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Capito wants more transparency at VA centers with new legislation

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R, W.Va.) is hoping new legislation proposed by her and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D, W.Va.) will bring more transparency to Veterans Affairs (VA) centers following the tragedies in Clarksburg.

The legislation rolled out would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a report on the use of security cameras in VA medical centers.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Capito recently said at a press conference these are the first steps in receiving better data on the ‘comings and goings’ of the VA centers. She would like to see cameras in all hallways.

Former Clarksburg VA nursing assistant Reta Mays, 46, pleaded guilty last July to seven counts of murder along with another count of assault with attempt to murder in connection with the deaths of eight veterans who were given unprescribed doses of insulin.

“We couldn’t get good information. We were all frustrated,” Capito said. “We asked why haven’t we arrested someone for the murders of our veterans. It is so sorrowful it happened.”

Capito said if the VA Center in Clarksburg had cameras on each floor, suspicious activity could be investigated more rapidly and it could have potentially saved lives. She said it could have pinpointed the perpetrator sooner.

She said the biggest difference would have been to give families of the victims more relief and explanation of what happened.

It’s a bipartisian bill that features Manchin, Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

“Veterans have sacrificed so much to protect America and her people. The very least we can do is ensure that when our Veterans return home, they receive the quality care they deserve from our VA facilities. Over the past two years, West Virginia’s Veterans have lost faith in the VA system due to the murders of at least seven Veterans at the Clarksburg VAMC,” Manchin said in a release in the past week.

“Senator Capito and I are introducing legislation that requires the VA to submit a report on the use of security cameras at VA facilities. Had there been security cameras in place at the Clarksburg VAMC, Veteran lives may have been saved.”

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), and Carol Miler (R-W.Va.).

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Photo gallery: Hurricane edges St. Albans, 60-58 in OT

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Hurricane’s 60-58 win over St. Albans in overtime on Friday night.

(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)

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Bill to reunite Fairmont State, Pierpont CTC before House Education Committee

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The bill that would reunify Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College is currently before the House Education Committee.

David Goldberg

The bill, HB 2805, was introduced last week by House leaders including House Majority Leader Amy Summers, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and House Education Committee Chairman Joe Ellington. Monongalia County Delegate Joe Statler is also a lead sponsor.

Fairmont State Board of Governor’s Chairman David Goldberg said a reunification would better support students at all levels.

“Now we have the opportunity to take two good strong organizations and create the model back to where we started a few years back,” Goldberg said. “Traditional students and non-traditional students having a consistent pathway to success.”

Goldberg said last week on WAJR Radio’s “Talk of the Town” there will be no major staff reorganizations, but there will advantages in economies of scale.

“Take some of the excess money, reinvest it back into the programs like mechanics for aeronautical to tie in to what’s going on in Harrison County and the airport in Clarksburg.”

Goldberg said they want maintain solid systems for traditional and non-traditional students.

“The requirements for a community technical college and a university- the certificates, the degrees, the two-year associates degrees lead by the state-we will follow it,” Goldberg said. “The free tuition for the community college students will continue.”

The new look BOG for the merged institution will be expanded to include representatives from trades and professional careers from the area, Goldberg said.

“We’ll have a better opportunity to advance together rather than fighting for the same resources and sometimes not, in my opinion, investing in right way to succeed on a greater scale.”

Goldberg said the unified institution will be a benefit to north central West Virginia, industries and perspective students.

“I think together we can have a model to show a broader way to reduce cost and improve dollars of investment,” Goldberg said.

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Boone judge sees promise in making Family Drug Court permanent programs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia House of Delegates committee has created a bill to make the eight Family Drug Court pilot programs in the state permanent and a southern West Virginia circuit judge supports the idea.

Judge Will Thompson

In front of the Committee on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse last week, Boone County Circuit Court Judge Will Thompson testified and said there is a desire to make this move around the state.

He said he has fielded several calls from circuit judges on how to get the program in their county.

“I would like to see more judges do it. We have a lot of dedicated judges out here doing it. We have eight family treatment courts now,” Thompson said.

Thompson doesn’t get any additional pay for the Family Treatment Court work. It said that may be needed to get other judges involved.

“You may encourage them financially—that might be a way,” Thompson said.

The originating bill that came from committee would not only make the pilot program permanent but would remove language prohibiting someone whose parental rights have been terminated from future participation in the program.

Family Treatment Courts are designed to help families by offering protections to abused and neglected children while assisting parents with substance use disorders before the parents lose permanent custody of their kids.

