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Monongalia County Commission uses new state law to reject additional health department regulations on medical marijuana

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Commission unanimously rejected additional regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries proposed by the Monongalia County Board of Health in a meeting held Wednesday in Morgantown.

Tom Bloom

All three commissioners acknowledged the complexity of the medical cannabis business, security, safety and legal issues addressed by the health board in their proposed regulations.

“This is a complicated issue, medical marijuana, but this issue to me is very clear,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said. “The proposed rules are beyond the lawful power and authority of the Mon County Board of Health.”

The board added requirements for two 24-hour security guards, indoor loading docks, an onsite medical professional and additional guidelines for distances from public buildings and other dispensaries. The added regulations were approved by the health board on May 27. It had a work session with county commissioners last week.

Sean Sikora

“I see that the regulations do have two fatal flaws that require me to vote to reject them,” Commission President Sean Sikora said. “Several of the proposed cannabis rules go beyond the statutory authority of the board of health and they also conflict with state rules and laws already in place that regulate the same activities.”

Commissioner Jeff Arnett said his objection strictly was based on conflict with state law.

The county commission rejected the additional regulations under a new state law that allows elected members of city councils and county commissions, other local governments more oversight over actions taken by local county health boards. At the time, lawmakers said the bill would allow more local input to potentially controversial issues.

The health board could decide to challenge the commission’s decision in court. The board is scheduled to meet July 29.

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Ravenswood student latest West Virginia Scholar

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Ravenswood High School rising senior Julia McCoy says she never thought she’d be the next winner of the West Virginia Scholar Program when she filled out the application earlier this year.

“I didn’t think I had a chance at all actually,” McCoy said Wednesday. “I was really doing it for the opportunity and the practice for college and other applications because I was only a junior. I was doing it for practice.”

McCoy becomes the 14th West Virginia Scholar, an annual program sponsored by MetroNews, West Virginia Wesleyan and a number of other partners.

McCoy said she was shocked when her name was called at a luncheon Wednesday on the WVWC campus. She now possesses a four-year scholarship to the Buckhannon-based school.

“It was just a sigh of relief that I could go here,” she told MetroNews. “I was just so excited. It’s just a sigh of relief, everything in my life now I can do it.”

The four-year scholarship pays for tuition, fees, room and board. McCoy will be a freshman in the fall of 2022.

She said she’s leaning toward a nursing major.

“I have a lot of opportunities I’m looking into. Anything in the medical field is really in my interest,” she said.

McCoy was chosen from among 15 finalists who had an average GPA of 3.9. There were originally 60 high school juniors who applied this year representing 28 counties.

WVWC President Dr. Joel Thierstein said West Virginia Scholar day is one of the best days of the year on campus. In the 13 previous years, a large majority of the finalists have decided to become students at Wesleyan.

McCoy said knowing that college is paid for will be a big relief as she begins her senior year at Ravenswood.

“It’s just amazing I won’t have to think about that and I can enjoy my senior year feeling so happy,” she said.

WVWC will also award $5,000 and $2,500 scholarships to Keely Gregory, of Bruceton Mills, and Danica Propst, of Martinsburg, as the first and second runner-up, respectively.

Other sponsors of the program include Friends of Coal, High Technology Foundation, Lou Wendell Marine Sales, West Virginia Farm Bureau, West Virginia Hospital Association and ZMM Architects & Engineers.

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Survey shows trout are still in the stream well after stocking

ELKINS, W.Va. — Chances are you’ve heard the claim all of the trout are “caught out” of a stream the weekend after it’s stocked. Heck, you may have said it yourself. But Jim Hedrick who runs the hatchery programs for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources takes exception to those claims.

He has for many years tried to explain that’s not the case, but his words seemed to fall on deaf ears. So in early June, right after the stocking schedule was over, he decided to prove his point.  Hedrick headed to a well known trout stream to show there were still trout present even if they weren’t visible and the stocking was over.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves. We picked Gandy Creek which is fished as hard as any stream in the state. People camp there and they fish it every day,” he explained on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.

Not only did he pick a heavily pressured stream, but he deliberately picked one with low flows and clear water. The conditions were ripe for a stream to be supposedly “picked clean.” He also sought to sample the most accessible parts of the stream right along the road where it was most likely to have fishing pressure.

Trout program leader Jim Hedrick suggests adjusting your fishing time and using more stealth will improve your chances to catch stocked trout late in the season.

