The Voice of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Longtime state Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, is running for governor.
Stollings announced plans Monday to file pre-candidacy papers to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination in next year’s election.
Stollings, a medical doctor, said he would establish the Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse to focus on the impact of the opioid crisis.
“How do we know how much we should receive in settlement dollars if we don’t know how much prevention and treatment programs will cost? This should be an effort coordinated by the Governor, in the Governor’s Office,” Stollings said in a news release.
Stollings said the state will continue to struggle to move forward until the opioid crisis is brought under control.
Stollings, 64, a Boone County native, was first elected to the state Senate in 2006. He said his campaign will also focus on health care, expanding the economy and education.
Democrat Stephen Smith has been on the campaign trail for several months. Stollings becomes the first Democrat to announce a run for governor since Senator Joe Manchin announced earlier this month that he would not return to the state and run for governor in 2020.
WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. — Wood County Schools will hold hearings next week on its proposal to close three schools in the county.
Waverly Elementary, Worthington Elementary and McKinley Elementary schools are being considered for closure, with the students going to different schools in the county if the closure is approved.
The Wood County Board of Education will vote on the closure proposal once the hearings conclude, and the West Virginia Board of Education will also have to approve the plan.
The state Board of Education heard from residents earlier this month on the proposal to close Waverly Elementary School, which will be consolidated with Williamstown Elementary School in late 2020.
“Closing Waverly will require eight buses to transport young children between 5 years old and 12 years old,” said Fred Clark, a local businessman and grandparent. “They’ll ride an hour and a half to two hours per day.”
Clark said while the plan will not affect his grandchildren, it will impact the children of his employees.
“To require the youngest and the most vulnerable of our students — elementary children — to ride an hour and a half to two hours a day to school is unconscionable for me as a parent,” he added.
Sara Hart, a parent of two Waverly Elementary students, said the local board is arguing the county is in financial straits, but the math does not add up.
“Our costs do not exceed our state funding, and the community provides any additional funding for the school as needed by means of fundraising,” she said.
The hearing schedule for schools facing closure is:
— Sept. 30 for Waverly Elementary School.
— Oct. 2 for Worthington Elementary School.
— Oct. 3 and McKinley Elementary School.
All of the hearings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Hearings will also be held for the four schools expected to gain students:
— Williamstown Middle/High School on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.
— Williamstown Elementary School on Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
— Emerson Elementary School on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
— Jefferson Elementary School on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
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Folks, I’m off this week. Dave Wilson will be filling in on Talkline. I’ll be back Monday, September 30th.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – By the numbers, West Virginia should not have beaten Kansas on Saturday.
The Jayhawks averaged 7.4 yards per play on offense, while the Mountaineers averaged 4.6 per play. This season, teams who average better than 7 yards per play are 73-2 against teams averaging fewer than 5 yards per play.
So how did West Virginia do it?
The blueprint is similar to the one Iowa used against Iowa State in the only other instance of a team winning in this scenario this season – dominating time of possession. West Virginia maintained a 15-minute edge in possession against Kansas, showing that sometimes the best defense is your own offense.
Put another way, West Virginia had the ball for literally an entire quarter more than Kansas.
The most crucial aspect of WVU’s ability to maintain possession was its success on third down. Coming into the game averaging around 35 percent on third-down conversions, the Mountaineers converted 9 of 18 at Kansas.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had 18 in a game,” Brown said. “That might be a school record.”
Most of that success came on manageable third-down situations. With 5 or less yards to go, the Mountaineers were 6 of 8. Five of those conversions were runs, representing a major step forward for an offense that was averaging 1.1 yards per carry after its first two games.
“You have to start with Matt Moore and Chad Scott, our offensive coordinators,” Brown said. “They’ve done a nice job of finding a way to get us going in the run game. Austin Kendall has been effective in the RPO game, which has allowed us to get hats out of the box.
“And I think our kids are finishing blocks better. Schematically, we’re more in-tune with what our strengths are. And I think we’re running the ball harder. Our fullbacks and tight ends are doing a better job as well.”
The trick kick that never was
If it’s a close game against Les Miles, you can bet there will be some form of trickery pulled out of his mad hat.
