Breaking Local News

Alpha Natural Resources Posts Losses

Alpha Natural Resources says its losses widened in the second quarter because of weak domestic and international coal markets. The company posted a loss of $512.6 million, or $2.32 per share, compared with a loss of $185.7 million, or 84 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. On the bright side, the loss per share was a little less than analysts had projected. Revenue decreased 21 percent to $1.05 billion during the second quarter. Last week Alpha announced that it expects to lay off 1,100 workers at 11 West Virginia surface coal mines by mid-October amid dismal markets and federal regulation.

Students Head Back to Class

Public school students in West Virginia are starting to head back to class. School started yesterday in Braxton and Wayne counties. Students in Cabell County return to school today and classes in Mercer County begin tomorrow. Students in 20 other counties will return to class next week. The following week, classes will begin in 30 counties. Brooke County students will be the last to return to school on Aug. 25. School starts in Kawnawha County next Monday, August 11th.

St. Albans Won't Be Part of Home Rule Program

St. Albans has lost its bid to join the state's home rule program because of technical problems with its application. Media outlets report that the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board denied St. Albans' application on Monday. Board members said the city didn't submit paperwork in time. St. Albans was one of 23 municipalities seeking to participate in the program. Sixteen will be chosen. The home rule program gives municipalities a larger say in how they govern by shifting power from the state to the local level. It began as a five-year pilot in Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling.

Ratification is Pending for New Frontier Contract

Frontier Communications and the Communications Workers of America have tentatively agreed on a new contract following more than a year of negotiations. The company and the union didn't provide details of the proposal, which must be ratified by union members. The Charleston Gazette says the ratification should be done by the end of August. If the proposed contract is ratified, it would cover about 1,500 Frontier workers in 42 counties who formerly were Verizon employees.

Coal Symposium Coming Up Next Week

The Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce will host a panel of West Virginia lawmakers and coal industry representatives at the Bluefield Coal Symposium Aug. 12. WVNS-Tv reports the discussion will be moderated by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and include panelists from the West Virginia Coal Association. The event will be held at Bluefield State College. The chamber says written questions from the public for the panel may be submitted in advance.

Mayor Jones Proposes Sales Tax Increase

Mayor Danny Jones wants city council members to consider raising the sales tax by a half cent. The increase would help pay the pensions for firefighters and police officers, according to the proposal. The city has to pay $287 million in pensions, and Charleston entered into aprogram three years ago that gives the city 35 years to come up with the funds. If it's approved, the new sales tax would increase to 7 percent.

Two Schools Re-authorized

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has reauthorized two private colleges in the state. The Charleston Gazette reports that the commission reauthorized Ohio Valley University and Future Generations Graduate School on Friday, despite some concerns. Commission members voiced concerns about Future Generations' low enrollment and graduation numbers. They also said Ohio Valley's financial condition is weak. The commission determined that the colleges' proposed reform plans can resolve the issues. The Legislature made the commission responsible for authorizing all colleges and universities in the state in 2013, including private and nonprofit institutions. The move was in response to Mountain State University's closure in 2012 after it lost its accreditation.

Road Work Tonight Will Impact I-64

The same construction project that affected traffic last night on the Eugene Carter Memorial Bridge will impact drivers tonight. The West Virginia Department of Transportation will have the eastbound and westbound ramps of several exits off of Interstate 64 closed, including Lee Street, Virginia Street and Oakwood Road. The closures will happen tonight from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Transportation officials say th lane closures are necessary for a high friction surface treatment. The work should be done by Thursday.

Local Crews Help Battle CA Wildfires

The West Virginia Division of Forestry says on its Facebook page that it's sending sixteen staff members and four specially trained volunteer firefighters to help battle wildfires in northern California. The group of twenty is flying to California today after driving to Harrisburg, PA on Monday. They'll be out west helping battle the fires for two weeks. You can send your well wishes on Facebook.

Ag Tourism Is a Growing Industry

Bloomery Plantation Distillery in Charles Town has attracted tourists from every U.S. state and countries as far away as Laos and Iceland. The state is watching places like it, that are part of a growing agriculture tourism trend that advocates say can help revive struggling rural economies. Ag tourism refers to working farm enterprises geared to visitors, encompassing farm stands, pumpkin patches, barn dances, zip-line rides, pick-your-own berries, corn mazes and even weddings. Farms engaging in ag tourism generated roughly $700 million in 2012 - a 24 percent increase over five years, according to the most recent U.S. Agriculture Department statistics.

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