Hedrick entered the water with his backpack electrofishing unit and started sending the electric currents under large rocks along the water’s edge out of the sunshine. He didn’t have to go far.

“We picked 500 yards of distance. When we would target around the big rocks, that’s where these fish were. I stopped counting. We caught well over 50 fish and I lost count,” he explained.

Anglers were nearby and watching. Some were amazed. Hedrick said the exercise offered some important observations. First, trout are wary critters and even if raised in a hatchery they quickly become feral after hitting a stream. They shy away from anything moving on the bank. It’s a threat.

“Anglers pull up and walk right down the bank when the water is clear and when they do, trout just tuck under those rocks and they’re not going to catch them,” Hedrick explained.

Another observation, stocked trout are like any other fish, there is a narrow window to catch them feeding.

“These are fish you have to catch right before dark and when the water is clear, you need to stay far upstream and cast down to them. You don’t have much fishing time between when they come out to feed and dark,” he explained.

Like any other fishing, early mornings and late evenings are the best time to target them with any great success.

“Low light and cooler temperatures will cause them to feed,” he explained. “The fish are still there, they’re just tough to catch. It’s not necessarily as much the bait you use as it is they don’t see you and you target their feeding times.”

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Blood drive in honor of Del. Walker’s son set for Thursday at state capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The recent death of the son of Del. Danielle Walker will be the focus of a Red Cross blood drive Thursday at the state capitol.

Demetry Walker Photo/Twitter

The drive is in honor of Demetry Walker who died this month of leukemia. He would have been 24 Thursday.

Del. Walker, D-Monongalia, lost her son on June 10.

“He was born a fighter and has blessed each of us with a little fight,” Walker said. “He studied, led and cared for so many beyond my grasp.”

The Red Cross will be set up right outside the House Chamber from 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday, the same day the legislature will be conducting a special session.

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said Demetry Walker was kept alive by blood transfusions and wanted to give back.

Danielle Walker

“I think one of his wishes was to pay back the Red Cross that was providing him with these blood transfusions that were keeping him alive during these couple of weeks,” Pushkin said Wednesday on 580 WCHS’s 580-Live show.

Pushkin said Walker wanted to give back five times of what he received.

“I think we can do it,” Pushkin said.

Demetry Walker had recently completed the adult learning LPN program at MTech. He was also helping organize a blood drive scheduled for July in Morgantown.

Appointments aren’t required for Thursday’s capitol blood drive but are encouraged. Schedule an appointment to give blood now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Amazon Alexa device.

Mike Pushkin

The Red Cross has been experiencing blood supply shortages across the region.

Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear a mask. Those are who are not fully vaccinated are required to mask up and practice social distancing.

Thursday’s special session is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

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Photo gallery: Ritchie County blanks Petersburg for spot in Class A final

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Chloe Elliott tossed a complete game shutout and drove in the game’s only run, allowing Ritchie County to defeat Petersburg 1-0 Wednesday in a Class A elimination game at Little Creek Park’s Craft Field.

The Rebels (23-6) will face Wahama in the Class A final, needing to beat the White Falcons twice before losing once.

The Vikings season came to an end at 22-7.

(Photos by Eddie Ferrari)

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Prep plant fire at Monongalia County coal operation

BLACKSVILLE , W.Va. — A fire Wednesday morning at a coal operation in Monongalia County is now under control.

The fire broke out  in the dryer and part of a belt line at the Blacksville #2 preparation plant. MetroNews has learned the blaze was quickly brought under control and nobody was injured.

State and federal mine safe investigators are at the scene to look into the cause of the blaze.

Earlier this month, American Consolidated Natural Resources which own the operation announced plans to close the operation permanently in September. The 120 employees received a WARN notice earlier this month. The company took over the operation after former owner Murray Energy went into bankruptcy.

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Shamblin, Buckner shine to help Huskies eliminate Sissonville

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Twenty-four hours after being put on the brink of elimination, Herbert Hoover earned an opportunity to play for the Class AA championship.

The three-time defending state champion Huskies scored early and often Wednesday in a 10-0 six-inning victory over Sissonville at Little Creek Park. The win allows Hoover (26-4) to face Oak Glen later Wednesday for the Class AA crown. The Huskies will need two wins over the Golden Bears before losing once.

“We still have a chance to win it,” Hoover coach Missy Smith said. “Originally, I said you can’t win it if if you’re not there. We got here and now that we’re still alive, we have a chance to win.”

