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MetroNews This Morning 8-18-22

Damage to roads and bridges alone from Monday’s flood in Kanawha and Fayette Counties will top a Million dollars–and may take several months to fully repair. Meanwhile officials are scrambling to deal with breaks in a major sewer line between the Mt. Olive prison and Smithers which has created health concerns. West Liberty University’s board of Governors has rejected a contract extension for President Franklin Evans. Plus, it’s the first day of school for students in another ten West Virginia counties. IN Sports, continued updates from WVU and Marshall preseason drills and we’re a week away from the opening night of High school football in West Virginia. Joe Brocato is in for Kyle Wiggs. Those stories and more coming up in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 8-18-22” on Spreaker.

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Frankfort seeks fifth consecutive playoff appearance after a run to the quarterfinals in 2021

SHORT GAP, W.Va. — In his second stint as Frankfort’s head coach, Kevin Whiteman has guided the Falcons to a 31-12 record and four playoff appearances. In 2021, the Falcons went through a roller coaster season but they returned to the quarterfinals with a win at No. 4 seed Lincoln. A seven-point loss at Poca ended their season a week later.

“We took it on the chin. We lost to Mountain Ridge and Northern [Md.] and we got beat pretty bad,” Whiteman said. “We then lost a close one to Spring Mills, three in a row. I thought the kids might throw the towel in. But they didn’t. They kept working hard. They had that close win in overtime against Keyser that put us in the playoffs. To get where we did was awesome. We were a play away from being in the semifinals at Frankfort.”

The top priority for the Falcons in preseason training camp is to find new linemen to plug in around senior Chase Snyder. Snyder led the team in tackles for loss and sacks last season.

“He is probably going to have maybe four sophomores on the line with him and a junior. He’s a good boy. He has really accepted the role of a silent leader. He is not someone that is very vocal. But he is leading by example and he is encouraging the other kids and you can see it.”

Frankfort’s offense averaged 29 points per game last season and they welcome back starting signal caller and senior Luke Robinette.

“The thing I like about him is that he is a dual threat. He can run and he can throw. He is a leader and I have a really good relationship working with him one-on-one the last two years. He has been a starter since he was a sophomore. He is going to do some good things again this year.”

Leading rusher Peyton Clark has graduated. Parker VanMeter will take on an added role in the backfield after rushing for seven touchdowns in 2021.

“He is a strong boy and he is a tough boy. He likes to run the ball. He is good at linebacker but he is definitely going to be one of our main threats and forces on offense.”

The Falcons are one of the smallest Class AA schools in the state but Whiteman says he will put his roster of just over thirty players up against anyone.

“I feel like every year is a challenge regardless. Because we don’t always have a bunch of seniors on our team that had a bunch of experience playing for three years. Every year is a new puzzle. So I like the challenge of trying to put that puzzle together, definitely.”

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Justice looking to recruit, train and strengthen WV’s EMS workforce.

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice recently announced the launch of a new initiative to address the state’s need for additional trained Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals – a challenge that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded through a $10 million portion of West Virginia’s allocation of CARES Act dollars, the new EMS WV: Answer the Call program will fund strategic initiatives that will bolster the state’s EMS workforce and equip communities to better care for West Virginia citizens now and into the future.

“As we’ve seen over and over again during the pandemic, our EMS workers are absolute heroes. Whenever we need help, they are always the first ones to run to the fire. But heroes like these don’t grow on trees. They’re few and far between and we need to act now to bring more of them into our state,” Gov. Justice said. “Through these new and expanded efforts to train more EMS professionals, not only will we reduce the burden on our existing workers, but we will also grow this profession in our state, safeguarding West Virginians for generations to come.”

In December 2021, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia would allocate $10 million of its remaining CARES Act dollars to establish an Emergency Management Crisis Fund – providing resources to help first responders across the state. At the Governor’s direction, West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has worked alongside legislators and EMS community partners to review current education and training opportunities for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and paramedic careers, examine the gaps and needs, and form a strategy for expanding this critical workforce.

The Governor’s strategy includes investing in mobile ambulance simulators to allow educational programs to reach all of West Virginia – including the most rural and remote areas of the state, development of no-cost EMT training, training around mental health, EMS leadership, and geriatric EMS, medic packs for every EMS worker in West Virginia, investments to keep behavioral health providers in rural communities to limit the burden on EMS transportation, and a public relations campaign regarding EMS careers.

Work is currently underway to examine all available data sources regarding the EMS pipeline, current supply, and anticipated future demand. A communications campaign built around the theme “Answer the Call” is also being developed to help West Virginians seeking careers in these fields access the right information. Additionally, the state is purchasing five mobile ambulance simulators for local training opportunities, which will be managed by Healthnet Aeromedical Services.

Applications are still being accepted and organizations are encouraged to apply as soon as possible by visiting emswv.com.

