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Cheatham: New PEIA Rainy Day Fund will be used in next budget year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the House of Delegates Finance Committee were reminded again Friday that $105 million in a year-old rainy day fund for health insurance costs for state workers could be depleted by budget year 2022 unless more money is allocated to the fund.

Ted Cheatham

State Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) Executive Director Ted Cheatham was before the committee for a budget presentation. He explained the different accounts the agency is using to handle growing health care costs while at the same time not increasing premiums.

Cheatham said the PEIA Reserve Fund has a balance of $120 million. He said there are no plans to touch that in order to keep the required percentage of back-up funds. He said the agency’s Premium Stabilization Reserve Fund, made up of money saved in operations and earned in investments has a balance of close to $60 million and then there’s the new PEIA Rainy Day Fund established by Gov. Jim Justice and lawmakers last year to satisfy teachers and other state workers concerned about premium increases.

Cheatham said Friday the plan is to spent most all of the Premium Stabilization Reserve Fund in next year’s budget and about a third of the rainy day fund.

“We think we may need $34 million additional out of the rainy day fund for PEIA,” Cheatham said.

Cheatham said the rainy day fund money will not come as an 80/20 match. That means state workers will not have to pay more for health insurance.

Costs go up for PEIA between $50 million and $80 million so if there’s going to be no premium increase, the money has to be found somewhere. Cheatham said what’s left in the PEIA Rainy Day Fund after next budget year should be able to cover the increasing costs in the budget for fiscal year 2022.

“The way we’re forecasted in our budget, for 2022, we’re looking to need another $78 million from the PEIA Rainy Day Fund,” Cheatham said Friday.

He also told lawmakers the numbers need from the rainy day fund could go down if the state has another good claims year. The level of the annual health care cost increase has been showing a decline in recent years because there are fewer state workers.

According to the law setting up the rainy day fund, the governor would have to authorize money from the fund to be transferred to PEIA.

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Something for every gearhead at 2020 West Virginia Auto Show

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Automobile lovers from all over West Virginia and beyond began to crowd the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center on Friday morning.

It was the beginning of the weekend-long 2020 West Virginia International Auto Show featuring hundreds of brand new cars, trucks, crossovers, SUVs, luxury rides and more all under one roof.

Jared Wyrick, President of West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, told MetroNews on Friday that he expects hundreds of guests throughout the weekend. He said that all of them tend to enjoy the non-selling environment of checking out the freshest models.

“You get to look at all the different brands in a relaxed environment,” Wyrick said.

Jared Wyrick

“You don’t have to drive from dealership to dealership to look at the different manufacturers. They are all under one roof, if they are in the state of West Virginia they are here.”

The new models that Wyrick expects to turn heads on the show floor include the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby, 2020 Jeep Gladiator, 2020 Toyota Supra, 2020 Ram 2500, 2020 Ford Explorer, 2020 Toyota Highlander.

There are also the newest luxury models in Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.

The long-standing show also has new features and events going on including a Motorcycle and Powersports Pavilion with motorcycles, side by sides and more.

VIEW: 2020 show floor plan

On Friday night, there is a Friday Night Flights and Lights event from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. where guests can check out beer from five local breweries and eat food while checking out the showroom. Two former NFL players in Will Johnson and Arthur Moats will also be at the show on Friday night for pictures and autographs.

Saturday is highlighted by a Jeep overhaul event in the coliseum side of the show, called “The Garage.”

“We are taking a stock Jeep, lifting it right in front of everybody,” Wyrick said. “We’re going to take the tires off, put on a lift kit, wrap it, tint the windows and turn it into an off-road machine. That’s on Saturday, they are going to do that all day in the Coliseum.”

Dog lovers will also enjoy this year’s car show with the Subaru Pet Adoption Event. Next to Subaru exhibits, there is an opportunity to adopt dogs from local rescue organizations. Guests are welcome to hang out and play with the dogs, as well as get free custom pet tags.

The show is open until 9 p.m. on Friday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets for adults 13 and over cost $12 while senior citizens, 62 and over, and military cost $8 to get in. Children, 7 to 12 years old, cost $7, and children six years and younger are free.

