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Herbert Hoover schools given much appreciated funding

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the last six and a half years, students at Herbert Hoover High School in Elkview have grown accustomed to a different learning environment.

The high school was wiped out back in 2016 due to the flood, forcing students and teachers to operate in portable buildings set up in the Elkview Middle School parking lot.

The new school building is nearing completion and expects to be ready and functional for students and staff when they return from summer break.

On Thursday, the Kanawha County Commission awarded Herbert Hoover High School and Principal Mike Kelley a check for $200,000 to use as they prepare to move into their new facility beginning this summer.

Kelley said he greatly appreciates the support from the commission over the years and that this money will be used strategically.

“This kind of gesture from the county commission is not only going to benefit current students, but we want to do some long term things with this,” said Kelley.

The money given to the school, Kelley said, will be used specifically with the interests of the students in mind.

“You want to talk with the stakeholders, the people involved,” Kelley said. “What do you all think about how we can best spend this money in the interests of our students.”

President of the Kanawha County Commission Kent Carper said the funding for the school was raised non-traditionally, without having to raise property taxes. Carper, along with Commissioner Lance Wheeler, said they are happy to help out the school and Principal Kelley because that’s what local government should do.

“You’re a part of this community,” said Wheeler. “This is what’s great about local government, helping our local people.”

Despite the relocation and challenges that have come along the way, Principal Kelley said what he’s seen from the students in the near 7 years as far as a response and results has been quite impressive.

“We said we weren’t going to make excuses, and we’ve been more successful in the last six and a half years since the flood than we ever have in the history of our school,” Kelley said.

Delegate Dean Jeffries, of Kanawha county, is also pleased with how the students have handled adversity and is excited for them to use their new building in a few months.

“It’s a beautiful school,” Jeffries said. “This is something our kids deserve and they’ve waited a long time for.”

Jeffries also mentioned how advanced the new facilities are, including the athletic ones, calling them “second to none.”

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Dean nets 26 as Chapmanville wins at Winfield, 61-50

WINFIELD, W.Va. — Senior guard Sal Dean scored a game-high 26 points for Chapmanville as the Tigers extended their winning streak to eight games with a 61-50 triumph at Winfield. The Tigers (13-1) remain unbeaten against in-state competition and their 13 wins are tied for third-best in Class AA.

Dean scored 13 points in each half and he controlled the pace of play well with the Tigers enjoying a double-digit lead throughout the entire fourth quarter.

“He shot the ball well tonight,” said Chapmanville head coach Brad Napier. “He has been doing that lately.

“He is real elusive. He is hard to track down and trap. And he’s a really good foul shooter. He is about an 82 percent foul shooter.”

In a back-and-forth first quarter, the Generals jumped out to an early 9-7 lead with a three-pointer from Cody Griffith. The Tigers however ended the quarter on an 11-2 run to build an 18-11 lead. Chapmanville was able to crank up their transition game late in the opening frame.

“We were able to get some turnovers and get out in transition a little bit. And we were able to make a few shots. Anytime we can get the game going up and down, we like that a lot better. That suits our pace.”

Chapmanville extended their lead to 29-18 at halftime. The Generals crept within six points [39-33] midway through the third quarter. CHS responded by scoring the final seven points in the frame to rebuild a sizable lead at 46-33.

Chapmanville is yielding just 50 points per game this season, a mark that the Generals hit in the final seconds of the game.

“I thought we did a good job in our run-and-jump and our full court man-to-man. We were pressuring them and forcing them into some turnovers.”

Future WVU baseball player Brody Dalton scored 16 points for the Tigers and Zion Blevins added 10.

“We have played a tough schedule and to have the record we have right now, it is pretty good. I am pretty pleased. These guys have worked pretty hard. We have battled through some injuries the last few weeks. We are starting to get healthy again now. I think we can keep getting better.”

Griffith led Winfield (7-7) with 22 points.

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Single-car crash kills Delbarton man

MAN, W.Va. — A Delbarton man has died after crashing his vehicle off the road just north of Man.

State police troopers from the Logan Detachment found Thomas Diamond, 63, dead in his vehicle, which he drove off of route 10 Thursday.

No one else was involved in the accident. The state police have said an investigation is active and ongoing to determine what caused Diamond to wreck.

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Tobacco bill raises purchase age to 21, prohibits smoking in cars when children are riding along

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The legal age to purchase tobacco products would go from 18 to 21 in a bill that passed the Senate Health Committee Thursday.

