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MUB: Ordinance is unnecessary and contrary to intent of utility

MORGANTOWN, W.Va – The Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) is taking a stand against a proposed ordinance that would give the Morgantown City Council more oversight and control of the board and the utility’s operations.

Board members released a statement after meeting in executive session to discuss the ordinance.

“It’s formatted with the board’s input and approval, and it was the consensus of the board’s thought process,” said Morgantown Utility Board Chairman JT Straface on the statement opposing the proposed ordinance.

The proposal requires a member of Morgantown City Council to be a voting member of the five-person MUB board. Morgantown’s City Manager would also serve on the board but in a non-voting capacity. The ordinance would require Morgantown City Council to approve all MUB projects valued at over $1 million.

Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin stated to MUB Thursday that the ordinance’s purpose is to improve communications with the city and the utility and is not intended to be a takeover of the utility. Despite that, MUB addressed aspects such as the acquisitions of MUB property and the way the operations have the potential to be affected as other points of concern.

“If the issue is really communication, this, in my opinion, doesn’t really address communication, it addresses operations,” said MUB board member Barbara Parsons. “And I think that’s a step too far,” she said.

Mayor Selin, also invited MUB board members to speak with City Council at Tuesday’s upcoming meeting.

MUB’s statement considers the ordinance “both unnecessary and contrary to the apolitical and autonomous nature” of MUB and that several aspects of the ordinance create a “clear conflict of interest for a councilperson” on the board that also has the potential to hinder operations. Despite the concerns, MUB plans on further discussing the ordinance with council.

“I think we’re just trying to understand the reasoning behind the ordinance changes and what are the problems that the council believes that they are trying to resolve,” said Straface.

This continues years of communication issues between the two that have delayed projects from recreational amenities to raw water pipeline projects.

“We’re going to listen to what the presentation is at the city council meeting and provide some information and see where it goes from there,” said Parsons.

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Patients moving into new children’s hospital
Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

City Council advances proposal to reshape MUB

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A proposed reorganization of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) is moving to Morgantown City Council’s regular agenda.

An ordinance that would reconfigure MUB’s board of directors and give council final authority over the utility’s projects was discussed during council’s committee of the whole Tuesday night. The proposal would place a member of council on the board, would give the Morgantown City Manager a non-voting seat on the board and would allow council to have final approval on any MUB projects valued at over $1 million.

“We’re trying to improve communications and transparency and trying to make a more cooperative relationship,” said Morgantown Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble. “I think that this is a good step towards that,” she said.

The decision to bring the ordinance to council’s agenda stems from multiple lapses in communication between the city of Morgantown and MUB. While members of council spoke about the need for improvements, Trumble pointed out construction projects involving MUB, the city and BOPARC as examples of why the ordinance is needed.

“I just think that it’s not respectful for council members who are in charge of approving projects or BOPARC board members who are in charge of White Park, to hear about those kinds of projects in the newspaper,” she said. “Instead of hearing them directly from the people we’re supposed to be partnering with,” she said.

The construction through White Park has been the source of consternation for several years. Negotiations over the route of the new raw water pipeline grew and MUB’s responsibilities in remediating the park became contentious and some are now miffed at a project to replace dilapidated sewer lines through White Park.

Changes to MUB’s five-member board are expected to be seen rather quickly if the ordinance passes. A seat on the board is expected to be open in October where according to Trumble, council would then vote one of their members onto the board, much as they have done with past board members. City Manager Kim Haws would immediately take a spot as a non-voting member of the board with the rest of the board remaining the same.

“It’s going to remain the same five-member board that it is now,” Trumble said. “There is a term expiring at the end of October so we will use that expiring term to seat a council member,” she said.

Despite council’s general support for the ordinance, MUB ratepayers who live outside of Morgantown city limits spoke against it during the committee of the whole. They expressed concern over the appointments and their potential impact on rates and board representation of over half of MUB’s over 100,000 customers.