Sunday is Family Day at the event, where any child 12 years and younger are free when accompanied by a paying adult.

The West Virginia Auto Show is presented by the West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association and produced by Motor Trend Auto Shows.

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Big 12 Power Index: Baylor catapults itself to the top of loaded league

The Big 12 may be the only conference in America where you can expect football games and basketball games to result in the same scores.

For all its offensive prowess in football, the opposite is true of Big 12 basketball. According to kenpom.com, the league ranks 31st out of 32 nationally in offensive tempo, 32nd in offensive efficiency and 32nd in effective field goal percentage.

The first 20 games on the Big 12 slate haven’t been particularly interesting, either. In the very early stages of conference play, the SWAC and Ivy League the the only two conferences with fewer games decided by five points or less — and there have only been two Ivy games played thus far.

It’s too early in league play to call any of these items “trends,” but it will be interesting to see if they continue throughout the bulk of the schedule.

Now that you’ve been hooked in by this scintillating data, allow us to formally introduce you to the first-ever MetroNews Big 12 Power Index. We’ll be updating it every Friday until the conference tournament, partially as a service to keep WVU fans abreast of what’s going on in the league as a whole.

1. Baylor (14-1, 4-0)

The NCAA’s NET rankings have the Bears as the top team in the country, and anyone who disputes that at this point looks rather foolish — including AP voters who have them ranked second behind Gonzaga.

The last unbeaten in Big 12 play has beaten Kansas on the road on top of high-quality wins over Butler, Arizona and Villanova. Baylor is also more balanced than the Zags, rating 27th in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. Gonzaga is first in offensive efficiency but 44th on defense.

2. Kansas (13-3, 3-1)

The Jayhawks are No. 2 in the NET, buoyed by a strength of schedule that’s tops in the nation.

Kansas has a formula that few teams can match with an elite point guard (Devon Dotson) and an elite big man (Udoka Azubuike). However, the Jayhawks are also not particularly deep. This will catch up to them at some point, with their Feb. 12 trip to Morgantown potentially being one of those instances.

3. West Virginia (14-2, 3-1)

According to KenPom, the Mountaineers are one of three Big 12 teams in the Top 4 nationally. There’s no way three Big 12 teams will end up grabbing No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but it’s starting to look like two is a reasonable possibility — and West Virginia is firmly in that mix.

The Mountaineers lead the nation in defensive efficiency, and showed some signs of offensive progress in an 81-49 win over TCU.

At this point, everyone knows what West Virginia needs to improve on — passing, three-point shooting and free-throw shooting. If even one of those areas gets up to par by March, this team could do something special.

4. Texas Tech (11-5, 2-2)

The Red Raiders have had the misfortune of running into Baylor and West Virginia early on their league schedule, but right now they are the clear-cut No. 4 team in the league. Do not be surprised if this group is able to trip up Kansas or WVU in Lubbock.

5. Oklahoma (11-5, 2-2)

The Sooners are trending downwards after back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Kansas. With a trip to Baylor looming next week, Saturday’s game against TCU should come with a sense of urgency.

6. TCU (12-4, 3-1)

The Horned Frogs were badly exposed in their loss to the Mountaineers. If this team isn’t clicking from outside — which it frequently is — it’s going to struggle.

7. Texas (12-4, 2-2)

It’s getting to the point where it feels like it ain’t really happening for Shaka Smart at Texas. Five years in, he’s only led the Longhorns to two NCAA tournament appearances, and this year is no guarantee.

The Horns have rebounded from an 0-2 start in Big 12 play, but upcoming games with Kansas and West Virginia will put their winning streak to the test.

8. Iowa State (8-8, 1-3)

Ranking fifth in the country with 8.9 assists per game, Cyclones point guard Tyrese Haliburton is a compelling watch. Iowa State is hapless when he’s not on the floor, which explains why he’s also averaging 39 minutes per game in league play.

