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

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Mon County COVID cases spike

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – COVID-19 cases in Mon County have increased 61.7 percent since July 1. The number of new cases in the past five days amounts to about 38 percent of the total cases reported in Mon County. There are now 112 active cases in the county and 153 people have recovered.

Through a social media post, the management of Crab Shack Caribba says one employee has tested positive for the virus. The Suncrest Towne Center location will be closed for cleaning and testing for staff. the complete post is below:

This is to inform the public that one of our staff member tested positive for COVID19. We will be closed for a few days as we get our staff tested who were exposed to this employee. We will also be doing a through deep cleaning of our facility before reopening. This employee was a buser and not a server, therefore was not in direct contact with any customers. This person was wearing both mask and gloves as per our strict policies. No other employee have any symptoms. But we think taking these precautionary steps is for the best interest of every one. It is unfortunate times we live in and living with COVID is a reality for the foreseeable future. Please understand that we are not the first place and we will not be the last. This is the reality. All we can do is practice the highest safety standards and keep each other safe.

“Monongalia County has seen a dramatic spike in COVID-19,” said Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer. “Theses cases are from restaurants and bar staff, as well as gyms and fitness centers, vacations, barbecues and travel-related exposures.”

Health department staff are struggling to contact trace all the new cases and will begin working seven days a week.

People who believe they could have been exposed should self-monitor for symptoms, which include shortness of breath, fever, dry
cough, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and loss of smell.

Health officials encourage people who like to contact trace on a volunteer basis to call 304-598-5100.

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

Focused work schedule begins in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – City of Morgantown employees begin a one year test of a focused four-day workweek pilot program for most departments beginning July 6.

Employees with Code Enforcement, Finance, Municipal Court, Information Technology, Arts and Culture, Human Resources, City Clerk, Development Services, Engineering, Communications, Urban Landscape, Public Works, City Manager’s Office, and the administrative offices for the Morgantown Police Department and BOPARC Will work Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“Four-day work week, employees will work their 40 hours in four days or four 10 hour days,” Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said,”We have it set up to be a Monday through Thursday schedule.”

While it will be an adjustment for some, Muzzarelli believes when people learn the schedule there will be benefits.

“We’re actually able to open up City Hall and some of those different departments beginning at 7 a.m. as opposed to 8 a.m.,” Muzzarelli said,”And we’re able to stay open longer, until 5:30 p.m., right some of those departments close at 4:30 or 5 p.m.”

For the past several months, city administration has conducted research on the focused workweek. Staff contacted other municipalities that operate on the four-day schedule to find out why they transitioned, what were the benefits and challenges, and if the transition was successful. City employees were also asked to take part in a survey which was used to identify potential benefits and challenges for each department.

“By moving to a four-day work week we can have all of our departments on these extended hours,” Muzzarelli said,”So, customers can come in before or after work and not have to take time out of work.”

The idea of a focused workweek was brought forward by city staff as a way to save costs, improve employee productivity and help create a better work/life balance in employee’s lives.

There is no cost to the city to conduct the pilot program, but there will be some environmental benefits.

“Not having some of those utilities running and also from not having our employees commuting to work will reduce our carbon footprint,” Muzzarelli said.

The pilot program begins Monday, July 6 and end, if not extended or modified, June 30, 2021. The program will be evaluated throughout the year to determine whether it will be made permanent.

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

Shooting under investigation in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown police are investigating a Thursday afternoon shooting on Arlington Street.

Reports indicate the victim, a 19-year-old male came to Ruby Memorial Hospital emergency room at 2:30 p.m. with a gunshot wound to the chest. Police were able to determine the shooting happened on Arlington Street and are looking for tips from the public.

Information about this or any other crime can be left by calling 304-284-7522.

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

Morgantown Police Department

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown interim police chief Eric Powell is working to help city council members how his officers deescalate situations and use crowd control measures.

Deescalation is the main tool for police on the street, according to Powell. Keeping the situation calm allows suspects to clearly explain their case and be understood while keeping witnesses calm so they can better remember details to provide details.

“If you can reach a mutual agreement at the beginning of any kind of interaction with someone we’re going to keep it as civil as we can,” Powell, a more than 20 year veteran said.

Morgantown, with a major university in city limits has had demonstrations, protests and celebrations that become unruly dating back to the 1970’s.

“They all present different challenges and we have to measure our response to get the best results in every situation,” Powell said.

Recent protests have been peaceful, with tense moments when streets are blocked to traffic. Also, these protests can be organized very quickly via social media allowing police very little time to plan or prepare.

