Breaking Local News

Ethics Charges Filed Against Kanawha County Magistrate

A county magistrate is facing ethics charges. A commission in charge of a judicial investigation claims Kanawha County Magistrate Ward Harshbarger violated the code of conduct when he denied a domestic violence petition against County Prosecutor Mark Plants. The prosecutor's ex-wife Allison Plants brought the petition in late February, and Harshbarger refused to grant it without a full and fair review. The judicial review commission also says Harshbarger discussed the petition with police officers who weren't involved in the case.

Federal Goverment Rules on Coal Dust

A decision is in and the Obama administration is cutting the amount of coal dust allowed in coal mines in an effort to help reduce black lung disease. The decision was announced Wednesday in Morgantown. Black lung is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust, where the dust particles accumulate in the lungs. The rule by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration lowers the overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air. For certain mine entries and miners with black lung disease, the standard is cut in half, from 1.0 to 0.5. The rule also increases the frequency of dust sampling, and requires coal operators to take immediate action when dust levels are high. In addition, coal mine operators will be required to use new technology to provide real-time dust levels. The requirements will be phased in over two years.

Jobless Rate Shows Improvement

Unemployment rates fell in 46 of West Virginia's 55 counties in March. WorkForce West Virginia says jobless rates were unchanged in two counties and rose in seven others last month. Monongalia County has the state's lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, followed by Jefferson at 4.9 percent. Wetzel County's rate of 12.7 percent was the state's highest, followed by Mingo County at 12.2 percent. Kanawha County sits at 6 percent, just under the state rate of 6.1 percent.

Charleston's New Fire Chief is Sworn In

With Chuck Overtstreet celebrating his retirement Friday, the Charleston Fire Department has sworn in its new chief. Mike Shaffer gets the promotion from assistant chief, and takes over the reigns as Chief after being sworn in at this week's city council meeting. Overstreet had been with the department for 33 years when he retired.

Marhall University Considers Tuition Hike

Marshall students may be paying more soon. Undergraduate students would pay higher tuition and fees under proposals being considered by the school's Board of Governors, and a vote could come today. If the increases are approved, The Herald-Dispatch reports that in-state undergraduate students would pay an additional $155 per semester. Out-of-state students would pay an additional $290. Tuition and fees for metro students would increase by $325. President Stephen Kopp told the Faculty Senate last week that Marshall has lost $11 million in state appropriations during the past two years of statewide budget cuts.

NTSB Releases Preliminary Crash Report

The National Transportation Safety Board doesn't yet list a cause of the crash, but it has released some preliminary information about a Kanawha County plane crash that happened earlier this month. The pilot, 50-year old Lazarus Enoch Sommers, and his wife, Maryann Sommers, both died in the crash in Eastern Kanawha County. The NTSB report says the plane hit trees and the ground, and was destroyed. The pilot at one point told air traffic control he was deviating around weather, and a short time later radio control was lost and the plane went missing on radar. Most of the wreckage has been recovered and will still be examined as part of the investigation.

Town Hall Meeting Tonight to Measure Progress Post Water Crisis

A panel of experts will gather tonight for a town hall meeting on post-water crisis issues. On the panel: US Sen. Joe Manchin, C.W. Sigman of the Kanawha County Dept. of Homeland Security an Emergency Management, state Sen. John Unger, Dr. Rahul Gupta with the Kanawha Charleston Health Department and more. The panel will be on stage tonight at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston, and those who want to attend can register on the WCHS TV website. The panel discussion will be from 7 to 8:30pm.

Beckley Historic District May See Changes

State historians say a proposed demolition project could threaten uptown Beckley's historic district. Dan Bickey has proposed demolishing three buildings that he owns and developing the space for metered parking. Only one property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but State Historic Preservation Officer Susan M. Pearce tells The Register-Herald that demolishing the buildings would significantly alter the district's viewshed. West Virginia Division of Culture and History deputy commissioner Caryn Gresham says the demolitions could lead to the district's removal from the national register. Bickey says he hopes the district doesn't lose its historic designation. He says the city needs more parking and it's not cost effective to restore the buildings.

Local Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Charges

A Charleston man with several drug trafficking and violent felony convictions pleaded guilty Monday to a federal drug charge. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said 35-year old Donnell Dwayne Diego pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth, after selling methamphetamine to an informant last summer. Drugs including oxycodone, 50 grams of methamphetamine, more than 50 grams of heroin were seized at his home, along with ammunition, and in excess of $9,000.00 cash. Goodwin says Diego had been previously convicted of several felony offenses in California including burglary and grand theft in 2003 and drug trafficking in 2004 and 2007. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on August 7th.

Ruling May Come Today on Plants' Case Load

A hearing is scheduled for today to rule on the city of Charleston's request to disqualify Mark Plants' office from hearing some cases. The city is asking that the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney's Office from trying any cases involving domestic battery by a parent, while Mark Plants is facing charges for an incident with his son back in February.

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