The system launched in October 2019, with the help of Thompson, in Boone County, Randolph County and Ohio County. It has since expanded.

According to the state Supreme Court, 109 people have been served with 22 already graduating from the court. The High Court said 148 children have been served, 38 children reunited with parents and 20 permanently placed back with their parents.

Thompson credited personal interaction and each court having a dedicated Child Protective Services social worker to its successes. According to him, the Boone County program has seen 16 graduates and 16 children reunited with their families.

The judge stated working with abuse and neglects cases are the worst part of his job.

“When you have a mom struggling who loves her children but is is not quite getting and you’ll have to pull the plug. That’s a tough job,” Thompson said.

The bill is beginning to move through the legislative process.

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Long planned sobering center within months of completion in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 10-year journey to establish a sobering center in Morgantown is winding down with a regional facility located in the former location of the Ramada Inn.

The Regional Sobering Center is an alternative to incarceration for people experiencing acute alcohol or drug intoxication. The center will have basic medical capabilities and is designed for stays of up to 12 hours.

According to Morgantown Interim Police Chief Eric Powell, the center will protect intoxicated people from crime while preventing them from committing other, more serious crimes. Powell said it will also increase efficiencies for officers on duty.

“When we come into contact with a highly intoxicated person we become the responsible party until we can find somebody that is responsible,” Powell said. “So, that takes a person off the street that could be answering calls that are important.”

Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli

According to Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli, several parties are working to open the sobering center as soon as possible.

“We are hoping to have an executive director on board by the beginning of the fiscal year, so in July,” Muzzarelli said. “Ideally it would great to open the sobering center sometime this fall.”

The facility was rehabilitated with $3.5 million in CARES Act money that was allocated by Gov. Jim Justice. A little more than $2 million was used for initial repairs and the balance for the improvements for the Regional Sobering Center and the section to be used for the unsheltered. Other contributors include Morgantown Area Resources, the Monongalia County Commission and the City of Morgantown has $100,000 earmarked in the FY 2022 budget.

“Morgantown (Council) has one more reading on their budget, but there was funding included in that budget for the sobering center,” Muzzarelli said. “The county has also come through with a $100,000 commitment for the first year and the university has also talked about being a financial partner.”

Once the facility is in operation, agencies that bring people to the facility like Star City, Granville, WVU or Morgantown will in turn be asked to fund the operation of the center.

The Regional Sobering Center will have some have medical capacity, but subjects will be evaluated by police, fire or EMS before being brought for a stay at the center.

“They will have a second assessment once they get to the sobering center to make sure they are meeting minimum requirements,” Muzzarelli said. “There will be some kind of ongoing assessments throughout the process just to make sure they’re staying in good health.”

At some point, Interim Director of Morgantown Community Resources Jonathan Board believes some ancillary services could relocate to the property. For now, there are talks with local partners to provide transportation options.

“We have had very good communication with city and county,” Board said. “We see a lot of transportation being available to those who need it.”

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MEC Semifinal Day Recap

(Fairmont State-Charleston men’s highlights above)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Championship games are set for Sunday afternoon at the MEC Tournament at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. All 14 MEC Tournament games will be broadcast at wvmetronews.com. Check out the complete tournament schedule and pairings at mountaineast.org.

Women’s Semifinal #1 – Charleston 71, Wheeling 55

Women’s Semifinal #2 – Glenville State 88, Notre Dame College 69
Men’s Semifinal #1 – Fairmont State 84, Charleston 69 (highlights at top of page)
Men’s Semifinal #2 – West Liberty 95, Glenville State 92

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Highlights: Reasbeck & Toepfer lift Wheeling Central over Winfield

(Highlights by Taylor Kennedy)

WINFIELD, W.Va. — In the first ever regular season matchup between father Mel Stephens and son Chris Stephens, Wheeling Central made seven three pointers, four of which came from Michael Toepfer, leading Central to a 64-54 win.

Ryan Reasbeck led all scorers with 27 points. Toepfer tallied 16 as well.

The Maroon Knights outscored the Generals 43-33 in the second half.

Winfield was led by senior Ethan Kincaid and junior Seth Shilot. Both recorded 19 points. 

Shilot converted 11 of his 19 points in the first half. Kincaid nailed five threes in the second half.

Wheeling Central will head back home after playing two games away from home to face Weir on Tuesday. Winfield will hit the road for a four-game road trip beginning on March 11th at Ripley.

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Berkeley County no longer recycling plastics

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Last year when a lot of Berkeley County residents were working and schooling at home, the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority’s Clint Hogbin says they were filling tractor trailers full of plastics and paper faster than they could get them emptied at some time.

