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Reworked Independence Day celebration planned in Ripley

RIPLEY, W.Va. — The 4th of July will again be marked in Ripley with what’s billed as “America’s Largest Small-Town Independence Day Celebration” even in the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Carolyn Rader

“This year, crazy as it is, is the 150th anniversary,” said Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader.

In many ways, 2020’s events won’t be like those of past years.

“It’s going to be so different and I just keep saying over and over, ‘Oh my gosh, please be patient with us,’ because we’ve never done this before.”

To start, Ripley’s activities have been scaled back from six days to two.

On Saturday, the traditional Independence Day Parade will step off at 12 p.m. on South Church Street near Ripley High School with fewer participants, down by about 50 units from 2019.

In this time of COVID-19, social distancing will be used with designated family viewing areas spaced out every six feet along the parade route in the 17,000 available feet of public viewing space.

The marking off of those spaces took two days, Rader said.

“If there is an ‘x’ on your spot, don’t stand there. You’re too close,” she advised. “We’ve left plenty of room for families with several chairs where they can sit and watch the parade.”

Safety stations have also been stocked with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.

Mask usage was recommended, but not required.

Concerts were converted to drive-in shows with designated parking routes.

The new location was the plaza parking lot along Academy Drive.

“Whether it’s real hot, they can have air conditioning. If it’s raining, they can jump in their cars. So, really, it’s the best of both worlds,” Rader said.

On Friday night, two shows are planned with U.S. Kids from Cleveland, Oh. at 6 p.m. and Rick K and the Allnighters at 8 p.m.

The lineup for Saturday included Rimshot at 4 p.m., Ultra Sound at 6 p.m. and then Adam D. Tucker’s Vegas Tim McGraw Tribute at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks.

“We’ve got signs up all over town that say, ‘Please respect others and stay safe,’ as gentle reminders that we can show people how we can, hopefully, make it work and be safe about it,” Mayor Rader said.

Fairs and festivals operating under state guidelines written to try to limit coronavirus spread were allowed again in West Virginia beginning at the start of July.

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AAA predicting fewer longer road trips for the 4th

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The price for a gallon of gas in West Virginia continues to inch up in West Virginia after a deep dive during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average price of a gallon of gas across Northern West Virginia is eight cents higher this week at $2.25 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report.

Jim Garrity

“We’ve kinda gotten used to these cheaper gas prices,” Jim Garrity, AAA public and legislative affairs manager said. “We’re starting to see them sort of go in the upward direction because we’re seeing demand increase.”

Garrity said even with the increase, we’re paying about 50-cents less a gallon than we were at this time last year.

The July 4th holiday can be a busy one for longer trips but maybe not this year, according to Garrity.

“I think for the average West Virginian, you could take however crowded this time of the year last year and just subtract about 15 percent of the cars and that’s what you could expect,” Garrity said.

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states reported increases ranging from 4 to 9 cents. West Virginia up 9 cents, North Carolina up 8 cents and Pennsylvania up 7 cents had the biggest increases in the region on this week’s top 10 largest weekly increases list. All other states saw prices fluctuate between four and eight cents, except for New York up 2 cents.

Most states in the region saw smaller increases at the pump likely due to the large increase in gasoline stockpiles, which added 1.3 million barrels, according to Energy Information Administration data.

This week’s average prices: Northern WV Average $2.255
Average price during the week of June 22, 2020 $2.172
Average price during the week of July 1, 2019 $2.632

The following is a list of the average prices in several West Virginia locations:

$2.299 Bridgeport
$2.273 Clarksburg
$2.259 Huntington
$2.293 Martinsburg
$2.298 Morgantown
$2.236 Parkersburg
$2.221 Weirton
$2.163 Wheeling

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11-year-old Carson Higginbotham dominating junior tours in WV

(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with Carson Higginbotham)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Clarksburg native Carson Higginbotham has been playing competitive golf for over half of his lifetime. That is an accomplishment by itself since the sixth grader has been involved in tournament golf since he was five years old.

Higginbotham has quickly built a resume as one of the top junior golfers in West Virginia. He has competed in five Callaway Junior Tour events this summer, winning them all with an average of margin of victory of almost eight strokes. Higginbotham also won ‘U.S. Kids Golf’ tour events at Sunbury, Ohio, Sugarwood C.C. and Edgewood C.C. in June.

