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Nicholas County Workers Rally After Cuts

Those upset about layoffs in Nicholas County rallied yesterday afternoon at the courthouse. Tax revenues are down and County Commissioners have made several budget cuts to try to absorb the loss in revenue, and some of the positions cut include custodians, animal shelter workers, employees in the county clerk's office, assesor's office, and the prosecutor's office. Protesters raise concerns that public safety could be compromised after eight deputy positions were also cut. A downturn in the economy and coal industry are getting some of the blame for the loss in revenues, and the cuts.

Sinking Area Monitored at Yeager Airport

Heavy rains and flooding may be to blame for problems at Yeager Airport. WCHS TV reports over the past couple of days a large corner chunk of a big fill project has sunk about eight to ten feet. Yeager Airport expanded in 2007 by moving one and a half million cubic yards of dirt to create the fill area, and if it gives way it could have a catastrophic impact on two homes and a church. The area is being closey watched.

West University President Resigns

West University President Robin Capehart has resigned following an ethics complaint and a vote of no confidence by the faculty senate. The university announced Capehart's resignation Wednesday. He will remain with the university as a legislative liaison and consultant through 2015. Capehart's executive assistant, John McCullough, was named interim president while a search is conducted for a permanent successor. The faculty senate's March 2 vote of no confidence followed a West Virginia Ethics Commission complaint in January alleging Capehart used university resources to promote his film company's movie "Doughboy." The complaint states that Capehart used a state credit card to promote the film and a university television station to advertise the movie, among other claims. Capehart has denied the allegations. The commission has scheduled a public hearing for April 16.

Nurse Pleads Guilty to Taking Meds

A Raleigh County nurse faces up to four years in prison after pleading guilty to federal drug charges. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says 31-year-old Olivia Dixon also faces a $250,000 fine when she's sentenced on June 24. The Midway resident pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Beckley to obtaining hydromorphone and morphine sulfate by fraud. Goodwin says in a news release that the former Raleigh General Hospital nurse admitted stealing morphine and other pain medications on Nov. 10, 2014, for personal use.

Jobless Rate Edges Up

Workforce West Virginia says unemployment rates rose in all 55 counties in January. Calhoun County's 14.6 percent jobless rate was the highest in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate at 4.3 percent. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged in January at 5.9 percent. Kanawha County's rate was at 4.9 percent in December of last year, about 6-tenths of a percentage point lower than it's average all of last year.

Blankenship Faces New Indictment

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is facing a new superseding indictment now after two previous criminal charges were combined and a new allegation on falsification of coal-dust samples at the Upper Big Branch Mine was added. An explosion at the mine killed 29 men in 2010. The Charleston Gazette reports the new revised indictment was filed this week, and under it Blankenship is facing three felony counts and could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on all three. Trial is currently scheduled to start on April 20 but there is a motion pending to delay it. Blankenship has pleaded not guilty.

Pain Clinics Closed

State officials have closed three chronic pain management clinics this year for failing to comply with a law aimed at reducing substance abuse. The 2012 law gave the Department of Health and Human Resources oversight over pain clinic licensure and codified patient and health safety. Since January, The Register-Herald reports that the department's Office of Health Facilities Licensure and Certification has revoked the licenses of the Hope Clinic's Charleston branch, Beckley Pain Clinic and the pain management operation of Med-Surg Group in Beckley. Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler tells the newspaper that the licensing office will continue a review of applicants until all facilities either achieve compliance or transition patients to other facilities.

Fatalities Drop Across the State

Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Pat Reed says an 18 percent decline in highway fatalities could be due to recent safety laws and public awareness campaigns. Reed said Tuesday that highway fatalities dropped from 332 in 2013 to 271 in 2014, and said the decline shows the state is moving in the right direction toward its goal of zero fatalities. A law passed in 2012 banned texting while driving. Violating the ban became a primary offense in 2013, meaning police can stop drivers. The state's seatbelt law became a primary offense in 2013.

Elkins Men Face Drug Charges

The government says four Elkins-area men have been charged with federal drug trafficking. The four were arrested Monday after a grand jury handed up an indictment charging them with trafficking in marijuana and oxycodone. The indictment alleges they operated an extensive and long-term drug trafficking operation. One of the four — 37-year-old Chad Allen Workman of Beverly — was accused of using drug trafficking dollars to purchase vehicles and real estate. The others named in the indictment are 54-year-old Charles Shawn Shannon of Belington, 62-year-old Roy Melvin Isner and 39-year-old Mark W. Lambert, both of Elkins.

Public Comments Open on Proposed Pipeline

Supporters of a proposed $5 billion natural gas pipeline through eastern North Carolina say it will bring jobs to parts of the state that need them most. But opponents worry the project will hurt property values and likely will not result in the number of jobs that supporters suggest. About 100 people turned out Monday in Fayetteville for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing on the pipeline. The pipeline is a joint project of Dominion, Piedmont, Duke Energy and AGL Resources. It would reach 550 miles from West Virginia to near Lumberton and largely parallel Interstate 95 in North Carolina. The government is holding two more hearings on the project this week in North Carolina before holding similar hearings in Virginia and West Virginia.

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