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The United Way of Central West Virginia has raised more than $70,000 to help workers affected by a chemical spill. The organization established an emergency fund following the spill in Charleston for workers who lost wages or had work hours reduced. The fund will provide up to $200 to help pay utility bills. United Way of Central West Virginia director John Ballengee tells the Charleston Gazette that workers in all nine counties affected by the Jan. 9 spill can apply for utility assistance. The aid will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can find out more at the United Way's website, www.unitedwaycwv.org .
Add another hour to the amount to school that students in Kanawha County have to make up. Schools in the county released an hour early on Monday because of the weather. Students missed more than a week of school because of the January 9th chemical spill that led to the water emergency, and then had two more snow days on top of that. All early release days are now full school days, and all scheduled teacher work days are now instruction days. The school board will have to deicde how to make up the rest of the missed days.
Methamphetamine lab seizures jumped 85 percent in West Virginia in 2013. A West Virginia State Police report said authorities seized 533 meth labs last year, compared to 288 in 2012. The report said police found meth labs in 45 of West Virginia's 55 counties. Kanawha County led the state with 159 meth lab seizures, followed by 36 in Wood County and 28 in Putnam County. Wood County Del. John Ellem told the Charleston Gazette that he supports legislation that would require a prescription for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in making meth. Cabell County Del. Kelli Sobonya opposes the legislation. She said it won't reduce meth use or meth deaths.
A former corrections officer has pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance. James Howard Butcher worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Beckley and pleaded guilty Monday to delivering a controlled substance, while other charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. His arrest came last August after an investigation by the Central West Virginia drug task force and West Virginia State police turned up prescription pills, firearms and cash. Butcher's girlfriend was also arrested and charged in the case. Sentencing is coming for Butcher on March 10th.
All 100 seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates will be on the ballot in 2014, along with half of the state Senate. Candidates have been filing the paperwork at the Secretary of State's Office. Make sure you're registered to vote by the April 22 deadline. Early voting runs from April 30 through May 10 and the primary election is set for May 13.
Minimum wage workers in West Virginia will have a few more dollars in their pocket if a new bill becomes law. A new bill would raise the current minimum wage by a dollar over the next year. The boost would come in phases, with the first increase from $7.25 to $7.85 by July 1st, and then another step increase to $8.25 in July 2015. The bill is in the committee on industry and labor right now.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has order Freedom Industries to begin the process of removing all above-ground storage tanks from its Charleston operation. A statement released Saturday by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office says Freedom Industries must start the dismantling process by March 15. The facility currently has 17 tanks. The company has already been ordered to remove almost 1 million gallons of chemicals from the plant.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has been closely watching the situation after the January 9th chemical spill and water crisis, and says says those responsible should face criminal charges. Brokovich appeared on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," and called the Freedom Industries chemical spill a "crime" that was no different than someone poisoning a spouse over time with arsenic. Brokovich is coming back to West Virginia on Tuesday, and she'll be part of a town hall meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Clay Center in Charleston.
Federal officials have rejected West Virginia's proposal to spend about $2.5 million in funds leftover from a broadband stimulus grant. State chief technology officer Gale Given tells the Charleston Gazette that the state likely will have to return the unspent funds to the federal government. The state wanted to award the funding to Citynet to help pay for a project that would give West Virginia direct connections to the national Internet "backbone" in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio. But that proposal has been rejected.
West Virginia is seeking a $350,000 federal grant to assess the damage of the January 9th chemical spill that led to the water emergency. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the money would help with monitoring, testing and screening to determine long-term effects. Up to 10 percent can go toward monitoring community health. Part of the money could pay for environmental insurance. But it can't directly cover cleanup costs. The grant falls under the Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program, dealing with sites contaminated by petroleum or hazardous substances.