Tom Takubo

SB 266, which attempts to comply with federal provisions on tobacco, also includes the prohibition of the sale of tobacco-derived products, and alternative nicotine products like vaping products until someone is 21.

The wide sweeping bill adds a measure that would prohibit smoking in motor vehicles when there are kids under 16-years-old who are passengers. The violation would be a secondary offense and drivers could only be cited if they are pulled over for something else first.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, who is also a lung doctor, said he’s seen firsthand what secondhand smoke can do to children. He said personal freedoms end where injuries begin.

“I’m a strong believer in personal freedom until my freedom bleeds over onto someone else and that becomes a public safety issue, a public health issue,” Takubo said.

Mike Maroney

He’s tried to get a similar provision through the legislature in other tobacco bills, most recently last year, but the plan has failed to gain final approval. Takubo said there are plenty of other places to smoke.

“If there are other open spaces they can go to other places. But when you’re in a very confined space like a vehicle then that’s child abuse as far as I’m concerned,” Takubo said.

Health Committee Chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, also a medical doctor, agreed with Takubo.

“Smoking in a closed space with young kids is without a doubt, in my opinion, child abuse without the fractures and bruises,” Maroney said.

The committee rejected a proposed amendment by Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, to remove the vehicle smoking language.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate Finance Committee, “further eliminates tobacco use in schools and designates prohibited areas of regulation of tobacco, tobacco-derived products, and alternative nicotine products for political subdivisions.”

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WVU, Marshall make budget presentations in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Representatives of WVU and Marshall made budget presentations before the state Senate Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon. Both schools described a rapidly changing post-pandemic environment that makes state funding very important to their budgets.

Gordon Gee

The legislature approved $16.6 million for WVU and $9.7 million for MU.

The WVU 2023 budget was $1.2 billion in total and included about a 2.5 percent tuition increase. The MU budget for 2023 is $318 million and holds tuition flat.

In addition to the pandemic, a report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy shows that between 2013 and 2020, state funding for higher education institutions statewide decreased by 14%. Since 2010, the average tuition and fees at a four-year public college in West Virginia have gone up by 33% and low-income student registration has dropped about 17%.

WVU President Gordon Gee told committee members all of these factors have forced institutions nationwide to transform or fade away.

Brad Smith

“The role of higher education is that we will either be the architects of change or its victims, and so many of our institutions around the country are playing that victim role,” Gee said. “Marshall, West Virginia University, and the state of West Virginia do not intend on playing that role.”

MU President Brad Smith said they have learned affordability, flexibility, and relevance are key factors considered by people considering higher education. Smith said they are adding micro-certifications, vocational training, and other options to make higher education an attractive alternative.

“We’re on a journey to ensure affordability,” Smith said. “We’re moderating tuition increases, and we are trying to launch a pathway to a debt-free education by raising scholarship dollars, getting all the state and federal money, and helping them with work study.”

According to Smith, the real challenge will evolve over the next few years, and all institutions must learn how to engage a smaller pool of available high school seniors. For the non-traditional learner, institutions must seriously consider creative schedules, shorter classes, and value.

“The enrollment cliff in 2025, based on national demographics, shows there will be fewer high school students graduating high school and it will begin to drop at a rate of 15 percent a year in 2025,” Smith said.

WVU Vice President Rob Alsop told the committee inflation has been an invisible issue that has reduced the value of their spending. However, Alsop said spending controls have allowed them to maximize the dollars they do have.

“The purchasing power of what we get today versus what we received from the state in the 1990s is about 40 percent, so we are doing more with less inflation, which is having an impact on all of us,” Alsop said.

Rob Alsop

Deferred maintenance is a major issue for both institutions. At WVU, Alsop said a recent study showed they would have to spend several million each year over the next 10 years to satisfy all maintenance needs. MU’s Chief Financial Officer Matt Tidd described the issue as a major priority.

“Currently, Marshall has identified $26 million in deferred maintenance projects that directly impact safety and another almost $76 million in projects that, if they are not done, cost the university additional funds,” Tidd said.

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Citizens want to put brakes on transfer of federal relief dollars to development fund

Gov. Jim Justice submitted a bill meant to transfer $678 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to state development funds. Not everybody thinks that’s a great idea.

House Bill 2883 calls for $500 million to be transferred to the state Economic Development Authority, a $177 million transfer to the state Water Development Authority and another $1 million to be transferred to Marshall University.

