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MetroNews This Morning 5-30-23

Today on MetroNews This Morning:

–Heavy rain caused flash flooding on Memorial Day in Bluefield

–A shooting in Grafton is under investigation

–Title IX changes are necessary for Mingo County Schools

–In Sports, the Mountaineers open play in the NCAA baseball tourney on Friday in Lexington, Ky.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 5-30-23” on Spreaker.


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Westover to use unclaimed property auction revenue to add rolling stock

WESTOVER, W.Va. — The Westover Police Department has earned more than $6,500 in an unclaimed property firearms auction run by West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore.

The auction is held in Charleston and is only open to Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders.

“It’s an honor to conduct our annual unclaimed property firearms auction to raise money for the brave men and women across West Virginia who risk their lives to keep our communities safe,” Treasurer Moore said. “This year’s auction raised a record amount of funds that police departments can use to invest in new equipment, facilities, and training programs they need to protect and serve our citizens.”

Westover Police Chief Joe Adams said the exact amount raised was $6,615.

“They sell the guns for the law enforcement agencies, and they take 10% of the proceeds of the sale and give the agency 90%,” Adams said.

The guns in the auction accumulate over time from cases investigated by the department. Some of the owners elect not to take the guns back due to the circumstances, and other guns are found or confiscated through law enforcement action.

“Sometimes people find guns in parking lots, and other ones we took on a search warrant, maybe a drug search warrant,” Adams said.

The Ford Motor Company supplies nearly two-thirds of police cruisers nationwide, but those numbers decreased sharply in 2020 as the movement to defund the police grew. Adams said the two cruisers approved to be purchased by the council could not be purchased because orders were not being filled.

The car for Westover was purchased in Pennsylvania with some minor damage but will be repaired, configured, and pressed into service.

“We’ll use the money to equip that car with the lights, sirens, control panel, police radio, radar, and all of that,” Adams said.

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Dairy Winkle still a couple of months from reopening

CAMPBELLS CREEK — The owner of a popular eastern Kanawha County restaurant which burned down earlier this year is on the road to recovery. Paco Ellison said they are slowly making progress on rebuilding the Dairy Winkle on Campbell’s Creek after a fire destroyed the place January 11th.

“We’re taking baby steps every day, but we’re moving forward every day,” said Ellison.

According to the owner they’ve rewired the entire building, installed new heating and cooling equipment, plumbing has been refurbished and soon they’ll rough it all in with the drywall work. They’ll also be installing equipment and painting the place in the coming days.

Ellison vowed to rebuild the day the accidental fire destroyed the restaurant which is a gathering spot for many in the community. He’s had a lot of help along the way and has tried to mind his finances by doing most of the work himself or with anyone willing to help out.

“Had I brought in a team of contractors I could have been done by now, but most of the work has been done by myself and volunteers. I can’t say enough about people who continue to give me stuff and help me out,” he explained.

Ellison anticipated the rebuilding work should be done and the restaurant ready to reopen by late July. However, he said he’s also hoping he’ll be able to find a new staff.

“I think three is all I’m going to have returning and they are all itching to come back, but I’m going to need another dozen because I’m wanting to open for breakfast,” he said.

However, he noted everybody is looking for help and wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to build a new staff for the popular eatery.

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Yes, Opposing Sides Can Make a Deal

The debt ceiling deal reached between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy represents—wait for it—a compromise.

Unfortunately, that has become a dirty word in Washington, and in politics in general, because our politics have devolved into a winner-take-all showdown. If you are not winning, you are losing to an evil opponent.

We are already hearing carping from the extremes in both parties. These are not serious people. They are ideologues who fail to grasp the simple concept that in a divided government, compromise is essential to getting anything done.

As with any compromise, each side had to give up something, but they also got something. Biden gets to avoid another debt ceiling deadline until after the next presidential campaign and point out that essential government services are protected. McCarthy and Republicans can argue they made progress toward a more fiscally responsible government by essentially holding government spending in most agencies at the same level for the next two years.