The ordinance doesn’t change limits on board members for residents outside of the city (no more than two on the board) nor does it change the requirement of the council to not only approve board members but rate changes as well. Acknowledging those concerns, Trumble said that if the ordinance passes, it will pass for the primary purpose of improving operations between a city and a utility that serves over 40,000 of its residents.

“I hope that we can sit down with some of the MUB administration or MUB board members over the coming weeks and work to make the ordinance work for everyone,” said Trumble.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on before a new MUB board member is elected in October.

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

City Council would take control of MUB under proposed ordinance
The proposed ordinance will be discussed during Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting.
Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WVU epidemiologist wary of flu season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Some health experts are predicting the worst flu season in five years. Influenza is certainly unpredictable, but health experts monitor the flu season in Australia and they report the worst flu season in five years there.

WVU Health System Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Stevens cautions that coronavirus protocols could set the stage for a similar outbreak on this side of the world.

“We’ve lost a little bit of that partial population immunity we had to the flu,” Dr. Stevens said. “There’s the potential we could have a bad flu season and I think that’s what is making a lot of people in public health nervous.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control predicts a coronavirus peak in December coinciding with flu season. That would be the first time both viruses have been a threat to the population at the same since the pandemic.

“It’s hard to say- is it probable, versus will we see a mild season again? Dr. Stevens asked. ” I would err on the side of we’ll probably see more activity than we’ve seen in the last few years.”

The CDC recommends both the flu and coronavirus vaccines this year. Dr. Stevens said getting the flu vaccine in advance of flu season peak will ensure maximum effectiveness.

“If people go out and get it now people they will be ready for when we might see a spike in activity as the weather gets colder and people are clustered indoors,” Dr. Stevens said.

To formulate the current vaccine, researchers review effectiveness of the previous year’s version, what viruses are currently spreading and the extent of virus spread. Dr. Stevens believes this vaccine will be effective and encourages people to get the protection provided by the shot.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of predicting what’s going to be in this year’s vaccine and what’s going to work the best,” Dr. Stevens said. “So, get vaccinated.”

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

WVU Children’s Hospital in Morgantown prepares for patients

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A new era in medical care begins in Morgantown with the opening of the WVU Children’s Hospital. The 150-bed facility will bring a new level of care and medical resources to seriously injured or ill kids.

“I don’t know that we could do anything more impactful for the state than to make sure we have comprehensive people, programs and the physical plant to take care of the children of West Virginia,” WVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright said.

The $215 million facility not only increases the number of beds at the existing children’s facility, but it also advanced care options, and transforms the neonatal intensive care unit from an open ward to individual rooms. The private rooms will now allow a parent or guardian to stay overnight with children.

The facility also includes the Cecil E. Roberts WVU Children’s Heart Wing. Roberts, a sixth generation coal miner said he was born in a company house with only his mother to care for him and this is a continuation of the UMWA commitment to health care.

“We’re just honored to be a part of this,” Roberts said. “We continue the march started by our grandfathers in the 1940’s and we’re just proud of this.”

Former athletes including Jeff Hostetler, Mark Bulger, Pat McAfee, Jerry West and former WVU Head Coach Don Nehlen all made donations for a special floor- the 10th floor Family Resource Center. The floor includes jerseys, a big screen TV and future plans for Monday Night Football and other activities to give healing children and families a diversion.

“I don’t know the last time I felt so excited,” Hostetler said. ” It was probably when my kids were born, but it’s awesome to be a part of it.”

The floor walk through history of the featured athletes and includes a timeline of WVU athletic achievements. Former coach, Don Nehlen said the floor is like no other in the country and is sure to get national attention in the future.

“I look for ESPN to come up here and shoot footage before our football games on Saturday. “When they get a glimpse of this, it’s going to be something special for them.”

Patients will begin populating the facility on September 29.

It’s really weird, it’s one of those facilities you build and you hope no one ever needs,” Wright said. “But, you’re going to be there when they do and that will be impactful for the state.”