Twenty-one people spoke against the transfer during a public hearing at the state Capitol on Thursday. All said there are more urgent uses for the money, and several contended such a transfer would be against the spirit and the letter of the federal covid relief funding.

Bruce Perrone

“Frankly, I believe the approach in today’s bill, 2883, is placing a pretty risky $500 million roulette wheel bet with federal funds,” said attorney Bruce Perrone, making specific reference the money that would be transferred to the EDA.

“If the Department of Treasury does not accept that that is a permissible use, handing $500 million to the economic development authority, then the State of West Virginia, all of our taxpayers, will be on the hook for every dollar of that.”

Guidance from U.S. Department of Treasury questions the use of the federal relief funds for economic development.

“Generally, no,” Treasury wrote. “General economic development – activities that do not respond to negative economic impacts of the pandemic but rather seek to more generally enhance the jurisdiction’s business climate – would generally not be eligible under this eligible use category”

Many of the speakers at the Capitol contended the federal money should be directed elsewhere.

Kent Leonhardt

One was state Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt, a Republican.

“With this bill, it seems like we continue to spend taxpayer dollars on buying jobs when we don’t have the workforce in place for the jobs we have already purchased,” Leonhardt said. “We should now simultaneously build and repair our infrastructure that supports and maintains our current industries.”

He made a pitch for $74 million in investment in new laboratories for the agriculture department to replace the current ones “in crumbling and crowded buildings. We could do more with new facilities.”

Gary Zuckett

Another speaker, Gary Zuckett of West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said he agrees with the agriculture commissioner “that we need to invest in our workforce here in West Virginia, at the local level, at the county level.”

Zuckett questioned whether state officials have taken public participation seriously. “Is the best use a $500 million slush fund for the state development office? We advocate this funding should be used to address the real needs of communities left out of development plans.”

Crystal Good

Crystal Good, publisher of Black by God, also said the money could better benefit people’s lives if used differently.

“ARPA funds are intended to go to those communities most impacted by the pandemic and those who face longstanding economic health disparities,” Good said. “The governor’s proposal to send most of our state’s remaining ARPA funds to economic development does not meet those goals.

“The remaining funds should go to meeting the needs of West Virginia families instead of sending money to more big corporations through economic development project funds.”

Good, like other speakers questioned what happened to work already done by the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs to assess community needs that could be met with the federal funding. Good said lawmakers should ask to see the final report.

Matthew Watts

The Rev. Matthew Watts of Charleston has been advocating for distribution of $300 million in federal dollars to local communities, which then could work with nonprofit agencies to meet the needs of vulnerable citizens. Under this framework, the money would be distributed based on the communities respective percentage of the total people living in poverty.

“The 300,000 poor people in this state are the people that we have. We cannot continue to ignore them as irrelevant and inconsequential. This state cannot move forward unless we invest in those people,” he said.

Kelly Allen

The American Rescue Plan still represents a historic opportunity to invest in communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic and those facing longstanding economic and racial inequities, said Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy. 

But she said the supplemental appropriations bill would not achieve those goals, contrary to the Treasury guidance.

“To members of the House Finance committee, we thank you for taking this step today to allow the most public input that has been allowed as part of this process today. It’s entirely possible that you were not aware of the strings and requirements attached to this money or of the public input that should be part of the allocation of these dollars,” Allen said.

“We are simply urging you to slow down, engage constituents on their priorities for this funding, and ensure that any expenditures of our remaining ARPA funds prioritize communities that have faced longstanding inequities.”

Eric Tarr

Another examination of West Virginia’s use of federal dollars is set for Friday when the Senate Finance Committee takes a closer look at a transfer of the remaining $28 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to the Governor’s Office Gifts, Grants and Donations Fund.

In announcing the hearing on the Senate floor, Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr made reference to the use of millions of dollars from that transfer for construction of Marshall University’s new baseball field.

“So there’s been a lot of questions around how all that happened,” said Tarr, R-Putnam, “and we’re going to try to sort through all that.”

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Two-year search for Huntington man on drug charges ends in California

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A man wanted in connection with a drug investigation in southern West Virginia has been arrested in California.

The U.S. Marshals Southern District of West Virginia CUFFED Task Force announced Thursday that Elijah Tariq Figg, 23, of Huntington, was taken into custody in Los Angeles Wednesday.

