The Voice of West Virginia
CLAY, W.Va. — Members of at least four volunteer fire departments in Clay County are on the scene of a fire today at a local sawmill.
The blaze was reported just a little after midnight at Pierson Lumber sawmill just outside of Clay. The Clay, Lizemores, Newton, and Big Otter Volunteer Fire Departments have been on the scene this morning.
Officials say the fire was contained, but crews have remained on the scene throughout the morning to mop up hot spots.
No word on a cause and there are no reports of any injuries.
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Today on MetroNews This Morning:
–PEIA begins to lay out the bitter pill state employees will be asked to swallow
–Governor Justice is expected to announce a new airline partnership for Yeager Airport
–WVU President Gordon Gee says the university needs to reposition some finances
–In Sports: Marshall hires Kim Stephens as its new women’s basketball coach
Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 3-28-23” on Spreaker.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Public Employees Insurance Agency held its first of a few upcoming public hearings Monday evening at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
A few dozen people sat in on a brief presentation given by PEIA Interim Director Jason Haught who broke down three separate plan options.
PEIA will either move ahead with premium increases of around 24 percent or will pick a different option that would increase premiums slightly less but still make up the difference with increased deductibles, and out-of-pocket and prescription costs.
The state Legislature mandated a return to an 80-20 cost share between government employers and state employees.
Senator Amy Grady (R-Mason), a public school teacher, was the first to speak at the public hearing. She described what all makes up the “three-legged stool” of the PEIA changes. It involves the 80-20 fix, the 21.25% personal income tax and the state employees pay raise.
“We wanted to make sure the state employees weren’t hurt by this needed premium increase,” Grady said Monday. ” We haven’t seen an increase since 2012.”
Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) was another lawmaker in attendance at the public hearing. He spoke with distaste at the fact that the governor before claimed premiums would in fact not go up. He quoted the governor himself, “When asked if he would raise premiums he said ‘not on my watch.'”
One concern of the public employees with the future of PEIA was spousal coverage. Imposing a spouse surcharge for active employee policyholders from state agencies whose spouses are offered employer-sponsored insurance coverage but who choose to get coverage through a PEIA plan is one of the major changes that’ll be effective July 1 this year.
Resident John Quisenberry imposed an idea to the board.
“Look and see if it’ll be feasible to buy into PEIA as a secondary coverage,” he said.
Aside from the elected officials who spoke, a handful of residents gave their thoughts to the PEIA panel, most of them current or former educators. Also, most of the discussion began to be centered around retirees.
Now retired John Riddle had spent more than 40 years in an education-related role. He doesn’t see a good situation currently for retirees.
“If you look at the current cost of living, retirees on a fixed income are not in a very good spot,” he claimed. Riddle has been retired for 18 years now.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee was concerned about retirees being taken care of as well. He suggested money from the state’s Rainy Day fund be used to offset costs for retirees.
“Are you gonna look at a $600 to $650 increase in deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for retirees,” he asked. “If you do plan three, you’re looking at $1,200 to $1,500 in out-of-pocket costs.”
That’s where he argues the Rainy Day fund could come into play. Lee claimed less than $30 million of $74 million in the Rainy Day fund could prevent an increase on retirees.
“I would urge the Legislature to look at that,” he added.
Rosa Huffman, a teacher in the Kanawha County school system, said more time would help her figure out which of the plans she believes to be best for her. Others agreed.
There are two hearings on Tuesday, one in Morgantown at the Hampton Inn at Granville Square, and another at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington. Both hearings are at 6 p.m. The final public hearing is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg. On Thursday, the PEIA Finance Board will meet again to decide on which plan to select.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin made a trip to Washington, DC this week for talks with other mayors and white house officials on everything from substance use disorder and mental health to homelessness.
Mayor Goodwin delivered remarks during a public safety panel at the National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference in DC Sunday. She shared both the good and the bad about what’s been happening in her city from a public safety standpoint and spoke to the success of the City’s CARE Team.
