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By Caity Coyne
West Virginia’s stateowned laboratories are housed in buildings that are too small and too old, complicating some agencies’ ability to meet the demand of their services, according to a report from the state’s legislative auditor that was presented to lawmakers on Tuesday.
Most of these buildings — which include former schools and business warehouses — were not designed to be laboratories. In some instances, the services now housed within them are causing more wear to the buildings due to chemical usage. There have been reports of theft and other breaches due to limited security. Nearly all laboratories are too small to properly accommodate the needs of the agencies within them, according to the report.
“Each of the State’s lab testing programs do not have suffcient lab space in their current facilities, and no facility upgrades or remodeling have occurred to maintain modern standards,” the report read. “The lack of space and upgrades has made it difficult to maintain scienticc standards under each laboratory’s accreditation standards, which in turn, puts at risk current lab testing programs, and precludes the State from conducting new lab testing programs.”
The facilities and agencies toured by members of the auditor’s once and analyzed in the report included:
• The Department of Agriculture’s laboratories at the Gus Douglass Agricultural Center in Guthrie.
• The Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Laboratory.
• The Bureau of Public Health’s Public Health Laboratory in South Charleston and the Newborn Screening Laboratory at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.
• The Division of Labor’s Weights and Measure Laboratory in St. Albans.
• The State Police Forensic Laboratory in South Charleston.
• The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy suite and laboratory in Charleston.
• The Bureau of Public Health’s Environmental Chemistry Laboratory in Big Chimney.
In an interim committee presentation Tuesday, Keith Brown, a senior research analyst with the Legislative Auditor’s office, said the most pressing issues exist for the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The agency has never been accredited, in large part due to the limitations present in its current facilities.
Staffing issues persist because there is not enough space to employ more workers.
The autopsy suite currently houses two permanent exam tables and one mobile. Matt Izzo, chief administrator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said at least nine permanent exam tables — and thousands more square footage — would be needed to meet standards for accreditation.
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By Josiah Cork - WV News
Add agriculture as yet another industry in West Virginia that has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials recently noted the profound difficulties that supply chain disruptions have foisted upon the grocery business.
“I think the biggest effect right now is the supply chain issue that’s been created, whether it’s pandemic-related or policy-related. We’re seeing input costs soar, fertilizer, a lot of spray materials,” said Steve Butler, executive secretary treasurer for the West Virginia Farm Bureau.
“Some of that is not even going to be available this year for the crop. So it has farmers questioning how to plan for this spring planting,” Butler said.
However, the most profound change has occurred on the local level, officials said.
“One thing in this state we’ve seen a lot of is direct marketing. The increase of direct marketing of livestock or slaughter animals, whether they’re taken into a certified facility and then are reselling the meat by cuts or whether they’re taking them to a certified facility and selling them on the rail to a customer to request how to have it custom packed for them,” Butler said.
“The pandemic has really affected agriculture at the local level. As we’ve seen outbreaks in federal facilities or logistical issues or supply chain issues, we continue to see that the national system is having a hard time getting food to the people of our state. That’s why there’s an increased interest in agriculture at the local level,” said Crescent Gallagher, director of communication for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Direct marketing, especially for meat, has increased during the course of the pandemic.
“I think that increase has been tremendous. That’s one area in the state that needs expanded, which is [due to] the lack of those facilities. Those facilities are booked up most of the time over a year before you can get an animal in,” Butler said.
“We’ve seen meat processing increase by 200% during the pandemic and that’s led to a few new facilities that are opening up this year, increasing to meet that demand,” Gallagher said.
Vincent’s Meat Market, a meat processing and packaging business in Shinnston, is directly involved in the direct market process, and business has never been better in its 65 years of operation.
“A lot of the farmers, they presell their cattle. Either they weigh them and sell them like that and then they deliver them here and they’re processed and the individuals come and pick them up and pay the processing fee,” said Dan Bradley of Vincent’s Meat Market.
“Some of them sell them off the hanging weight after it’s processed. Our business... it is bigger than it has been,” he said.
Bradley notes that because business is booming, the facility is at near capacity.
“Eight employees (processed) over 1,000 head of cattle, not to mention the hogs and the sheep and all that,” Bradley said.
“It’s picked up the last three or four years, but now we’re almost at capacity because you only have so much room in your freezers and coolers,” Bradley said.
This increase has been largely due to the lack of consistency at grocery stores, as well as people simply wanting to know where their food comes from, officials said.
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The Wheeling Intelligencer
Lawmakers have already proved they are serious this year about working with employers to bring opportunities to the state. Certainly this time they had a target in mind, and therefore were able to act with more confidence, but passage of the West Virginia Industrial Advancement Act could be a sign of more good things to come.
