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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Firefighters in Morgantown responded to a fire in an abandoned house in the 400 block of Beechurst Avenue Tuesday at 11:50 p.m.
By Wednesday afternoon investigators confirmed the fire was set intentionally. Damage has been estimated at $110,000.
When crews arrived fire had spread to the second and third floors of the building. After confirming no one was in the building, firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control.
The building is owned by Grandeotto, Inc., of Clarksburg and was determined to be a total loss.
No injuries were reported.
Information about this crime can be left by calling the Arson Hotline at 304-225-3586.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU students will return to the three campuses in the state Wednesday, August 19.
Students will remain on campus, with no fall break, through Nov. 24, then depart for Thanksgiving Break, not returning to campus for the rest of the fall semester. There will be one week of online instruction following Thanksgiving Break, with finals also conducted online.
Spring classes will begin on campus on Jan 19, continuing with no spring break through April 30, and finals on campus from May 3-7.
A separate, phased schedule for staff and faculty to return to campus will be released at a later date.
“We have given careful consideration to the wisdom of returning to campus while the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us,” President Gordon Gee said. “However, it is clear our students want to be with their professors and fellow Mountaineers. We are taking every precaution and making every preparation possible so they can do that safely.”
At Gee’s direction, school officials have been finalizing the plans since early April.
Components of the plan include mandatory testing for all students, faculty and staff before returning to campus, requiring masks to be worn while on campus, including in classes, social distancing, increased frequency of cleaning, limits on travel and visitation to campus, and a variety of other actions. Additionally, all faculty, staff and students will be required to complete an COVID-19 education course prior to Aug. 11.
Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for health sciences who recently served as the coronavirus czar for the state of West Virginia, stressed that personal accountability will be key to keeping campus open this fall.
“West Virginians have done extremely well in flattening the curve of COVID-19. Our actions have saved lives, protected our healthcare providers and achieved some of the best metrics in the United States,” Marsh said. “Our rate of positive tests remains around 2 percent, which is amazing given our neighboring states’ rates are four to 20 times higher.
“But the tricky part will be returning to campus, and the most effective way to reopen safely, slow the spread of the virus, protect our campus community and save lives is to wear a mask,” Marsh said.
The campus community will be kept informed over the next two months through E-News, Unews, a new website and multiple Return to Campus Conversations. This Monday, June 8, and then every Tuesday thereafter, new information will be released, followed by a Return to Campus Conversation held at 10 a.m. the following Thursday.
The first Conversation, will be prerecorded and is planned for June 4, with Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop, Dean of the School of Public Health Dr. Jeff Coben, Vice President for Talent & Culture Cris DeBord, Dean of Students Corey Farris, Vice President for University Relations & Enrollment Management Sharon Martin, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed.
Even though plans are to return, the University continues to monitor the situation and consult with public health and government officials in case it needs to change course.
“As always, the safety of our students, faculty and staff is paramount,” Gee said. “Therefore, we will be ready to act in their best interests as the challenges unfold.”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU President Gordon Gee issued a letter to the Mountaineer Family saying the word “safe” has taken on a completely different meaning since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis last week.
In the letter Gee says in part:
“I am saddened, angered and frustrated. To the Black members of our community, I cannot fully appreciate how deeply affected and pained you must be by not only this most recent act – but by all acts that reflect a deep-seeded bigotry in our nation’s communities. However, I can appreciate and accept the responsibility to ensure our campus community reflects something different. Let me be clear: West Virginia University will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campuses. And we will always address areas of concern with open eyes and open hearts.”
On Talkline, Pastor Leo Riley from Agape Life Ministries in Fairmont says in many cases young black people require extra lessons in dealing with police.
“Keep your hands on the steering wheel, make sure you don’t make any sudden moves, don’t reach into the glove compartment to get your registration card,”Pastor Riley said,”These are conversations we must we have in the African American community, if we don’t have it we could become a victim very quickly.”
But as a pastor, Riley says a member of his congregation told him about being detained by a police officer while traveling in Virginia. The policeman ordered him out of the car without providing a reason and proceeded to conduct a search before releasing him.