“It was a tremendous honor to be invited by the National League of Cities to share insight – during the public safety panel alongside Mayors Giles, Lumumba, and Scott – on the establishment of the CARE Team to address substance use disorder, mental health, and homelessness; and the work Charleston is doing to address public safety, specifically the partnerships we have with federal agencies,” said Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin.
On Monday, she met other mayors across the U.S. where they shared their experiences and how they handle different circumstances of public safety in their city. She made sure to boast about the massive meth bust in the state that just happened last week.
“I’ve been listening and learning from them on what they’ve been doing in their communities,” said Goodwin.
That evening, mayor Goodwin met with officials of President Biden’s administration where she thanked them for the funding the state received from the infrastructure legislation. The ARPA funding has been a huge boost to the state the mayor claimed.
“This is an administration that has invested in West Virginia,” the mayor said. “The ARPA funding has been next level for the mountain state.”
On Tuesday, the mayor said she plans to meet again with members of the Biden administration along with teams of U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for more discussions at the White House. They’ll breakdown pieces of legislation related to infrastructure. Goodwin said the infrastructure needs are heavy in the state and more investments are needed.
“This isn’t just about investing in roads and bridges and sidewalks,” she said. “We’re talking about investing in our kids, and our seniors and neighborhoods.”
Goodwin said a lot of issues happening in Charleston are similar with other smaller cities in the country. The city’s CARE team deals with a lot of calls related to substance abuse disorder, something the mayor said is a problem nationwide.
“It’s okay to say you need help,” she said. “That’s the conversation we’re having.”
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Less than a month ago, West Virginia wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton made a strong impression at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
So satisfied with his showing at the combine was Ford-Wheaton that on Monday, during West Virginia’s annual Pro Day at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility, he opted not to partake in any of the official events — bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill.
At the NFL Combine, Ford-Wheaton, who stands nearly 6-foot-4, completed the 40 in 4.38 seconds. He also ecorded a 41-inch vertical jump during an eye-opening showing.
Over the last 20 years, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and cornerback Tariq Woolen are the only players 6-3 or taller to break 4.4 seconds in the 40 and record a vertical of at least 40’.
“Every time you do what they say you can’t do, they’re going to add something on and you can’t do this now,” Ford-Wheaton said. “I’m still hearing it, but I’m still going to prove them wrong at the end of the day and just keep working.”
Instead of partaking in timed and measurable events, Ford-Wheaton showcased his route-running abilities and brought in passes from former Mountaineer quarterback Jarret Doege at Pro Day.
“He came up here on Thursday. We threw together Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We didn’t really need to do much else,” Ford-Wheaton said. “We knew we had the timing down because we played together so long.”
Ford-Wheaton wasn’t the only WVU receiver working with his previous signal-caller. So, too, was Sam James, who like Ford-Wheaton spent five seasons in Morgantown, including a 2018 redshirt season under former head coach Dana Holgorsen.
However, unlike Ford-Wheaton, James wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, which only added to the importance of Pro Day at a venue he’d countless hours in previously.
“I thought I was disrespected and thought I should’ve been at the combine,” James said. “I was mad, but I prayed to God, found my peace and knew I was going to have an opportunity. I just went with it, stayed down and worked.”
James, at 5-11, ran the fastest of WVU’s five players to take part in the 40 Monday with a time of 4.5 flat. He also had a 36.5 inch vertical, 10’2 broad jump and 4.24 20-yard shuttle.
“I’m extremely satisfied with what I did today. I hit my goals and that was the biggest thing so I’m happy about it.”
Defensive lineman Dante Stills, who joined Ford-Wheaton as the Mountaineers’ two participants at the NFL Combine, repped 225 pounds 26 times on the bench press — six higher than his showing in Indianapolis.
Stills, who didn’t participate in timed drills or either jump Monday, had a reason behind his substantial increase in reps in Morgantown.
“I was going to get 24 or 25 reps [at the combine], but I hit the rack on the way up. I was going out of control and I kept scooting back on the bench and I hit the rack,” Stills recalled. “It messed up like my whole flow and I got 20. I wanted to do the bench and I felt like it definitely helped myself.”
At the combine, Stills ran a 4.85 40 and recorded a 28.5’ vertical with a 4.61 finish in the 20 shuttle.