9. Kansas State (7-9, 0-4)

At the moment, the Wildcats are the lone sub-.500 team in the Big 12. That’s a credit to Bruce Weber not loading his non-conference schedule with cupcakes, though perhaps K-State could have used a few more after losing Dean Wade and Barry Brown to graduation.

This team will be tougher than its current record, which is something the Mountaineers need to be aware of when visiting Manhattan on Saturday.

10. Oklahoma State (9-7, 0-4)

I’ve covered two absolutely miserable teams — last year’s Mountaineers and the 2016-17 LSU Tigers — and these Cowboys have a similar look.

As bad as the aforementioned teams were — 4-14 and 2-16 in conference play, respectively — at least they both had building-block players that inspired hopes of a quick turnaround.

That player doesn’t appear to exist for Oklahoma State, which is a straight-up dismal basketball team to watch. The Cowboys have been held to 50 points or less in three of their four Big 12 games.

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Names of victims released in Jefferson County double fatal

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. –Two people died in a head-on vehicle crash in Jefferson County Thursday night.

Authorities said the wreck occurred at about 7:20 p.m. on Middleway Pike near Charles Town close to the Tuscawilla Hills subdivision.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department identified the victims Friday afternoon as Hunter Muse, 17, of Ranson and Alisha Rae Shamburg, 30. They both died at the scene of the crash.

Authorities said Muse was a passenger in an SUV being driven by Dylan Mills, 18, of Kearneysville. Mills is being treated in a Falls Church, Virginia hospital.

Mills’ SUV collided with a truck being driven by Shamburg.

A Jefferson County Schools spokesperson confirmed Muse was a student at Jefferson High School.

“This is an unimaginable loss for all of us,” JHS Principal Sherry Fitzgerald said. “We are pulling together as a school and community, and sending love and support to everyone who is affected.”

Grief counselors and other resources are available for students and staff of Jefferson High School.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the crash.

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Capitol dome project nears halfway mark

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There was a brief round of applause Friday morning in the House of Delegates Finance Committee when state Division of General Services Director Greg Melton told lawmakers the work on the capitol dome was about 50 percent completed.

File

Greg Melton

“We are about halfway there,” Melton said. “We awarded (the bid) in October of 2018 and we are scheduled to wrap up in spring 2021.”

The dome work started in January 2018 under the original contractor, Wiseman Construction, after the discovery of structural issues largely due to water damage. Pullman Power took over in October 2018.

State officials said pipes designed to collect water from the outer dome had deteriorated which caused damage to the interior of the Capitol Rotunda in visible and not visible ways creating safety hazards.

Additionally, officials determined a cabling system which allowed the outer dome to hold up the inner dome with tension had weakened and needed replaced.

The outside of the dome is covered with a white material to protect the workers and exposed areas of the building.

MORE See more dome photos here

Crews late last year finished putting back into place 23-hundred pound limestone blocks after they were removed and cleaned.

“We have ended the tearing out phase and we have started and are well along in some parts, the put-it-back phase,” Melton said Friday.

The project has a great impact on the legislative session because it cuts off the direct path in the Upper Rotunda between the House of Delegates and state Senate. Those in the capitol have to go up or down to different levels to travel between the two chambers.

Melton said the dome project has been the most interesting and challenging project he’s been associated with in his construction career.

“We opened up some parts of the building that haven’t been seen since 1932,” Melton told lawmakers Friday.

The project, which is projected to cost around $14.5 million will likely impact the January 2021 gubernatorial inauguration. Plans are currently to conduct the inauguration on the north side of the capitol.

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Photo gallery: Logan defeats Chapmanville, 72-61

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photos from Logan’s 72-61 win over Chapmanville at Willie Akers Arena. The Wildcats handed the Tigers their first loss against an in-state opponent in 54 games.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

 

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A blast of winter–in January

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Typically cold temperatures and a mix of freezing rain and snow wouldn’t necessarily be a news item in the middle of January in West Virginia. However, the winter of 2020 is proving to be one where the winter conditions are in short bursts.

Truly the season has felt much more spring-like than winter-like. That’s likely to change this weekend  with a system moving into West Virginia.