On Wednesday, Higginbotham won the 12-and-under division at the WVGA Junior Amateur Championship at Glade Springs Resort.

“The course was very, very nice,” Higginbotham said. “And the pins were very tough over the two days.”

Higginbotham finished the 36-hole event at 5-over-par, 10 shots better than his closest competitor. When a scoring opportunity presents itself, Carson has some extra motivation to roll in a putt.

“I was trying to make a lot of birdies. My mom gives me twenty dollars for every birdie. So I was trying to take a bunch of her money.”

Higginbotham has impressive distance off the tee for a player of his age. He consistently averages 200-220 yards with his drive. But that is not necessarily the focus of his game.

“My strength is my short game. I can get it up and down if I miss the green.

“I focus on just hitting greens and making putts.”

Higginbotham will shoot for his sixth Callaway Junior Tour victory of the season Thursday at Pipestem Resort.

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MetroNews This Morning 7-2-20

A clerical error causes a Constitutional violation by the Justice Administration. Governor Justice wants to use part of the pandemic money for road work–a plan which is drawing fire. Covid 19 concerns abound with the 4th of July weekend about to happen. Debate and actions continue in West Virginia and around the nation on statutes which honor the Confederacy. In Sports, Wheeling native Michael Grove reports for spring training with the Dodgers. Those stories and more in today’s edition of MetroNews This Morning.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 7-2-20” on Spreaker.

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Four-year starter Brian King had a knack for the big play

(‘3 Guys Before the Game’ podcast with Brian King)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Take a look at the West Virginia career defensive leaders and you will find Brian King at the top of the list in pass breakups by a wide margin. He leads the way with 54 and owns the single-season record with 21 in his senior season of 2003.

“That’s just because I couldn’t catch,” King said. “If I caught a couple of those, I would have had some pick-sixes like my boy Pacman (Jones).”

All joking aside, King’s hands secured one of the biggest victories of the Rich Rodriguez era at WVU in 2002. King intercepted a Bryan Randall pass in the end zone with twelve seconds remaining as the Mountaineers upset No. 12 Virginia Tech 21-18 at Lane Stadium. The Hokies drove into the red zone and were well within field goal range to potentially tie the game.

“Later in my career, I could get away with things that I never would have thought to do early in my career. It was to leave a little cushion for the receiver, let the quarterback think there is a window there when there’s not. Most notably, that interception to end the Virginia Tech game, that’s exactly what I did. I fell back a little bit on the receiver I was covering, and let him think he could squeeze it in there. I stepped in front, took a knee and what a special memory that was.”

King arrived in Morgantown in the fall of 1999 as most true freshmen do, not physically ready to handle the demands of top-level Division I football.

“I was the definition of a guy who needed to redshirt. I needed to lift weights. I needed to get stronger. On top of that, I am a very cerebral-type player. It took that first year to watch and learn what it meant to be a Division I college football player. I can’t tell you all the little tricks and tips I picked up just from watching the starters doing one-on-one’s in practice.”

King didn’t have to wait very long to take a spot the Mountaineer secondary. He stepped right into the starting lineup in the 2000 season, collecting 42 tackles and ten pass breakups. He would go on to play in 44 games at various positions throughout the defensive backfield.

“I feel blessed to have gone to West Virginia and played so early. A guy coming out of high school who wasn’t super-highly recruited, it was just a blessing to go to West Virginia the way things worked out. To be able to start as a freshman in 2000, it was a tremendous opportunity.”

King’s career spanned the end of the Don Nehlen era and the launch of the Rich Rodriguez seven-year run. In 2002 and 2003, the Mountaineers went 17-9.

“I am really proud of those years because that pretty much laid the foundation of the team’s success between the 2004 and 2007 seasons long after I was gone.”

King was lightly recruited out of Damascus High School in Maryland despite a highly productive career as a receiver and defensive back. King’s father, Steve, took an active role in Brian’s recruiting process.

“It was my dad in the stands, filming all the games. When it came to the highlight tapes and addresses to all the schools I thought I might have a chance to play at, it was my dad firing out all that film to those schools. He was trying to see if we could get some interest.

“It was uncomfortable for me midway through high school because my dad believed in me before I believed in myself. It was to the point where I felt uncomfortable at times. Now that I am a father myself with two young boys, I see that love now that my dad had back then and the belief he had in me that I could play big-time college football.”