His ruse against West Virginia was a particularly elaborate one. Miles instructed kicker Liam Jones to feign an injury after celebrating a 23-yard field goal to cut WVU’s lead to 17-10. The idea was that West Virginia wouldn’t wonder why backup kicker Jacob Borcila – the Jayhawks’ onside kick specialist – was on the field for the kickoff.
WVU special-teamer Dante Bonamico was prepared for the play, though it bounced out of his grasp as KU’s Jamahl Horne collided with him. Horne was called for kick-catch interference – a correct call due to the fact the ball was popped into the air rather than first bounced off the ground.
“We went into the game thinking they would [try something],” Brown said. “We were lined up to take it away from them, and Les kind of rolled the dice on it. The call was right. I know the fans here didn’t like it, but it was the right call.”
Fans booed the officiating crew any time something negative happened to the Jayhawks over the course of the next 10 minutes after the call.
Miles had a rather bizarre interpretation of the rule that resulted in the penalty.
“If they want to eliminate an exciting play from college football, they need to come up with a rule and just ban the play,” Miles said. “When you say if you give them the opportunity to catch it and then you kick a ball like that and very probably – you know, in slow motion, they may have gotten there first.
“But if they didn’t get there first, we should have every right as having arrived on the scene first, to have the ball. The reason you call a play like that is because you don’t think he can get to it. And frankly, that was the reason we called the play.”
Brown matched Miles’ gamble with one of his own in the fourth quarter.
With a heavy wind blowing in WVU’s face, Brown passed up a 41-yard field goal attempt in favor of going for it on fourth-and-1 with a 20-17 lead and 14 minutes to go.
The play call was an aggressive one. Austin Kendall took a shot downfield, trying to find George Campbell in the end zone. The ball fell harmlessly to the turf, but Kansas was rightfully flagged for pass interference as safety Hasan Defense took away any chance of Campbell making a play.
Kendall was thankful for Brown’s show in confidence as well as the flag, but still thinks he should have executed the play better.
“Any quarterback is going to say they love that situation,” Kendall said. “But we have to do better in that situation. I was disappointed that I overthrew him a little bit. Coach Brown was pretty upset, because you can’t overthrow people in that situation.”
The Mountaineers ended up settling for a 22-yard field goal after getting stopped inside the 10 after the interference penalty.
Each week, West Virginia has added a tiny new wrinkle into something it does offensively.
This week, it was the left-handed draw play.
As is the case with any draw, Kendall dropped back as if to pass before handing the ball to his running back. But the handoffs were highly unconventional. Kendall transferred the ball to his left hand, creating a visual effect similar to a Statue of Liberty play.
He says the trick is one he picked up from former teammate Kyler Murray, but this was the first time Kendall broke it out in a game.
“It’s actually something I brought over from Kyler and they let me roll with it,” Kendall said. “If the passing game isn’t open, I just put it down there. It allows the defense to not just see me hand it to the running back. They think the ball is still in my right hand.”
Perhaps the heaviest flak Brown has taken on social media in his WVU coaching tenure came after he called a timeout and had Josh Growden punt from the Kansas 34 on West Virginia’s final possession. The conventional wisdom stated that the Mountaineers should have simply taken the delay of game to buy Growden more room on a punt that ultimately resulted in a touchback.
But Growden, who spent the past two years as a specialty pooch punter at LSU, told Brown that he was more comfortable punting from the 34.
“I asked Josh what he wanted to do, and he said ‘I’m fine,’” Brown said.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — University state champion guard Kaden Metheny has made his college call. Metheny has verbally committed to play at Bowling Green.
The Falcons finished 22-12 last season, falling to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship game. The 22 wins were the most for BGSU in 17 years.
“My family and I took an official visit to Bowling Green two weeks ago and right when we got on campus it just felt like home,” Metheny said. “We loved the coaching staff.”
“Coach (Michael) Huger has been recruiting me really hard,” Metheny said. “He has coached great point guards in the past. He has coached Shane Larkin and Angel Rodriguez (at Miami) and they have flourished with him. The style of basketball he coaches, I think I can really excel in.”
