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Freedom Industries reached a bankruptcy court deal this week for up to $4 million in credit from a lender to help continue operations. The deal lets the company continue paying its 51 employees in the short term, a biweekly payroll of about $172,000, according to a company attorney. The company can also continue paying costs for environmental remediation and will have money for critical day-to-day administrative expenses, and can pay top vendors, according to the attorney. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing freezes dozens of lawsuits against the company. Many are by local businesses owners who say they lost money during a water-use ban that lasted several days. State and federal investigations into the spill of a coal-cleaning chemical are continuing.
A new report said West Virginians paid 1.2 percent more for utilities in 2013 than in the previous year, primarily because of increases in natural gas and water rates. The report released Wednesday by the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division said the average West Virginia utility customer paid $280.62 a month for gas, electricity, water and telephone service last year. In 2012, the average monthly cost was $277.22. Rates have increased by 18 percent for water and 7 percent for electricity since 2010. Natural gas rates have fallen 18 percent.
A Charleston hotel is through with its renovations. The Four Points by Sheraton held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday after a $15 million renovation over the past two years. The improvements inlcluded enclosing the pool so it's indoors, and there's a new fitness center off the lobby now, along with Recovery Sports grill on that floor. There is hope that the new-look hotel will bring tourists and conventions to downtown Charleston. It's the first Starwood Hotel in West Virginia, and you can find it along Kanawha Boulevard by the levee.
Some details are out about how Kanawha County schools may make up all of the missed days, after the water emergency and snow days this week wrecked havoc on the schedule. All scheduled instructional support days are going to be regular school days now instead. That's - Feb. 17, Apr. 11, and May 16. And days where students were scheduled to be released early, they'll have to attend a full day. Those dates are - Jan. 29, Feb. 26, March 26, April 10, May 16.
What's next for freedom industries? At a federal bankruptcy court hearing yesterday, Freedom Industries' president, Gary Southern, said the company is in a "death spiral" unless it can change perception. Several lawsuits have been filed against Freedom Industries after a chemical leaked into the Elk River and caused a water emergency in nine counties. The company has spent $800,000 on the cleanup so far, and a plan is in the works to keep employees getting paychecks during the cleanup and bankruptcy process.
The race to fill U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's congressional seat has drawn two more candidates. Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Charlotte Lane filed with the Secretary of State's Office on Monday to run for Capito's 2nd District House seat. Capito has announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jay Rockefeller. Casey is a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. Lane is a former state delegate and a former member of the state Public Service Commission. Republicans Alex Mooney and Jim Moss filed last week to run for the 2nd District seat.
Children in some West Virginia counties affected by a water emergency got another day off from school because of weather. Most of the state was under a winter storm warning Tuesday and schools were closed in 43 counties, including Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam. Students in Kanawha County haven't been in class since Jan. 9, the day of the chemical leak along the Elk River. A few schools in Lincoln and Putnam counties also were closed that long. When all of those days will be made up has yet to be decided.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and his administration are waiting on more information to act, after another chemical was found in the Elk River. The chemical is called PPH and is used in conjunction with the MCHM that already had been identified. The Charleston Gazette reports Freedom Industries handed over some documents, and that's when federal and state investigators learned of the second chemical. Tests are continuing, but so far there are no new water bans or restrictions.
The WV International Auto Show kicks off this weekend with hundreds of the latest cars, trucks and crossovers on display. The vehicles will be waiting to be viewed at the Charleston Civic Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. It's ten bucks for those 13 and over, free for kids six and under, and five dollars for those in between. Sunday is Family Day and children 12 and under will be admitted for free.
The Clay Center has announced a pay-what-you-wish event for families that runs through mid-February. The goal is to help those who were affected by the water crisis by suspending regular gallery admission prices. Clay Center officials say in a news release that a new exhibit is opening this weekend. The "Brain Teasers 2," exhibit isinteractive and features puzzles, illusions and games of strategy, and will open this Sunday. In lieu of gallery admission, donations are being accepted through February 14th. The Center's Gizmo Factory science gallery closed for renovations yesterday, and will remain closed through late March.