The Voice of West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Growth in the Cheat Lake area is a good thing, but it requires expansion and upgrade of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) Cheat Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant and Whites Run pumping station.
Morgantown Utility Board of Directors president, Barbara Parsons, said the existing facilities have been operating near capacity since 2014 and growth in the area has continued.
“It’s over 20 years old and declining in terms of its capabilities,” Parsons said. “Obviously there’s been a lot of growth in that area; in fact, since 2001, I believe the population out there has nearly doubled.”
The project is estimated to cost $28.7 million and would be built on a little more than 12 acres between the Chestnut Ridge Church parking lot and Sunset Beach Road. MUB purchased the land for $1.4 million in 2018, knowing expansion of the facilities to support future growth was inevitable.
However, Parsons said the board is mindful of neighborhood concerns following the initial presentation of the project during a recent open meeting in the area.
“We’re not going to do anything until we’ve had several meetings with residents in that area,” Parsons said. “The MUB Board of Directors is planning a physical tour of the area so we can see literally the concerns that neighbors have.”
Parsons said in 2019 the parties agreed to enlist the expertise of Strand and Associates to begin a comprehensive review of the existing facility and the design of an expansion that would support growth for decades to come.
During heavy rain events, the current facility, which was last upgraded in 2001, is frequently forced to handle flows above the plant’s design capability. Those events put MUB in possible violation of state and federal regulations regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements.
“We pump waste water about two miles from our lift station on White’s Run, so it’s a broad area that still needs further development, and we anticipate that will occur,” Parsons said.
The relationship between property values and odor is a chief concern that was expressed at the on-site meeting. Property owners said that considering expanding the plant without creating a public nuisance for nearby residents is not reasonable. But Parsons said this facility will have the very latest in sludge management, disinfection, and odor control systems that are proven to work locally.
“We now have the ability to do a much better job of managing that aspect of it, as we’ve demonstrated in Star City, where we’ve always had an issue there, and now I think most people are totally unaware of the fact the wastewater treatment plant is there,” Parsons said.
The process to expand the facility requires multiple permits and studies that require many months of preparation, review, comment, and possible revisions. Parsons said there were several opportunities along the way for Cheat Lake residents to voice concerns and learn about the project and timeline.
“If we were to start today it would take two more years of permitting and planning and all of the things that have to go into this before we could put a shovel in the ground,” Parsons said. “So, with the meetings with the public, it’s at least two years.”
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SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — The Nicholas County Board of Education will hold a special meeting Tuesday night in connection with a school bus driver charged with DUI.
Casey Dodrill, 33, was arrested after allegedly driving a school bus while intoxicated with nearly 50 students on board on March 8.
A second employee was suspended for allegedly knowing that Dodrill was intoxicated at the time.
The school board plans to possibly terminate the contracts of both employees during its meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The meeting will be held at the Nicholas County BOE office in Summersville.
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LOGAN, W.Va. — Another casualty of the weekend high winds was the roof of a large building in Logan.
Logan Fire Department responded after the roof flew off the PRIDE Building Saturday afternoon on Stratton Street.
Pieces of the roof landed on neighboring homes, vehicles, and the street.
Nobody was hurt.
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Today on MetroNews This Morning:
–Power outages are being whittled down after major winds from the weekend
–PEIA is ready to begin presenting the possible premium increases to stakeholders this weekend
–The Chair of the House Education Committee talks about new laws aimed at improving elementary school outcomes
–In Sports: the NCAA Final Four is set–and nobody could have picked this lineup.
Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 3-27-23” on Spreaker.
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I’m off this week. Dave Wilson is filling in.
Have some fun by posting your answers to this question: “With what I know about Hoppy, had he not been a radio talk show host he probably would have been a…”
(This should be interesting)
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Workers who have state insurance can have some say-so this week about three options that will all hit their pocketbooks.
“They’re pretty huge increases for folks, and that comes after years of no increases,” said Elaine Harris, whose work for the Communications Workers of America includes representation of troopers and corrections workers.
The Public Employees Insurance Agency is having public hearings around the state on whether to move ahead with premium increases of about 24 percent or whether to instead pick a different option that would increase premiums a little less but make up the difference through increased deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and prescription costs.
The main reason for the change is that a broad plan passed by the Legislature mandates a return to an 80-20 cost share between government employers and public employees. That ratio had gotten out of whack in recent years because of a reserve that state officials originally set up to hold premiums flat.