Friday morning, though, Hogbin announced they are halting collection of all plastic containers and plastic bags at all location because of market issue.

Berkeley County Recycling Center (File)

“Plastic containers continue to be a topic where we’re having trouble finding affordable markets. It’s not just Berkeley County. It’s happening all over the country,” Hogbin told the Panhandle News Network.

The Solid Waste Authority said the decision was not made lightly

“We’ve always found another way, we’ve always worked hard behind the scenes to find another market,” Hogbin said. “But the I’m afraid the current situation is not sustainable. And I hate to say that, but that’s just the realism. It’s more expensive than our budget supports.”

At this time, all plastic material will need to placed with your normal trash in Berkeley County. Hogbin said he takes some comfort in knowing some plastics will stay out of the waste stream in Berkeley County.

Hogbin said for now the plastics will be used in the conversion into fuel by Entsorga West Virginia. He said it’s the best option for now.

“If you are a subscriber to Apple Valley (Waste), it will be taken to Entsorga and Entsorga will use it for fuel. That’s definitely better than having it put in a landfill, and yes it does bring me some comfort that it’s not going to sit in a landfill for decades. Recycling is better alternative than even making fuel, and we would work hard to get it back,” Hogbin said.

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Kinsey leads Herd to regular season finale win over Charlotte

By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W. Va.  – Taevion Kinsey took the game over midway through the second half to lead Marshall past Charlotte, 75-66, in men’s Conference USA basketball Saturday afternoon at Cam Henderson Center.

Kinsey, junior from Columbus, Ohio, connected on a three-point shot with 11:25 left to put the Thundering Herd ahead to stay 49-46. He added a dunk and basket to push the advantage to 53-46. He added two free throws to end the game and finish with a game-high 23 points and team-high eight rebounds to turn Senior Day into a success for Jarrod West, Darius George and Jannson Williams, Mikel Beyers and Luke Thomas. They were honored in pre-game festivities.

The psyched-up Herd raced to leads of 13-0 and 16-2 before Charlotte righted its ship and made a game of it and pulled even by halftime at 34-34.

“All pumped up,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said of the team’s emotions prior to tipoff. “Kind of eased back. Can only stay pumped up so long, have a letdown. We pride ourselves that we play hard, we’re competitive and we’re gonna do it every day. Playing hard is fun. If playing hard is not fun then you’re in the wrong game.”

Andy Taylor added 21 points and Williams 11. The Herd had eights threes in the first half, but only went 1-of-3 in the second, the one by Kinsey. On the flip side, the Herd, which did not shoot a free throw in the first half, went 14-of-14 in the second as it handed Charlotte its eighth straight loss. It’s the first time since Jan. 20, 2018 against UAB in which Marshall made all of its free throws with 10 or more attempts.

 “One sets up the other,” D’Antoni said of shooting threes and inside the arc. “An effort to get to the rim by design. Told them we’ve got to get to the basket. We held our picks longer.”

Marshall (15-6, 9-5 C-USA) finished 13-of-21 from the field overall in the second half. The Herd has won six of its last seven and eight of 10 as it prepares to head to the C-USA Tournament starting Tuesday in Frisco, Texas. Marshall’s first game is Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Southern Miss/Rice. The starting time will be determined Sunday.

“This helps get us ready,” Kinsey said. “The momentum should help us. Today it was have fun, help the seniors out. Everybody got their part figured out. Now it’s win or go home. Basketball is a game of runs. I’m glad we finished off the second half.”

About the success at the foul line, Kinsey said, “Very clutch. Last year it was one of our weaknesses. They’re free points. We want to get some.”

A year ago, Marshall beat UTEP in the first round (March 11), but then league officials canceled the event the next day due to the Coronavirus and eventual pandemic. The Herd had been scheduled to play Louisiana Tech.

“Unfinished business,” Kinsey said of the trip. “One game, it ends. Didn’t get to finish, show what we really are. This year we will.”

Williams looks forward to the trip to the Lonestar State for a final time.

“It usually clicks for me around this time every season, when it’s time to go to Frisco,” he said. “I feel like we have a chance to complete what we couldn’t complete last year. I loved it (Senior Day). Couldn’t have asked for more (here).  I’m very blessed, very thankful.”

Jordan Shepherd led Charlotte (9-15, 5-11) with 20 points. Jahmir Young had 15, Jared Garcia 14 and Brice Williams 11. Garcia, a freshman, pulled down 11 rebounds for a double-double and career-highs in both categories.