Despite having beaten Hoover three times in as many matchups ahead of Wednesday, including in Tuesday’s state tournament opener, Sissonville saw its season end at 20-6.

Coming off a 3-2 eight-inning loss to Oak Glen on Tuesday night, Sissonville got off to a slow start and was its own worst enemy early on.

The Indians committed two errors in the first inning, while pitcher Madison Legg walked two batters and hit another as her team fell behind 3-0.

“In that first inning, we got a little rattled and had a few bobbled balls,” Sissonville coach Travis Hill said. “I won the coin flip and maybe I should have been the visitor and tried to take the tone of the game first. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas, wouldn’t we?”

Sydney Shamblin’s two-run single was the Huskies’ only hit of the first inning, but highlighted the three-run frame.

When the Indians came to bat, they started with consecutive singles against Grayson Buckner, but never got leadoff hitter Emma Meade to third base.

Legg held the Huskies scoreless in the second and third innings, before Hoover began to blow it open in the fourth thanks to RBI singles from Brooklyn Huffman and Cortney Fizer.

“The fact that they had the late game last night and (Legg) pitched fourteen innings yesterday, our game plan today was to make her throw pitches and hope that the longer she pitched, the more tired she would get,” Smith said. “It is hot and we thought if we made her throw pitches, she’d throw pitches we could get a hold of and that’s what happened.”

Huffman’s two-out, two-run triple in the fifth upped Hoover’s lead to 7-0.

“They outplayed us today and outhit us,” Hill said. “We’ve seen Grayson Buckner four times and they’ve seen Madison Legg four times. It is what it is.”

The Huskies added three more runs on four hits in the sixth to take a 10-run lead, with Shamblin providing a run-scoring single for her fourth hit of the contest. Shamblin, the Huskies’ No. 7 hitter, finished 4-for-4 with three runs driven in and two scored.

“She’s been big for us this whole postseason,” Smith said. “Against Lincoln in the regional and all through the sectional, she got big hits when we needed them. I like our lineup one through nine and it’s produced throughout the postseason. It puts pressure on the defense when they can’t relax when they see (hitters) seven, eight and nine.”

Huffman and Fizer added two hits apiece, while Huffman had three RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Buckner, meanwhile, allowed three hits among the first five hitters she faced, before retiring 13 straight. She finished with two strikeouts and four hits allowed over six scoreless innings.

“She was able to get ahead in the counts and use her off speed,” Smith said. “Her curve ball and change-up lay on a similar plane and they’re harder to time up, which allows those weak ground balls.”

Legg, who tossed 14 of the 15 innings Sissonville played Tuesday, was tagged for 10 runs on 12 hits in six innings.

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Stoffel K’s 9 as St. Albans downs Washington in Class AAA elimination game

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senior pitcher Kendall Stoffel tossed a three-hit shutout as St. Albans (32-2) advanced to the championship round of the Class AAA state tournament with a 5-0 win over Washington Wednesday morning. Stoffel struck out nine batters, walked just two and did not allow a runner past second base.

The Red Dragons broke a scoreless stalemate in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded, Sydney Young sent Taevyn Stephenson and Jillian Holley to the plate with a two-run single for all the scoring St. Albans would need. SAHS (32-2) added another run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth.

Maddy Ruffner went the distance in the circle for Washington (26-5). She allowed six hits and struck out nine batters.

Stephenson reached base in all three plate appearances for the Red Dragons.

St. Albans must defeat Cabell Midland twice in the championship round, which begins at 2:15 p.m., to claim the state title. The Knights defeated the Red Dragons 3-2 in the winners bracket final late Tuesday night.

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Greenbrier County community shares a common thread

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — When the waters of Howard’s Creek, Dry Fork, and several other smaller tributaries around Greenbrier County finally receded five years ago, the aftermath was haunting. Hundreds of people were out of a home and unsure where to turn.

Leaders in the community of White Sulphur Spring had serious concerns about the population of their town. There were no homes for people to come back to and fears they would relocate elsewhere. Local businessman Tom Crabtree saw the problem clearly and said the town, amid the aftermath needed something to create hope. He was the first to propose turning a piece of vacant city property on the edge of town into a new housing development.

A house in White Sulphur springs is damaged during the 2016 flood.

