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Utility Bills Rise Across the State

If your electric bill went up last year you weren't alone. In fact, anew study released by the West Virginia Public Service Commission says utility rates rose more than 3 percent last year. The study released Friday through the commission's consumer advocate division looked at rates charged to West Virginia residents for electricity, water and telephone services. The Charleston Gazette reports that average utility costs for all West Virginians rose from $280.62 a month in 2013 to $290.22 a month in 2014. Utility bills ranged from a low of $254 a month in Morgantown to $325 a month in Bluefield last year.

Westside Shooting Under Investigation

Charleston police are investigating a West Side shooting that happened early Sunday, and they're asking for the public's help in tracking down information and a suspect. There were bullet holes and shell casings in the apartment building in the 1200 block of Stuart Street after the shooting around 4am Sunday. A juvenile who was inside the apartment at the time has been uncooperative, according to WCHS TV, and police are asking for help. Anyone with information can make an anonymous tip.

Voters Approve Levies in Two Cities

Excess levies will continue in St. Albans and South Charleston after voters voiced their opinion over the weekend. In South Charleston, a whopping 95 percent of voters approved a levy that will continue to raise money for city services like police, fire, recreation, library and public works. It was almost unanimous in St. Albans over the weekend too. 97 percent of voters there approved a levy that’s been around since the 1950s, and supports the fire department.

Blankenship Wants Charges Dismissed

A former coal company executive is seeking the dismissal of charges stemming from a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 workers in West Virginia. Former Massey Energy chief executive officer Don Blankenship also wants U.S. District Judge Irene Berger disqualified from hearing his case. The Charleston Gazette reports that Blankenship's lawyers filed a dozen motions to dismiss on Friday, along with the disqualification motion and other documents. Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County. He also is charged with lying to federal financial regulators about safety measures in the deadly explosion. Blankenship's trial is set for April 20.

Democrats Pick New Leader

The West Virginia Democratic Party has picked Belinda Biafore as its chair. Biafore replaces Larry Puccio who resigned as chairman last month to run U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's political action committee. Biafore has served as vice chair of the party since 2004 and has been a workforce in the organization for over thirty years.

Screenings This Weekend for Film Shot Locally

A public screening will be held for a film that was shot in southern West Virginia. The screening of "Little Accidents" will take place at the Marquee Cinemas in Beckley tonight.
The film stars Elizabeth Banks and premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, about a small mining town devastated by a fatal accident, and three people who are drawn together after a teenage boy goes missing. Most of the filming took place in Raleigh County. Other scenes were done in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Wyoming counties. Private screenings also are planned in Beckley tonight and in Charleston on Saturday.

Powerball Jackpot Climbs

West Virginia has had lots of luck lately with million dollar lotto winners, and you might be trying your luck with a little larger jackpot this weekend. The estimated prize for the Powerball jackpot for Saturday's drawing is about $360 million, according to the website. The cash value is $220.5 million. It was in mid-January that five employees with the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority won a total of $1 million in the Mega Millions game. After taxes, each member of the group pocketed about $137,000.

Country Music Legend to be Remembered Next Month

A musical tribute is scheduled March 7 at Tamarack for Little Jimmy Dickens, the late Grand Old Opry legend who was raised in Bolt. Tamarack's Kelly Elkins says musicians will perform songs from Dickens' songbook. Dickens performed on the Opry almost continuously since 1948. He became an Opry member in 1948 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. He died last month.

Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Bluefield Man

A Bluefield man is scheduled to stand trial in March on charges of killing his infant son after a judge rejected a plea deal. Cassidy Byrd is charged with second-degree murder and death of a child by a parent by child abuse. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports that a Mercer County Circuit Court Judge rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors. The judge said a jury should decide Cassidy's fate because of the case's serious nature. Under the plea deal, the state would have dismissed the murder charge. The 24-year-old Cassidy would have been allowed to plead guilty to death by a parent or guardian. Byrd's son, Ethan Byrd, died on April 5, 2014. Police have said an autopsy showed the baby died of head injuries.

Some Utility Customers Will See Rate Increase

Mon Power and Potomac Edison say West Virginia regulators have approved a rate case settlement that will result in a rate increase for customers. The case involved the recovery of expenses from two weather events in 2012, increased costs at coal-fired power plants and improvements to enhance power reliability. The settlement approved by the Public Service Commission results in the recovery of about $63 million in additional revenues.
The PSC also issued a separate order regarding an annual fuel rate adjustment settlement filed in December 2014. Reflecting both rate changes, typical Mon Power and Potomac Edison residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month can expect their bills to increase by about eight dollars starting Feb. 25.

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