Metheny led the Hawks to their first state championship in March, completing a 24-4 season with a win over Martinsburg in the Class AAA title game. He eclipsed the 1,000 point mark midway through his junior season and has earned all-state honors in each of his three seasons at UHS. Metheny averaged 23.5 points per game last season.
“I always wanted to make my decision before the (high school) basketball season started so I could have my full focus and full attention on winning another state championship with my brothers,” Metheny said.
Metheny also held Division 1 offers from Toledo, Lipscomb, Holy Cross, Akron, South Alabama, Elon, William & Mary, James Madison, Lafayette, Niagara, Rhode Island, Derexel, Western Carolina, USC-Upstate and Youngstown State.
“I need to improve,” Metheny said. “I need to shoot better around the rim. I need to get stronger and gain confidence. I need to keep my confidence up because that is how I play.”
Metheny’s senior backcourt running mate K.J. McClurg is also attracting Division 1 interest. McClurg received an offer from Niagara in July. The Hawks will begin their title defense December 10th at Buckhannon-Upshur.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Byrd White’s appointment as West Virginia’s highways commissioner might still be up in the air.
“I probably will not make a decision on how I’m voting until I’m in that committee meeting,” state Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said last week. “I’m going to let the facts speak for themselves, like I’m on the board of directors.”
White has been serving as West Virginia’s transportation secretary since March and recently had the highways commissioner role added to his duties.
Jimmy Wriston, who had been the acting highways commissioner, was moved to deputy. The salary for highways commissioner is set in state code at $92,500. But Wriston, as a longtime highways engineer, has consistently made more than $100,000 a year so taking the promotion would have meant a pay cut.
Holding the transportation secretary and highways commissioner jobs simultaneously pays $120,000 a year.
Questions are likely to arise about White’s appointment as highways chief for two reasons.
One is his residence. State code says the highways commissioner “shall reside at and maintain his office headquarters at the state capital.”
White, a former Raleigh County commissioner, has been living in Beaver. But there’s been recent talk that he has gotten an apartment in Charleston.
State code also says the highways commissioner “shall be a person who is experienced in highway planning, finance, construction, maintenance, management and supervision qualifying him for the duties of his office.”
That doesn’t specify the commissioner must be an engineer, but predecessors Tom Smith, Paul Mattox and Fred VanKirk all had engineering degrees.
White is a certified public accountant and has had a variety of jobs, most connected to Gov. Jim Justice.
Most recently, he was a special assistant to the state tax commissioner. Before that, he was manager of Black Knight Country Club, owned by Justice. He has been a senior vice president of the Justice companies.
When White has been asked previously about his credentials, he has pointed to his time in the early 2000s as an executive with the Vecellio Group, one of the largest road construction companies in the United States.
“The governor would not have appointed him if he did not meet the qualifications for the office,” said Brian Abraham, general counsel for the Governor’s Office.
“There was an urban legend that many held that the position required someone to be an engineer and obviously the code does not say that. It says a person experienced in highway construction. He has experience in years past of running a large highway construction company.”
One of Justice’s competitors in the Republican primary for Governor, former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, says White should not be confirmed.
“Mr. White, while a fine gentleman, lacks the basic qualifications to lead the Department of Transportation,” said Thrasher, who is a professional engineer.
“These positions require experience in highway planning, finance, construction, maintenance, management and supervision. He was not hired for his transportation experience. He was given two critical jobs and a hefty salary just because he’s a friend of Jim.”
White’s confirmation as highways commissioner doesn’t seem certain.
The Senate’s confirmation committee includes Blair, plus chairwoman Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha and senators Tom Azinger, R-Wood, Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, Robert Plymale, D-Wayne and Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.
Blair said his mind is not made up.
“I believe Byrd White is doing a good job,” Blair said. “Whenever I’ve dealt with him on any issue he has been very forthcoming, responsive and accurate in what he’s told me. Do we have possible issues on residency and things like that? Yes.”
The Senate Confirmations Committee has had to deal with situations like this before.
In 2017, the Senate confirmed attorney Alan Larrick as the state Lottery director. State code requires the commissioner to serve “on a full-time basis and may not be engaged in any other profession or occupation,” but there was evidence that Larrick kept his law practice going on the side.