WVU Medicine operates the only Level 1 trauma center in the state for adults, manages two hospitals and owns 17 others, including J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown that is connected to the new children’s hospital.

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

WVU issues campus caution after single shot fired Saturday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University officials issued a warning after a report of a single shot fired into the air in the Area 1 parking lot near the top of High Street at midnight Saturday, September 24. There is no ongoing threat to campus based on the current information available, according to officials.

The Morgantown Police Department is assisting in the ongoing investigation.

If you witness a crime call 911. Any information about this incident can be left by calling 304-293-COPS (2677) or the department is located at 992 Elmer Prince Drive in Morgantown.

 

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

Morgantown hosts Environmental Summit

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Natural Resource Center will host an Environmental Summit this weekend. Organizers plan to explore new ways to broaden the voice of environmentalism statewide and hear from experts in the field.

Linda Frame with the West Virginia Environmental Council said the keynote speaker will be Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director with Climate Imperative.

“We are hoping to talk about the future of the environmental movement in our state, how to broaden our voice and how to get more people interested in the issues we are facing everyday” Frame said.

Executive Director of Our Future West Virginia, Kathy Ferguson will offer comments during the “Saving the Planet Starts Here” segment from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We know there are issues like global warming and climate change that will cause communities of color around the globe to become the first environmental refugees,” Ferguson said.

Maura Ross, Wood Energy Coordinator/Maryland Clean Energy Center said an organized hike at Coppers Rock is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s National Public Lands Day(Saturday), it just happened to fall on our weekend,” Ross said. “The folks from West Virginians for Public Lands are sponsoring a hike up at Coppers Rock after our program wraps up.”

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

WV bidding to host Olympic trials in Mon County
Gov. Justice announced on Thursday a bid to host the Olympic Diving Trials at the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park.
Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

‘Girls in Aviation Day’ coming to CKB

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – The first North Central West Virginia Girls in Aviation Day is coming to Bridgeport on Saturday, aiming to get middle and high school-aged girls interested in aviation.

“Less than five percent of every commercial pilot flying is a woman and less than four percent of every mechanic working on an airplane is a woman. And those statistics really have not changed in the last 60 years,” said Tracy Miller, President of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex (MAAC).

The (MAAC) markets and promotes West Virginia’s aviation and aerospace assets worldwide.

Before the pandemic, industry experts were already warning of an aviation personnel shortage due to the increasing popularity of air travel and a strong economy.

When the pandemic shutdowns hit, airlines parked aircraft and took federal bailout money on the condition they would not furlough or layoff workers. However, companies did offer early retirement and buyout packages, which many airline industry workers took advantage of.

“Sometimes those pilot shortages are due to the fact that you’ve got an aircraft on the ground and you don’t have the proper maintenance technicians that are able to do the maintenance on the aircraft to get it back in the air,” Miller said.

Like all other industries, aviation is short on qualified people and a relatively large number of older workers are preparing to end their working careers.

“We need more mechanics just to keep up with our existing industries and we have a lot of baby boomers in West Virginia- we have a lot of folks getting ready to retire,” Miller said.

Companies like Aurora Flight Sciences- a Boeing Company, Pratt Whitney, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, The Thrasher Group, Civil Air Patrol and West Virginia Air National Guard will bring information for guests. Additionally, Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College will provide tours of their academic programs.

Some of the academic programs are two-year programs that can get graduates into the workforce quickly earning a living wage.

“In a two-year program you are going to come out of that with a job that is higher paying than a lot of four-year programs that kids get in a regular university,” Miller said.

The academic programs are on the grounds of the North Central West Virginia Airport, so, it’s possible to graduate and work on the other end of the taxiway.

“I do feel like our youth are getting better at understanding how amazing it is to have health care, a retirement contribution- the whole package, so you’re able to provide for your family,” Miller said.

On Saturday, the first 250 girls get swag bags. There will also be flight simulators, drones, aircraft displays and a chance to win a Discovery Flight.

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