Authorities have been looking for Tigg for two years this month in connection with a DEA investigation into a drug trafficking organization. Authorities said Figg has ties to the Bloods and Gangster Disciples gangs.

The U.S. Marshals Service said its still looking for Tyjha Ali Watson, 28, of Charleston, in connection with the same drug investigation that originally had 11 defendants.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the USMS Tip Hotline at 1-877-WANTED-2 or email the CUFFED Task Force Tip Hotline at [email protected] Authorities said tips would be kept confidential.

 

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Citizens pay group recommends pay increase for state lawmakers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Citizens Legislative Compensation Commission is recommending state lawmakers receive a $10,000 pay raise.

Mike Hall

The commission, which meets every four years as spelled out in the state Constitution, recently passed a resolution recommending lawmakers annual pay be increased to equal the per capita income in West Virginia. Commission Chairman Mike Hall, a former state lawmaker, told MetroNews that’s about $30,000.

“In a collaboration by others and the legislature, the legislature expressed an interest in tying their income to some sort of standard,” Hall said. “So the one standard they liked was per capita income which is a little over $30,000 this year.”

Lawmakers are currently paid $20,000 a year. They haven’t received a pay raise since 2009. The Constitution provides that if lawmakers approve a pay increase it does not go into effect until the next legislature is elected. If lawmakers approve an increase in this session, the pay raise wouldn’t take effect until January 2025 after the next legislature is sworn-in.

MORE read resolution here

Hall said the compensation commission is recommending the rate of pay adjust every five years based on the per capita pay.

He said it’s been 13 years since salaries were increased and costs have gone up.

“I don’t think it’s egregious but I don’t know what they’ll do,” Hall said.

The next step is totally up to the legislature. Members of the House and Senate don’t have to act on the recommendations. They can also pick and choose which ones they want to adopt. The recommendations are good until the next time the compensation committee meets in four years.

House and Senate leaders aren’t yet tipping their hands on what they might do.

“The Commission made some interesting recommendations, usually they provide us with numbers, but these suggestions are a little bit of a different format for us to consider,” House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, told MetroNews. “It’s something we’ll have to discuss with the members, which we have not yet begun to do.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw

The leadership in the Senate held off on commenting on the recommendations when MetroNews reached out. They may say something when the bill is introduced and/or the finance committee discusses the resolution.

Hall predicted lawmakers would be sensitive to what the public thinks about a pay raises for themselves.

“This is a part-time legislature and this is the type of issue that garners the public interest. They will be cognizant of that,” Hall predicted.

The compensation commission is also recommending increases in per diem rates for some lawmakers. Those who live more than 50 miles away from the capitol would receive $200 a day. That has been $131 a day. The rate stays at $85 a day for those from areas closer to Charleston.

Pay for monthly interim meetings would increase from $150 to $250 a day and lawmakers would be paid for all interim days not just the days when they have meetings scheduled.

The commission approved its resolution on Jan. 23.

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3 Guys Before The Game – Frog Kicked & Oklahoma Preview (Episode 439)
The Mountaineer basketball team again finds itself in a precarious position. Tuesday’s loss to No. 15 TCU makes Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma extremely important for WVU and its postseason chances.

The Sooners romped over No. 2 Alabama last Saturday, but suffered a double-digit loss to rival Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

Which version of the Mountaineers and Sooners will show up Saturday night in the Coliseum?

In this episode, Brad and Tony breakdown the TCU loss and preview the game with Oklahoma.

Listener questions and comments complete the episode.

Three Guys Before The Game is sponsored by Burdette Camping Center Komax Business Systems  — and  GoMart.

Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, it’s free, subscribe below.

 

                                              

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With major milestone behind him, GW’s Rick Greene hoping Patriots can continue strong season

While the story of George Washington’s boys basketball season remains largely untold, it’s already been at least somewhat of a memorable campaign for the Patriots.

GW will carry a 14-2 record into Friday’s matchup with Hurricane, and though the Patriots have dropped two of their four most recent outings following a 12-0 start, they remain among the state’s elite teams and expect to contend for a Class AAAA championship.

Less than a month ago, when GW improved to 8-0 at the time, veteran head coach Rick Greene notched his 500th career victory as the Patriots handled Spring Valley, 68-55.

“I didn’t get it; we got it,” Greene says. “That’s a program thing. I’ve had great players. I haven’t hit a jump shot since 1971, and I didn’t hit a lot of them then. I’ve had great assistant coaches. Our alumni are super supportive in a ton of ways. 

