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Williamstown defends their LKC title, 55-44 over Clay County

GLENVILLE, W.Va. — Williamstown completed a successful title defense of their Little Kanawha Conference championship with a 55-44 win over Clay County in the LKC Night of Champions at Glenville State College’s Waco Center.

The Yellowjackets used a 7-0 run in the first quarter to take a lead they would never give back.

“The first thing that is on our list is to try to win the conference. For us to win the conference against what we think is a heck of a team, Scott Gibson is doing a heck of a job with that program, it feels good. These kids work hard and they deserve it,” said Williamstown head coach Scott Sauro.

“We can definitely get better. We have areas to improve on. We are going to try to do that for the stretch run over the next month.”

The Yellowjackets used a zone defense for most of the final three quarters and held the Panthers to just nine points in the second quarter and eight in the third.

“They were getting downhill on us a little bit and we had some early fouls. We wanted to limit those fouls but contest their three-point shooters in the zone. The bad thing about that is sometimes you lose a box out. But I thought our guys really did a good job rallying to the ball a limiting touches for (Curtis) Litton in there. He is a heck of a player and they are a heck of a team.”

Williamstown (11-1) led 27-20 at halftime and kept Clay County (11-3) at arms length the rest of the way. Samuel Cremeans led WHS with 21 points.

“We were happy he was able to attack the rim a little bit and get to the foul line. We really, really needed that.”

Curtis Litton led the Panthers with 14 points. Grant Krajeski added a dozen more for Clay.

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Monongalia County health leaders concerned about presence of variants

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Health Department has identified more than 200 coronavirus variant cases in the county, in which a majority are the California and United Kingdom strains.

Officials at the local, statewide and national levels have shared concerns about the variants because the strains can be more infectious and deadly.

“These mutations occur on the outside of the virus and change the way they adhere to human cells, but do not change how the virus behaves,” said Dr. Lee Smith, the health department’s executive and county health officer. “This means the illness looks the same but may be more severe.”

The health department notes 164 cases are the California variant and 32 cases are the United Kingdom variant. The California variant reportedly has two know mutations, and it is not completely clear how it affects people. Younger people are more susceptible to getting variant strains.

Smith still urges people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, saying it helps decrease the spread of cases and the virus’ severity.

“People still need to wear masks, even if they have been vaccinated,” she added. “They should be cautious in other ways, by socially distancing when not around individuals with whom they live, washing their hands often and using common sense when they go out in public and engage in activities.”

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, more than 460,000 West Virginians are fully vaccinated.

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New program helping empower West Virginians with disabilities

Living with a disability often comes with a lot of extra expenses. Even though public benefits may be helpful, past restrictions could leave people with disabilities still struggling financially. In fact, many individuals couldn’t save more than $2,000 without losing their eligibility for valuable public benefits. But now, thanks to a new program called WVABLE, that’s changing in West Virginia.

WVABLE is a savings and investment program specifically designed for West Virginians with disabilities. This program changes the rules, and now many qualifying individuals and their families can save and invest without affecting eligibility for certain programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, FAFSA, HUD and SNAP/food stamp benefits.

For Christy Black of Milton, W.Va., WVABLE gives her hope for her daughter’s future.

“As a parent of a daughter with a developmental disability, WVABLE is peace of mind knowing that my daughter has a savings and a means to save well after my husband and I are gone,” Black said.

Black was one of the first to open a WVABLE account in West Virginia in 2018 after state and federal legislation made the program possible.

The federal ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code (the same code that makes SMART529 Educational Savings Plans possible) to create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. Contributions to a WVABLE account can come from many sources such as the account beneficiary, family, or friends. If you are a West Virginia resident or taxpayer and contribute to a West Virginia ABLE account, you may take a state income tax deduction equal to your total contributions for the year (up to $15,000 per year for each designated beneficiary).

WVABLE account owners can be any age, but current law requires the onset of the disability must have occurred before the age of 26. There is proposed legislation before congress requesting to raise the age of onset to before the age of 46, which would open eligibility to ABLE accounts to millions more across the country, including one million veterans.

If you are not sure if you or a loved one is eligible to open a WVABLE account, there is a simple online eligibility quiz to help you find out!

Once you’ve established your WVABLE account, your savings can be used to cover disability-related expenses including medical care, housing, transportation, education, job training, and more. Most importantly, this savings vehicle will ease the financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities, bringing peace of mind to them and their families.

For more information on WVABLE, or to see if you or a loved one qualifies, click here. You can also call the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office at 304.340.5050 for more information about the program.