The development would include houses built by volunteer labor and would be available through application only for local flood victims in Greenbrier County who had lost their homes. Other rallied to his vision and the White Sulphur Springs city council agreed to the screening program and a loan program to sell the lots and homes for minimal cost to those who needed help getting back on their feet. It was called “Hope Village.”

Dorothy Braden was one of them.

“I filled out an application and that’s how I got it. It’s nice. It’s a three bedroom house, two baths, kitchen, dining room and it’s dry,” she laughed when asked about her home in a conversation with MetroNews.

She’s been in the house for right at five years. Her home in a nearby trailer court was lost along with almost all of her belongings in the flood. She and her family fled the rising water and wat on a hillside and watched the destruction unfold. She had to rent for nine months before her home was done, she was grateful.

Across the street from her Joshua Hayes was equally grateful. He lost his home that day in the same trailer court. He was the last applicant for one of the homes. Part of his was pre-fabricated by a church group in Ohio. He and his wife were able to watch progress as it went up.

“We kept coming back and looking at the progress. They’d written little notes of encouragement and support o n the inside of the walls,” he explained.

The notes were eventually covered with drywall, but for Hayes it was a nice touch and today, like his neighbors, he’s grateful.

“At first they weren’t going to offer to renters, but then they offered it to me and I took it and I like it. This is a nice little community,” he said.

George Vallandingham lives in another of the 38 new homes build in the flood’s aftermath in Hope Village. He remembered the day his family’s more than 100 year old home was lost. He couldn’t make it home, despite his best efforts. Along the way, he helped pull several people to safety while wading through the water. He remembered there were others he was unable to help.

“I lost it. I just started crying. As I walked back toward town, you could see the fires and hear people screaming and crying everywhere,” he explained.

Listen to “Chris Lawrence Hope Village” on Spreaker.

There was very little left of his family’s home, but his mother made application and was able to secure a spot at Hope Village. Vallandingham was pleased.

“I’m not going to lie, I wish this wasn’t the situation and we had the old house. But you have to be thankful for what we’ve got. I’m happy everything is the way it is now, but we did lose a lot,” he said.

Everybody in Hope Village has two stories. One is the haunting afternoon and night in June 2016 when they lost everything they owned. The other is the day they moved into a brand new home built as a labor of love by an Army of volunteers they never met. It’s a common bond the whole neighborhood shares today, a story of hope in a place which bears the name.

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DHHR: Active COVID-19 cases drop below 2,000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia have dropped below 2,000 for the first time since May 30, 2020.

Wednesday’s report from the state Department of Health and Human Resources put active case at 1,957. The agency confirmed 62 new cases and two new deaths over the past 24 hours. The agency said nearly 159,000 people in West Virginia have recovered from the virus.

The deaths include a 68-year old female from Cabell County and a 73-year old male from Raleigh County. Total deaths are now at 2,872.

COVID-19 hospitalization are at 91, the lowest total since last July.

Wednesday’s vaccination numbers from the federal Centers for Disease Control show 52% of state residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while 86% of those 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

DHHR reports as of June 23, 2021, there have been 2,982,657 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 163,689 total cases and 2,872 total deaths. https://t.co/AkcNypOr8u pic.twitter.com/QUkfjhCYrV

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) June 23, 2021

Total overall per county include: Barbour (1,514), Berkeley (12,823), Boone (2,175), Braxton (1,009), Brooke (2,247), Cabell (8,869), Calhoun (382), Clay (543), Doddridge (640), Fayette (3,545), Gilmer (884), Grant (1,309), Greenbrier (2,886), Hampshire (1,920), Hancock (2,843), Hardy (1,572), Harrison (6,177), Jackson (2,243), Jefferson (4,793), Kanawha (15,476), Lewis (1,280), Lincoln (1,601), Logan (3,283), Marion (4,641), Marshall (3,536), Mason (2,056), McDowell (1,613), Mercer (5,149), Mineral (2,972), Mingo (2,750), Monongalia (9,387), Monroe (1,217), Morgan (1,225), Nicholas (1,899), Ohio (4,306), Pendleton (724), Pleasants (958), Pocahontas (680), Preston (2,958), Putnam (5,321), Raleigh (7,081), Randolph (2,851), Ritchie (756), Roane (660), Summers (863), Taylor (1,276), Tucker (546), Tyler (743), Upshur (1,964), Wayne (3,179), Webster (543), Wetzel (1,385), Wirt (456), Wood (7,936), Wyoming (2,044).

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