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Guardians held after rollover crash, tussle over bail in Preston County crash

PRESTON COUNTY, W.Va. – A crash Friday in Preston County resulted to serious injuries to eight people and two arrests.

Investigators from the Preston County Sheriff’s Department said a utility van with only two front seat belts that had four adults and four children ranging in age from 1 to 11-years old rolled over on I-68. Two of the four adults and all four children were riding in the back of the van where police said there were several objects that could become hazards in a rollover crash. All vehicle occupants were transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital for treatment of various injuries.

Police arrested Tabitha Robinson, 35, and Amanda Hovermale, 22, both of Hagerstown, Maryland, for gross child neglect with risk of serious bodily injury. Preston County prosecutors asked the court to set bond at $250,000 due to the seriousness of the crime and their out-of-state residency.

Preston County Magistrate Bo Ward set bond for both at $250,000. However, Robinson’s first court appearance was in Monongalia County where Magistrate Phillip Gaujot issued a personal recognizance bond so the woman could be with her children. That was reversed after officials from Preston County met with Gaujot.

Both women are being held in the North Central Regional Jail.

No information about the conditions for those injured has been released.

The investigation is ongoing and police are looking for any information from the public about the crash. Information can be left confidentially by calling 304-329-1611.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

With new application guidelines FirstEnergy seeks approval for solar fields

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – – FirstEnergy subsidiaries, Mon Power and Potomac Edison are seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to build five utility-scale solar energy projects that would generate 50 megawatts of clean, renewable energy in their service area. The addition of renewable energy is also expected to help make West Virginia more attractive for business development.

State lawmakers passed a bill in 2020 that allows utilities to own and operate up to 200 megawatts of renewable power generation capability. Bowles Rice attorney Jim Kelsh worked with the legislature to create the expedited path to approval for solar projects.

“That’s the first application by any of the two principal electric utilities in the state to ask the PSC to approve the development of solar generation to be owned by the utilities,” Kelsh said.

Part of the legislation requires the PSC to rule on applications within 150 days, cutting the previous review time in half. By streamlining the Solar Siting Certificate Rules, lawmakers hope to draw projects to create construction jobs and augment economic development.

Executive Director of the West Virginia Development Office, Mike Graney told lawmakers the addition would open the state to recruit employers that have renewable requirements when selecting sites for relocation.

“The PSC has, in the cases I’ve been involved with beat that deadline by a comfortable margin,” Kelsh said. “I’m sure the PSC will meet the deadline for the Mon Power application.”

Solar fields will be constructed in West Virginia on a 26 acre reclaimed ash disposal site in Berkley County, a 51 acre site in Hancock County, 1 44 acre reclaimed strip mine in Tucker County and a 95 acre site in Monongalia County, according to Mon Power spokesman Will Boye.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done this in any state,” Boye said. “We have a team that’s working on it now and we’re going to be hiring local construction workers to help us build these projects.”

The 95 acre site in Monongalia County is located in the Fort Martin area on property currently owned by Mon Power.

“It’s going to generate a little over 10 megawatts of solar energy once we get approval from the state to move forward,” Boye said. “Mon County is one of the largest site.”

The PSC is expected to rule on the application by mid 2022, engineering and construction would then start. Construction could be completed by 2025. Mon Power will invest about $100 million in the five projects.

In 2020, West Virginia was the second-largest coal producer in the nation, after Wyoming, and accounted for 13% of U.S. West Virginia ranked fifth in the nation in natural gas production as well. Eighty-eight percent of the electricity produced in the state in 2020 came from coal-fire energy facilities.

“We see it (solar) as one piece of our generation mix,” Boye said. “Right now, we do not have any renewable options for our customers in West Virginia. So, 50 megawatts and we’ll be able to produce up to 200 megawatts- we don’t see it as replacing anything.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown kidnapping suspect due in court Monday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Morgantown man accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s son is scheduled to appear in court Monday at 11:30 a.m. Michael Wills, 28, has been charged with kidnapping and burglary in connection with the November 16 incident.

A report from the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department said the mother woke up to find her front door open and her 4-year-old son was missing from their home on Southeast Court. The mother told police she had stopped communicating with Wills months ago due to domestic violence and he took the child to get her to resume communications.

Deputies report they have text messages from Wills telling the woman he had the child along with pictures of the 4-year-old in his residence. Wills told his former girlfriend he had been drinking and was willing to go to jail.

Deputies recovered the child and arrested Wills a short time later at his home in the 800 block of Quadrilla Street in Morgantown. Wills has been held at the North Central Regional Jail without bond since the incident.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Several Taylor County fires under investigation

TAYLOR COUNTY, W.Va. – Investigators from the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators are looking for information from the public to find those responsible for a string of fires in Taylor County.

Four fires have been reported since Sept. 15 in Flemington at 163 Berry Run Road, 649 Simpson Road, 278 Old County Road, and about 20 yards away from Old County Road location.

The cause of each fire remains under investigation.

Information can be left confidentially by calling the the West Virginia Arson Hot Line at 800-233-3473 (FIRE).