“I have five years of film and feel like I did all I can,” Stills said.
Representatives from 28 of 32 NFL teams were on hand for Pro Day, in which eight WVU players from 2022 joined Doege and Morgantown native Maverick Wolfley as participants.
Outside of Stills, Ford-Wheaton and James, WVU defenders Jasir Cox, Exree Loe and Wesley McCormick joined tight end Brian Polenedy and kicking specialist Parker Grothaus as participants.
Cox ran a 4.59 40 with 20 reps on the bench press and a vertical jump of 39, while Loe was clocked at 4.71 on the bench.
McCormick, a 200-pound defensive back, had a 4.57 40 and equaled the 39-inch vertical Cox had.
Polendey, primarily a blocking tight end throughout his college career, joined Ford-Wheaton, James and Wolfley in pass-catching drills.
Wolfley began his college football career with a brief stint at WVU and then transferred to Akron before winding up at Division II West Florida to conclude it.
They were thrown to by Doege, who played two years at Bowling Green, three at WVU in what were head coach Neal Brown’s first three seasons in Morgantown and then most recently one at Troy after originally moving on to Western Kentucky but transferring again in the fall.
“It’s good to throw to Bryce and Sam again. It’s good to be back,” Doege said. “I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place and I’m grateful that I got to do this pro day.”
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— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In living out a dream she shared with her father, Kim Stephens was introduced Monday afternoon as the new Marshall women’s basketball coach inside the Cam Henderson Center just hours after the school made official Stephens’ hiring.
Stephens led her alma mater, Glenville State for the last seven seasons and guided the Pioneers to the NCAA Division II final four last week one season after Glenville won the National Championship.
Now she gets to work in Huntington under a seven-year contract — something Stephens had aspired to do having grown up in Parkersburg, played for her late father Scott Stephens at Parkersburg South High School and then continued her career on the hardwood in college at Glenville State.
“I used to come home from practice and I’d see how hard he was working, watching film,” Stephens said. “I just want to live up to his legacy and honor it.”
Stephens compiled a 191-24 record at Glenville that included victories in 68 of 72 games over the last two seasons. She believes she’s joining an athletic department on the rise at Marshall.
“Great things are happening here,” Stephens said. “You walk around this building and you see the changes that indicate things are headed in the right direction.
“I’m also excited by the talent on the roster and I’m excited to work with them.”
Stephens is replacing Tony Kemper, who resigned earlier this month to become head coach of the women’s basketball program at Central Arkansas. Kemper led the Thundering Herd to a 17-14 record in his sixth season as head coach at Marshall, which marked the Herd’s first season as a Sun Belt Conference member. Kemper finished his Marshall tenure at 79-90.
Despite losing more than 90 percent of the offensive production from its National Championship squad, the Pioneers recently wrapped up a 33-3 season in which they won the Mountain East Conference regular season and tournament championships and then four games in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to top seed and unbeaten Ashland.
Stephens was the recipient of the Pat Summitt Trophy following the 2021-22 season after being named as the WBCA NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year. She also earned the 2022 Mickey Furfari Award, which is given to West Virginia’s College Coach of the Year by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“I love Glenville — part of my heart will always be here,” Stephens said. I have had some of the best moments of my life there and have met the most wonderful people. I am so thankful to this community, our athletic department and loyal, yet, rowdy fans. Mostly, I want to thank every player who’s worn a Glenville jersey for me. Without you, I wouldn’t have this opportunity. Thank you for your hard work and your trust. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. And I want to thank the fans for filling the stands and making us feel special. I hope to keep making you proud in Huntington.”
“𝐖𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞.”
Meet Coach Stephens in the Hartley Room at the Cam Henderson Center today at 4 p.m.
Press Conference at 5 p.m. Link
: https://t.co/EgWtYGu0V4 pic.twitter.com/6acKDjGxo4
— Marshall Women’s Basketball (@HerdWBB) March 27, 2023
Stephens’ Glenville teams were known and praised for their aggressive style with a fast-paced attack that was predicated on pressure defense and utilizing the majority of her roster in games.