What other reasonable option was there?

Holding out for an all-or-nothing deal would have triggered a devastating default and a host of financial consequences. The biggest would have been undermining the critical global confidence in the full faith and credit of the United States.

A default would have thrown both parties into overdrive blaming the other side. Our already hyper-partisan politics would have gotten even worse. Furiously fiddling while Rome burned would only serve to ignite the passions of voters, who would see interest rates rise and the value of their retirement accounts fall.

So Biden, McCarthy and others directly involved in the discussions deserve credit for not letting that happen. Yes, I know the Republicans blame Biden for not coming to the negotiating table sooner and Democrats charge House Republicans were holding the country hostage, but who doesn’t enter high level negotiations without tactics?

Remarkably, the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline worked its way into the debt ceiling talks. As our Brad McElhinny reported, the deal “includes provisions to speed the remaining permitting for the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

That is a political victory for Senator Joe Manchin, who has been trying desperately to clear the regulatory and court hurdles for the 303-mile natural gas pipeline connecting northern West Virginia with Virginia.

But back to the debt limit.

The critics of the deal are going to get a lot of airtime and ink over the next couple of days, but the question they must answer is, “What was their alternative?” The deadline for a default was looming and suggesting that their side should have held out “for a better deal” is a weak generalization.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “’Compromise’ is so often used in a bad sense that it is difficult to remember that, properly, it merely describes the process of reaching agreement.” That is what the debt ceiling negotiators did, and that is how a divided government is supposed to work.




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W.Va. native Phillip Bowen to play America’s Got Talent

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia native has been growing his brand in music,  but Phil Bowen, a native of Montgomery, will get a chance to showcase his talent for the entire world this week. Bowen will appear on the season premier of America’s Got Talent on NBC Tuesday night.

“I went out to Pasadena, California a few months back and did the whole audition process. It was a ton of fun and crazy to see a production of that size and scale. I did what I did, but I wasn’t expecting to get a call that I was going to be on the premier so that was cool,” Bowen told MetroNews.

Due to non-disclosure agreements, Bowen was very limited in what he could say about his performance ahead of the airing. He couldn’t even reveal what songs he played, but said he was satisfied he did all he could to impress the judges.

“I wanted to try and do the best job I could do and give them something memorable they hadn’t heard before. I feel like I did that so we’ll see how it all goes,” he explained.

Bowen has a growing following on social media. He has carved a niche by putting the mountain fiddle into various well known tunes, like “Country Roads” or even some places where it would be less expected like “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

But he’s starting to find his own niche. His first album, “Old Kanawha” will come out August 18th. Already some of the singles on the album are circulating including the first tune, “Sweet Honey.” The title track, “Old Kanawha” will feature a collaboration with Morgantown’s Charles Wesley Godwin. Bowen came up with the ballad while stuck inside during the pandemic in 2020. The AGT appearance will definitely expose him to a much larger audience just ahead of the album released.

Bowen said he walked into the production with all of his fellow competitors and got some strange looks when he opened up his 100 year old fiddle case. However, he said those looks were exactly what he wanted.

“I think that’s what I wanted to bring to the table when I walked out on the stage with that and hopefully give them something unexpected,” he said.

Although there were definitely some nerves early, Bowen said everything became calm when he started the music.

America’s Got Talent will debut Tuesday night on NBC at 8 p.m.


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Trial to start in Bluefield Tuesday following 2022 murder of 13 year old girl

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — A Bluefield woman is set to go on trial after previously pleading guilty to murder charges in connection with a March 2022 shooting death of a 13 year old girl.

Nichole Brooks, 44, will appear before a jury in Mercer County Circuit Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The 13 year old girl was hit by a single bullet that came from a vehicle driven by Brooks’ daughter Isis Wallace, 23, while Brooks was in the car with her on March 23, 2022. It happened at the intersection of Cumberland Road and U.S. Route 460 in Bluefield.