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Improvements, reorganization underway at Mon County Schools

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County Schools continue progress on facility upgrades, according to Executive Director of Facilities Amanda Washington.

Consolidating administrative operations in one location, a STEM addition at M-Tech and adding outdoor classrooms are highlights of the work being done.

Administrative operations will consolidate at the former MedExpress building in Sabraton. Work there has included painting, exterior improvements, carpet replacement and restriping the parking lot. On WAJR’s Ask the Educators, Washington said supply chain issues have slowed the work causing the move in date to be moved, but the work is progressing. When finished offices on High Street, Dorsey Avenue, the Suncrest Center and Westover will move into the building.

“I think we’re in good shape here,” Washington said. “We hope to be able to move in sometime after the new year.”

Bringing all the administrative staff together will make meeting and project development more seamless and streamlined. Additionally, the move is expected to lower utility costs and building maintenance expense.

“It will better opportunity for collaboration between departments and improve production we can just walk down the hall and talk to different departments,” Washington said.

Recently, school officials presented plans to the state School Building Authority for a new Renaissance Academy. The academy is in the ten year development plan and would include STEM and career technical courses. Before the new school is built officials will focus on an addition to the Monongalia Technical Education Center (M-Tech) building that would accommodate STEM learning. Architects are designing spaces that are designed to support learning environments of the future to help those students prepare for the job market. Approval for the addition could come the School Building Authority next month.

“Our project consists of a 7,560-square foot addition three classroom STEM addition to M-TECH that will serve our current our current high schools and future middle school students for the entire county.”

WVU recently launched an esports minor. Economics major at WVU, Noah Johnson just won the Next Madden National Championship and a $25,000 prize. Robotics and technical education have also developed as job creators in the current economy and continue to grow.

“We feel these three- E-gaming, engineering and robotics are very innovative,” Washington said. “We certainly feel like students would be very interested in taking those courses.”

Outdoor classrooms are also coming to the district. Outdoor learning environments also gained importance during the pandemic due social distancing options. South Middle School already has an outdoor classroom and the next is expected to be added at University High School. Others are planned for Morgantown High School and M-Tech.

“They allow students the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, but also learn new subjects while social distancing,” Washington said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Lane Innovation Hub dedicated at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Lane Innovation Hub, a state-of-the-art facility for prototype development on the Morgantown Campus of WVU has been formally dedicated. The hub operates within the Benjamin Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Named after 1968 WVU graduate Ray Lane and his wife Stephanie, the 9,500 square foot facility supports entrepreneurial, business and government to develop new technologies with the slogan of “Make it a Reality.”

“It’s a hybrid facility combining a student-focused maker space and a university-level fabrication service center dedicated to making the ideas of students, faculty and staff become a reality,” Dustin Spayde, Director of the Lane Innovation Hub said.

The hub does not fund the projects, but the service center has the equipment to completely produce prototypes across the spectrum. According to Spayde, the prototype, or proof of concept is the most important step in moving an idea to a product, service or tool.

“Government funded projects, to companies, to individuals external to WVU as well as research projects and internal entrepreneurial projects that come from inside WVU,” Spayde said.

The hub has already made a significant impact in the community by producing thousands of test swabs for coronavirus testing during the pandemic, and more recently, prototypes for a small-scale MRI machine and laser cut design tools for the Fashion, Dress and Merchandising program.

“We’ve done some drone work for the Department of Defense and we’ve also done a lot to support our competition teams inside the College of Engineering,” Spayde said.

The hub also aligns in concept with the WVU Vantage Ventures in supporting and growing entrepreneurial ideas.

“The Lane Innovation Hub fits in to a much larger entrepreneurial ecosystem that we have at WVU,” Spayde said. “It has been completely mapped out by Industrial Extension Office.”

At a recent WVU Board of Governors meeting President Gordon Gee said nearly half of incoming students have entrepreneurial ideas that are important to support to remain academically relevant.

“I see that we have tremendous potential for students who want to do entrepreneurial activities and I think there a lot of examples out in the world today,” Spayde said. “I think plenty of those can come from West Virginia.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Fall Commencement Saturday at Fairmont State University

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Fairmont State University will hold the 152nd Fall Commencement Saturday, November 20. The University will recognize graduates during two ceremonies at the Feaster Center on campus.

College of Liberal Arts and College of Business & Aviation will be recognized at 10 a.m. The College of Nursing, College of Education, Health & Human Performance, College of Science & Technology and Regents Bachelor of Arts will be recognized at 2 p.m.

West Virginia Auditor, John B. “JB” McCuskey will deliver the keynote address at each ceremony.

“I am so happy to have John McCuskey deliver the keynote address and inspire our newest Falcon alumni,” said Fairmont State University President, Mirta M. Martin. “JB is such a great guy – he is dedicated to public service and to the people of West Virginia, he is passionate about supporting education, and he is a very dear friend of the Falcon Family.”

Each registered graduate will be allotted four guest tickets. All guests in attendance must have a ticket and follow COVID-19 protocols, including wearing a mask. The University will also livestream each of the ceremonies for those unable to attend.

