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The University of Charleston plans to build a replacement for its gymnasium. The Eddie King Gym, built in 1947, is the oldest facility on the university's campus. The university will build a new arena and learning center called The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Innovation Center, named after a foundation that donated $5 million toward the project. University President Ed Welch said this week the learning center is intended to foster innovation and entrepreneurial thinking on campus. Groundbreaking is expected to take place next spring. The $15.5 million project is expected to be completed by summer 2016.
Executives charged in a January chemical spill in West Virginia are slated for court appearances. Ex-Freedom Industries officials Gary Southern, William Tis, Dennis Farrell and Charles Herzing will appear Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. in Charleston in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley. Thursday's order says Tis, Farrell and Herzing will have first appearances. Southern will have his arraignment hearing after being released last week on a $100,000 bond in federal court in Fort Myers, Florida. They are charged with failing to ensure Freedom operated the terminal that leaked in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner, related to the January 9th chemical spill. Southern also faces fraud charges related to the company's bankruptcy case.
A parade of boats fully decked out with Christmas lights will be on display this weekend. The Charleston Gazette reports about 10 boats will leave Pier 54 Marina near Dunbar at 5:30pm Saturday, and cruise up the river to Charleston. The boats will go up as far as the West Virginia State Capitol, and then turn back and dock at Haddad Riverfront Park until about 7pm.
Next week is a big vacation week for many, but not every day will be a holiday. A spokesman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says the governor has no plans to officially declare a state holiday for the Friday after Christmas. Christmas falls on a Thursday this year. Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman tells the Charleston Daily Mail that state employees who want to take off Dec. 26th need to ask their supervisors. Tomblin in previous years has declared the days following Christmas as state holidays, giving nonessential staff an extra day off.
A grand jury has indicted four former executives of a chemical company on pollution charges in a spill that prompted a drinking water ban for 300,000 West Virginia residents. An indictment unsealed Wednesday charges ex-Freedom Industries presidents Gary Southern and Dennis P. Farrell and two others with failing to ensure that Freedom operated the terminal that leaked in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner. Southern also faces fraud charges related to the company's bankruptcy case. The others charged are William E. Tis and Charles E. Hertzing, who along with Farrell owned Freedom until December 2013. They sold it to Chemstream Holdings, after which Southern became president. Two other employees are also facing one count each informations.
West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in November. WorkForce West Virginia says that rate compares to 6.5 percent in October. Employment declines of more than 1,000 last month were reported in leisure and hospitality, construction, and professional and business services. Strong employment gains were reported in government. Nationally, the unemployment rate held steady in November at 5.8 percent.
A former Massey Energy CEO wants his criminal case moved and Jan. 26 trial delayed one year. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger heard requests Wednesday in Beckley in Don Blankenship's case. Blankenship's attorney said he couldn't get a fair trial in southern West Virginia because of bad publicity. Also Wednesday, Berger heard news organizations argue against a gag order, which they want dropped or modified. The order restricts parties or victims from discussing the case with reporters or releasing court documents. No decision on that yet. Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 men died in 2010.
A news conference is happening today to announce the latest developments in the federal investigation of the Jan. 9 chemical spill and water crisis. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, officials with the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency will be part of the news conference this afternoon at the Robert C. Byrd Courthouse in Charleston. Last week when criminal charges were filed against former Freedom Industries President Gary Southern, Goodwin said the investigation was continuing and that could lead to more developments. Southern faces bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud and lying under oath charges.
It had been on the agenda for a Thursday meeting, but it's not happening. The subject of renaming Coonskin park has been taken off the agenda for Thursday's Kanawha County Commission meeting. Retired Adjutant Gen. Allen Tackett, head of the Parks and Rec commission, had suggested renaming the park after longtime Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores because some people might find the Coonskin name offensive. But after the social media storm and controversy it created, the idea of changing the name appears to have been scrapped. Commissioner Dave Hardy told us he was against changing Coonskin Park's name and that he had never heard a single complaint about the name.
Nine counties will receive state funding for school construction projects. The largest award, $1 million, will go to Berkeley County to add six classrooms to Potomack Intermediate School near Martinsburg. Greenbrier, Wirt, Gilmer, Marion, Ohio, Fayette, Upshur and Lincoln will receive smaller grants for projects. The Charleston Gazette reports that the West Virginia School Building Authority approved about $5.6 million for major improvement projects this week.