“Our purpose in gatherings is to get people to disperse if it’s causing problems,” Powell said,”Or if we feel there’s a possibility it could escalate and cause problems.”

When deescalation fails Powell says officers will attempt to gain compliance from group. If the group continues to refuse lawful requests police will repeat the request, cite the law or code. When that fails, police will explain to the crowd the next action police will take to gain compliance.

If the situation becomes unsafe for officers, the public or public property officers have other tools to gain compliance. Powell says they have pepper balls delivered with an air gun, smoke, tear gas and a long-range acoustic device.

“The health of the officer is a concern, the health of the protesters is a concern, and the health of the bystanders not involved in the protest is a concern,” Powell said,”Those are all things we have to take into consideration.”

The organic Morgantown population doubles during the WVU school year making it difficult to fully implement community policing practices. Despite that, Powell says he and his department are committing to meeting resident where they live and work.

“We have officers that participate in neighborhood association meetings and we have some very good downtown beat officers that are really good at establishing relationships with the business owners and giving us feedback on what the general mood is.”

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

Morgantown Municipal Airport awarded money for runway extension design work

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin have announced $1,902,000 has been allocated from the U.S. Department of Transportation to assist with the design phase of the runway extension project at the Morgantown Municipal Airport expected to start this fall.

The additional money is through the CARES Act.

“As the city of Morgantown continues to grow, it is essential that the capabilities of the Morgantown airport improve as well. This funding will be set aside for the design portion of the airport with plans to expand the current runway, creating the potential to serve higher volume aircrafts. With growing opportunity in North Central West Virginia, this project will add to the strong economic foundation that exists in our state. I look forward to the completion of this extension project and the social and economic gains it will bring to West Virginia,” said Senator Capito.

“West Virginia’s economy relies on people being able to easily access our wild and wonderful state. This funding will help the Morgantown Municipal Airport expand its runway – already the smallest commercial runway in the state – in order to provide a viable option for West Virginians and visitors planning to travel to and from the area, whether it’s for expanding business in Morgantown, educational opportunities at West Virginia University, or Mountaineer sports. As we work on future COVID-19 relief funding, I will keep advocating for programs and funding that help rural states like West Virginia recover from this terrible health crisis and its continued impact on our economy,” said Senator Manchin.

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

New COVID outbreak tied to downtown Morgantown bars

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Health Department is reporting patron of downtown Morgantown bars are now infected with COVID-19 and contact tracing is underway.

According to a press release from the department, on June 24 large crowds were reported at Baby Squirrels Saloon, Big Times and The Back Door on high Street. Four COVID-19 positive people visited Baby Squirrels Saloon that day.

“We do not know where these individuals originally came into contact with COVID-19, but we do know that they spent time in at least three bars, if not more, and two of which they described as being “very crowded,’” said Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer.

Residents who may have visited these businesses should self-quarantine, monitor symptoms for 14 days and call the health department at 304-598-5100.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, dry cough, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and loss of smell.

Following CDC guidelines, wearing a mask or face covering, social distancing and good hygiene are all recommended to help fend off the virus.

Twenty-eight new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Mon County since June 22.

“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in cases, and many of them are community spread and involve younger people,” Dr. Smith said.

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

Pair pleads not guilty in WVU student’s murder
Shaundarius Reeder

MORGANTOWN – Two men indicted for killing a West Virginia University student have pleaded not guilty.

Terrell Linear, 21, and Shaudarious Reeder, 20, were arraigned Tuesday on first-degree murder charges. The pair was indicted for killing Eric Smith, 21, a WVU student from New Jersey. In February, Smith was found shot to death in the hallway of his College Park Apartments residence.

According to the criminal complaint, Linear told investigators he pounded on doors in the hallway “so people could watch” him kill the victim.

The criminal complaint says all three arrived at the College Park Apartments in the same vehicle when a fight broke out in the parking lot. Smith ran into the building and was chased by the two suspects.

Tyrell Linear

Linear and Reeder went back to the car to get two handguns and detectives say surviellance footage shows both men going back into the apartment hallway with guns.

The footage showed the pair fleeing the area less than one minute later.

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

No mercy for convicted murderer

MORGANTOWN – Convicted of killing of killing a man, while she burglarized his home in Monongalia County, Elizabeth Chinn will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Chinn was sentenced Tuesday for first-degree murder. The voted against mercy for Chinn, meaning she will never be elibible for parole.

In April 2018, Chinn broke into Timothy Pahl’s home on Old Stewartstown Road and confessed to shooting Pahl, with his own gun, when he confronted her during the burglary.

