The Voice of West Virginia
Courtesy of Grey2K
Another state is getting out of the dog racing business. Southland Gaming, which operates the only greyhound racing facility in Arkansas, announced a phase out of operations at the West Memphis racetrack and casino by the end of 2022. The Arkansas state Racing Commission approved the shutdown.
Arkansas becomes the latest state to get out of the business. The biggest setback for the sport came last November when Florida voters decided overwhelmingly (69 percent to 31 percent) to end greyhound racing at the state’s 11 tracks by 2021.
Greyhound racing is dying, and fast. The number of tracks has declined from more than 50 in the 1980’s to just a handful today.
After the closings, there will be only five tracks left in the country—one each in Iowa, Alabama and Texas and two in West Virginia, at Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes and Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack.
Notably, Delaware North owns Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island. Delaware North also owns the Arkansas track that cut the deal with breeders to phase out the greyhounds.
Gamblers have many more options today with casinos and, now, legalized sports betting. Also, public opinion has turned against dog racing, in part because of the efforts of the anti-greyhound racing organization GREY2K
“It’s now clear that greyhound racing will end completely in the United States,” said GREY2K executive director Carey Theil. “The greyhound debate will now turn to West Virginia, where lawmakers will vote on whether to end $15 million in annual subsidies for dog racing.”
GREY2K has a strong ally in Senate President Mitch Carmichael. The Jackson County Republican recently called for an end to dog racing. “This is an industry that has come and gone,” Carmichael said on MetroNews Talkline. “It makes no sense for the taxpayers of this state to subsidize what amounts to, in my view, an inhumane activity.”
The greyhound breeders and their supporters argue that the $15 million is not a subsidy, but rather a share of the casino profits dog racing was promised when slots were introduced at the tracks. That’s a semantic debate, but they are right that the pitch for slots and table games included the argument that proceeds would help sustain the greyhound racing industry.
That’s why, in fairness, the breeders are entitled to a soft landing, a phase out or buy out so they are not tossed off a financial cliff. Surely the legislature can work that out here, just as Florida and Arkansas have done.
The greyhound breeders will argue dog racing has a substantial economic impact. Ohio County Senator Shawn Fluharty said the Wheeling track supports 1,700 jobs. Well, if that’s the case, communities and investors would be falling over themselves to build more dog tracks.
There is simply no denying that greyhound racing’s days are numbered, and without the subsidy, dog racing would end within a few months. West Virginia should make a fair offer to the breeders, GREY2K should organize an aggressive adoption effort for the dogs, and let’s move on.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate rejected a joint resolution on Thursday that would have halted the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, the replacement of the Clean Power Plan.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued the rule in June, which establishes guidelines for states regarding carbon-dioxide emissions and other gases released from coal-fired power plants. States can use “candidate technologies” to establish standards.
The rule replaces the Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced carbon dioxide levels to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced the resolution last month. The Senate voted 41-53 on the measure.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted against the joint resolution; Manchin said while the new rule is flawed for ruling out carbon capture and other technologies at coal plants, the resolution was too broad.
“I believe we need to put the partisan gimmicks aside and come together to focus on developing and deploying the technologies vital to solving climate change, from carbon capture and utilization and solar power to energy efficiency and storage technologies. The technologies that were unattainable then are within reach now,” said Manchin, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Manchin said in June the federal government needs to pursue carbon capture technologies that meaningfully reduce carbon emissions.
Capito said the Affordable Clean Energy rule is better for West Virginia than the Clean Power Plan, which she called “an unrealistic and strangling regulation” that would have negatively affected the state.
“The ACE Rule is a better alternative that allows states and energy producers to reduce emissions at an achievable pace without cutting back on jobs or economic growth. That’s why I have been a staunch supporter of this commonsense alternative to the CPP and strongly opposed Democrats’ unsuccessful efforts today to block its implementation,” she said.
Capito said earlier this year the new regulation is a sign the current administration is balancing regulation and ending the “war on coal.”
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Twenty-four people were arrested on Wednesday on drug charges, with Mercer County and state authorities looking for 30 additional people facing charges.
The arrests were arrested on an array of charges, including possession and intent to delivery charges.