“On his knees with his hands above his head, on the street with a gun pointed at him for no reason. The officer never gave him a reason as to why him pulled him over, he just told him he could go now,”Pastor Riley said,”He got back in the car crying, shaking, nervous and afraid.”
Riley says we have an important opportunity to make real change, and it’s very important that we embrace it.
“If this happens six months from now , this is under the table and it’s forgotten, we are in trouble as a nation,”Pastor Riley said,”The world is watching us now and how we respond to this particular case is vital.”
Here is the complete letter from President Gee:
Dear West Virginia University Community,
It was a month ago when I announced we had every expectation of returning to campus in the fall. Today I am pleased to share that much work has been done to ensure we can safely return to in-person instruction on our West Virginia University campuses. More information will be shared this afternoon.
As we return to campus, the safety of our faculty, staff, students and community is our highest priority. However, in recent days, I have been reflecting on the word “safe” and what it truly means to our faculty, staff and students. While we have been using the term in light of the pandemic, the word takes on deeper meaning for me following the horrific and tragic death of George Floyd, and countless others before him.
I am saddened, angered and frustrated. To the Black members of our community, I cannot fully appreciate how deeply affected and pained you must be by not only this most recent act – but by all acts that reflect a deep-seeded bigotry in our nation’s communities. However, I can appreciate and accept the responsibility to ensure our campus community reflects something different.
Let me be clear: West Virginia University will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campuses. And we will always address areas of concern with open eyes and open hearts.
Let me also be clear that these words are meaningless if we do not accept personal responsibility to do better. We must work together to assure good partnerships with our University Police Department and local law enforcement, approach conversations with new insights and commit to keeping everyone in our community safe.
In times such as these, I lean on our core Mountaineer values: Service, Curiosity, Respect, Accountability and Appreciation. I also lean on my firm belief that higher education will help create the very necessary dialogues we must continue to have when the media light begins to fade.
As we look to return in the fall, we must not only focus on the health and well-being of our community, we must also focus on the need to be an inclusive, diverse and welcoming campus – one that appreciates and values each other for who we are as individuals and the singular experiences we bring.
The veritable essence of higher education is intended to help students grow beyond the boundaries from which they came. The free expression of ideas and the opportunity for civil discourse must be held. Because change begins with education.
When we educate ourselves on issues, we create an exchange of interpretation that allows us to challenge, evaluate and determine for ourselves what we believe. My desire to return students to the classroom is not so they can learn for the sake of a passing grade. It is so they can learn for the sake of mending the world around us. Higher education – and the young people within our midst – will lead our country to evolve to a better place for all.
I ask that each of you take some time to personally reflect on what the current events mean to you and to our larger community. Ask yourself what personal commitment you can make to create a more inclusive and welcoming University. Be willing to accept personal responsibility.
It is with this in mind that I look forward to seeing you in the fall, though appropriately social distanced, of course. But perhaps I am even more eager to see how you will meet the opportunities we have before us by using your intrinsic potential to create the change we seek.
E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Firefighters in Morgantown responded to a fire in an abandoned house in the 400 block of Beechurst Avenue Tuesday night.
Firefighters were on scene at 11:50 p.m. No injuries were reported and the cause is under investigation.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Council members have voted to hold a nuisance property hearing for 324 Dewey Street, 619 Brockway Avenue and 625 Pennsylvania Avenue in accordance with City Code Section 1149 on June 16 at 5 p.m.
Each side will be given 20 minutes to present their case and then council will have an unlimited time to question each.
Morgantown Interim Police Chief Eric Powell gathered statistics for the properties from January 1, 2020 and acknowledged one of the properties has been an issue, but overall there is not a crime wave in that area of the city.
“There is some evidence that we have received quite a bit of calls from 625 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Powell said,”Not so much with the other property.”
Powell added that going back 10 years car tampering, property crime and burglaries have gone down slightly.
A portion of the 1149 of Morgantown City Code says,“Such public nuisance endangers the health, safety and welfare of the community and is dangerous and detrimental to the public health, may violate the laws of the City and/or State as well as obstructs the community from reasonable and comfortable use of property. A public nuisance may arise from the unreasonable, unwarrantable or unlawful behavior associated with the property, either real or personal, which hinders the neighboring community and the general public from enjoying the common and public rights enjoyed by the general community in like areas where no such public nuisance exists.”
Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli addressed the city response to the homeless encampment in Greenmont, now referred to as Diamond Village. Muzzarelli told council members there were four verified trash complaints so far this year.
“No citations were issued to the property owners, however,”Muzzarelli said,”Since then, a good amount of the trash and debris has been picked up, primarily by the effort of social service agencies including Health Right. No one in our Code Enforcement Department spoke to any individuals suffering homelessness.”
When a portion of the camp was determined to be on city property Muzzarelli told council members no action was taken by the city and the tents were removed voluntarily. Muzzarelli went on to tell council members $100,000 of city funds are granted to agencies that specialize in helping unsheltered people in our community.
Muzzarelli asked council members to communicate with city officials or department heads before accepting information on social media as fact. Doing so she says makes it very difficult for city workers to complete their responsibilities.
Muzzarelli acknowledged a newer city employee told residents in the encampment camping anywhere in city limits was against city code in error. She said that employee has been corrected and understands city policy.
“I ask that you don’t immediately believe everything you hear or read on social media and check your facts before spreading information,”Muzzarelli said,”The city always has their phones available and try to do our best to respond to any emails we get.”
Councilor Zack Cruze told Muzzarelli he thought it was coincidental that immediately after two legal observers were placed at the entrance to the camp, visits from code enforcement and police ended.
“That one police officer made a mistake and said it was illegal to camp, I wonder if that’s because you know that’s the one we have on recording showing up at 4:30 a.m. with other officers,”Cruze said,”I will do my job ma’am, and gaslighting is not appreciated.”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A late arriving crowd pushed the number of marchers in downtown Morgantown to nearly 400. The Solidarity March included protesters calling on police to be held accountable for acts of violence against people of color.
The Morgantown march included bottled water, food, first aid kits and chant booklets so the marchers know the messages. Marchers also mixed an anti-tear gas solution made up of baking soda and water in spray bottles to be distributed among the marchers.
Organizer Samantha Norris says it’s important to address race relations and recognize where we can do better.
“The community really does care about our black brothers and sisters,”Norris said,”Skin color does not determine worth here, what determines your worth is the quality of human you are, if you’re a good human who cares about people, who works hard then you’re worthy. We care about justice.”
Norris also says part of the message is to get young people to go to the polls this year, if not in the primary in November.
“You have to vote, you have to make it known,”Norris said,”Because all of this won’t mean anything if we don’t go to the polls and vote too, especially young people. Young people have a history of not voting and we really need that to change.”
Former Mountaineer basketball player John Flowers attended the march to show his support.
“I’ve never dealt with a lot of racism personally, but it still exists,”Flowers said,”I think the rally today was to show it exists and to get people heard, it’s good for the community.”
Marcher Darian Drake says the minority community cannot enjoy basic freedoms until race issues are honestly faced by leaders.
“Until Black and brown people can jog, go to the corner store and fall asleep in their own bed and not be killed it’s very much a race problem,” Drake said.
Drake says race local race issues are largely below the surface, but are very disturbing to those that deal with them.
“There might not be killings in the street, but there have been,”Drake said,”It’s micro, when you go down the street and someone says a racial slur to you, or you’re in a classroom where you can’t feel comfortable as a person of color because of the conversations going on.”
Morgantown police issued a statement that said in part,”We understand and support our citizens’ right to peacefully protest. This is something that the Morgantown Police Department takes very seriously, and we will always strive to protect the rights of everyone.”
According to the statement,”Because of the strict adherence to policy, procedure and law, the department conducts annual training for all personnel, which was recently completed. The annual training includes de-escalation and anti-bias training. Further, every use of force is reviewed by supervisory officers, staff officers and subject matter experts. Each use of force is independently evaluated to ensure that it complies with policy, training, and law.”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The first nursing home in the state to report a COVID-19 case, Sundale Nursing Home is now COVID-free according to officials.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary, Bill Crouch says the staff of the facility is appreciative of the response after the case was reported on March 22.
“They’re response was to thank the governor,”Crouch said,”On March 23 the governor activated the national guard to go up and test the patients and employees of the Sundale Nursing Home.”
