October 4, 2022

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News From Across the State |

Ohio County Schools will negotiate with Astroturf for a potential deal to place artificial turf on the Wheeling Park High School baseball field.

Board of education members July 11 made two moves with regards to the baseball project. First, they rejected bids submitted by both Astroturf, which has an office in PIttsburgh, and Field Turf, with a regional office in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Both bids came in at between $1.4 million and $1.5 million, school officials explained.

But they also indicated that Astroturf seemed receptive to the school district’s desire to hire out some of the needed work itself.

“The next step would be to enter into negotiations with Astroturf to go through a detailed list of everything that we have talked about,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones told board members.

“For example, we can save a little money if we priced and got the fence and put it in ourselves rather than have them get it and mark it up. There are ways we can save some money.”

Handling the project in this way should both lower its overall cost, and allow opportunities for local firms to do the work, school officials said.

— The Intelligencer/ Wheeling News-Register

Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission gathered for a brief meeting July 11 and — by a split vote — approved the installation of a new fence behind the building that houses The Bridge Tavern & Grill.

Michael Carl, whose family owns the tavern and the building, had requested permission from the planning commission to install a protective fence in front of what is essentially a private alley located in the rear of 948 Main St. that connects 10th Street and the lot where The Doris on Main is currently being constructed by crews working on the Woda Cooper Companies’ project.

The matter was on last month’s agenda, but members of the planning commission had questions for the petitioner, who was unavailable for the previous meeting. For the July meeting, the request for fencing at the site was the only matter up for consideration on the agenda.

Planning commission members Jeremy West, William Schwarz, Christina Schessler and Michael Baum were present — narrowly giving the panel a quorum to allow the meeting to proceed. Carl also arrived to answer questions, which centered on the fact that the request for fencing involved a chain link fence, which according to city code needs to be decorative fencing if the property is located in the downtown area.

— The Intelligencer/ Wheeling News-Register

The Preston County Solid Waste Authority approved help for the town of Terra Alta’s recycling program at its most recent meeting.

Members of the board approved $1,150.33 for repairs on the scales at the recycling center in Terra Alta and $3,100 for the purchase of an 8-foot-by-12-foot recycling building. The building will be purchased from Mountain Valley Outdoors.

The authority also discussed this year’s Preston County e-cycling event, which is scheduled to be held 8 a.m. –1 p.m. Aug. 20. The event will be held on the old Preston Memorial Hospital lot on Price Street, Kingwood and is open to all Preston County residents.

County Commissioner Don Smith, who represents the Preston County Commission on the authority, said moving the e-cycling event to this location will make it go more smoothly by providing one way in and out for vehicles and eliminating the need for traffic control.

Smith said he is applying for a $9,900 grant to cover expenses for the 2023 event. That amount will also cover advertising. Smith said the board also received $2,700 for tire amnesty.

Preston County Litter Control Officer Jay Sowers said he recently received several calls from business owners who are finding their dumpsters full of garbage that is not theirs. He recommended the businesses put signs on the dumpsters, saying they are for business use only.

— Preston County News and Journal

The Morgantown Municipal Airport has leased approximately 47,300 square feet of land to Ground Speed Aviation. With this new lease, GSA will begin construction of a new 10,000-square-foot hangar. The construction will be completed by Reclaim Company LLC, a GSA sister company based out of Fairmont.

“Ground Speed Aviation LLC is happy to be working with the City of Morgantown and MGW to bring thousands of square feet of new hangar space to serve the airport,” said Reclaim President, RJ Williams. “While GSA will not be directly operating the businesses, it hopes the addition of these new spaces will not only retain existing aircraft maintenance and storage companies but attract new businesses and employment to MGW.”

Reclaim specializes in site preparation, utilities, and excavation. Work on the site will begin by removing the last of the World War II era T-hangars followed by the construction of the new hangar. Construction of the hangar is anticipated to be complete by winter 2023.

“We are excited to break ground on this new addition to the airport,” said Jon Vrabel, Morgantown Municipal Airport director. “With Ground Speed Aviation coming on board, it will create a variety of new jobs as we start moving tenants into the completed structure.”

The Monongalia County Board of Education got an update on the weapon detectors it purchased earlier this year at its most recent regular meeting on July 12.

