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Overall it was a relatively uneventful New Year's Eve, where traffic problems are concerned. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office says it had a full shift of Deputy Sheriffs answering 911 calls and others on directed patrols looking for drunk and impaired drivers. The directed patrols were funded by the Governor's Highway Safety Program. Cpl B-D Humphreys says three drivers were arrested for driving under the influence. Two were arrested near Saint Albans. One was related to alcohol, the other was under the influence of marijuana. A third driver was arrested in Elkview following his single-vehicle crash.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has named Robert A. Fala as director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Fala is replacing Frank Jezioro (JEZ'-uh-roh) who retired Wednesday after service as the DNR's director since 2005. Over the past three years, Fala served as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was appointed to serve on the DNR's Natural Resource Commission in August. He's also worked for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Roland Stafford was found murdered three days before Christmas in Mingo County, and now arrests have been made in his death. Stafford's body was found in his home in Taylorsville two weeks ago, and West Virginia State Police had been looking for Stafford’s truck. It was found abandoned in Tazewell County, Virginia on New year's Eve. And there, Billy Eugene Mitchem and his girlfriend Melissa Cochran were arrested and charged with grand larceny. Other charges are possible, and other people could be arrested too. For now, Mitchem is a suspect in the murder. There are reports the murder was drug related.
State regulators have fined the city of Logan more than $81,000 for wastewater violations.
The violations include a discharge of sewage from a manhole that continued for four months.
Other violations include exceeding average monthly discharge limits for nitrogen and other pollutants in 2012, and failing to maintain and properly operate wastewater facilities. The fine is part of a consent order issued by the Department of Environmental Protection that also requires Logan to submit a plan saying how they'll correct the issues.
Starting today, the lowest-paid workers in West Virginia will get a raise. The Mountain State's minimum wage is going up by 75 cents to $8 per hour today, January 1. It's the state's first minimum wage boost since 2008. And there will be another increase again in January 2016 to $8.75. In a May special session, the final version of the two-year wage increase passed the state House unanimously. There was one dissenting vote in the Senate. The legislation also revises maximum hour and overtime compensation standards. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 88,000 West Virginians will get a raise because of the increase today.
If you've got the flu on this New Year's Day, you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of Tuesday, West Virginia is in the midst of a flu epidemic, and it's about two months ahead of the normal flu season. Flu cases usually peak in January or February, but the number of patients going to the doctor with flu-like symptoms has gone from 1.7 percent of the population to 6.4 percent, according to the Charleston Gazette. Along with the flu vaccine, washing hands and staying away from flu carriers are the best preventatives.
Today is the deadline to submit aboveground storage tank inspections required by a new state law to protect public water supplies. Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater says the state has already received more than 22,000 inspection certifications. The annual inspections are included in a law reacting to a January chemical spill, that sets up new a regulatory system for tanks and also addresses emergency planning for public water systems. Under a rule within the law, the tanks are grouped into three categories for inspections. Tanks that hold hazardous materials or are near public water supplies will face the most stringent requirements.
Some BASE jumpers plan to skip West Virginia's Bridge Day festival next year because of a new security requirement. The jumpers will have to undergo fingerprint scans, along with rappellers and vendors. Alan Lewis of Tennessee is organizing a visit by jumpers to the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, instead of Bridge Day. He told The Charleston Gazette that law enforcement in Twin Falls is more welcoming to BASE jumpers. BASE stands for building, antenna, span and Earth, the fixed objects from which jumpers leap with parachutes. Bridge Day is the only time that BASE jumping is allowed from the New River Gorge Bridge. Bridge Day Commission chair Sharon Cruikshank has said the scans are less intrusive than background checks, and the fingerprints won't be saved.
For several years, West Virginia has decreased its business franchise tax under a plan approved by former Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, now a U.S. senator. Today, January 1, the state will drop the tax altogether. The tax started in 1987 at 0.55 percent and grew to 0.75 percent in 1989, said Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman, but it has dwindled and been reduced since then. Tomblin has said the tax made it difficult for West Virginia to compete for new and expanding businesses.
C&H Taxi in Charleston is offering to get you home safely on New Year's Eve. It's not a new program...in fact for the past ten years, the company has offered free rides for up to fifteen miles as long as the customer lets them know they're calling about “IntoxiTaxi.” There may be long hold times tonight, and instead of waiting on the phone you an download an App on your Android or IOS phone. That will let you keep track of when the cab is ready and coming to you. The cab company will have extra drivers on the road tonight. You can reach C&H Taxi at 304-344-4902. The program runs from 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and ends at 5 a.m. New Year’s Day.