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Charleston Area Alliance Launches Program to Help Small Businesses

The Charleston Area Alliance has launched the Small Business Innovation Research assistance program to help small businesses with applications and give incentives. The Charleston Gazette says the program will have two phases, and in phase 1 companies can receive up to $150,000 for a six-month period to prove a concept works. Phase two focuses on the research and development and companies can receive $1 million during that phase. Applications for the program are available starting today through the Alliance.

Beckley Residents Can Help Design Logo

Beckley residents will begin voting on a new city logo this week. Today is the deadline for artists and designers to submit entries for the city's logo contest. Public voting begins Saturday and runs through April 11. The Register-Herald says the top five designs will be submitted to the city's Logo Selection Committee. The winning design will be announced on April 14 at a City Council meeting. The winner will receive $500 from the city, along with other prizes.

Man's Cousin Arrested After Stabbing

There's been an arrest after a disturbance Sunday in Jefferson in the 7200 block of MacCorkle Avenue. When deputies got there, 39-year old Owen Higginbotham was bleeding from cuts to his face and left arm, and he said the person who cut him was his cousin Howard Justice, and he was still inside. He refused to come out at first, but eventually complied and was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, a felony. Higginbotham's injuries aren't believed to be life-threatening, but he was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Kessler Files Paperwork to Run for Governor

State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler has filed pre-candidacy paperwork for an open governor's race, first reported by the Charleston Daily Mail. In a 2011 special election, Kessler placed fifth in the Democratic primary for governor. He would be up for re-election in the Senate in 2016, and can't run for both. Kessler served as Senate president before Republicans took control of the Legislature this year. Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is also considering a run at governor, a job he held for two terms.

Video Contest on the Constitution Open to Students

West Virginia secondary school students could win as much as $500 for developing a video about the U.S. Constitution and what it's meant to them. The state Department of Education and the West Virginia State Bar are sponsoring a video contest for students in grades 6 through 12, with a top prize of $500 and second prize of $250 in each category. Deadline for entry is March 27.

Sobriety Checkpoint Planned Tonight

The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program will be conducting a high visibility sobriety checkpoint tonight from 7:00 p.m. to midnight on Midland Drive near Rand. The Sheriff’s Office says it has zero tolerance for impaired driving and this is one of many checkpoints this year.

Bridge Jumpers Have New Security Option

Bridge Day organizers have approved an optional security measure to address privacy concerns about fingerprint scans. The Bridge Day Commission plans to require BASE jumpers, rappellers and vendors to submit to the scans. The fingerprints will be checked against a terrorism watch list. The Register-Herald reports that the commission has added the option of a paid background check. The fingerprint scans will be free. Commission chairwoman Sharon Cruikshanks says background checks would be conducted by a third-party security company. Bridge Day is the only time that BASE jumping is allowed from the New River Gorge Bridge. Some jumpers have said they will skip this year's event because of the fingerprint scans. BASE stands for building, antenna, span and Earth, the fixed objects from which jumpers leap with parachutes.

More to Come Next Week on Chemical Spill Cleanup Plan

The public will learn next week about plans to clean up a chemical storage site on the Elk River. The Tuesday meeting in Charleston will include consultants from Freedom Industries and officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection. They'll explain plans under the department's voluntary industrial remediation program. The Charleston Gazette reports that the meeting comes amid a deadline for Freedom to reach agreement with the state on the next step in the cleanup. The company also has to explain its plan for completing its bankruptcy case, resolving millions of dollars in claims.

State Lawmakers Ok New Budget

West Virginia lawmakers have cleared a budget that relies on almost $23 million in reserves. The state Legislature voted Wednesday on the House-Senate budget agreement. Some votes crossed party lines.
The plan wouldn't depend on major tax or fee increases, like the cigarette tax hike that fizzled during the 60-day legislative session. In a difficult budget year, there aren't major pay increases, either. A small pocket of nationally certified teachers in low performing schools would get $2,000 raises. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's budget calls for $15.5 million from reserves. Republican Sen. Mike Hall says Tomblin's budget depends on millions more from two bills that didn't pass. Tomblin can veto or reduce individual budget items.

East End and West Side Team Up

The East End and the West Side are teaming up. This week the East End Main Street board voted to form an administrative connections with West Side Main Street, and they'll keep individual boards and programming, but call themselves Charleston Main Streets. The Charleston Gazette reports the vote was passed 13 to three with four abstentions.

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