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The Public Service Commission of West Virginia urges everyone to “Call Before You Dig.” By law, you are required to call West Virginia 811 at least 48 hours before you break ground on any job that involves digging. That law applies to individuals tackling home projects as well as contractors working on public or private property.

“Everyone needs to be aware of the importance of calling 811 before they dig,” said PSC Chairman Charlotte R. Lane. “Whether you are a homeowner or a professional contractor, always call 811 before you begin to dig. The 811 call is free, and it helps to protect you, your property and our underground utility infrastructure.”

“Every time you dig, you run the risk of hitting an underground utility, even if you only dig a few inches,” Lane said. “Striking a natural gas pipeline, a wire or a cable can result in utility service outages, which can leave you liable for costly repairs or significant legal fines. Even worse, a line strike can cause serious personal injury or death.”

Lane pointed out that the depth and location of utility lines can move over time as the ground freezes and thaws, as tree roots grow or after a large amount of rain. “So, even if you have had an area marked previously, you still need to call 811 before you dig.”

Lane added, “After you call, the 811 team will notify the utility companies at no cost to the customer. Within 48 hours, each company will send locators to your project site to mark the locations of underground facilities with flags, stakes or paint. Once the buried facilities have been accurately marked, you or your contractor can begin digging safely. This protects you, your property and West Virginia’s underground utility infrastructure.”

For more information about West Virginia 811, visit www.wv811.com or www.psc.state. wv.us and click on the 811 link.

The final two individuals indicted by a federal grand jury for organizing and participating in a multi-county fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine distribution ring pleaded guilty for their role last week.

Dennis James Miller, 44, of Moorefield, has admitted to his involvement in the operation, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl.

Overall, Miller confessed to distributing more than 64 grams of fentanyl and more than 69 grams of 100% pure methamphetamine from January to June in Grant County and elsewhere.

Jared Judy, 29, of Petersburg, admitted to distributing more than 69 grams of 100% pure methamphetamine in May in Berkeley County.

Bob Milvet, the chief executive officer of Grant Memorial Hospital, appeared before the Grant County Commission last week to provide a quarterly update on the hospital. Through his presentation, Milvet said the hospital was working on multiple updates, including to the facility, as well as the services provided. He also pointed to positive up-turns in the hospital’s financial performance.

“Overall, I believe the hospital is slowly growing out of several years of dealing with volume declines as well as lagging and sluggish financial performance,” Milvet said. “There is no question we have had a bad couple of years in those two areas. When we start to have patients drive by our facility, we lose revenue.”

Milvet said one of the focuses of improvement for GMH has been growing the hospital within the community and striving to keep local residents comfortable remaining in the area for treatment as opposed to traveling to other hospitals.

“We have made decisions for the sole purpose of keeping business here locally in this community,” Milvet said. “That is how we will keep the hospital thriving in the future.”

According to an update given by CMTA Energy, the Grant County Board of Education is now seeing smaller electric bills due to countywide updates, including a large solar array that is now powering Petersburg Elementary School.

In the seven-month update, the board was informed that since making the changes, the county had saved approximately $86,400 in energy to the school facilities. These saving are the result of more effective technology and a nearly $18,000 correction in the county’s electric bill that was discovered previously by the company.

The CMTA representative explained that, due to the recent updates, Grant County has moved to the top 15% of the most energy efficient schools in the state. This point was echoed by facilities director Brent Nelson, who said the county was recently mentioned at a conference he attended as having one of the most improved energy systems in West Virginia.

Superintendent Doug Lambert said he was excited about the update, pointing to the changes as having multiple benefits not only for the schools but for the county.

Also speaking during the meeting was Maysville resident, Larry Porter, who addressed the board on their school safety efforts.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Department issued a reminder last week, cautioning drivers to slow down when driving near school zones.

“Please slow down and watch for buses,” the department cautioned. “Last year in the nation was one of the worst for children being struck and near misses loading on the buses.”

Beyond the danger presented to the students, drivers were warned that they could potentially lose their licenses and receive a fine for illegally passing a school bus.

They also encouraged local parents to take action in educating their children on basic safety topics.

“Parents, talk to your kids about bus stop safety on strangers, as well as looking for cars before going to the bus,” the department said. “Just because the stop sign is out, cars may still keep coming due to not paying attention.”

This is also a discussion that was echoed in this month’s meeting of the Petersburg City Council, with multiple complaints being expressed to the council concerning speeding in the areas surrounding Petersburg Elementary, Petersburg High and South Branch Career and Technical Center.

Last week, nearly a dozen citizens attended the regularly scheduled Petersburg City Council meeting to express their ongoing concerns with rising crime in the city, specifically in the region of Petersburg referred to as “The Field.”

The citizens asked to remain anonymous, due to possible retaliation seen by others speaking before the council in the past about the issue. One citizen said that one of the speakers in a past meeting even received property damage in retaliation.

“We are all here to talk to the council about a lot of issues we see in the east side of our community,” said one speaker. “Drugs run rampant down there and we have such an issue with drug houses.”

One speaker said they often sit out on their front porch and routinely see drug deals occur in front of nearby homes, namely rental properties.

On Aug. 8, Sergeant K.R. Thorne of the Grant County Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to Sheetz in Petersburg for a male who was reportedly under the influence of illegal drugs.

Upon the officer’s arrival, he observed a male standing at the counter, who was later identified as David Juan Phares, 30, of Petersburg.

Carole Taylor

Five women were chosen as 2019 West Virginia Women in Agriculture for their lifetime of work in the industry. The inductees were honored by Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt during a reception at the State Fair of West Virginia, on Aug. 11. From raising cattle and poultry to running a greenhouse and mentoring students in 4-H and FFA, these women are out- standing in their fields.

“Women now make up 38 percent of our state’s farmers,” said Leonhardt. “As more women consider agricultural careers, a lot of thanks is due to those who paved the way. These five women have had a tremendous impact on our state’s agricultural sector, as well as helped inspire the next generation of farmers.”

The WVDA began honoring Women in Agriculture in 2010. Since then 51 women, including this year’s honorees, have been recognized for their significant contributions to the agriculture industry.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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