She hopes to continue that with the Thundering Herd.
“Coach Kemper didn’t leave the cupboard bare when he left,” Stephens said. “I’ve already talked with the current players and told them what I expect from them. I’ve been in their shoes since I played for three different coaches during my playing career at Glenville.”
She also played for her father Scott, who won three state championships at PSHS (2006, 2008 and 2013). Kim Stephens was a member of Scott’s first title-winning team. He later joined his daughter’s staff at Glenville after stepping down from his position with the Patriots. Scott Stephens passed away from an aggressive brain tumor in 2020.
The Pioneers now try to move forward following the departure of one of the more successful coaches in school history, whose success in Gilmer County won’t soon be forgotten.
“Coach Stephens has been an honor to work with,” Glenville State President Mark Manchin said. “She has brought a great deal of honor and prestige to our university. Our institution has a great relationship with Marshall, and we wish Kim the best with this move.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Senator Mike Stuart says he hopes Gov. Jim Justice looks favorably on a bill that includes a proposal to change required vehicle safety inspections in West Virginia from the current annual requirement to once every two years.
Stuart’s original bill, SB 254, passed the state Senate earlier in the 60-day session but was folded into another bill dealing with classic cars in the final hours of the session. The combined bill, HB 2310, is awaiting the governor’s decision.
Stuart, during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” said he hoped the bill would become law soon.
“We’re one of only 19 states that even has an annual vehicle inspection. A lot of people think this is ordinary across the country, it’s not at all,” Stuart, R-Kanawha, said. “There are 10 states that don’t have any inspection requirements and there are five states that it’s two years.”
Some other states require other kinds of inspections, such as emissions
Stuart said the bill doesn’t change anything having to do with the safety of a person’s vehicle.
“It still has to be in good working order every single day. It just makes it much more convenient for consumers,” Stuart said.
There is legislation waiting to be signed by Governor Justice regarding the renewal of the annual car inspection sticker. What should we know about this? @MikeStuartWV discusses this legislation with @DaveWilsonMN. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/mpWPiqRoKu
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) March 27, 2023
The annual price of an inspection plus the sticker is $14. The bill puts the price at $19 every two years.
Stuart said he doesn’t believe the change will hurt mechanics who do a lot of inspection work.
“The best thing we could do to build the business at local garages, local mechanics, would be to grow the economy. That would be to get government off the backs of people and this would be one of the bills that goes in that direction,” Stuart said.
The change in inspections, if approved, wouldn’t take place until 2024.
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(Neal Brown press conference – March 27)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU head coach Neal Brown opened the second week of official spring practices by welcoming back one of the program’s best quarterbacks to a full-time staff position. 2004 Big East Offensive Player of the Year Rasheed Marshall has been hired as the Director of Player Relations.
Marshall replaces Osman Kamara in that role, which serves as a liaison between players and university support staff.
“He has not only been a great player here, he has done really well professionally,” Brown said. “He’s from Pittsburgh and he has a great story. He wanted to be a part of the program and he loves West Virginia. He is really passionate about developing young people.”
Marshall was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Defense flips the script on Saturday
Four practices are scheduled for the Mountaineers this week after they held three workouts last week. According to Brown, the offense had an advantage in early-week practices but the defense had the upper hand in Saturday’s workout inside Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I thought the offense had a nice day on Tuesday and Thursday. And then on Saturday, I wasn’t very pleased with them. We just didn’t have the same urgency. We’ve got to be able to handle some success. I thought Tuesday and Thursday were clean from alignment and assignment. But also, we practiced with urgency and really good effort. I thought Saturday didn’t meet the standard. It wasn’t good enough,” Brown said.
“Defensively, I thought Saturday was our best day. I thought they were more confident. And it works out that way because you have pads on. You add the physicality aspect that you don’t have on Tuesday and Thursday.”
Carter fulfilling expectations for young group of receivers
After losing their four most productive receivers from the 2022 season, Brown is counting on younger wideouts to stake their claim for snaps this fall. North Carolina State graduate transfer Devin Carter is drawing early praise from Brown not only for his on-field output but for leading the group as well.
