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Many West Virginia residents are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 census due to inadequate funding and fears about participating following Trump’s failed citizenship question, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To improve participation and help ensure a complete census count, West Virginia should supplement federal funding and form a complete count commission.

An undercount of West Virginia’s residents could reinforce barriers to opportunity by denying communities accurate political representation; local, state, and federal funds; and private-sector investments - all of which are informed by census data. In 2016, the federal government distributed over $900 billion to states and the District of Columbia through 325 census-guided programs and projects.

“At risk in West Virginia is over $6 billion annually in federal funds guided by census data and one of our three Congressional seats,” said Kelly Allen, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy’s Director of Policy Engagement.

Underfunding and funding delays over the last decade forced the Census Bureau to cancel key tests and left it struggling to catch up. Threatening the census further, the Trump administration’s failed citizenship question is expected to leave many immigrants too afraid to participate.

To respond to these threats, West Virginia should establish a complete count commission and supplement the Census Bureau’s funding for outreach. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have established commissions, which help amplify the importance of census participation to state residents. And 16 states have allocated supplemental funding.

“West Virginia is an outlier in our lack of statewide preparedness for the 2020 census. We also face unique challenges here in West Virginia that could make our census count more difficult, including our rural landscape and lack of broadband connectivity,” continued Allen.

Over 440,000 of our state’s residents live in census tracts that are among the hardest to count in the country. Additionally, this is the first time that residents will be encouraged to fill out the census online. That is why it is so important for state outreach funding to be allocated to hard-to-count areas to ensure that residents in those communities are made aware of the importance of the census.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) announced the application period for the state’s industrial hemp program will open Sept. 1.

Those interested in growing industrial hemp for the 2020 growing season must submit an application and all required materials by Sept. 30, to be considered for licensure.

“Each year, the number of producers, as well as the general interest in industrial hemp continues to grow. Foresight by the West Virginia Legislature has allowed our producers to have a leg up on other states. Now that industrial hemp is a legal crop throughout our country, this is the time for producers to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

The number of West Virginia licensed industrial hemp growers jumped from 24 in 2017 to 178 in 2019. The producers who were granted a permit for the 2019 growing season planned on raising 2,531 acres of industrial hemp.

The next growing season will be the third for commercial harvest of industrial hemp.

“We expect our federal partners to release draft rules later this year. Once they have those rules, West Virginia will have to issue our own state plan. We will inform producers of changes every step of the process,” Leonhardt said.

The 2019 Farm Bill, signed by President Trump on December 20, 2018, authorized states to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill until the USDA and FDA provided additional guidance.

This extension ends 12 months after the USDA has issued a plan. States have until then to adjust local rules and regulations in order to come into compliance with federal stan- dards.

For more information, visit https://agriculture.wv.gov/divisions/plantindustries/Pages/Industrial-Hemp--.aspx. Additional questions or comments can be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in Green Bank, W.Va., has announced a special resident-only controlled deer hunt at the GBO site Oct. 11-12.

Hunters must enter a lottery for limited permits.

Hunters must apply for the hunt on the electronic licensing system at www.wvhunt.com by midnight, Aug. 29. Applicants must log on, select “Enter Lottery” on the home screen, then choose the desired Green Bank Observatory hunt. Hunters without accounts can create them at wvhunt.com. This controlled hunt is organized and planned in cooperation with the Division of Natural Resources.

Hunters may enter by themselves or in a group of up to four hunters. Hunters must know the other hunters’ DNR ID number(s) to enter as a group. Submitting an application enters the hunter in a drawing for one or two days on the GBO site. Successful applicants will be notified by mail and issued a special GBO letter of authorization to deer hunt. Only hunters who have made application and have received a letter for a specific day, or days may hunt.

Walk-ons will not be accepted. The controlled hunts will take place within delineated areas ranging in size from 132 acres to 1,000 acres. Hunters may apply for Oct. 11, which is bow/crossbow only, and/or Oct. 12, which is muzzleloader only. This is a change from previous hunts held on the GBO site. Applicants cannot choose which type of weapon they wish to use during the hunt; the hunter’s choice of day will determine the type weapon.

The maximum bag limit for the hunt is two antlerless deer (one per day). However, an on-site lottery will be held each day of the hunt, which will allow five hunters to hunt a deer of either sex. Deer harvested on the site are bonus deer and do not count toward a hunter’s annual licensed deer bag limit.

Participating hunters must possess appropriate base West Virginia hunting license (Resident A, AH, AHJ, X, XJ, Life- time A-L, AB-L or XS) or be exempt from having to purchase a license. All deer harvested must be checked at the official game checking station located on the GBO site.

Due to the nature of the work at the observatory, gasoline-powered vehicles are strictly controlled on the site. Hunters may park only in designated parking areas, and all vehicles will be issued a pass for display on the windshield. Transportation from hunter check-in to some hunt areas is provided by the GBO.

For purposes of safety and biological study of harvested deer, all hunters must pass through the check-in station each morning before the day’s hunt. At the end of the day’s hunt, all hunters must exit through the check-out station.

Successful applicants will be mailed a special GBO letter of authorization to deer hunt with detailed instructions and regulations. For information, call 304- 456-2011 or 304-637-0245.