The girl that was hit by the bullet and was driven to Princeton Community Hospital, then transferred to a Charleston hospital where she later died.

Brooks faces charges of first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, wanton endangerment and conspiracy to commit murder. She’s being held without bond at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.

Wallace, who previously pleaded guilty to second degree murder and two other charges, is being held at the same jail until she is sentenced on June 2. Wallace faces 50 years in prison, if convicted.

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County commissions protest rate increase proposals by water and power companies

Local governments are protesting rate increase proposals by two big utilities, Appalachian Power and West Virginia American Water.

“With a median household income $8,000 less than the average for our state median household income, Fayette County residents simply cannot absorb any additional financial burden,” Fayette County commissioners wrote in a letter that cited the combined financial effects of both rate increase proposals.

The potential rate increases for water and power, which will be considered separately, were announced within days of each other. Customers would receive bigger bills in their mail across a swath of overlapping service territory.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has set a series of public hearings in the rate case for two AEP subsidiaries, Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power: July 11 in Cabell County, July 12 in Mercer County, July 24 in Charleston and August 21 in Ohio County.

The power companies are asking for $641 million in recovery costs, although the company’s representatives are proposing some methods that could soften the blow for customers.

The big amount has piled up, consisting of an accumulated under-recovery balance of about $552.9 million plus increased projected costs of about $88.8 million for the forecast period of this coming Sept. 1 through August 31 , 2024.

A prudency review for the PSC concluded that the power companies own practices contributed to the financial pressures, saying they did not exercise good decision making “to fulfill ‘their obligation to serve their customers’ with economic, safe, resilient and reliable electricity based on the use of the coal plants as established by the Commission.”

In recent weeks, county governments have been submitting statements critical of the rate increase.

The Mercer County Commission wrote that it has already protested “a seemingly endless succession of rate increases for AEP as well as for other utilities.”

“When local news agencies reported on the rate increase AEP is seeking this year, the tone of desperation and futility spread throughout the county,” Mercer commissioners wrote, saying several people addressed the issue at a recent county meeting.

“We heard that their desperation extends beyond AEP’s proposed rate increase and extends to the increased price of fuel as well as the cost of food at the grocery store.”

Some of the same county governments have written to express concern about proposed water rate increases.

At the beginning of this month, West Virginia American Water requested an increase of $41.1 million, prompted by millions of dollars in costs to invest in the system. The company says that would result in a monthly water bill increase of about $15 for the average residential customer using 3,000 gallons per month.

The Mercer County Commission wrote that citizens have expressed opposition to that proposal too.

“The citizens of Mercer County expressed their appreciation for the reliability of West Virginia American’s service and the quality of water we enjoy, but the dramatic increases in all goods and services place our citizens on fixed incomes in a bind,” commissioners wrote. 

Similarly, the Fayette County Commission wrote that water bills seem to go up and up and up. The Fayette letter noted that the $15 estimated increase for monthly water bills could be combined with an additional $19 for wastewater charges.

“Fayette County residents simply cannot afford to pay an additional $30 or more each month for a necessary utility, especially considering Appalachian Power and Mountaineer Gas are already requesting more from our already financially beleaguered population,” wrote Fayette commissioners. “It’s prohibitive.”

The Cabell County Commission also blasted the water rate increase.

“The proposed rate increase has no boundaries and will afflict every socioeconomic class, causing the most damage to the low and very low-income families,” Cabell commissioners wrote. 

“West Virginia American Water fails to be conscious of the detriment this rate will cause in our communities. These companies should reflect on best practices to best serve our community and not subject families to instantaneous rate increases without hearing from the public. Families and businesses deserve answers regarding rate hikes.”

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10th annual flag retirement ceremony held on Memorial Day

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — In a respectful way to get rid of old, worn out flags, community members gathered in Institute for an annual Memorial Day ceremony.

The Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery was again the meeting grounds for the 10th annual flag retirement ceremony, where hundreds of military, state, and American flags are burned in a manner of honor and dignity.

President of the Donel C. Kinnard Honor Guard, Donald Ryan said that the flags brought in have seen various U.S. conflicts and were carried by those who have fought and died for the country, and this is a way to honor them.

“First of all, our group, we honor veterans who have given the final, their lives, whether it be during active duty or at retirement,” he said.

Ryan went onto say that the flags represent what the veterans stand for.

“This flag is what they fought for and what they died for, and we do our best to honor them,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the flags are brought in by community members throughout the year, whether to the cemetery’s honor guard or various VFWs around the area.

Cemetery Director, Jamie Cochran, who introduced the flag ceremony Monday, said Memorial Day is a good day to retire these flags to as a display of the honor they leave behind.

“As a symbol of our freedom in this country, it is important to properly retire flags out of respect for what they mean to all Americans,” said Cochran.

People gave their flags over to members of the honor guard, who then placed them onto the flame one by one, saluting as they did so.

Ryan said they expected to be conducting the flag retirement all day Monday and still will not have burned all of the flags they’ve received.

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West Virginia Virtual Academy, Pierpont Community and Technical College to launch statewide dual credit program

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A signing ceremony will be held Tuesday regarding a new partnership that will bring educational opportunities to learners in every area of the state.

The West Virginia Virtual Academy (WVVA) and Pierpont Community and Technical College (Pierpont) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont.

The signing will enable WVVA students to take dual credit classes through Pierpont and potentially earn an associate degree, certificate, or college credit toward a degree by the time they graduate high school.

Doug Cipoletti

“The first step is to officially sign a MoU so we can really dig in and really create what the process will be,” WVVA Executive Director Doug Cipoletti said. “Who can attend, what are the requirements, and what are the classes?”

During a recent school choice fair in Morgantown hosted by the Cardinal Institute, Dr. Joni M. Gray, transitional educational specialist at Pierpont, connected with representatives from WVVA. Quickly, Cipoletti and Gray learned they both wanted to find a way for secondary schoolers to earn postsecondary educational credits before they leave high school.

“The idea is one walk, two degrees; that’s the terminology from Pierpont Community and Technical College,” Cipoletti said. “This is their vision, and we want our students to have the opportunity to partake in that.”

Despite the success of the governor’s Nursing Workforce Expansion program, staffing problems in hospitals and clinics across the state persist. Pierpont currently offers several opportunities to earn a certification or credentials in programs like Licensed Practical Nurse, Respiratory, Lab, Emergency Medical Service, and Radiological.

“We want to focus on health care,” Cipoletti said. “The health care industry has many needs, and we’re hopeful we can provide them with credentials that would allow them to get employed and do very well for themselves as soon as they graduate.”

One detail to be ironed out when the MoU is signed is the cost of the program. Cipoletti expects there to be some costs for lab and hands-on instruction, but the goal is to cut costs as much as possible.

“The goal is to provide those courses to them at little or no cost,” Cipoletti said. “We’re still working through those things. Fees and lab fees definitely come into play.”

Cipoletti believes this exposure to post-secondary education will help students develop soft skills that will benefit them in college or in the workplace. There is no data, but Cipoletti also believes this can only help the falling numbers of high school seniors electing to go to college.

“We’re going to be able to provide a foundation that this is the caliber of work you need to do to be successful in college,” Cipoletti said. “Because a lot of colleges have kids come in that are inefficient and not ready for college.”

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Victim, alleged shooter, being treated following Grafton shooting

GRAFTON, W.Va. — Authorities said two people were injured including the alleged shooter in an incident Memorial Day afternoon in Grafton.

Police said one person was shot near the Walmart at just before 2 p.m. The alleged shooter then fled to Marion County and shot himself. Both the victim and suspect were hospitalized.

The names of those involved were not immediately released.

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