“We brought Devin in because we thought he could be a front line guy and be a one. Through three practices, that has only been the truth. He has delivered. He has made some big time plays.”
Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray are high-profile freshmen who will join the team early in the summer. In the meantime, Brown is hoping that returners Cortez Braham and Jeremiah Aaron can assert themselves.
“There’s pressure in Cortez and Jeremiah. I think both of those guys this spring have to make a move. We talk about pressure being a privilege because we need them. There have been some flashes. They have to be more consistent.”
Donaldson getting back up to speed
After rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown in his collegiate debut, CJ Donaldson was limited to seven games last fall due to injury. Donaldson is getting extensive reps in spring drills as he continues to recover from the season-ending lower leg injury suffered in the TCU game.
“He needs it. He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience. He had some flashes last year. We’ve got to get him where he’s got to able to play where he’s got to be durable. He needs reps at running back just because he doesn’t have a whole lot. How much live tackling is to be determined. But he has practiced and practiced the whole time those three days.”
Yates now center of attention on offensive line
Redshirt junior Brandon Yates played in all twelve games at right tackle last season, sharing snaps with Ja’Quay Hubbard. This spring, Yates has shifted to center. That’s a spot occupied by All-American and three-year starter Zach Frazier. Frazier is limited in spring practice, giving Yates an opportunity to step inside.
“He is growing. He has done well. He has some natural ability there. His snaps are a little off some and you have seen that just because he hasn’t done it. But he is a more natural inside player. He has a great attitude about it too.”
NFL scouts assemble for Pro Day
According to Brown, 28 of 32 NFL teams were scheduled to be represented at WVU’s annual Pro Day workouts inside the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. Bryce Ford-Wheaton turned in an impressive performance at the NFL Combine last month. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, one of the top times for receivers.
“His measurables are off the charts. His numbers at the combine, I think they speak for themselves. You have seen some things that have come out historically for what receivers’ numbers are that are guys his size and who he compares to, he is in rare air with that.”
Brown believes that wideout Sam James is worthy of more attention than he is currently receiving in the pre-draft process.
“Sam James is a guy that I think is maybe slept on a little bit. He is going to test out really well today. His biggest issue has been his weight. I think the guys are going to be pleased with how he weighs in today.
“He has been productive on film. And he has an elite trait, and it shows on tape, that he can cover punts. He has done that as well as anyone in the country over the last three years. That’s something the professional guys really pay attention to.”
Dante Stills joined Ford-Wheaton at the NFL Combine. Brown believes Stills can bring added value to an NFL team because of his ability to slot in at multiple spots on the defensive line.
“Dante’s got versatility. You could make an argument that he could fit into a four-down front or a three-down front. That’s where sometimes some of the D-linemen can get pigeonholed because they can only do what is expected out of a three-down or a four-down. He has the versatility to be both.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Greenbrier County family is celebrating a major win on ABC’s popular show, America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Madison Boswell of Ronceverte brought some laughs on Sunday night’s latest episode of AFV, as she tricks dad, Joey Boswell in the “Daddy Daughter Diesel Prank.”
The West Virginia family got the chance to air the video in Episode 15 of season 33 of the channel’s longest running primetime entertainment show.
The video, which was taken around Christmas time, features Madison in the car as she talks to her dad on the phone about using the new “Christmas edition gas” with the green nozel. Her dad, Joey, clearly shocked, replies with “that’s diesal,” and further goes on to ask her why she would put $7 per gallon of gas in her car.
The family gathered to react to the video on the lastest episode.
Upon the host of AFV, Alfonso Ribeiro asking Joey what he did when he found out it was a prank, Boswell replied with, “I didn’t speak with her for a few hours.”
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WEST MILFORD, W.Va. — A man was treated for smoke inhalation following a fire Monday afternoon in Harrison County.
Firefighters were called to a burning residence on Laurel Park Road around noon where a man was able to escape before emergency crews arrived.
Firefighters from West Milford, Nutter Fort, Mount Clare and Spelter responded.
The West Milford Fire Department has not yet determined the cause of the blaze.
The condition of the male victim is not known.
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