Crouch says the leadership shown by Sundale CEO Michael Hicks, Medical Officer Dr. Carl Shrader gave employees the confidence to continue doing their jobs.
“This is a situation where being first in the state and not knowing what to expect,”Crouch said,”Those employees ran to the fire everyday-day in, and day out, day in, and day out.”
According to the DHHR website the Sundale Nursing Home had 40 residents and 15 employees that tested positive for COVID-19, five residents died for the virus.
“At this point, they can have a little celebration that they’ve beat this disease at this point,”Crouch said.
Secretary Crouch also praised the state-level response early on.
“We thank the governor for his immediate response to this and facilitating testing the patients and employees to keep this outbreak to a minimum,”Crouch said.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Firefighters from three department responded to a structure fire around 6 a.m. on Point Marion Road in Mon County Monday.
Firefighters from Granville, Varsity and Cheat Lake have reported no injuries and have not determined the cause of the blaze.
This is a developing story.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown city council could schedule another nuisance property abatement hearing at the next meeting, Tuesday.
Council reviewed the issue back in March and set an initial hearing date of March 17, 2020 for properties at 625 Pennsylvania, 324 Dewey Street and 619 Brockway Avenue. According to Monongalia County Land Records all three properties are owned by Berthy G. Herald Jr.
The 619 Brockway Avenue property was the scene of a two-alarm fire Friday, February 28. Witnesses saw two males and one female wearing dark clothes run from the burning home with large backpacks. They have not been apprehended.
“We had 16 firefighters on that fire within eight minutes of the call,”Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravosos said,”They were able to contain the structure, keep it to the structure. They did their job.”
The nuisance abatement declaration (Article 1149) allows both sides to present evidence to council and they will determine if it is, or is not a nuisance.
The property owner could be ordered to take corrective action in prescribed amount of time. If the property owner fails to act the city could complete corrective measures and place a lien on the property.
If city council determines any one, or all of the locations are permanent nuisance an order prohibiting use can be issued.
All actions can be appealed by the property owner.
Resident and property owner near the properties in the Greenmont neighborhood, Adelheid Schaupp proposed a nuisance ordinance to council recently. However, some residents expressed opposition to the plan citing a lack of due process and they are often used to target minority renters and come with unintended consequences to domestic violence victims.
For now, Scaupp says pursuing the nuisance property abatement process is the only option.
“By putting this into play we can run this through city council and see how this process works,”Schaupp said,”And how long it would take to get abatement.”
Another Greenmont resident, Barbara Parsons also wants the city to take action on the properties.
“They’re dangerous, they’re unsafe and people do go in,”Parsons said,”They shouldn’t be there and it’s creating a problem.”
“This property owner tends to be difficult to do deal with, and we’re waiting to see if going through this existing 1149 nuisance ordinance would work because the city has never gone this route before,” Schaupp said.
Morgantown city council meets virtually at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Graduate teaching assistant from the University of Texas at Austin, Cheldon Williams has been introduced as the new associate director of bands at WVU.
Prior to his enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin, Williams served as an interim associate director of bands at New Mexico State University, director of bands and orchestras at J.P. Taravella High School and associate director of bands at Cypress Bay High School.
Director of the WVU School of Music, Michael Ibrahim says his experience makes him the fit for the duties he’ll be asked to accomplish.
“Director of the Pride, Director of the Marching Band of WVU,’ Ibrahim said,”Which is such an important ensemble, not only for the school and the university but for the state, we feel like it’s not only the university’s band but it is the state’s band.”
Williams will also conduct the Symphonic Band, other athletic prep bands and teach courses at the School of Music.
“His experience at New Mexico State, where the position he was doing there was very similar to what he’ll be doing here. So, we know he has that,” Ibrahim said,”His experience as a K through 12 band director is very important to us.”
Williams graduated from The University of Texas this year with a doctor of musical arts degree in wind conducting. He is also a two-time graduate of Florida State University, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Education.
“We know he’s got experience on a very public stage, in a very high level athletic environment,”Ibrahim said,”Which is a part of the job here.”
Ibrahim says Williams is very energetic, talented and is eager to get started.
“Our marching band is not only music majors, but it’s comprised of students across the whole university,”Ibrahim said,”I know he’s looking forward to meeting everyone that’s part of that community.”