West had two of the Herd’s eight steals to move to No. 2 all-time in C-USA with 252. He passed UTEP’s Randy Culpepper (251). West is 12 away from tying Charlotte’s Eddie Basden for the league record.

Marshall has won eight of the last nine games against Charlotte and leads the overall series 13-7. All league teams will be in Frisco for the C-USA Tournament. Senior Day attendance was 1,145 due to limited seating  created by COVID-19 protocols.

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Undermanned Oklahoma State tops West Virginia to deny Huggins 900th win

(Bob Huggins postgame Zoom conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins’ search for career win No. 900 will extend at least into next week.

Despite playing without future NBA lottery pick Cade Cunningham and starting guard Isaac Likekele, No. 17 Oklahoma State willed its way to the basket over and over, shooting nearly 70 percent on two-point field goals and 58 percent in all to claim an 85-80 victory over sixth-ranked West Virginia at the Coliseum.

“We can’t guard,” Huggins said. “I’ve told you guys that and then I get crucified for telling you guys the truth. We don’t guard.”

Without Cunningham and Likekele, the Cowboys (18-7, 11-7 Big 12) ran much of their offense through Avery Anderson. Anderson answered the call and then some, scoring a game-high 31 points, including 20 in the second half. Avery made 11-of-14 shots and 8-of-10 free throws, while consistently carving up the Mountaineers.

“I played against Avery in high school and I know he’s a capable player,” said senior guard Taz Sherman, who led WVU with 20 points. “Without their two main players I knew he was going to try to take charge and he destroyed us today with 31.”

Twenty of Anderson’s points came after halftime, allowing the Cowboys to erase a five-point deficit and earn a regular season split with West Virginia, which fell to 18-8 and 11-6 in league play.

Oklahoma State made 29-of-43 two-point shots and 16-of-22 after halftime, causing WVU great difficulty with penetration to create high percentage shots. The Cowboys finished with 50 points in the paint.

“It’s something we haven’t been good at all year,” WVU guard Miles McBride said of preventing opponents from driving to the basket. “I honestly can’t tell you why. I think our help defense has obviously been our weak part. Everybody is going to get beat when there’s Division I players on the other side. The difference is help defense. They play better help defense than we do.”

The Cowboys took their first lead of the second half at 50-48 on a Bernard Kouma layup with 14:28 remaining.

West Virginia guard Taz Sherman (12) shoots underneath the basket among Oklahoma State defenders. Photo by Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

That lead stood until West Virginia tied the game at 67 on a pair of McBride free throws. The Mountaineers eventually had separate one-point leads at 71-70 and 73-72 before Anderson put OSU ahead for good with a layup at the 3:26 mark.

OSU doubled its lead to 80-76 on Kalib Boone’s two free throws with 1:17 remaining, and the Cowboys appeared to be in good shape when Rondel Walker rebounded a Jalen Bridges’ miss on the ensuing possession. But Anderson’s turnover four seconds later led to Sherman’s layup and the Mountaineers were back to within two.

Anderson more than made up for it when he drained a challenged jumper on the following possession. He then split two free throws to make it 83-80 and Keylan Boone stole a post entry pass from McBride with 11 seconds remaining to help OSU preserve the win. Anderson sealed the verdict with two more free throws.

“They were just running by us,” Huggins said. “They ball screened, but everybody in America ball screens. They didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. They were just better than us today.”

Neither team led by more than six at any point, with WVU’s 35-29 advantage late in the first half proving to be the largest lead of the contest.

Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe added 18 points in the win, while Kouma led all players with 10 rebounds to key the Cowboys to a 38-29 rebounding edge.

Derek Culver was WVU’s second-leading scorer with 14 points and became the 54th player in West Virginia history to reach 1,000 career points early in the second half on a dunk.

McBride scored 12 points and Emmitt Matthews Jr. added 11, giving the Mountaineers four double figure scorers in defeat. Bridges was held scoreless in the loss.

Oklahoma State had 20 turnovers, but held West Virginia to 25-for-60 shooting (41.7 percent).

“I don’t know how we scored 80 when our four guys that generally make shots didn’t make shots,” Huggins said.

Saturday’s loss moved West Virginia below Kansas in the Big 12 standings and assured the Mountaineers of finishing no higher than third in the conference. Should Texas beat TCU on Sunday, the Longhorns would also surpass West Virginia in the standings and drop the Mountaineers into fourth and in position to meet the Cowboys again in a Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal.

“We had zero bounce and it was that way from the beginning,” Huggins said. “I kept saying fellas, ‘We have to play. We have no bounce.’ It didn’t do any good.”

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