Breaking Local News

Jobless Rate Edges Up

Workforce West Virginia says unemployment rates rose in all 55 counties in January. Calhoun County's 14.6 percent jobless rate was the highest in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate at 4.3 percent. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged in January at 5.9 percent. Kanawha County's rate was at 4.9 percent in December of last year, about 6-tenths of a percentage point lower than it's average all of last year.

Blankenship Faces New Indictment

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is facing a new superseding indictment now after two previous criminal charges were combined and a new allegation on falsification of coal-dust samples at the Upper Big Branch Mine was added. An explosion at the mine killed 29 men in 2010. The Charleston Gazette reports the new revised indictment was filed this week, and under it Blankenship is facing three felony counts and could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on all three. Trial is currently scheduled to start on April 20 but there is a motion pending to delay it. Blankenship has pleaded not guilty.

Pain Clinics Closed

State officials have closed three chronic pain management clinics this year for failing to comply with a law aimed at reducing substance abuse. The 2012 law gave the Department of Health and Human Resources oversight over pain clinic licensure and codified patient and health safety. Since January, The Register-Herald reports that the department's Office of Health Facilities Licensure and Certification has revoked the licenses of the Hope Clinic's Charleston branch, Beckley Pain Clinic and the pain management operation of Med-Surg Group in Beckley. Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler tells the newspaper that the licensing office will continue a review of applicants until all facilities either achieve compliance or transition patients to other facilities.

Fatalities Drop Across the State

Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Pat Reed says an 18 percent decline in highway fatalities could be due to recent safety laws and public awareness campaigns. Reed said Tuesday that highway fatalities dropped from 332 in 2013 to 271 in 2014, and said the decline shows the state is moving in the right direction toward its goal of zero fatalities. A law passed in 2012 banned texting while driving. Violating the ban became a primary offense in 2013, meaning police can stop drivers. The state's seatbelt law became a primary offense in 2013.

Elkins Men Face Drug Charges

The government says four Elkins-area men have been charged with federal drug trafficking. The four were arrested Monday after a grand jury handed up an indictment charging them with trafficking in marijuana and oxycodone. The indictment alleges they operated an extensive and long-term drug trafficking operation. One of the four — 37-year-old Chad Allen Workman of Beverly — was accused of using drug trafficking dollars to purchase vehicles and real estate. The others named in the indictment are 54-year-old Charles Shawn Shannon of Belington, 62-year-old Roy Melvin Isner and 39-year-old Mark W. Lambert, both of Elkins.

Public Comments Open on Proposed Pipeline

Supporters of a proposed $5 billion natural gas pipeline through eastern North Carolina say it will bring jobs to parts of the state that need them most. But opponents worry the project will hurt property values and likely will not result in the number of jobs that supporters suggest. About 100 people turned out Monday in Fayetteville for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing on the pipeline. The pipeline is a joint project of Dominion, Piedmont, Duke Energy and AGL Resources. It would reach 550 miles from West Virginia to near Lumberton and largely parallel Interstate 95 in North Carolina. The government is holding two more hearings on the project this week in North Carolina before holding similar hearings in Virginia and West Virginia.

Contest Opens to Design Top-o-Rock

A contest is on to design the famous Charleston Top-O-Rock home. The home made headlines last year when it was vandalized, and it's been vacant or a long time. A community and economic development specialist at West Virginia State University has been working with property owners to figure out what to do with the home, and a press release from WVSU says a competition has opened up that will give teams the chance to explore plans that include historic preservation, adaptive and sustainable land reuse for public benefit, business or education innovation. The contest runs through May 8th, and you can see more at Awards of $2,500, $1,000 and $500 will be give to the winning teams.

Common Core Bill Stalls Out

State senators have backed away from repealing the Common Core educational standards. A Senate committee voted Monday to drop the repeal and study English and math standards further. In the amended bill, the state schools superintendent will suggest any changes after a comprehensive review ending in 2017. The review group would include a parent, teachers union, school administrators and a board member, lawmakers and others, and the group will hold town hall meetings. The bill prohibits using two Common Core exams after the 2016-2017 school year, unless the law is changed. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Monday he supports maintaining the standards to measure what students learn year-to-year.

Governor Signs Bill Regarding Heroin Overdoses

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a bill letting first responders, friends and family administer potentially life-saving medication to people overdosing on opioids, including heroin. The new law becomes effective in 90 days. Both chambers passed the bill without opposition. First responders, police, firefighters, people at risk of overdosing and their family, friends and caretakers can carry the treatment, and family and friends will have to take the patient to a medical facility after administering the drug.

Clendenin Fire Under Investigation

The state Fire Marshal’s office is investigating after a fire near Clendenin killed one person on Monday. The fire broke out sometime after 9am Monday on the Left Fork of Leatherwood Road, and since the fire chief for the Clendenin Volunteer Fire Department lives nearby he was able to get there quickly. Clendenin, Frame and Pinch fire departments responded, and although the flames were quickly brought under control, one person died in the fire. That person's body was found inside as the flames were being put out. The investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

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