Undercover FBI investigation leads to the arrest of local parents for severe abuse and exploitation

One of the most severe indictments returned from the Grant County Grand Jury last month, involved a set of local parents investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who allegedly committed multiple acts of sexual assault against a young child, with charges including everything from sexual violence to bestiality.

Jasper Elijah Shook, 32, and Christine E. Shook, of 2137 Kellers Ridge Rd., Petersburg have been indicted on charges of sexual abuse by a parent, sexual abuse in the first degree, displaying obscene matter to a minor, electronic distribution and exhibition of material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronic possession with the intent to view more than 50 but fewer than 600 images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronic possession with the intention to view more than 600 images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronically possessing with the intention to view images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct which depicts violence against a child, electronically possessing with the intention to view images of material visually portraying minor females engaged sexually explicit conduct which depicts a child engaging in bestiality and four counts of conspiracy.

On July 26, dozens of citizens voiced their opinions concerning the proposed Black Rock Wind Farm project currently planned in Grant and Mineral counties. The meeting displayed a heavy split in opinion throughout the community, with some citizens supporting the project and others speaking in opposition to the proposal. 

Approximately 60 people packed the Grant County Courthouse to attend the public forum, including local county representatives, employees, landowners and environmentalists. 

The forum was overseen and hosted by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC), who explained the forum was not an evidentiary hearing but was intended to allow public opinion. The PSC will host a two-day evidentiary hearing on Sept. 11, in Charleston with a final decision on the project expected next spring.

The turbines will be unique in the county due to their size, with each turbine being multiple times larger and more efficient than the turbines currently built in the area. 

The size of the physical turbines proposed was an issue addressed by multiple speakers during the event.

John Wayne Crites, of Moorefield, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay more than $217,000 for his role in a methamphetamine distribution operation, United States Attorney Bill Powell announced.

PVTA General Manager Doug Pixler, award recipient Joe Swick and operations manager Donnie Wratchford.

The Potomac Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) was honored at the recent Excellence in Transit Awards event when local driver, Joe Swick, was nominated as Outstanding Transit System Driver of the Year. The event was held by the West Virginia Division of Public Transit at Stonewall Resort.

Earlier this month, a Grant County Grand Jury returned multiple indictments on felony charges in the area. Those indicted in by the jury included:

Cowan Hart Pennington, 36, of P.O. Box 137, Cabins, was indicted on charges of grand larceny and forgery of a credit card.

According to the indictment, Pennington stole a 2019 trailer, a 570 Polaris ATV, four Polaris wheels with tires and three additional tires from Tri-County Honda in Petersburg.

His plan to steal the items from Tri-County Honda was foiled, however, when he attempted to drive the trailer across a field adjacent to the dealership and became stuck. He then decided to leave the property in the field and flee on foot.

He also used a stolen credit card to purchase a pack of cigarettes and a drink from Sheetz in Petersburg.

Just a few weeks after being charged, three people from Grant and Hardy counties have pleaded guilty to distributing drugs, including fentanyl.

Melanie Lyn Outen, Ted Alexander Voss, and Michael Dean Smith, all of Petersburg, have admitted to their roles in a fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine distribution operation. The case was handled in federal court and was overseen by United States Attorney, Bill Powell.

“There are people getting hurt because of this. There are people who are in danger because this system does not work. This is putting the lives and wellbeing of our children and our elderly at risk.” -Ronna Goldizen

Due to privacy requests, the names of some people involved in the following story have been omitted.

Rural residents of the county are no strangers to internet and cell phone issues. Many who live in the less populated regions of Grant, are often aware of how unreliable cell phone service can be and some will even say they can determine whether or not they will have internet by the weather forecast. However, one of the more surprising, and perhaps far more dangerous communication issues facing many residents in Grant County is the ongoing unreliability of landline phone service. This issue was driven home earlier this month when Peggy Bobo-Alt, the director of the Office of Emergency Management and 911 in Grant County held a public forum to allow community members living with the situation to voice their concerns.

Alt said most of her concerns are directed at Frontier Communications, the sole provider to much of the county.

Those in attendance ranged from local business owners consistently losing business due to lack of reliable communications to residents frustrating with rising phone bills for ever-worsening phone service.

“The fact we are having this conversation in this day and age is ridiculous to me,” Alt said. “I get we are a rural county and that we may be in the era to address issues with high speed internet - but not landline phone service. We were past that 30 years ago and somehow we are now much worse.”

Mercedes Oiler, 19, of Moorefield, was discovered dead on July 16 following an apparent overdose. Oiler was found after Grant County Ambulance and the Grant County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call on Roy Hyre Hollow in Petersburg, When emergency personnel arrived, Oiler was unresponsive and not breathing. She was later pronounced dead at the scene by medical examiner and recently appointed Grant County Coroner, Tabitha Hitt. An investigation into her death remains open at this time.

The county once again has a coroner following the appointment of Tabitha Hitt during the July 23 meeting of the Grant County Commission.

Apart from being a local resident, Hitt is a licensed medical examiner in the state of West Virginia and a registered nurse.

The suggestion to appoint a coroner came from commissioner Scotty Miley and received support from the rest of the commission. Prior to Hitt’s appointment, the position was vacant.

In the United States, county coroners are officials who hold inquests into suspicious, sudden or violent deaths. This can include drug overdoses.

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