“It’s been a slow start to winter this year, but we’ve got a strong cold frontal system that’s going to affect the whole state at some point this weekend,” said Meteorologist Dave Marsalek of the Charleston Weather Bureau.

The front will arrive as a wintry mix Friday night and stretch into Saturday. The backside of the front headed into Saturday evening will likely mean accumulating snow for the West Virginia northern mountain areas, but the western lowlands will see mostly rain from the system.

“There’s a brief period of ice possible in the early morning hours of Saturday, but there’s some snow on the backside of the front, but we’re not looking for much in the way of accumulation in the western lowlands,” Marsalek said.

The precipitation should end by Saturday evening, but cold weather will persist through Sunday and Monday, but by Wednesday, Marsalek said another increase in temperature is likely.

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Sentencing delayed for ex-teacher to allow for psychiatric exam

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County circuit judge ordered a psychiatric exam for a former teacher Friday instead of sentencing her for sending a topless photo of herself to a former student.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said Ramsey Bearse will begin undergoing a psychiatric exam for competency on Feb. 4. He then reset her sentencing for March 5.

“I have decided to send you for a psychiatric evaluation,” Bloom said to Bearse in the courtroom Friday.

KCSD

Ramsey Bearse

“To determine competency and also to evaluate the relationship between the medical condition that is described by the doctor and the decision making process.”

Bloom said the claim received from the doctor’s office raised some significant questions including one about a physical ailment that the doctor indicates may have effected Bearse’s ability to make appropriate decisions.

Bearse, 29, pleaded guilty in December to one count of possession of material depicting minors in sexually explicit conduct.

Bearse was arrested in December 2018 and charged with four counts of sending obscene material to a minor.

Authorities said Bearse sent pictures to a former student at Andrew Jackson Middle School on the social media app Snapchat. She told the judge in September that she thought she was sending the photos to her husband. She said she didn’t have many friends since moving to West Virginia from Kentucky.

Bearse was suspended from her teaching position at Andrew Jackson Middle School following the arrest. She no longer is employed by Kanawha County Schools.

The original criminal complaint in the case said that a parent of the 15-year old boy said the boy had inappropriate pictures on his phone sent to him by the teacher. The parent confirmed that the teen attended the school from sixth through eighth grades, the complaint said.

The courtroom was crowded for Friday’s sentencing. He ended quickly after Bloom’s announcement.

MetroNews Reporter Jake Flatley contributed to this story

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Strong efforts from Kinsey, West not enough in loss to Charlotte

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Coach Dan D’Antoni sounded like he’s on a search mission after Charlotte knocked off Marshall, 77-75, in Conference USA men’s basketball Thursday night in front of 5,462 at Cam Henderson Center.

“I’ve got two warriors. I know that,” D’Antoni said at the start of his postgame news conference. “I’ve got to get some people to move their game up.”

D’Antoni made reference to sophomore Taevion Kinsey and junior Jarrod West. Kinsey produced a career-high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double and played all 40 minutes. West finished with 18 points, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Herd from falling to 8-10 overall and 2-3 in C-USA.

“I don’t see enough fire,” Kinsey said. “Sometimes we got it, sometimes we don’t. The fire has to come from within. No pushing around period. It will come. I’ll never lose faith in this team.”

“Coach Dan was trying to find people who are going to compete,” West added. “Play hard, limit mistakes, do the right thing. We’re 18 games in. We can’t keep making silly mistakes.”

Marshall scored the game’s final five points, including Kinsey’s 3 at the buzzer.

Charlotte, which leads C-USA at 4-0 and is 10-5 overall, led for 34:31 of the game. A big point came with 8:35 left when Kinsey scored on a layup to cut the deficit to 54-49. The 49ers then went on an 8-2 run to extend the lead back to 62-51 and they held on from there to win their first road conference game.

“We shared the ball well,” Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez said. “You never pull away on the road. You’ve got to close things out. You never get out of reach with the way they play.”

Kinsey felt Charlotte’s run was deflating.

“End of shot clock situations,” Kinsey said. “We had a hand all over their face. The ball goes in. They did that twice. You’ve got to score back.”