Public hearings about how to structure the increases will be Monday in Charleston, Tuesday in Huntington and Morgantown and then Wednesday in Martinsburg. And then this coming Thursday, the finance board is scheduled to meet again to decide which plan to use.
Harris hopes people are able to participate on relatively short notice.
“A concern I have is, we have folks — our members work in corrections; they’re also troopers out and about, working very structured work schedules — and how they can offer their input,” Harris said.
Major changes, effective July 1, 2023, include:
- Imposition of the spouse surcharge for active employee policyholders from state agencies, colleges, universities, and county boards of education whose spouses are offered employer-sponsored insurance coverage but who choose to get coverage through a plan offered by PEIA. This change does not affect non-state agencies, retirees, spouses who are employed by PEIA-participating agencies, or spouses whose coverage is through Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE.
- Increasing health premiums to get the plan back to an 80/20 employer/employee premium split for state agencies, colleges, universities, and county boards of education by July 1, 2023.
- Increasing reimbursement to providers to a minimum of 110% of Medicare’s reimbursement.
The big issue at the public hearings will be three options to spread out the additional costs for people who are insured.
The first narrows any changes to premium increases only. For the fund for state employees, that would mean 24.2% premium increases for employees, varying across the program’s different plans. For workers at local entities that opt into PEIA, the option would mean a 15.6% premium increase. Retirees would not absorb any increase.
The second two options are described as blended approaches, raising premiums while also raising deductible and out-of-pocket costs.
The blended options also vary depending on what specific insurance plan each person has opted to take.
So, the first blended option anticipates raising premiums by 19.2% and non-state funds by 12.5%. Benefit changes would mean increasing medical deductibles and medical out-of-pocket expenses by about 25%. This would also dramatically raise prescription costs.
The second blended option includes a 14.6% increase for state employees. Medical deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses would increase about 50%. Again, prescription drug costs go way up.
For workers in non-state plans that opt into PEIA, the second blended approach would mean a 9.7% premium increase along with medical deductible and out-of-pocket increases of about 35%. And again, prescription drug costs would go way up.
Local governments that opt into PEIA are aware that their workers, too, are in line to pay more under the three proposals.
“We have encouraged our members to attend the public hearings and speak on which plan is best for their county and employees,” said Melanie Pagliaro, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia.
She said county budgets have been under a deadline for submission to the State Auditor’s Office by March 28, Tuesday, and some counties have already submitted theirs. If changes are necessary because of this week’s PEIA actions, counties would need to submit budget revisions after July 1.
Of the insurance plan alternatives, workers in relatively good health might get a financial break through the second two options that hold premium costs down. But those with bouts of illness could get hit harder.
“We in our younger days may not have had the need to utilize our healthcare benefits,” Harris said, “but later you do. As far as the pharmaceutical piece of it, most people are on some type of medication. In a perfect world, if you just had to pay premiums that would be one thing and you didn’t have the out-of-pocket, but I see there’s a combination of both.
“As I saw the options, it’s basically if you’re going for a lower percentage of premium increase it’s just shifting the cost over for out-of-pocket deductibles. I guess the best way to say it, it’s just shifting one area to another. I’m anxious to hear what people have to say about that, the people directly impacted.”
The first hearing is 6 p.m. Monday at the Culture Center in Charleston. There are two hearings on Tuesday: 6 p.m. at the Hampton Inn at Granville Square in Morgantown and also 6 p.m. at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington. And the final public hearing is 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg.
Following the public hearings, the PEIA Finance Board will meet again to settle on one approach.
“It will be the reality: how does that affect me, how does that affect my family?” Harris said.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s now been two months since the Regal apartment building caught fire and was tragically demolished. On January 26, residents of the four-story building quickly had their life flipped upside down.
Joshua Williams says things are starting to calm down for him and his cat he was lucky to save from the fire. He’s used these past two months to pay it forward.
“I was pretty blessed to receive the help that I got,” he said. “Now I try to help other people when I can.”
Residents were helped out with money sent their way from the United Way in the middle of the month. Williams has put that money towards a new apartment he moved into recently. He’s also gotten other donations from people near and far.
“I’m doing pretty good, not the greatest but as good as can be expected,” Williams said, who’s been staying busy working at his job.
He moved into his new apartment not too long ago after spending some time in January and February living with some friends. He was offered a stay at a hotel like many other the residents, but wanted that spot to go towards someone else.
“I didn’t need it, I figured someone else would need it more,” he explained.
The Charleston resident also said he was overwhelmed with the support he saw from people he knew and even people he didn’t.
“It’s been unbelievable, the overwhelming love I’ve gotten from people in the community,” Williams said gratefully.
Williams is keeping a positive attitude through it all while he says he’s waiting on a deposit from the Regal apartment management. Williams was told he was supposed to get a deposit back within a few weeks dating back to February, but now that waiting time has grown to 30-90 days.
“I don’t know what’s going on with upper management but it seems super unprofessional,” said Williams about those running the Regal. “There was a lot of problems over there.”
He said he called an office in Utah to get some clarity or some sort of explanation, but didn’t hear back. He’s left multiple messages. Williams is using this situation to try and teach others a lesson.
“Vet who you’re renting from.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Upcoming weather in the state appears to be more calm than the wild and windy weather over the weekend.
Appalachian Power reported more than 58,000 customers lost power Saturday evening following the extreme wind gusts that downed many trees and power lines statewide.
The company said in a news release Sunday some counties with customers may have to go to Monday before their power is restored including Clay, Fayette, Kanawha. The counties of Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Marshall, Mason, Ohio, Putnam and Wayne were hit the hardest, according to Appalachian Power, and they may be without service till Tuesday.
Appalachian Power’s online power outage map as of 3 p.m shows five counties still have over 1,000 outages: Wayne, Cabell, Lincoln, Mason, Kanawha. There’s just over 15,000 outages total statewide that still need to be addressed. Updates on outages and restoration efforts may be found on Appalachian Power’s web page.
More than 1,000 workers are helping to restore the power which include 600 line workers, 250 tree removal workers and 150 damage assessors.
Company officials remind residents that downed lines are dangerous and should be avoided as they carry an electric current that can cause fatal injuries.
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SUTTON, W.Va. — Authorities in Braxton County believe a shooting that left two people dead to be a murder-suicide.
Authorities in their initial investigation of the shooting said the situation began as a domestic violence incident.
West Virginia State Police said Lorelei King, 41, and Leo Raymond King, 63, were found on a porch in critical condition at a Edgewood Acres residence in Sutton
It was described in a news release from the state police that the two had been shot and first responders provided first aid at the scene. They both later died from their injuries.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fifteen practices are scheduled for the WVU football team over five weeks and for the most part, the schedule is pretty routine. Doug Nester has one date on his calendar that stands out and it has nothing to do with donning his No. 72 jersey.
The Spring Valley High School graduate is set to be married on April 8, taking advantage of a gap in the practice schedule over Easter weekend. Nester says his fiancee, a teacher, has taken charge of all the arrangements.
“She has been doing it while I am up here. She has been planning the wedding,” Nester said.
Nester is entering his fifth season of college football. He played two years at Virginia Tech before transferring to WVU in 2021. In November, Nester walked with his family on Senior Day ceremonies prior to the Kansas State game. But he elected to return for an additional season of eligibility after conversations with his coaches.
“I just had to talk it over with my family, talk it over with the coaches and really just see what was the best option for me. Talking it out with them, it was just an easy decision that I should come back.
“This will be my fifth year of actually playing. I was to the point where I was almost done. It was a little bit of convincing.”
Nester played both tackle and guard at Virginia Tech but he has been used almost exclusively at guard since arriving at WVU. This spring however, Nester has been working outside at right tackle. Head coach Neal Brown says the move is part of a continual effort to get the best five offensive linemen on the field.
“I just feel like it is more natural, not being inside and contained,” Nester said.
“Tackles in general, you are more on an island. It is more of you versus the other man in front of you. At guard, you are usually always on double teams or working with somebody. I just find it more enjoyable to go against another man one-on-one.”
Nester, Zach Frazier and Wyatt Milum are three multi-year starters returning to the offensive line. That position group is the most experienced unit on the Mountaineer roster.
“We talk about a lot just how we have to come in an be the leaders of this offense because we all have that experience. We have to bring it every day because the team is going to rely on us.
“There’s a lot of different components to O-line work. Just knowing how on each play, whether it is inside zone, outside zone how the person next to you like to block it or how they will move is very important.”
If Nester remains at right tackle when the season begins, both tackle spots will be held by Spring Valley graduates. Wyatt Milum is firmly established as the team’s left tackle.
“I think he developing into a really great player. Each and every day I can see him getting better and better. We watch film with each other all the time and hang out with each other all the time. On the field, I think he is improving so much. I think it is incredible.”
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