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Clean-up efforts continue in Kanawha and Fayette counties in wake of flooding

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials in Kanawha and Fayette counties continued assessing damage from Monday’s flood on Wednesday as residents and crews resumed cleaning up debris.

A state of emergency remains in effect for Kanawha and Fayette counties. More than 100 homes were affected by the high water, which also damaged local roads and impacted local infrastructure systems.

Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier noted 40 homes in the community were “significantly damaged.”

“Lots of cars, lots of trucks, lots of property washed down Smithers Creek,” she added

Kanawha County Emergency Management Director C.W. Sigman said damage to area roads is affecting the distribution of certain resources. The state Division of Highways estimates damages to state-maintained roads and bridges in Kanawha and Fayette counties will exceed more than $1 million.

Officials are also learning more about how flooding impacted local sewer systems. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a recreational use advisory on Wednesday for a portion of the Kanawha River between Smithers and the London Locks and Dam because of concerns about raw sewage contaminating the river. Officials do not believe drinking water sources have been contaminated.

The Kanawha County Commission has dedicated $25,000 for purchasing clean-up supplies. The Malden and Cedar Grove volunteer fire departments are responsible for collecting and distributing supplies. Crews have also begun picking up flood debris in impacted areas.

“If you bring the flood debris to the edge of your yard, right there at the road, we’re going to stop and pick it up,” Commissioner Ben Salango said. “We’re going to run those from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day until next Sunday, Aug. 21.”

According to Salango, the commission previously allocated $250,000 for emergencies.

“We had the money available and we tapped into it, and we’re going to do all we can to help with the clean-up,” he added.

Salango added, “We’re doing as much as we can to help, even though this is going to be a long process. This is not going to be a quick clean-up.”

Cavalier said the community is trying to keep a positive attitude as the work continues.

“Neighbors are taking care of neighbors, families are taking care of families. We’re taking care of one another here,” she said.

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Mountaineers set to open season against Indiana

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Veteran West Virginia women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown finds herself in unfamiliar territory ahead of the 2022 season.

For the first time since 2000, the Mountaineers enter a campaign without coming off an appearance in the NCAA Tournament from the previous season.

WVU finished a respectable 10-5-5 a year ago, but missed out on its 22nd straight appearance in the NCAAs.

To some extent, Izzo-Brown believes that provides a measure of motivation for the Mountaineers, who begin their season at 7 p.m. Thursday by welcoming Indiana to Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

“There has to be a fine line of balance, because some of the kids really feel it, and some of the new kids don’t,” Izzo-Brown said Tuesday as a guest on MetroNews Statewide Sportsline. “I make sure we understand what this team’s standard of excellence is and we can’t fall below that. Most of this team, especially the upperclassmen, came here to win championships. By not doing something great last year, I know that’s haunted them a little bit.”

West Virginia has never finished with a losing record in 26 seasons with Izzo-Brown serving as head coach, and if preseason projections prove accurate, that won’t be the case again in her 27th go-around.

The Mountaineers were slotted third in the 10-team Big 12 Conference when the league released its annual preseason poll Tuesday. West Virginia garnered 60 points and one first-place vote and came in directly behind No. 2 Texas and favorite TCU. The Horned Frogs won their second straight Big 12 regular season title and first Big 12 Championship in the postseason. They’ll again look to live up to high expectations after claiming 78 points and seven first-place votes.

“With TCU, you had to really look at them closely and go, ‘OK, they have a lot of people returning.’ They have a great team,” Izzo-Brown said. “They did so much damage last year and then of course Texas. I went with those two.

“It’s fair to put us somewhere in that mix and as you know, the only goal is No. 1 at the end of the year. I’d love be ranked ninth. It adds a little bit more motivation. But I’ll take third. It gives us enough room and motivation to keep moving the dial.”

Jordan Brewster prepares to take a corner kick. Photo by Greg Carey/WVMetroNews.com

Standout defender Jordan Brewster was chosen to the preseason all-Big 12 team. The fifth-year senior has been a first-team all-Big 12 honoree each of the last two seasons and Izzo-Brown is hopeful a special final season is in store for the North Canton, Ohio native.

“She’s so good at what she does that she can help in another piece,” Izzo-Brown said. “First and foremost, I want her to be a national champion at her position and kind of move out if need be.”

As a whole, Izzo-Brown likes what she’s seen from her squad in the lead-up to the opener against the Hoosiers.

“It’s been very complicated, which is what we want as a staff, because we have a lot of different tools and depth,” she said. “When you have tools and depth, it’s great problems to have, where last year we had the injury bug and a little bit of the covid bug. My hope is that neither one come around and they stay very far away from us, but the grit, focus and hard work has definitely been something the team has controlled, so it’s been good.”

The veteran coach is hopeful her team will pack more of a scoring punch this season after the Mountaineers managed only two goals over their final five contests last fall.