Please note, the content on this page is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. West Virginia ABLE is offered through a partnership with the Ohio Treasurer’s Office, the administrator of the STABLE Account Plan. STABLE Accounts are not guaranteed or insured by any state, any state agency or subdivision thereof, or their authorized agents or affiliates. You could lose money by investing in a STABLE Account. Consider investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. Before you open an account, you should carefully read and understand the STABLE Account Plan Disclosure Statement as well as the Participation Agreement and you may wish to consult a qualified tax or financial advisor or special needs planner regarding the investment and how both state and federal tax laws may apply to your particular circumstances.

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Highlights: St. Marys takes third in the LKC with 64-52 win over Webster

GLENVILLE, W.Va. — St. Marys defeated Webster County, 64-52 in the third place game at the Little Kanawha Conference Night of Champions at Glenville State’s Waco Center.

St. Marys (12-3):

  • Grant Barnhart – 29 points
  • Luke Webb – 13 points

Webster County (8-5):

  • Carter Williams – 21 points
  • Rye Gadd – 15 points

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DHHR: Child Welfare Service workers terminated in connection with child death

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Two Child Welfare Services workers have been fired and are also charged in connection of the abuse-related death of a 4-year-old child on March 4 in Marion County.

Breeana Bizub, 25, and Tabetha Phillips-Friend, 44, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and failure to report child abuse to law enforcement. Both turned themselves into police on Friday.

The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released the following statement Monday:

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is devastated by the tragic death of this 4-year-old Marion County child. The two CPS workers involved in the case are no longer employed by DHHR. Further details cannot be provided as the investigation continues.”

When the toddler was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital he was placed on life support and doctors identified more than 50 injuries to his body, including missing teeth, bruises on his arms, and a shoe print-shaped bruise on his right shoulder. By March 8, the toddler’s brain function had ceased.

Guardian of the boy, Walter Richardson, 33, was charged with first-degree murder. Ashlee Allen, mother of the child, was charged with death of a child by abuse because police day she had knowledge of previous abuse events.

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Pittsburgh man wanted by Wheeling PD for alleged terrorist threats

WHEELING, W.Va. — A Pittsburgh, Pa. man is wanted by Wheeling Police for allegedly making numerous threats to local schools, businesses and individuals on Monday morning.

Wheeling PD has an arrest warrant issued for Ryan Charles Cornforth, 30, formerly of Wheeling. Cornforth is being charged with terrorist threats.

Cornforth allegedly made several threatening phone calls various in nature, including a bomb threat and the use of lethal force.

Should the public have any information on his whereabouts; they are strongly urged to call Wheeling Police at 304-234-3664, or the Crime Stoppers Upper Ohio Valley tip line at 877-TIPS-4-US.

Cornforth’s photo and description below:

Man Wanted for Making Terroristic Threats
April 12; 2021

— Wheeling, WV Police (@WheelingPolice) April 12, 2021

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State Fire Marshal’s Office: Two killed in Mercer County blaze

PRINCETON, W.Va. — Two people were killed in a fire in Mercer County over the weekend, the state Fire Marshal’s Office said.

The victims were a 56-year old female and a 36-year old male, according to the office.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined and is under investigation.

No other information on the fire was released.

FATALITIES: Two people were killed in a fire that happened in Princeton, Mercer Co, on Saturday, Apr. 10. The victims were a 56 YO female and a 36 YO male. Cause of the fire still undetermined and under investigation. NFI

— WVState Fire Marshal (@WVFireMarshal) April 12, 2021

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House, Justice no closer on income tax reduction as smoke clears from session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw said Monday in his mind talks can continue among lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice on the best way to reduce the state income tax.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay

Hanshaw, during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” repeated that he believes the state needs to head down the path of eliminating the tax but work needs to be done on how to do it.

Gov. Justice wanted the House to agree with the plan the Senate passed last week, a plan that somewhat mirrored Justice’s plan to cut the tax by 60% next Jan. 1. The House decided to sit on the bill and Hanshaw said that was going to be the plan through the end of the session on Saturday until Justice criticized the House in a Friday news conference for not taking a vote.

“Given the suggestion on Friday that perhaps we were afraid to vote and were unwilling to act as the House, that was not the case and never was the case,” Hanshaw said. “If we’re going to get those kind of accusations being thrown around we’ll have to respond to them, so we had to do that.”

The House took up the Senate plan and defeated it 0-100.

When asked about the vote at his media Monday, Gov. Justice once again called it “grandstanding.”

“It was the miss of all-time and it turned into a grandstanding circus,” Justice said.

Governor Jim Justice

Meanwhile, Justice praised the Senate Monday.

“I really commend our Senate for wisdom,” Justice said. “At some point in time we’ll understand that we had real wisdom going on in the Senate and not a lot of wisdom going on in the House to tell you the truth.”