Charlotte had four players in double figures. Amidou Bamba and Jahmir Young each had 16 points to lead the way. Jordan Shepherd added 14 and Cooper Robb 13 off the bench. He made 3-of- 4 from 3-point range.

“I like the fight we showed,” Sanchez said. “This game starts a tough stretch. They’re a difficult team to prepare for, tough to guard.”

The past three years, D’Antoni had Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks to handle things, particularly in crunch time. They’re gone and D’Antoni needs others to deliver now.

“You knew you were going to Jon or C.J. unless they set someone up,” D’Antoni said. “They were the ones to make plays. It’s time to replace that, especially in the leadership part.”

“Make sure we get people on the floor who want to compete,” D’Antoni said. “I have to do a better job of playing people who earned the minutes, not grant them. It’s more than sweat. It’s discipline. Put people in there who are mean enough to help those two. We’re close. My hopes are not dashed.”

D’Antoni wants to get more from his frontcourt players Iran Bennett, Jannson Williams, Mikel Beyers as well as guard Andrew Taylor. 

Bennett had six points, two rebounds and played 21 minutes before he fouled out. Williams netted six points and went eight minutes. Beyers did not score and played just three minutes. Taylor, who at one point averaged nearly 15 points a game when he became eligible second semester, had three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

“Let’s grow up,” D’Antoni said. “Let’s start dominating with the size like we can. Tonight I did not see Jarrod and Taevion get the support we need to do that.”

Bamba stepped up when the Herd defense made things tough on Shepherd and Malik Martin (6-of-18 from the field between the two). Bamba went 6-of-6 from the field and made 4-of-6 free throws. 

The 49ers made 22-of-34 to 17-of-27 free throws for the Herd.

“That’s one area we benefited from” Sanchez said. “We put him in good position.”

“Twenty-two points at the foul line. Too many,” D’Antoni added. “No smart fouls.”

West said he’ll do his part to do what it takes to toughen up the Herd.

“The fire starts with me,” the Clarksburg said. “Maybe more vocal. Hold yourself accountable. Look at yourself and what you bring to the table from top to bottom.”

The 49ers began the 1997-1998 season 7-0 in C-USA play, the best league start in school history.

Marshall returns to action Saturday night at home against Old Dominion.

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Independent voters continue to gain ground in WV

For the last two days, I’ve talked about the changing voter registration numbers of the Democratic and Republican Parties in West Virginia. Today, I’ll wrap it up with the independents.

The West Virginia voters with no party affiliation have historically been a small minority. For example, in the 1940 election, just 8,765 registered voters were neither Democrat nor Republican.*

That number hardly changed for several decades. Just 7,056 of the eligible voters in the 1968 Primary Election were categorized as “other party registration.” That represented less than one percent of registered voters.

But that began to change when both parties decided to open their Primary Elections to independents. Now, voters did not have to belong to one of the two major parties to have a voice in the nominating process of the party of their choice.

That structural change and the increased polarization of the parties have contributed to a steady rise in the number and influence of independent voters in West Virginia.

The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show there are now 278,841 West Virginia voters with no party affiliation. (Another 36,497 are affiliated with a third party.)

The independents now make up 23 percent of all registered voters in the state. However, the growth has leveled off. In 2018, 22 percent were independent, while for the General Election four years ago, 21 percent had no party affiliation.

The county clerks have removed nearly 41,000 inactive independent voters since the 2016 election, but nearly 53,000 people either registered for the first time and chose no party affiliation or switched from the major parties to independent. So the “no party” category actually gained nearly 12,000 voters.

Kanawha County has the most independent voters with 28,600 or 23 percent, and that’s to be expected because it’s the state’s most populous county.

Berkeley, the state’s second largest and fastest growing county, has 24,250 voters with no party affiliation; that’s 31 percent of all voters there and 2,500 more than the number of Democrats.

Webster County has the fewest number of independents with just 142, or three percent of all voters.

*(Some of those 8,765 were likely registered with third parties, but the 1940 Blue Book did not include the breakdown.)

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