“All spring long, we did everything and finished everything with intentionally thinking or promoting activity around the 18-yard box in our final third,” Izzo-Brown said. “You can see us technically striking the ball this way or this way. If we’re doing a passing pattern, it ended with some type of finish in a small goal or big goal and some type of activity or exercise where we’re in front of two goals. We really were mindful of making sure that the confidence and composure pieces we can control in the spring happened.”

The first challenge against the Hoosiers will be a formidable one, particularly as it pertains to score against Hoosiers’ goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg, a member of the Big Ten all-Freshman Team last season.
Indiana is coming off a 9-5-4 season and seeks a marquee victory to start the 2022 campaign in a match that will air on ESPN3.

“The program is built up. It’s going to be a very exciting game,” Izzo-Brown said. “They have a few goal scorers that we definitely have to eliminate. Their goalkeeper is from Germany and she’s very good, so we’re going to have to be laser focused around the net.”

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Emergency road closure announced in Taylor County

TAYLOR COUNTY, W.Va. — Authorities in Taylor County have announced an emergency road closure due to collapse.

Taylor County Route 6, Nuzum Road has been closed near entrance to Fairfield Drive.

Due to the closure, Fairfield Drive will not be accessible from Harrison County Middle Road.

Workers are expected to replace a drainage pipe and stabilize the road so it can reopen by Thursday at 5 p.m.

Inclement weather or project problems could extend the closure.

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Agencies considering options after Fayette sewer line destroyed in flood

MOUNT OLIVE, W.Va. — The state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies are working on a plan to change sewage treatment at Mount Olive State Prison in Fayette County after the sewer line below the prison was destroyed in Monday’s flash flood.

WV DEP Secretary Harold Ward

State DEP Secretary Harold Ward said removing the sewer generated by the prison from that broken line is a top priority. He said Mount Olive already has a lift stations in place to handle its sewage before it goes into the line. He said options are being explored on what action to take on site.

“We can probably do something as simple as solid storage containment up on top and then chlorination. We are looking at several options right now,” Ward told MetroNews.

Ward said the new options may be completed in stages.

The DEP issued a recreational use advisory Wednesday for a section of the Kanawha River from Smithers downstream to the London Locks of Dam—because of the chance that raw sewage has made it into the river.

“This is simply a recreational use (advisory) so people are aware and they can informed decisions about what activities they want to take,” Ward said.

According to the advisory, “People should avoid water contact recreation activities in the affected area, such as swimming, fishing, water skiing, and certain types of pleasure boating (e.g. sailing in a very small craft or outboard motor boats).”

The DEP said the order does not include water plants on the Kanawha River because their filtering systems should be able to handle anything that’s flowed into the river.

The sewer line from the prison to Smithers is maintained by the Kanawha Valley Falls Public Service District. It was destroyed in several sections in the flood of Smithers Creek along Cannelton Hollow,” DEP Secretary Ward said.

“About two-and-half miles of line that was completely destroyed and preliminary reports are indicating that in that hollow there’s an additional 3,000 feet that’s impacted by sediments and rocks that will have to be addressed,” Ward said.

Anne Cavalier

Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier said for now residents along Cannelton Hollow are having to turn elsewhere for sewer service.

“We do have residences where the sewage facilities are not operable at this time,” she said.

For now residents can take showers and use facilities at Valley School in Smithers. Cavalier said when the school year begins next week, the services will be switched to Smithers City Hall.

Cavalier said the amount of debris has made it difficult assessing the damage to the line.

“We haven’t found all of the breaks and all of the problems yet,” she said.

Ward said a “holistic assessment” is underway.

“Hopefully as this goes forward we can look at in the future at other items. I know the administration is interested in looking at this holistically so that we can avoid this in the future if at all possible,” Ward said.

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Two more administrators depart the Department of Education

A personnel wheel keeps spinning at the state Department of Education, where two longtime administrators are leaving.

Jan Barth, the assistant superintendent, and Heather Hutchens, the general counsel, are leaving effective Sept. 9, the education department announced today.

“The WVDE is grateful for the years of service and commitment of time and talent Dr. Barth and Ms. Hutchens have contributed to the Department and public education in West Virginia,” the department commented in a statement distributed by Christy Day, spokeswoman.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail first reported their departures in a story posted Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Clayton Burch sought a transfer to become superintendent for the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind. The state Board of Education swiftly named his replacement as David Roach, previously executive director of the state School Building Authority.

Last month, the state board named Paul Hardesty as its new president, replacing Miller Hall, who remains on the board.

Just a couple of days before that, then-vice chairman Tom Campbell resigned the board after 10 years of service.

The announcement distributed by the Department of Education today specified that Barth is a 21-year employee of the Department who will be retiring. Hutchens, a 22-year employee with the department, is pursuing other professional endeavors, the announcement stated.