Chinn was arrested, along with three other individuals, days later on unrelated charges at Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. During the search, police discovered three handguns, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, counterfeit currency, and devices to produce counterfeit currency.

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

Morgantown establishes committee to explore police, race relations

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following calls from the community, members of Morgantown city council have established a special committee to look at police, race relations and possibly make policy recommendations.

Morgantown council members heard public comment questioning the tone of relations between minorities and the Morgantown Police Department. In response, councilor Zack Cruze, Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty and Mayor Rachel Fetty will be part of a special committee to be formed to analyze the issue.

President of the Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP, Dr. Jerry Carr told council members the current climate gives them a unique opportunity to act.

“Morgantown as a city has an opportunity here to guide the rest of the state on how to handle these types of discussions,”Dr. Carr said,”And that starts with just the idea of letting people see how things are done in a more public light.”

Community Outreach Director for the West Virginia ACLU and NAACP member, Mollie Kennedy testified during the public portion that statistics released by the city do not reflect the reality of how people feel.

“Numbers that show we don’t have a large number of complaints here, it’s not the same as other places,”Kennedy said,”I just want to remind folks there are a lot of members of the community that don’t feel safe or comfortable filing a complaint and completing that process and it doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist.”

Community member and NAACP member, Bob Cohen echoed the concerns of Kennedy, and urged council members to eliminate institutional racism.

“I have certainly heard stories about black people being stopped disproportionately, made to answer questions, made to do things that white people do not have to do and I am not stopped that way,”Cohen said,”I look on the police as friends and protectors, but I’m not black.”

In light of recent protests, Interim Police Chief Eric Powell addressed council about deescalation and crowd control.

Powell told council members the purpose of deescalation is compliance. So, the least amount of force is always used to gain compliance, prevent property damage or personal injury. Deescalation also plays a key role to keep people calm during a traumatic situation so they can remember descriptions and details.

Powell cited the “Snow Day Riots” of February of 2019 when tear gas was after officers were attacked with bottles by a large group of students.

Dr. Carr told council members he has the experience to establish an oversight council or advisory group and the procedure can build positive relationships in the community.

“Have that additional body there to really help solidify that relationship between the police and the community and make it one,”Dr. Carr said.

Councilor Zack Cruze urged council members to have a strong minority representation on the committee.

“If we’re working to address racial justice or issues which unequally effect minorities or discrimination,”Cruze said,”I believe those subjects should largely be lead by black individuals or persons of color.”

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

Riverfront project completed in Morgantown, soft opening planned

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The renovations to the Ruby Amphitheater, Riverfront Park, and Walnut Street Landing have been completed, according to a press release from the city.

“I am thrilled with the outcome of this project,” said Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli. “The renovations to the Depot and Ruby Amphitheater as well as the additional amenities at Walnut Street allow for expanded use of the park. This will become a destination spot for concerts and entertainment for city and county residents and allow for greater access to and enjoyment of the river by all. This has been a great project to be a part of.”

Over the past year crews from March-Westin have expanded the amphitheater stage and seating, added a sunshade over the seating area, renovated the historic depot, upgraded restroom facilities, and added security features. The project also included a new parking area and kayak launch and storage area at the Walnut Street Landing.

“Obviously not quite the opening and celebration that we were hoping for due to COVID,’Muzzarelli said,”But, we are hopefully planning a small ribbon cutting or opening, just waiting to see how the numbers go with COVID.”

The newly hired Director Arts and Cultural Development, Vincent Kitch will oversee the city’s arts and entertainment venues, including the newly renovated Ruby Amphitheater.

“I look forward to working with the community in developing arts and cultural programs and services at the Riverfront Park,”said Kitch,”The renovations to the park are wonderful and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to start with the city during this time.”

In 2018, the City of Morgantown was awarded $4.1 million from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust for renovations to the Ruby Amphitheater, Riverfront Park and Walnut Street Landing. The Trust provided an additional $200,000 in grant funding to provide additional
lighting along the trail.

“Part of the grant was to have a police substation there,”Muzzarelli said,”So, our police department is in the process of moving several of our police officers down there for our substation.”

The kayak launch is ADA accessible and available lockers allow people to secure personal property and walk to downtown for lunch or shopping.

“If an individual is in a wheelchair they’re able to transfer onto a seat and lower themselves into a kayak and then go out,”Muzzarelli said,”And there are also storage lockers.”

Once the COVID restrictions allow concerts and festivals are planned in the Ruby Amphitheater. The facility can also be rented for wedding and private events.

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