Steve King passed away just over a year ago, making it difficult for Brian to relive many of his glory days at WVU because of everything his father meant to make those moments happen.

“My dad is the reason I ended up in Morgantown. I lost my dad thirteen months ago and I think that I struggled with the idea of just stirring up all those old feelings from 1998-2003 and my senior year at West Virginia. So many memorable and positive experiences and they all revolve around my dad being right there.

“They were the best five years in my families’ life. And my wife jokes and says, ‘Hey, wait a minute’. In terms of football and where I kind of feel like I established myself, it was that.”

After wrapping up his playing days at WVU, King returned to the D.C. metroplex where he works in commercial real estate.

“I recently purchased a four-unit building in Washington D.C. I am dipping my toes into what it feels like to be an investor. And I am enjoying that very much.”

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The Delusional Defunders

New York City is the latest municipality to join the “defund the police” movement. This week Mayor Bill de Blasio and city council agreed to a spending plan that reallocates approximately $1 billion from the police department to other spending.  That is one-sixth of the entire police budget.

Even that is not enough for Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who accused de Blasio of playing a shell game with the finances to minimize the impact on the police department.  “Defunding the police means defunding the police,” she said.

The budget reduction may placate other defunders, but it comes at a bad time for those who still believe that the police are vital for protecting citizens from crime. The New York Times reports that in June the city had more gun violence than any month since 1996.

New York Councilman I. Daneek Miller, opposed the defund budget. “Black folks want to be safe like everyone else, we just want to be respected.”

The Times also reported that, “Nationally homicide rates are already rising in 64 large American cities for the first three months of 2020.”  Last weekend in Chicago, 63 people were shot, 16 of them fatally.  Three of the victims were children.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is black, says defunding ignores the practicalities. “In our police department, about 90 percent of the budget is personnel,” she told New York Times Magazine.  “When you talk about defunding, you’re talking about getting rid of police officers.”

Because of seniority rules, that means younger officers, who are more often people of color, would be the first to go.  “You’re eliminating middle-class incomes for black and brown folks.  Nobody talks about that in the discussion to defund the police,” she said.

Defunders sometimes use the dismantling of the Camden, New Jersey police department in their argument, but they tell only half the story. Yes, Camden did abolish its police department in 2013. It was ineffective and riddled with corruption; meanwhile crime was rampant.

However, the city then replaced the incompetent agency with a new county police force that was better trained in how to de-escalate. The city threw out the restrictive police union contract and forced officers to reapply.  The move has not been a panacea, but crime is down significantly.

Reasonable voices in the defund movement have a point about the need for more social service workers who can be summoned when necessary rather than always calling the police.  Brookings Institute reports police data show “nine out of ten calls for service are for nonviolent offenders.”

The National Institutes of Health reports in a 2016 study that 63 percent of senior law enforcement officers surveyed say the amount of time their department spends on calls involving mental illness has increased during their tenure.

Calls for mental illness, homelessness and drug overdoses are what is sometimes called the “gray zone,” cases where the police often do not have the expertise or the resources to deal with a problem, but they are the ones who must respond.

People who really want reform of the police in their communities should drop the “defund the police” slogan. It may slip easily off the tongue during a demonstration or fit the agenda of those who prefer chaos to order, but when taken literally—and how else can we take it—it is a pathetic response to a serious problem.

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Coronavirus cases jump by 74 between Tuesday and Wednesday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in West Virginia increased by 74 between Tuesday and Wednesday evenings according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The department reported Wednesday evening 2,979 total positive cases throughout the pandemic and 93 deaths. The last recorded death in West Virginia related to the pandemic was announced by state health officials on June 27.

The department reports 564 active cases.

Officials also updated the confirmed cases and probable cases in each county: Barbour (15/0), Berkeley (442/18), Boone (21/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (8/1), Cabell (126/4), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (10/0), Fayette (66/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (59/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (20/3), Hardy (43/1), Harrison (65/0), Jackson (143/0), Jefferson (227/5), Kanawha (319/9), Lewis (18/1), Lincoln (8/0), Logan (24/0), Marion (58/3), Marshall (40/1), Mason (19/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (44/0), Mineral (55/2), Mingo (20/3), Monongalia (166/14), Monroe (11/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (10/1), Ohio (95/1), Pendleton (12/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (24/1), Preston (64/15), Putnam (57/1), Raleigh (52/1), Randolph (161/1), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (15/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (4/0), Upshur (20/1), Wayne (111/1), Wetzel (10/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (79/8) and Wyoming (7/0).