“Any additional personnel or organizational changes or transitions will be published with the September 2022 West Virginia Board of Education meeting agenda and discussed as part of that meeting on September 14, 2022,” Day wrote in the agency’s statement.

Separately, the Department of Education today announced that Sara Lewis-Stankus has been hired as a deputy superintendent, starting August 31. She has been superintendent of Upshur County Schools for five years. Previously, she has worked in multiple counties as a teacher, special education teacher, counselor and principal.

“She is an esteemed educator with a heart for teaching, learning and children. She will be a great asset as we continue to focus on issues of student achievement and as we advance public education in our state,” stated Roach, the new state superintendent.

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West Liberty BoG approves salary increases as part of governor’s program

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — The West Liberty University Board of Governors approved a 5% salary increase for employees through the governor’s salary enhancement program for state employees on Wednesday.

In June, the board tabled the decision to give West Liberty officials time to find out if the raises would have to be built into West Liberty’s budget annually or if they are part of the university’s annual appropriations from the state.

“We were not clear on whether this is something that the institution, after the first year, would be responsible for maintaining. We since discovered that it would not be the case and it is to be a part of our annual appropriation,” West Liberty University President W. Franklin Evans told the board during its meeting.

The board then passed the proposed resolution. It read:

Resolved, that the West Liberty University Board of Governors approve salary enhancements effective October 8, 2022 as follows:

– Faculty – a total of $186,455 to be distributed based upon merit and external competitiveness (equity) tiers as established by WLU Policy 245 and Procedure 240 to those who were on payroll prior to July 1, 2022.

– Staff – a total of $201,983 to be distributed based upon merit, and/or equity, and/or fixed dollars in accordance with WLU Compensation Guidelines to staff at least .53 FTE who were on payroll prior to July 1, 2022.

West Liberty University (WLU) has 350 university employees. WLU board chairman Rich Lucas previously told MetroNews that approximately $6 million of the approximate $42 million annual budget of WLU comes from the state of West Virginia. WLU last had an employee salary increase during the 18-19 fiscal year, according to Lucas.

Evans told the board that the minimum wage for staff will now increase from $11 to $14 per hour.

“One of the things that we would use the dollars for the staff for is to bring the minimum wage up. Right now it’s at $11 and we want to move that up,” Evans said.

The next scheduled meeting for WLU’s BoG is October 12.

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Road, bridge damage in Kanawha, Fayette counties likely to exceed $1 million

CANNELTON HOLLOW, W.Va. — It appears damage to state-maintained roads and bridges in Monday’s flash flood in Kanawha and Fayette counties will total more than $1 million.

State Division of Highways District 9 Engineer Jim Moore said Wednesday the damage is approaching that mark in Fayette County alone.

“We’ve think we’ve looked at just about every road in the state highway system in that area and we’re coming up with a preliminary estimate of about $750,000 to $850,000,” Moore said during an appearance on the state Department of Transportation’s ‘On the Dot’ podcast.

A flooded Smithers Creek ate away the shoulder of Cannelton Hollow Road Monday morning new Mount Olive. (Photo/MetroNews)

Moore said it’s going to take several days to make the necessary repairs on Cannelton Hollow Road between Smithers and the Mount Olive State Prison.

“We have several embankment failures. That road kind of parallels the creek and the creek washed out some of the roadway embankments and took out the shoulder and in at least two cases took out part of a lane. So we will be up there putting rock in those areas and rebuilding the road and the road embankment,” Moore said.

The DOH will have to construct a new bridge on Carbondale Road, which is off of Cannelton Hollow. The former bridge was destroyed in the flood. Crews were expected to finish a temporary causeway Wednesday afternoon. Moore said they’ll use materials that were scheduled to be used on another bridge project in the district to build a new bridge there.

“It was very handy and convenient that that structure is approximately the same size as this one that just failed,” he said. “What we’re going to do is delay a project that we had scheduled, use those materials and move over to this Carbondale Road bridge and get it put in as quickly as we can.”

Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier said volunteers used ATVs to go into the Carbondale community Wednesday to take supplies to residents.

“Several of these folks are elderly,” Cavalier said. “They (the volunteers) are taking them food, water, cleaning supplies and are picking up any prescriptions that might need to be filled.”

DOH crews from Fayette and Nicholas counties continued efforts Wednesday to remove rocks and mud from Routes 16/39 between Gauley Bridge and Belva. Moore said the highway was scheduled to reopen Tuesday evening but a heavy storm moved through and because of culvert damage from the previous flash flood there was nowhere for the water to go.

The DOH has upwards of 70 workers on the flash flood repairs. Moore said there are going to be some long, hard days.

“I keep trying to remind the folks that this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. We need to be mindful and take care of our crews also while still trying to get as much done every single day as we possibly can,” Moore said.

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