According to authorities, there are 190 charges between the 54 people.
The round-up was part of a cooperative effort between the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, Bluefield Police Department, Princeton Police Department, West Virginia State Police and the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A Parkersburg man pleaded guilty on Thursday to second-degree murder in connection with the death of a 68-year-old woman.
Michael Wayne Leadmon, 22, was arrested on Sept. 4, two days after authorities found Karen Yeager’s body. The body was discovered under the Fifth Street bridge.
Parkersburg police said Leadmon and a 17-year-old juvenile forced themselves into Yeager’s Broad Street residence, knocking her unconscious before choking her and stabbing Yeager in the neck.
As part of his plea agreement, Leadmon agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Leadmon’s sentencing date is Dec. 19.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greenbrier West is enjoying their best start to a season since 2013 when the Cavaliers advanced to the Class A state championship game. At 5-1, GWHS enters the eighth week of the regular season ranked fifth in the SSAC ratings and sixth in the MetroNews power rankings.
The first head coach in program history has returned to lead Cavalier football. Toby Harris has injected new life into a team that is coming off back-to-back two-win seasons.
“They do like their football,” Harris said. “They have had four pretty tough years. The community is getting around us and we are getting good crowds. Everyone is excited.”
Harris graduated from the West Virginia Institute of Technology in 1966. When Greenbrier West High School was opened in 1968, Harris was selected to guide the GWHS football program. He posted a record of 65-35-1 in ten seasons as head coach, advancing to postseason play in 1976 and 1977. In the first six seasons, the Cavaliers played all of their ‘home’ games in Rainelle, which is about four miles from their campus in Charmco.
Photo courtesy of Greenbrier West Athletics (@GWHSCavaliers)
Harris returned to the program this summer and has seen immediate success. “I hadn’t been too far away from the football team. I had been watching them and these kids had tough years the last couple seasons. But you could see that there was some potential. They’re very good kids and hard working kids.”
Harris is also an accomplished wrestling coach. He launched the program at Greenbrier West and posted a 181-75-2 dual meet record in 23 seasons. His 1977 team finished as the state runner-up. Harris was inducted into the West Virginia State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006.
The Cavaliers feature a run-dominated offensive attack, throwing the ball on only fifteen percent of their snaps. Harris admits his offense has evolved over the years.
“I worked 38 years in education and then I retired. I went back to Oak Hill and coached for three years (2005-2007). During that time, I spent some time at WVU watching their offense and started spreading the ball out a little bit myself. This year, we are actually doing both. You will see us in the spread, you will see us sometimes back in the I-formation and running the ball right at you.”
“Everybody we play now seems to be using a spread offense, spreading the field and throwing it more. Back when I started we were pretty much fundamental football, playing two tight ends and running the football.”
The Cavalier offense is led by junior running back Noah Brown. In last Friday’s 34-10 win over Pocahontas County, Brown set the program’s single-game rushing record with a 324-yard performance. He has rushed for 1,078 yards and seventeen touchdowns.
“Noah is a good running back. He is about 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. He is starting to make some cuts. If we can get him out in space, he is tough to bring down.”
Greenbrier West’s offense is engineered by junior quarterback Kaiden Pack. He was a standout guard in the Cavaliers’ run to the state basketball tournament last winter. Pack has three touchdown passes and has rushed for three more scores.
“Kaiden is a real good athlete. He played as a split end on the single wing the last few years so we had to develop a quarterback. He just seems to be getting better every week. He has accepted what we are trying to do. We don’t think he is near what he is going to be.”
The Cavaliers seek their fourth consecutive victory Friday night at Richwood. A split of their final four games will likely propel the Cavaliers into the playoffs for the first time in five years.
“They are playing well on both sides of the ball as a team. They have great attitudes.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dozens of pumpkins were falling from the sky at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston on Thursday.
More than 1,000 West Virginia students from 44 schools in 15 counties took part in the 21st Capital City Pumpkin Drop hosted by BridgeValley Community and Technical College. The drop is a competition of pumpkins dropping in designed packages by the students.
“We did put hay in ours to make it lighter,” Qamar Alyasin, a 6th grader at John Adams Middle School told MetroNews. “It’s also recyclable material which gives us extra points. It can hold up the pumpkin well, we already tested the pumpkin out and it’s very sustainable.”
The students’ design boxes for the competition with weight limits and other restrictions about what they can put inside. The pumpkin inside the box is then dropped from the top of a ladder on an AEP truck. Pumpkins with no marks, bumps or breaks advance to the next round.
“We learn mostly STEM,” Isabel Trusty, a 6th grader at John Adams Middle School told MetroNews. “Particularly the engineering part of STEM because you learn how to build things, build designs to keep things safe.”
John Adams Middle School, which sits in Charleston, had a design that featured two layers of hay and a blanket.
Awards were given out to students who created the best pumpkin shelter, as well as those who design creatively and sustainably for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
“You learn how to take something that is a normal thing and turn it into something that can win and be helpful,” Alyasin said. “This also teaches you that if you lose, you can try again and come back.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police officers in Charleston are going to undergo additional training on how to make arrests in stressful situations after a “use of force” complaint was filed following an arrest that took place Monday.
A cellphone video taken by a bystander shows a person being restrained by a police officer on the street when a second officer arrives to assist. The video shows the second officer going to his knees and then throwing four punches with his right hand.
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, Police Chief Opie Smith and RESET Chair Rev. Roberta Smith issued a joint statement Thursday evening following a meeting earlier in the day.
After reviewing the dash cam video from Monday’s arrest with RESET members, it was decided that Charleston officers would undergo further training.
“Officers will complete additional defensive tactics trainings in two officer cuffing situations and one officer take down and cuffing tactics,” the statement said. “The goal of these trainings is to work with officers to show different techniques that can be used to defuse situations. A full outline of the training classes will be reviewed by RESET.”
The statement also said officers would take additional classes focused on communication.
“CPD members will be taking additional training classes on how to interact and communicate with individuals who have difficulty communicating in high stress situations – such as individuals with hearing impairments, autism and PTSD – so that officers can be better prepared to deal with a variety of situations,” the statement said.
The two officers involved in the incident are currently on paid administrative leave as the department’s Professional Standards Division conducts an internal investigation to determine “if the force used was necessary and within the Department’s policy,” Smith said in a statement released Wednesday.
Smith also said the investigation would be put on the fast track and would take no longer than two weeks.
Reports indicate the person being arrested was a woman and the charges included animal cruelty and resisting arrest.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Nothing, it seems, is going to keep quarterback Austin Kendall from finally starting a game at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Kendall has recovered quickly from the muscle injury that knocked him out of the Iowa State game, and coach Neal Brown believes he will be good to go when West Virginia visits the Sooners Saturday morning.
“Barring any changes over the next 48 hours, he will line up behind center on Saturday,” Brown said on his Thursday night radio show.
Brown said that Kendall was able to take 50 percent of the reps in Tuesday’s practice, and upped that total on Wednesday.
As recently as Tuesday afternoon, West Virginia coaches were very unsure whether Kendall would be able to play, and Brown hinted at the possibility of using Trey Lowe either as a starter or in conjunction with Jack Allison.
“We have a plan with the quarterback position if Austin can’t go,” Brown said on Tuesday. “It’s not something I want to sit up here and talk about. If Austin can’t go, we’ll go through with that plan.”
Brown was again coy when asked about the possibility of using certain packages with a running quarterback even if Kendall were to start.
“We’re evaluating all things,” Brown said on Thursday night. “Our run game has been a struggle this year. You’re always looking for solutions.”
Kendall has started every game for the Mountaineers this season after arriving from Oklahoma as a graduate transfer in January. Kendall has competed 66 percent of his passes for 1,247 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Leddie Brown named starting RB
Sophomore running back Leddie Brown will get the starting nod for West Virginia at Oklahoma. Brown is averaging a team-high 4.5 yards per carry since returning from a foot injury that kept him out of WVU’s first two games.
“He’s been the most consistent running back since he came back from the injury,” Neal Brown said.
WVU’s coach said the team still needs senior Kennedy McKoy to produce. McKoy is averaging 3 yards per carry and 31.2 yards per game this season. His career averages are 5.1 yards per carry and 50.1 yards per game.
“We’ve got to get Kennedy going. We really need him,” Neal Brown said. “He’s shown flashes. He’s a guy we need to get a good performance out of on Saturday.”
Brown said that senior cornerback Keith Washington will be a game-time decision. If Washington cannot play, the Mountaineers will be forced to start two true freshman corners against an offense averaging better than 50 points per game.
Fellow senior Hakeem Bailey has to sit out the first half after picking up a second-half targeting penalty against Iowa State. That leaves freshmen Nicktroy Fortune and Tae Mayo in line to start.
When asked about the first-year surprises he has encountered, Brown mentioned the challenges of recruiting in the regions directly surrounding West Virginia.
“It’s taking us longer than I thought to make inroads in the DMV, the Pittsburgh area and Northeast Ohio,” Brown said. “We have not been as successful as I’d like. We’re starting to make progress for the ’21 class. I didn’t realize we hadn’t been in those areas.”
West Virginia will don a new look at Oklahoma, going with white helmets, white jerseys and gray pants.
— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) October 17, 2019
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Visit Fayetteville, WV
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Organizers of this year’s Bridge Day in Fayetteville are expecting between 80,000 and 100,000 people, including tourists from other states and other nations, to take part in the 40th annual event Saturday.
Fayetteville Mayor and Bridge Day Commission Chairwoman Sharon Cruikshank said a favorable weather outlook and picturesque foliage currently on display along the New River Gorge could result in a record number of visitors during the event, which begins with the “Taste of Bridge Day” festival at Adventures on the Gorge in Lansing, featuring area restaurants and caterers offering samples of their cuisine, along with local artwork, souvenirs and live music.
“National attention is focused here and I think it’s really great. It’s a great opportunity for us to put our best foot forward and welcome everybody. Fayetteville’s got the town ready,” Cruikshank told MetroNews. “There’s a lot of opportunities for people to enjoy shopping, getting their food fix and then getting a music fix.”
Anniversary pins, tumblers and commemorative booklets will be available for purchase at the event and at the Fayette County Chamber/New River Gorge CVB office in Oak Hill.
Cruikshank said visitors will be able to choose from several locations to observe more than 300 participants expected to take part in Saturday’s BASE jump off the New River Gorge Bridge.
“Within a mile, mile and a half, (people who walk down into the Gorge) do have a nice venue that you can watch from, from Route 82. Some people like to watch it from Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center, there on the north side with the National Park Service. And then there’s also Adventures on the Gorge, Hawk’s Nest State Park. You really have to have a good pair of binoculars but you could ride the New River jet boat, and that takes you up almost to the bridge area, so you could see a little bit of Bridge Day from that. And the best way, I think, is to be on a rafting trip. They pull in right under the area so you can watch from a raft below, so it’s the best of both worlds,” she said.
Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley said his officers will be ready for the expected heavy traffic, thanks to months of advanced planning and coordination between law enforcement agencies.
“The most important thing I can say to people is: use the shuttles. You can get a ride to the front gate where you get dropped off, and they pick you up and take you back to your car'” said Fridley. “Here in the town of Fayetteville, you can also be picked up in front of the courthouse. For $3, it takes you to the event, drops you off, you get checked when you go through, come back out, find the bus with your parking lot number on it and ride back. Can’t beat it.”
Route 19 approaching the New River Gorge Bridge will be closed in both directions Saturday beginning at 7 a.m., and will reopen at 5 p.m.
Active Southern West Virginia, which organizes and hosts the traditional Saturday morning Bridge Day 5K run, will offer a bike valet service for visitors who plan to park their cars and ride their bicycles to the event. ASWV Community Outreach Director Erin Reid said giving attendees the option of arriving at the site on a bike promotes the group’s goal of encouraging healthy lifestyle activities while alleviating a small portion of the expected traffic congestion.
“Right at the corner of Route 19 and Keller Avenue will be the Active Southern West Virginia bike valet check-in, and you’ll come up and see our representatives at the table. They will secure your bike and give you a ticket, just like at a coat check,” she said.
Bike riding into the Gorge is permitted. The 5K run will begin shortly after Bridge Day officially opens to the public at 9 a.m.
Backpacks, coolers, large handbags, folding chairs, alcoholic beverages, weapons and fireworks will not be permitted at the event.
A complete schedule of events on Friday and Saturday is available at https://officialbridgeday.com/
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As John Hallman, an 87-year-old Braxton County resident, experienced crashing blood sugar while being treated at a VA hospital, the person checking his glucose levels overnight was a woman now considered a person of interest in a series of suspicious deaths, a lawyer for Hallman’s family says.
Tony O’Dell, a lawyer who represents Hallman’s family, has filed a claim over Hallman’s death with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The basis of claim, which was provided to MetroNews, redacts the name of the person checking Hallman’s glucose levels overnight.
“We have a pretty good idea who the person of interest is,” O’Dell said Thursday on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
“The person of interest was the person who was actually taking the glucose level readings. So she would have actually been in with the family while Mr. Hallman was dying.”
Ten or more deaths are believed to have occurred under similar circumstances in 2017 and 2018 at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
No one has been arrested. The hospital in Clarksburg has said no one currently working there is a suspect.
The Washington Post reported this month that the person of interest initially was transferred to a desk job, and then was fired after a few months. She was accused of falsely claiming on her resume that she was certified as a nursing assistant.
The Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Administration has been investigating the deaths, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Five victims have been identified publicly, plus there are others who have not been named. They include veterans William Alfred Holloway, Felix Kirk McDermott, George Nelson Shaw, Archie Edgell and John Hallman.
The cases share several characteristics. Each patient was on 3A. And each experienced crashing blood sugar before dying. Most had no history of diabetes and were not supposed to receive insulin injections.
O’Dell, who represents the McDermott family, said the woman now considered to be a person of interest was also administering glucose checks in the McDermott case.
“She would have been interacting with these families while these veterans were laying there dying,” O’Dell said.
Tony O’Dell joins @HoppyKercheval to talk about the ongoing cases at the VA in Clarksburg, the filing of intent to sue, and the passing of veteran John Hallman. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/Z0ZXRC57lY
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 17, 2019
Hallman was a Korean War veteran who served in the Navy. He was admitted June 12, 2018, to the VA hospital with a suspected small bowel obstruction.
He was placed on antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication and fluids and admitted to the hospital’s 3A unit. An initial test of his blood sugar was normal.
But overnight, periodic checks showed his blood sugar was crashing.
His initial glucose test at 9:27 p.m. June 12 read 77, within the normal range of 70 to 109.
By 5:40 a.m., his glucose reading was 56.
And by 6:45 a.m., the glucose level was 26.
At that point, the critical low result triggered a report to a doctor and medicine to boost his blood sugar levels was ordered and administered.
By 11:25 a.m. June 13, 2018, “Mr. Hallman was found apneic, pulseless and unresponsive,” according to the basis of claim that O’Dell has filed with the VA.
The Washington Post reported that it was Hallman’s death that finally made hospital staff suspicious.
“We said, ‘Who checks the blood sugar on a non-diabetic in the middle of the night while they’re trying to sleep?’ It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not good,'” a medical staffer told The Post.
The claim on behalf of Hallman’s family contends the hospital did not take the appropriate steps to examine his symptoms or to warn the family of unusual events at the hospital.
In short, the claim contends, John Hallman and his family were not provided adequate information that might have saved his life.
“If John Hallman had been provided informed consent, he could have made an informed choice about whether to seek care at that facility or seek care somewhere else,” according to the claim.
The accusation that the hospital was negligent is a common theme in additional claims.
“You’re seeing system failure after system failure,” O’Dell said on “Talkline.”
Speaking Wednesday on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” attorney Dino Colombo said an accusation of negligent conduct will be key to a claim by the family of deceased Army veteran Archie Edgell.
“They are responsible for the failure to follow their own policies and procedures,” Colombo said.
He contends insulin was too easily accessible at the VA hospital and that the most likely scenario is that’s what was used to kill the patients.
“They should be locking that medication up. We have information that this medicine was just lying around 3A on the unit,” he said. “Nobody was monitoring the use of that medication.”
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