Breaking Local News
The state Racing Commission could request legislation to drop the number of days racetracks have to hold live races under law. The Charleston Gazette says the commission this week talked about reducing the required number of racing days to 185 at the state's four racetracks. Tracks face a 10 percent cut in state subsidies this budget year. Money from wagering is also on the decline. Racing Commissioner Bill Phillips said it's clear that racing purses have dropped too much to maintain a full racing calendar. A vote on a resolution will likely come at the commission's Oct. 14 meeting.
The son of a well-known Charleston reverend has been arrested on a drug-related charge. WCHSTV reports 30-year old Matthew J. Watts was arrested for allegedly selling a quantity of suspected heroin. His father, the Rev. Matthew Watts is a senior pastor at Grace Bible Church, and he's an active community leader who works against violence and drugs on the West Side.
Several parents have expressed their concerns about crime to the St. Albans City Council. The Charleston Gazette reports that residents raised concerns this week, about a week after the shooting death of 20-year-old Micah Burdette, whose body was found in St. Albans City Park. Police have charged 24-year-old Michael Benbow of Hendersonvile, North Carolina, with first-degree murder. Carey Downs told the council that 15 boys who were playing basketball in front of her house recently took refuge in her living room after a well-known criminal came walking down the street. Mayor Dick Callaway and council member Kevin Pennington urged the parents to become more active with the city's drug task force and various neighborhood watch programs.
A lawsuit against a water company, chemical producer, airport and others over a January chemical spill won't get a hearing for another year. The consolidated lawsuit that targets West Virginia American Water, Eastman Chemical, Yeager Airport and others has a hearing for a motion on class certification on Sept. 25, 2015. Fourteen businesses and individuals affected by a chemical spill sued numerous companies and executives after the Freedom Industries spill in January. U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston is handling legal action against Freedom through a claims process. The judge also set dates for various conferences, depositions and disclosure deadlines.
West Virginia officials are becoming increasingly concerned about a group called "sovereign citizen" that rejects taxes and laws. The Charleston Gazette says state and federal authorities sent a letter earlier this year to local law enforcement officials about the group's increasing presence in West Virginia. Thom Kirk, director of the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, says those numbers could be growing because officials are now more aware of the group and are conducting additional training on the subject. A 2014 study by a national terrorism group listed sovereign citizens as the nation's number one potential terrorist threat. In West Virginia, there are 19 members registered with the website of the National Liberty Alliance, a sovereign citizens group.
A West Virginia sawmill that serves the coal industry is facing an $85,000 in federal penalties for what the government says is a workplace that puts its workers at risk of serious injuries. OSHA said Monday the proposed penalties follow two investigations and a safety inspection at Wayne Lumber and Mulch Inc., and that the Wayne mill continues to expose its 14 workers to "willful, repeat and serious safety and health hazards..." OSHA says the mill has 15 business days to correct the alleged violations or contest them.
It's not as simple as making an appointment at a pain clinic and getting a prescription fo pain meds. Former narcotics officers are being used at some West Virginia pain clinics to screen patients. The Charleston Gazette reports Hope pain clinics in Beckley, Fairmont and Kanawha City are charging patients $150 for an initial screening and $75 for visits after that. The screening includes a drug test, background checks and an interview with an officer, and a controlled substance monitoring database is checked to see if patients have been visiting multiple clinics for prescription pills. It's all part of a broader effort to help curb West Virginia's prescription drug problem by reducing the number of pills on the street.
Yeager Airport has more money coming its way for infrastructure improvements. The Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority gets more than $3.6 million in federal funding for the Yeager projects, awarded by the FAA. The money will help with an electric Preconditioned Air (PCA) system and other clean technology projects that improve air quality. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced the funding.
West Virginia is gearing up to test a national alert system this week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will lead a test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Wednesday afternoon. The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association and others will participate in the test. It is expected to last about two minutes and goes beyond traditional TV and radio emergency notifications to include alert messages to Facebook, Twitter, websites and digital signs. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall says West Virginia is the only state to be chosen for this integrated test. The results will be used to inform a nationwide evaluation of the system next year.
Initial performance audits of West Virginia schools will start today as part of a new statewide assessment program. The audits involve onsite visits of all schools by the Office of Education Performance Audits over the next two years. They will provide Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the state Legislature and the West Virginia Board of Education an overall view of performance. Among the reasons for the visits are to identify needs for professional development and assess the adequacy of school buildings. The visits also will determine if schools are in compliance with state school board policies and if they are meeting quality standards adopted by the board. The results of the audits will be used as part of an A-F grading system that will begin in the 2015-16 school year.