“I appreciate it that a lot of people have contacted me. I sincerely do. But that’s a program achievement, not a one-person achievement.” 

Greene’s head coaching journey began in 1986 and initially lasted through 1989, before he pursued opportunities as a men’s basketball assistant coach at University of Charleston and West Virginia Tech.

Greene returned to GW in 1998 and has been with the Patriots since, now in his 30th season as head coach and with a career record of 506-178. Of the Patriots’ four Class AAA championship teams, Greene was a player on one and head coach of the most recent three (2011, 2018 and 2021). 

“He has a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine that he probably teaches them at a young age, from the time they’re in third or fourth grade, so by the time they get to GW, they don’t have to think,” Parkersburg head coach Bryan Crislip says. “They just play. If you can just play and not have to think, it makes the game so simple.

“He does a great job with it and I told our kids, he’s been there for 29 years and won 500 games. That’s almost 18 wins a year. The guy knows what he’s doing. He’s a great coach.”

While aware and appreciative of the notable accomplishment, Greene says his mentality to look ahead in favor of think back remains unchanged. It’s an approach Greene says was instilled in him from former GW head coach Fred Aldridge, who helped guide the Patriots to their first title in 1971.

“I can’t say I don’t think about it,” Greene says. “But you have to flush it just like a big win and the next day you have to be ready to go for the next game. Learn from it and do what you have to do, but you have to play the guys in front of you.”

The Patriots suffered recent setbacks to Kanawha County rivals South Charleston and Capital but are otherwise unbeaten. They earned a quality 65-62 win Tuesday over Ashland Blazer (Ky.), and have six regular-season contests remaining to try and round into postseason form. After taking on the Redskins, matchups await at Jefferson, in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Night of Champions, at Nitro, at Morgantown and against Parkersburg South.

A balanced attack and quality mixture of strong production inside and on the perimeter have been to the Patriots’ benefit.

The focal points of the Patriots’ attack are 6-foot-6 senior Ben Nicol and senior guard Brendan Hoffman.

George Washington’s Ben Nicol follows through on a shot during the Patriots’ victory at Parkersburg. Photo by Greg Carey/WVMetroNews.com

Nicol, a left-hander and Ohio signee, is plenty comfortable away from the basket and does much of his damage outside despite his surplus of height. Hoffman is the team’s top scorer, a crafty ball-handler who can present problems for the opposition with his ability to get to the basket and score in the mid range.

With junior sharpshooter Dawson Lunsford, junior guard Ashton Gute and two other 6-6 players to accompany Nicol in freshman Noah Lewis and senior Brandon Dennison, Greene’s team has plenty of options surrounding their top offensive duo.

“They run a motion offense that has cutters all day long, which then gets your guys chasing and they get the mismatch they want to penetrate, and they have shooters all around,” said Crislip, whose Big Reds’ squad fell to the Patriots last week, 68-36. “Are you jumping to the ball and are you there ready to help? If you’re not jumping to the ball, they’re cutting for a layup. But if you help too much, they have shooters spacing the floor and then they make shots. It’s a matchup nightmare.” 

Greene believes much of his team’s success starts from the mentality of Nicol, who two seasons ago made a game-winning jump shot in the final seconds of a state title game to lift GW over Morgantown. Nicol was a Class AAAA first-team all-state pick last season after averaging more than 13 points, and sometime within the next two months, will devote his basketball attention toward preparing for the Division I level.

“He’s first team all-state and I think he’s a candidate for player of the year, but what kind of kid he is, if he scores six points, it doesn’t matter,” Greene said. “You cannot tell in the locker room. He’s all about the team and winning and it’s nothing about me. That is a unicorn anymore in this society.

“We’ve probably had more of that attitude than most, but he’s exceptional. Sure he wants to score 30 like anybody, but he really doesn’t care as long as we win. It’s very refreshing to coach that.”

With the challenges that await over the remainder of the regular season, includin two teams that played in last season’s AAAA final, Greene hopes to see the Patriots peak down the stretch as they seek a trip to the state tournament. 

“Defensively, when we’re in our matchup [zone], we have to talk and switch people off a little bit better,” Greene said. “When we move on offense, we’re really good, but we’re inconsistent at it. More than anything else, just areas where we’re inconsistent and we have to have smaller spurts of being inconsistent, and keep getting better that way.”

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