Questions arose during Larrick’s confirmation about how he would deal with his Beckley law practice.
Larrick submitted a letter saying he would get an attorney to manage the practice. The submission included a hand-written statement by then-chief of staff Nick Casey saying Larrick must comply within 90 days or be terminated.
Larrick wound up resigning in 2018 during the rollout of legalized sports betting in West Virginia.
On Monday, questions will be asked about White’s residence and qualifications.
“I think there are some things that need to be addressed there,” Senator Weld said last week.
Referring both to questions about where White lives and to the ongoing attention to Justice’s decision to keep his home in Lewisburg, Weld said, “I don’t think anyone wants to deal with another legal battle over where one’s residency officially is. So is anything being done to address that?”
Weld said senators would also assess how White fits the highways qualifications.
“We just need to decide whether or not his experience lends itself to meeting the requirements of the position,” Weld said. “That’s something we need to talk about.”
The decision is crucial because of the condition of West Virginia’s roads. Several counties have declared emergency over their poor road conditions.
If senators would reject the governor’s choice to lead road improvement efforts, that could contribute to a challenging situation.
“If we say that he doesn’t have the relevant experience and he’s got to go, do we then create another crisis in leadership?” Weld said.
“So far the Division of Highways has done the best it can to make a pivot toward not just looking at large-scale projects, to really doing all it can for core maintenance for secondary roads,” he said. “Obviously we can always do better, but are we finally getting some traction in that area.”
He concluded, “So there’s a lot to take you into account here. It is not an easy spot, but that’s why we’re there.”
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Economic Development Council will hold its annual fall conference beginning Monday at the Morgantown Marriott Waterfront Place.
WVU president Gordon Gee, Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki and Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom will hold an opening forum.
Marshal University officials and WVU professor John Deskins will also hold presentations. A legislative update and information about the emerging cannabis market are also scheduled.
West Virginia Economic Development Council president Robbie Morris said a major focus of the conference is diversification within the state economy.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the auto industry. We have a lot of growth in aerospace. We’re seeing growth in chemicals,” he said. “But there’s other things especially technology-related we want to go after.”
Morris added the event will feature tours of WVU’s athletic facilities and areas of economic development areas around Morgantown.
“Morgantown is obviously a very bright spot in West Virginia, and our economy with so many different developments,” he said.
The two-day event will also offer ways to improve employee recruiting and understand the current workforce.
The WVU John Chambers College of Economics and Business and West Virginia Forward are the presenting organizations.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An online auction begins Monday for Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa near Cheat Lake in Monongalia County.
The minimum bid starts at $1 million. The online auction will stretch through Wednesday.
The resort was buit in 1950. The property includes 412 acres, 187 rooms and two 18-hole golf courses — Lakeview and Mountainview.
Those participating in the auction will have to pay a $10,000 fee to participate. The auction is being overseen by Ten-X Commercial, an online auction company.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of completed homes in the RISE West Virginia Program has risen by three.
The program said in a release that over the past week construction crews completed three final inspections on mobile home projects in Kanawha and Lincoln Counties, bringing the total to 65 homes.
According to RISE West Virginia, there are 53 other homes that are in active construction through four different contractors.
132 notices have been issued among the contractors to proceed with the projects in the program, which means the projects can begin demolition and construction.
Of the 53 homes in active construction, 13 are mobile home replacements, 22 are reconstruction projects, four are rehabilitation projects and 14 are in demolition, the release said.
The current number of active cases covered under the RISE West Virginia Program stands at 391. Program leadership said the complete numbers are 65 homes are finished, 251 cases require total reconstruction, 37 cases require some form of rehabilitation actions, 102 cases require new mobile home replacement, and one case is awaiting initial project type and undergoing the damage assessment process.
West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is continuing work on numerous reconstruction and rehabilitation projects the past week in Kanawha County. The public is asked to contact VOAD if they feel they still have any unmet needs or who are looking for an update on their case. feel they still have any unmet needs or who are looking for an update on their case.
A hotline is also available for anyone needing to report fraud with regard to the RISE West Virginia program at 1-866-WVWATCH (1-866-989-2824).