Justice has promised a lot of town hall meetings across the state to build support for his plan.

Hanshaw said the House will continue with its own research on the best way to reduce the tax. He said first they’ll be looking at the experiences of states that have already done so.

“States that have successfully made this transition followed what kind of a path? That’s the question we want to answer. What are some of the missteps those states made? Because we know our economy here in West Virginia has struggled for years and we can’t afford a misstep,” Hanshaw said.

The new state budget has $73 million in cuts that gives the legislature some options if income tax reductions do happen over the next year, Hanshaw said.

“We want to be sure we’ve started down a path toward that now just so we could make sure that that opportunity remains possible as we continue discussions over the spring and summer. But realize that money remains unappropriated,” Hanshaw said.

Other session items

–on not being able to pass the term limits resolution for constitutional officeholders

“We just didn’t have the votes for it,” Hanshaw said.

–on future broadband funding from federal money

“One of the things that we did not get done this session, we’ll be talking about it as we prepare for possible special sessions in the summer and fall, will be whether we can put some structure in place for how that infrastructure money gets spent to properly deploy it for broadband expansion here in the state,” Hanshaw said.

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Supreme Court ready to craft new Intermediate Court framework

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The debate about creation of an intermediate court in West Virginia has happened for the past several years. However, with the passage and Governor’s signature of Senate Bill 275, the debate is over and the next step is implementing rules and establishment of the parameters of how the new court will work.

“The bill now kind of passes the baton to the Supreme Court,” said Evan Jenkins, Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in an appearance on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline.

Jenkins said while the Legislature had the Constitutional duty to debate the pros and cons of establishing the court, the job of setting it up and establishing how it will work lies solely with the Judicial Branch. Justice Jenkins said they now begin the process with a line by line review of all appellate court regulations which are already in state code. From those they will make decisions on the best way to implement the new court system and make decisions about its operations and day to day work.

“We have everything from the issue of staffing the court to its physical location. Probably most importantly the procedures and rules for those involved in the legal system to know how appeals will be filed,” Jenkins explained.

The legislation gave the court some time to get the process off the ground. The legislation does not take effect until July 1, 2022. Therefore, the high court has more than a year to make those decisions and create the framework. The legislation also laid out exactly what kinds of cases can be heard. The Intermediate Court of Appeals, or the “ICA” will review all civil cases, worker’s comp cases, and final orders from family court.

“In the coming months there will be a lot reported and talked about of what the Supreme Court is doing to get this implemented and structured. The Legislature outlined in Senate Bill 275 which cases and from what courts go to the Intermediate Court of Appeals and which types of cases by-pass the I-C-A and go directly to the Supreme Court,” Jenkins explained.

Under the legislation the intermediate court would have three judges who would initially be appointed to staggered terms by the Governor, then run for full ten year terms in subsequent elections. The final version decided on having only one Intermediate Court of Appeals. The code didn’t specify where it would be located, which will be up to the Supreme Court to determine as part of the implementation work in the coming year.

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With active cases rising again, Justice says state can’t abandon caution

Gov. Jim Justice says the 7,470 active covid-19 cases recorded by the state today is evidence that the state shouldn’t let down its guard.

“This is exactly what we’re experiencing all across our country,” Justice said today. “That’s why I come before you three days a week. I plead with you to go get vaccinated. I plead with you to wear your mask.”

The state’s coronavirus dashboard shows today’s number of active cases is the highest since late February. The current number is more than 2,000 above what the state was registering a month ago.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh said the state is experiencing more cases among young people. The seven-day trend for the state shows the largest number of cases per age group is 523 among ages 10-19, followed by 448 among ages 20-29.

“We are seeing our younger West Virginians are responsible for a larger portion of the spread,” Marsh said.

But he added, “The classrooms still appear to be very safe, which is really important to us.”

Asked about variants of covid-19, Marsh counted 194 of the United Kingdom variant, 168 cases of California variant and 1 of the South African variant.

The governor, during today’s pandemic response briefing, continued to urge West Virginians to get vaccinated.

“It is absolutely going to save your life or somebody around you,” he said.

The state is now reporting 661,687 people with their first vaccination shot and 461,008 people fully vaccinated. The state’s population is about 1.8 million.

James Hoyer

“As far as vaccine availability, we’re getting plenty of supply from the federal government,” said James Hoyer, chief of West Virginia’s joint interagency task force. “We believe we have plenty. We are working hard with the governor daily to get the word out and educate folks as to the value of the vaccine, not just to then individually but to us as a state.”

The governor reiterated that the state can’t let down its guard.

“We’re still got a lot more to go here,” Justice said.

“We’ve still got a ways to go West Virginia. Dropping your guard is just going to lead to more and more troubles.”

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