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Justice, state officials announce aeronautics grant awards to 11 state airports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s air transportation infrastructure is getting a major boost.

Gov. Jim Justice, Secretary of Transportation Byrd White and Aeronautics Commission Director Sean Hill stopped at three airports on Monday to announce thousands of dollars in aeronautics grant awards being awarded to 11 state airports.

Gov. Jim Justice

The group held a press conference at Charleston’s Yeager Airport to announce $146,000 to the facility to be used for drainage system improvements. Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller said the grant will allow the airport to draw down $2.6 million in federal funding for drainage improvements, outfalls, and seeps.

“Money like this, the grant today allows us to leverage federal dollars to make infrastructure improvements,” Keller sad.

“We are on top of a mountain so we have to make sure our drainage is adequate, the outfalls are maintained. Without support from the state of West Virginia, this type of federal funding would be impossible.”

Nick Keller

Keller, who was thankful for Justice’s support of the airport on Monday, said improvements to the airport’s infrastructure allows the facility to attract more fliers and airlines.

“Airlines and users of the airport they look at the facility,” he said. “We want to have a positive customer environment so we want to have a modern, nice-looking facility and it has to be well maintained.”

A grant to improve slips in the runway at Huntington’s Tri-State Airport was also announced Monday. Tri-State Airport Director Brent Brown said the slips are in the runway safety area, taxiway foxtrot and near the snow removal equipment building.

“All three of those are necessary aspects to keep the airport operational and safe. Without the help of the FAA, the state and our governor, we wouldn’t be able to do these projects as quickly as we need to get them done.”

The final stop on Monday was at Mercer County Airport in Bluefield.

Justice has proclaimed October as General Aviation Appreciation Month in West Virginia.

LIVE: Gov. Justice holds aeronautics grant award presentation @tristateairport. #WV #WVGov https://t.co/y5kS9LuDcv

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) October 14, 2019

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Body pulled from Kanawha River at Riverwalk Plaza

The body was recovered Monday morning.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A man’s body was pulled from the Kanawha River in South Charleston late Monday morning.

The body was spotted behind Riverwalk Plaza

First responders pulled the body from the river. Foul play is not suspected.

The man’s name was not released but authorities indicated they were familiar with him. The body is being sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

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Kanawha County Commission recognizes dispatchers as first responders

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County dispatchers are now also first responders.

The Kanawha County Commission last week passed a resolution naming telecommunicators as first responders, a move Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said has been discussed previously.

“A dispatcher, you don’t see them. You talk to them. They’ll save your life. Some folks think they have this cushy job where they sit around,” he said. “I can assure you they don’t have a cushy job.”

According to Carper, dispatchers in Kanawha County handle 500,000 calls a year.

“Very few people can do that job,” he added.

Carper noted the fire service’s annual theme of “not all heroes wear capes;” he said that applies to all people who handle emergency situations, including dispatchers.

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Highland seeks guidance for education reimbursement

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Highland Hospital is tired of getting the runaround. The Charleston-based psychiatric health care facility provides education for its long-term school-aged patients but receives no reimbursement from the state.

Highland CEO Cynthia Persily took the concern before the state legislature’s interim commission on Children and Family’s recently. She said she’s been trying to get answers for three years.

“We have been shifted from department to department in terms of who is responsible,” Persily said. “I’m asking the legislature for some guidance on who should be paying for the education of these students and Highland is asking to be treated equitably with out-of-state and in-state providers in that realm.”

Highland is currently treating 18 children in its long-term unit. Each October it turns its student count over to the Kanawha County school system. The hospital is reimbursement mainly by Medicaid for the health costs but receives no reimbursement for education costs. Highland provides year-round education for the patients, Persily said.

“We bear all the expenses of the programming including materials, iPads, teachers, teacher benefits, computers, books, space and staff to attend school with the students,” Persily said.

Highland employs two former Kanawha County teachers for the long-term program. Kanawha County Schools provides a teacher for Highland’s acute care treatment program where the education schedule is more limited.

Persily is asking the state to finance the per-diem for the long-term students or for the state Department of Education to provide permanent teachers to Highland. She said the hospital spends $28.60 a day for student per teacher and another $34.76 a day for personal items. Pay and benefits for two teachers totals $130,000 a year.