“We’ve been very active this summer in the usage of the weapons detectors; we’ve actually installed them in our high schools, and we’re using them now as our kids are coming in for summer school,” Superintendent Eddie Campbell said.” “And really working out the kinks and figuring out what the best flow of traffic is going to be for all those kinds of things.”

The detectors are a huge additional layer of safety, said Deputy Superintendent Donna Talerico. She noted they’re just one of the safety measures the district uses.

Five additional machines were purchased after realizing the original eight weren’t going to be enough to do the job.

“At both Morgantown High and University High, you would imagine, we thought we would use two sets. Well, that’s not going to work and we do have money in the budget. So we have purchased five additional sets,” she said.

One of them will go to the Monongalia County Technical Education Center, which wasn’t addressed in the first purchase, two are for MHS and one is for UHS. The last will be used where it is needed.

They’re very mobile, if you want to use them at a board meeting, we would have that available,” Talerico said.

The Mylan Park Regional BMX Facility is racing toward reality.

The Mylan Park Foundation was awarded a $4.7 million grant from the U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, using American Rescue Plan funds, to use toward the facility.

Ron Justice, president of the Mylan Park Foundation, said they were very happy to get the full amount they requested. Another $1.2 million in matching local money fully funds the $5.9 million project.

It’s going to be one of the top facilities of its kind in the country, Justice said. The facility is being designed to be used by anyone, regardless of their physical capabilities.

“The Complex will accommodate all nonmotorized wheel-related riders at a beginner level as well as transitions suitable for those riding at advanced and competition levels. Design elements will be incorporated which could potentially host Olympic and Para-Olympic caliber qualifying events,” President of Mylan Park Terri Howes said.

It’s also more than just a BMX track, Justice said.

While the national competition caliber hard track will be the anchor, there are three other biking amenities coming with the complex: pump track, jump/flow lines and a skills loop.

Despite canceling their regularly scheduled meeting due to the July 4 holiday week, Jefferson County Commission held a special meeting July 15 to move forward with plans for county-run ambulance service. Commissioners have been pushing for a county-wide ambulance service that will be under their control for several months, and decisions made Friday take them one step closer to that goal.

Earlier this spring, the county tasked county administrator John Nissel with multiple assignments moving toward the purchase of ambulances, the securement of space to house those vehicles and licenses to allow the ambulance service to move from a volunteer basis to a completely county-run system.

During Friday’s meeting, the commissioners considered several steps toward their “work-in-progress” goal. A motion was made to hire a public relations firm to educate the public on the county’s actions. Administrative assistant Jessica Carroll explained to commissioners the importance of hiring such a firm.

“The intention is to maximize public information and be totally transparent and to establish engagement,” Carroll said. “It can be difficult for the lay person to understand.”

Finance director Michelle Gordon indicated that a request for proposal had been advertised and two companies responded.

The West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council announced funding for three sewer and two water system improvement projects at its meeting on July 6, including a sewer improvement project for the City of Hinton.

The council approved a $500,000 grant to Hinton to improve its sewer system. These funds, along with money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Appalachian Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant Program, provide $4.82 million for the project.

The council also approved technical reviews and requests to pursue funding for an additional 22 sewer and water projects, with which cities, municipalities and public service districts save taxpayer money and keep their water and sewer projects moving. Among the 22 projects found to be technically feasible and approved to pursue funding were four in southern West Virginia.

• Town of Alderson water system improvements and an extension to 165 customers estimated to cost $9 million

• City of Beckley sewer improvements in the Pinecrest area estimated to cost $5.6 million

• Greenbrier PSD 2 water line extension to Rainelle and Asbury to 360 customers estimated to cost $20.3 million

• Mercer County PSD Pocahontas water system improvements estimated to cost $8.1 million

The Mason County Board of Education met Tuesday, July 12. The board recognized county schools that won state high school sports titles.

Point Pleasant High School was recognized for winning the Class AA state wrestling championship. Point Pleasant was also recognized for winning the Class AA state track and field meet and Wahama High School for taking the Class A title in track and field. Wahama High School’s softball team was recognized as the Class A state softball champions as well.

The board approved all of the recommended professional personnel changes, to include resignations, transfers and hiring of new employees, including over 75 substitute teachers for the upcoming academic year.

The school board also approved transfers of various service and extra-curricular personnel within the county system. This included accepting the resignation of Colton McKinney as the Wahama High School wrestling coach and Brianne Solomon as dance coach at Hannan High school.