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Justice stands by using coronavirus funding for road projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday defended his proposal to spend federal coronavirus relief funding after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized the proposal for dedicated highways spending.

Justice unveiled the plan for spending more than $1.2 billion from the federal government last week. The proposal includes providing municipalities with $200 million, small businesses with $150 million and WorkForce West Virginia with $687 million.

There is also $100 million for “COVID-19 related highway projects.” Justice said Friday state officials have classified highway work as coronavirus related.

Manchin during a Fox News appearance Tuesday questioned Justice’s priorities for the funding.

“I don’t know of a pothole that has had the COVID virus. I haven’t found one yet,” the senator told host Neil Cavuto.

Justice said at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing state officials saw there was going to be an excess of federal dollars.

“We went and got every legal opinion that you could get, and gave them all of the information from the Highway Department on roads that were absolutely going to be vetted through the EMS in all kinds of situations to be able to qualify,” he said. “Our expert opinions and our legal opinions said absolutely these roads qualify.”

Justice added the state should use the leftover federal funding for benefitting the state.

“These roads didn’t get in this shape on my watch. These roads got in this kind of shape simply because we went decades and neglected our roads and pulled money away from the maintenance of our roads in every way,” he said.

State lawmakers have questioned who has oversight of the federal funding and the state Legislature’s involvement allocating money.

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US Air Force veteran explains push to remove Charleston plaque

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A U.S. Air Force veteran said he pushed the city of Charleston to remove a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers for multiple reasons, including historical inaccuracies.

Calvin Grimm spoke on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” about why he asked Charleston city officials to remove the marker at Ruffner Memorial Park, noting the city should not honor individuals who represented the Confederacy.

“It’s un-American,” he said. “There is nothing about the Confederacy that should be represented on public grounds period.”

Crews on Monday removed the plaque dedicated to the Kanawha Riflemen, a militia chapter associated with the Confederate Army. The United Daughters of the Confederacy installed the plaque in 1922; Grimm said the dedication happened on the anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Grimm noted historical issues with the plaque; the militia group did not start in 1856 as listed, but rather 1859 following John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry aimed at starting a slave revolution.

“These men were all slaveholders in the Kanawha Valley,” he said of the militia members.

“Between them, they owned 237 slaves.”

Grimm also noted the use of a “colored cook, faithful during the war,” which Grimm took exception.

“That is a gross misrepresentation of what that man accomplished in life, and he was most likely conscripted,” he said. “This notion that he faithfully served during the war … that perpetuates to the narrative that slaves somehow enjoyed being enslaved, and that goes back to the underlying problems with all of this Confederate narrative.”

Grimm said the plaque could be placed in the West Virginia Culture Center although with notes about the historical errors. He added discussions about streets and monuments honoring Confederate leaders should happen.

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Justice, Salango to debate at least once

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Both major party candidates in this year’s gubernatorial contest have agreed to debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic candidate Ben Salango both announced Wednesday they have accepted invitations from the West Virginia Broadcasters Association for a debate in October.

Justice campaign manager Roman Stauffer said the governor is anticipating the opportunity.

“(Justice) believes a debate will be informative and provide an excellent forum for West Virginians to see the difference between his record of creating jobs, growing our economy, paving roads, fixing highways, leading us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and so much more versus liberal trial lawyer Ben Salango’s radical ideas that are bad for West Virginians,” Stauffer said.

Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner, used part of his statement to jab Justice, who has made frequent appearances at the state Capitol for coronavirus briefings. Public health officials have also appeared at the press conferences.

Reporters have attended briefings virtually with no opportunities to ask Justice follow-up questions.

“Unlike his daily campaign press conferences, Justice will be forced to actually answer questions,” he said.

Salango also announced he has accepted an invitation from Nexstar Media Group Inc. to another debate; Nexstar Media Group owns WOWK-TV in Charleston, WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, WVNS-TV in Beckley and WDVM-TV in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“Voters deserve an opportunity to compare and contrast the candidates. We plan to give them that opportunity,” Salango added.

Justice told MetroNews last month he would be willing to have “two constructive debates,” while Salango pushed for “as many as possible.”

During the 2018 midterm elections, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association hosted the only debate between U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican Party’s candidate for Senate.

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