Associate State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch told lawmakers state School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine wants the issue to be part of the department’s improvement package that it takes before lawmakers next year. He said they would like to create a pilot project where the department oversees the education under its Office of Diversion and Transition.

Burch indicated the students are in and out of county school systems so it’s created a question of who should pay for their education.

“They are still under the county’s count but there’s this gray area of who is helping who (financially) supporting them. I think we want the Office of Diversion and Transition to fully support them no matter where they are,” Burch said. “I think what we want to do is to step in and full-time have an instructor that’s going to assist them.”

Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, urged Burch not to “reinvent the wheel” with the pilot program. She said what Highland is doing with its education component seems to be working well.

“If we can use what they’re doing and learn from it and apply it in other situations that seems like a much better and cost-efficient solution,” Kessinger said.

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One dead in Kanawha County shooting

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — One man is dead following a shooting in Kanawha County late Saturday.

Authorities said Michael Monson, 22, was shot once in the abdomen inside a residence on the 2200 block of Monroe Avenue in St.Albans around 11:30 p.m.

St. Albans Police Chief Joe Crawford Monson showed up to a home where a married couple lives and where he had a prior relationship with the woman who lives there.

Monson was shot during an argument and transported to the hospital where he died from his injuries.

An investigation is ongoing.

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Troopers make grisly discovery in Clay County

LIZEMORES, W.Va. — State police made a grisly discovery Friday after receiving a missing persons report. Troopers are now investigating a double-murder suicide that happened nearly two weeks ago.

State police at the Clay detachment received a missing persons report Friday at noon after which they started looking for Alecxandria Auxier, 28, of Indore. Later Friday, troopers found Auxier’s body along with the body of Michael Sumpter, 26, of Burnsville. Troopers said both men had been murdered on or around Sept. 30.

The bodies were found at the residence of Joshua Foster, 30, of Lizemores. Troopers said Foster killed the victims and then it’s believed the next day, Oct. 1, he committed suicide.

Troopers said Foster murdered Auxier and Sumpter “over an unknown dispute at the suspect’s residence.” They said Foster concealed the bodies before taking his own life.

The investigation is continuing.

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House destroyed in Cross Lanes blaze

CROSS LANES, W.Va. — A Saturday morning fire has destroyed a house in the Cross Lanes area.

The blaze was reported in the 100 block of Pring Drive. The fire started at around midnight.

There were no injuries.

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Two people arrested following domestic incidents, including one near school

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two people were arrested after an incident Friday afternoon near a Charleston elementary school.

According to the Charleston Police Department, Brian Rowlands was arrested followed an alleged domestic incident near Overbrook Elementary.

The school was placed on temporary lockdown.

Rowlands was taken into custody.

According to police, Rowlands was involved in a domestic incident Thursday night but left before authorities arrived. A woman involved in Thursday’s incident was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant.

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Kanawha woman arrested for fraud after allegedly lying to family about having cancer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Clendenin woman is facing criminal charges for allegedly lying to family members about having cancer to scam money out of them.

Amanda Allen, 25, has been charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person, obtaining goods by false pretenses, and computer fraud, according to West Virginia State Police.

Troopers said Allen scammed two victims, her 67-year-old father and her 82-year-old grandmother.

According to the investigation, the fraudulent scheme allegedly took place between January and July of 2019 when Allen scammed the victims out of about $24,000, withdrawing into both their checking and savings accounts daily.

The criminal complaint states, “Some of the suspect checks noted ‘pills’ and ‘pills cancer’ on the memo portion of the checks written to the suspect defendant. The defendant did make false representations/claims to the victims that she was suffering from cancer and in need of medications and treatment for the cancer.”

Officials have said that Allen later admitted she had been lying. She is being held in the South Central Regional Jail on a $10,000 bail.

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Names released in fatal fires

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Investigations continue into separate deadly fires this week in Charleston.

According to the Charleston Fire Department, Edra Runion, 54, died in fire that occurred in her Charleston Arbors apartment Monday night on Washington Street East and Jeffrey Dotson, 61, was killed in a blaze in his 4th Avenue home Thursday afternoon.

Investigators said the 4th Avenue fire appears accidental. There multiple devices being charged on one extension cord in the residence. There where no working smoking alarms.

Information in connection with the Arbors apartment investigation was unavailable Friday.

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