In addition, they approved the construction of a fence separating Board property (Wahama Jr/Sr High School) from Lyon Addition, provided by Tennant Lawn Care at the cost of $3,564.35 which will be pulled from School Stadium Funds. School Board member Rhonda Tennant abstained from voting due familial relationship with the owners of Tennant Lawn Care.

— River Cities Tribune and Register

Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger attended the Ravenswood City Council meeting on July 5 to discuss The Shield program, a concept that focuses on the safety of students and teachers in the Jackson County School District.

Mellinger advised that the program would add law enforcement officers to schools all over the county. Officers will be able to familiarize themselves with each school in order to deter potential tragedies.

While currently this is combined effort of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Commission and the board of education, Mellinger presented the opportunity for the City of Ravenswood to add the Ravenswood Police Department to the program as well. It would require a financial commitment to cover any overtime costs.

Mayor Josh Miller agreed that it is a worthwhile project and suggested the council discuss the presentation and add it to the agenda for the July 19 meeting.

Another item of discussion was presented by Chase Jarrell of Ravenswood High School. The school is looking to start an Esports team and funding is needed.

Again, Miller said he felt it was a great idea and requested the council look into sources that could be beneficial to the group. This matter will also be added to the agenda for July 19.

Ravenswood High School is hoping to add Esports as an option for an extracurricular activity beginning with the fall semester.

Scott Vogelsong, a teacher at Greenbrier East High School, reached out to principal Luke Swiney and other principals in the state, to see if there would be an interest in creating an Esports team at their respective schools. In Vogelsong’s email, he stated Greenbrier East had developed a team and would like to get other schools involved, in hopes that the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) would recognize it as an official sport.

“Once the WVSSAC recognizes Esports, then schools can start to compete against each other,” Chase Jarrell, a teacher at Ravenswood, said.

Jarrell said that Swiney approached him to see if he would be interested in taking on the task of getting an Esports group started at Ravenswood.

“I know about video games and the concept, but I don’t normally do it or watch it,” Jarrell said.

He brought it up in the classroom one day and several students noted their interest in the possibility of this new adventure.

“By March or April, we had about 35 kids interested in participating,” Jarrell said. “The goal is to get the WVSSAC onboard so it will be recognized as a sport and competitions can be hosted at the school.”

The West Virginia Board of Education unanimously elected Board Member L. Paul Hardesty as president during the Board’s monthly meeting.

Hardesty, a resident of Logan County, has a 30-year career of public service on both the county and state levels.

Board Member Nancy White was elected vice president.

President Hardesty was appointed to the Board in December 2021. He has served on the Logan County Board of Education and was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to an unexpired term in the West Virginia Senate (7th District).

He is a managing member of business development company PDH Business Solutions and previously held the positions of director of the Office Coalfield Development and legislative liaison for Gov. Bob Wise.

Additionally, he served as the director of the Public Energy Authority and member of the legislative staff for Gov. Joe Manchin.

“I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve the great state of West Virginia and the children of our public school system,” Hardesty said.

“We have many important issues in front of us, and we will work tirelessly to ensure our children are prepared for the opportunities available to them. I will start, day-one, to try and build back damaged relationships around the Capitol Complex, because, at the end of the day, we all want better educational opportunities,” Hardesty said.

The West Virginia First Responder Honor Board met recently to consider two additional nominees for the Medal of Valor: fallen Nicholas County Deputy Thomas Baker and fallen Gassaway Volunteer Firefighter John Forbush.

The Board voted unanimously to submit both names to the state Legislature for consideration, according to a press release from the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

On May 1, 2022, Forbush lost his life while attempting to rescue two individuals from a car that had driven into the Elk River in Sutton in an apparent murder-suicide. Firefighter Forbush was working approximately one mile from the scene and heard the call over his radio.

Forbush rushed to the scene, assessed the situation, and immediately sprang into action to rescue the two victims from the vehicle.

Unfortunately, he was unable to rescue the individuals inside the vehicle, and he ultimately gave his life in an attempt to save the lives of others, according to the release.

On June 3, Baker was shot and killed while responding to a location in Burch River. The incident also resulted in another deputy being shot in the leg and one of the two suspects being shot and killed.

Baker responded to this call with bravery and courage, and paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to keep his community safe from harm, according to the release.