Though it had not been made official at the time of the vote, legislators had in mind a reported plan by North Carolina-based steel manufacturer NUCOR to invest $2.8 billion in building facilities in Weirton and Mason County.
Those who developed the WVIAA put in place a tax credit equal to 50% of qualified labor-intensive heavy industry manufacturing projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion in property for use as an industrial site and the hiring of at least 500 full-time employees within the first 36 months of the tax year the incentive is offered.
Perhaps after having been burned one too many times before, lawmakers also made sure taxes can be clawed back by the state if an employer does not meet minimum requirements within 72 months.
It is good to know some in Charleston are learning from past mistakes. If they are sincere in being honest about all the mistakes that have been made, perhaps there is, indeed, a brighter future for West Virginia’s jobs landscape.
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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) released the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to hold a vote by January 17 to use the “nuclear option” to radically change the Senate’s filibuster rules and abolish the 60-vote threshold when considering legislation.
“If Democrats make the irresponsible decision to use the nuclear option and end the 60-vote requirement for bills to pass, the majority party, even with the thinnest of margins, would have absolute power and the minority party would have no voice. This would end any motivation to work in a bipartisan manner on behalf of all Americans.
“The consequences for our nation, and West Virginia, would be devastating, because this change opens the door to passage of the Green New Deal, packing the Supreme Court, and federalizing our elections to name a few.
“If Democrats were successful with doing away with the filibuster, legislative accomplishments could be undone and redone over and over with just one flip of a Senate seat. That’s a dangerous precedent to set and a reckless way to govern. This move would have disastrous consequences and would fundamentally change our democratic process for years to come.
“In Senator Schumer’s own words from 2005, eliminating the filibuster would ‘make this country into a banana republic, where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules... it will be a doomsday for Democracy if we do.’ And more recently in 2017, he said that this move would be like ‘acting like you know they’re a cat on the top of a tree and they have to jump off with all the damage that entails.’
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By Steven Allen Adams
Not content to wait for the start of the annual 60- day legislative session on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice issued a proclamation Saturday night calling lawmakers into special session starting Monday morning.
The proclamation and press release were distributed at 10:22 p.m. Saturday, with lawmakers slated to gavel in at 11 a.m. yesterday. Justice announced he would introduce six bills, including bills dealing with tax incentives for heavy industry and new funding for the Department of Economic Development.
According to the proclamation, the first bill will create tax incentives based on certain investments and employment commitments aimed at new and current heavy industries that require substantial investments of capital and labor. The governor’s office called the bill the “West Virginia Industrial Advancement Act.”
“Recruiting additional businesses to the state and helping existing West Virginia businesses to expand their operations and add employees to their payrolls are the best hope for West Virginia’s and West Virginians’ futures,” the release stated. “When attempting to recruit businesses today, states compete with one another.”
“In the past, other states with larger budgets have often offered incentives that price West Virginia out of the market. NOT ANYMORE! When we find a good prospect offering investment, jobs, and growth, therefore, it is paramount that the state does its best to compete for that business – for investment, jobs, and growth,” the release continued.
It’s unclear what specific companies and industries these tax incentives are aimed at, though the governor’s office teased the announcement this week for “potential investments.”
During his Thursday Covid-19 briefing, Justice teased a possible announcement at 7 p.m. Wednesday when he delivers his sixth State of the State address in the House of Delegates chamber.
“I really encourage you to tune in and to watch, because there is going to be some major announcements at the State of the State and more and more goodness coming to the State of West Virginia,” Justice said. “I know we’re going to report some really, really exciting news that’s going to be happening in West Virginia.”
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The Sugar Grove naval station in Pendleton County is hopefully taking on a new purpose; this time as a first-of-its-kind therapeutic boarding school and living community for children diagnosed with autism, under the guidance of Gersh Academy.
The community will be open to children age 4+ and, according to Legacy by Gersh/Gersh Autism, the Sugar Grove campus will be the world’s first “autism community,” providing programs for individuals on the autism spectrum that include a therapeutic boarding school, post-high school residential program, vocational/ job training, summer camp and more.
Gersh Autism is headquartered in Huntington, N.Y. and has 30+ years of experience in helping individuals with autism in their academies, day camps and programs in New York, Washington, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico and according to them, soon in West Virginia.
Scalar Architecture’s web site says it has been engaged by Gersh Academy to transform the 122-acre Navy intelligence station. They say the wide range of programs and the facility itself will be tailored to increase independence and will include amenities and services to give families needed respite care.
The Navy’s presence in Sugar Grove began in 1955. It was originally selected for the construction of a 600-foot parabolic antenna for advanced communications research but then later became a radio receiving station due, in part, to its location within the National Radio Quiet Zone.
There are two parts to the base: the town-sized lower support base and the associated upper attenna base.