On Saturday, traffic will only be allowed to enter campus from the Squibb Wilson Boulevard entrance to ensure smooth traffic patterns. Officers will direct traffic and be available to answer questions. Shuttle services will be available on campus, beginning pick-ups one hour prior to each ceremony.

All graduates, university guests and the community are advised to expect heavy traffic and encourage carpooling when possible.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to resume traditional in-person Commencement Ceremonies,” said Fairmont State Chief of Police and Director of Emergency Management, Matt Swain. “These events have been modified so that we may gather safely, and we thank our graduates, university guests and surrounding communities as we work to ensure our ceremonies are executed successfully. We appreciate your attention to the changes set in place by our Department of Public Safety and Physical Plant.”

There are more ceremony details here. 

John B. “JB” McCuskey, a Clarksburg native and West Virginia’s 21st State Auditor, was a two-term member of the House of Delegates, District 35 in Charleston from 2012-2016. He is a graduate of The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., with a degree in Political Communication. He is also a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, and was previously an attorney for six years with Steptoe & Johnson in Charleston.

Auditor McCuskey is the son of John F. McCuskey of Charleston, 70th Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and former member of the State Legislature, and the late Anne McCuskey. He resides in Charleston with his wife, Wendy, and daughters, Charlotte Anne and Martha Elizabeth, where they own a small business.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Local lawmaker wants to carefully allocate federal infrastructure money

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With the $1.2 trillion infrastructure now law, wish lists are coming for communities for lawmakers to sort and prioritize. On WAJR’s Talk of the Town Senator from Monongalia County said prioritizing the work to be done will be a formidable, detailed task.

“Some of these roadways we have in West Virginia, you’re talking an hour and 15-minutes or an hour-and-a-half to get to work because of the condition and type of roads we have,” Beach said. “So, let’s open up West Virginia and develop these projects.”

The bill will invest $550 million in roads, bridges, broadband and water systems. West Virginia is expected to receive $6 billion.

“I don’t think we want to get bogged down in addressing all the small infrastructure problems we have in regards to potholes and stuff like that,” Beach said. “Let’s focus on the big stuff and let the state and community dollars take care of the small stuff.”

At the district level, the DOH has worked with local elected officials for years taking care of local issues. Beach wants to be sure that local input is included as the money begins to come in.

“I think legislators more so than Charleston have a better understanding of what our communities need,” Beach said. “Whether it’s water, broadband, roads or bridges and I think those agencies in West Virginia should be collecting that information.”

Clean drinking water is a problem in some areas of the state. One of the most recent problems has been reported by the Clarksburg Water Board. Officials have been testing and replacing services where need in the city. Filter systems and bottled water have distributed to the residents by the West Virginia National Guard in some cases.

“We do have a problem with lead pipes and I’m anxious to see how we can address those issues in some of our communities,” Beach said.

Beach stressed the money will come with conditions and requirements to justify uses. Compliance will be a very important part of putting the money to best use possible.

“It’s obviously broken up into different agencies- EPA, Commerce Department and the DOT,” Beach said. “They’ll have oversight into what we’re doing and that’s a good thing.”

Beach has announced he will not seek re-election in 2022. When his term ends next year, he will have served in the West Virginia Legislature for more than 21 years. He was first appointed to the House of Delegates in 1998 to fill the

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown one of three cities recognized in the Municipal Equity Index

vacancy created by the passing of his father, Robert C. Beach.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

‘Project Five’ seeks to expand Harrison County Commission to 5

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A petition seeking to expand the Harrison County Commission from three to five members, and no more than one from each of the six magisterial districts is being circulated. Former county Maintenance Director Gregg Dale and County Administrator Willie Parker launched Project Five and have been collecting signatures with the hope of bringing the measure to a ballot. Both former employees were terminated by a county commission vote earlier this year.

On WAJR’s Talk of the Town, Dale said making the change would align county government with the structure of nearby municipalities.

“With all the municipalities having five to seven members it only makes sense that a county as large as Harrison would have five and better representation,” Dale said.

Commissioner David Hinkle, the lone Republican proposed putting the issue on the ballot during an April meeting but that was defeated by a 2 – 1 vote.

“It helps the decision process when you’re talking about a lot of money- a $25 million budget,” Dale said. “It’s not a bad thing to have a couple extra folks looking at things to make the decision.”

Adding to the debate on important issues and giving residents more opportunities to address elected officials is the goal. Adding voices to the debate would give residents more insight into how decisions are reached and less suspicion decisions are made before meetings are convened.

“Government is just not real effective anymore,” Dale said. “So I don’t believe in growing that, but it is good to have some checks and balances and I think five would be a good way to go.”

To make his point, Dale wants residents to closely look at how tax dollars are allocated and how votes taken by the commission impact the community.

“Look at those decisions being made and ask yourself- With my budget, in my household would I make this decision? Is this political or is this common sense,? Dale asked.

Under state law, the county commission would have 30-days to certify the petition, then it would have to be presented to the state legislature no later than the tenth day of the session.

“As a voter, as a veteran, I would encourage people in the area to get out and vote,” Dale said. It’s your right.”

Project Five is hoping to get more than 4,500 signatures.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV