury Duty Phone Scam

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is warning about a phone scam, where someone claims you've missed jury duty and there's a warrant out for your arrest. The Putnam County Sheriff's office has received complaints about the harassing calls in the past week, and says if you get a call like that don't give the person any credit card information. The caller may demand that you put money onto a reloadable credit card...likely $4500 for the bond. Most of the numbers showing up on caller ID have a 304 area code, and could even show a judge or prosecutor's name. Call police if you get one of those calls, and don't give out personal info.

Gov. Tombin's Mother Has Passed Away

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's mother, Freda Mae Tomblin, has died. She was 80. The governor said Sunday in a news release that his mother died Saturday surrounded by family and friends. She was a resident of Chapmanville, and Evans Funeral Home in Chapmanville is in charge of arrangements.

DEP and Freedom Industries Make Cleanup Progress

The Department of Environmental Protection is proposing a deal with Freedom Industries that it hopes will lead to a “voluntary” toxic cleanup program. The proposal could reduce the amount of contaminated material that Freedom Industries has to remove from the site of January’s Elk River chemical spill. The DEP released a copy of the consent order Thursday, and it would be subject to a public comment period before final approval. Under the agreement, Freedom would be eligible to apply for the DEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program that could reduce the scope of the cleanup. The agreement gives Freedom 15 days to submit either an application to the voluntary cleanup program or submit a separate cleanup plan.

Slack Street Recycling Center Moves Material to Beckley

Some heavy equipment was removed this week from Kanawha County’s Slack Street recycling center. The Charleston Gazette reports the equipment that was removed is owned by George Hunyadi, who took over operation of the recycling center last year under a lease agreement with the Solid Waste Authority. The Solid Waste Authority voted recently to end the deal after Hunyadi was having trouble keeping the recycling center afloat. There is still a good deal of unprocessed recyclable material at the Slack Street center, and much of it is going to the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority’s recycling facility in Beckley.

Forms Updated To Recognize Gay Marriage

West Virginia is updating its tax forms to reflect court rulings overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A recent administrative notice filed by the state Tax Department says gender will no longer be considered when married couples' personal income tax filings are processed. Tax Department spokeswoman Lalena Price tells The Charleston Daily Mail that the agency is updating language used in all of its materials, including forms and brochures, to remove terms such as "husband" and "wife."

History-Making Lawmaker To Speak at Saturday Event

The soon-to-be youngest state lawmaker in West Virginia history will address a group of students and teachers this weekend. Eighteen-year-old Saira Blair is scheduled to speak at the Ohio-West Virginia Youth Leadership Association's annual fall conference Saturday at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley. The Republican won a seat in the state House of Delegates in the Nov. 4 election. Blair is a freshman attending West Virginia University. She plans to skip spring classes so she can serve as a lawmaker. The Legislature meets for 60 days from January to March.

Groups Can Make Pitch For Arts Grants Next Week

West Virginia arts organizations will have an opportunity to make their pitch for grant funds next week. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History Arts Section will hear public comments at a meeting Tuesday at the Culture Center in Charleston. State Arts Director Renee Margocee says the meeting gives organizations an opportunity to discuss their plans for next year as commission members and staff begin to develop the state arts plan. The Arts Section annually oversees the distribution of $1.91 million in federal and state grant funds. Speakers can schedule comment time by calling Robin Jones at 304-558-0240.

New Production Line Opens at Buffalo Toyota Plant

Six-speed automatic transmissions are rolling off a new production line at a Toyota plant in Buffalo. The line began production on Tuesday at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia plant. The additional line increases the plant's annual production capacity from 500,000 transmissions to 700,000. Toyota announced the $90 million expansion last year. It's the eighth expansion since the plant opened in 1996. The Buffalo plant employs more than 1,400 workers. It produces transmissions and engines.

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