Local News

Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

WCHS-AM

USA Cycling officials visit Charleston amid the gear-up for the upcoming Pro Road National Championship to be held in the Capital City

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The largest governing body of the cycling sport, USA Cycling is bringing its national championship games to the Capital City this May, and officials with the nonprofit corporation are in town now doing a little prep work before the major event.

USA Cycling CEO Brendan Quirk came on 580 Live with Dave Allen Wednesday to talk more about the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championship set for May 14 – May 19 in Charleston, which the City and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau officially announced back in Oct. 2023.

Brendan Quirk

Quirk said they are currently in town mapping out the routes for the three-race, five-day competition that will feature the professional Road Race, Time Trial and Criterium races.

Through a process USA Cycling representatives conduct every several years where they put out requests to different cities across the country to host the championship, Quirk said they chose Charleston to be the next host after they presented the most tempting bid.

He said the city’s bid read something along the lines of being the “best metro city in the most rural area you will ever see,” and after a paying a visit to see for themselves, he said they were immediately hooked.

“We were just blown away by how beautiful it is, how welcoming the community was, and for us it was a no-brainer decision to come here,” said Quirk.

Quirk said similar to what you see during the Tour de France, the Road Race is the marquee event. He said the Criterium is a shorter, tighter race comparable to what you might see in the Bristol Nascar races, and the Time Trial simply involves participants racing against the clock.

However, he said while it may seem simple, the Time Trial event will this year be an Olympic-qualifying race, meaning the men and women who win in that race will be eligible to compete in the Paris Olympics this summer. He said that alone will draw participants and spectators in from not only across the country, but even the world.

“Bike racing is heavily a Europe-based sport, so our best athletes are in Europe, a ton of those athletes are going to be coming over here, coming to Charleston to try to qualify for the Olympic teams, so that is going to be a big, big day,” Quirk said.

He said those Time Trial races get underway on Wednesday, May, 15.

Quirk said the categories of each race will include professionals along with up-and-comers with the Under 23 category and the Junior 17-18 category.

While they are still working out the exact routes, Quirk said one aspect will involve the professional men’s teams climbing Bridge Road and descending from Loudon Heights both ten times consecutively. He said this will make for some incredibly dramatic racing.

“The aggression with which these athletes will take that decent, it will just make you want to cover your eyes because they are so aggressive,” he said. “Just as you can win a race on a climb, you can also win a race on a decent if you’re super aggressive.”

Quirk said USA Cycling plans to hold the annual championship in the Capital City for five years. Previously, the event has been held in the major cities of Philadelphia, Knoxville, Greenville, Chattanooga, among others.

He said the event has been an economic gold mine for the areas it selects to host in, bringing in millions of dollars every year. However, Quirk said Charleston will see the biggest economic impact from the event after they decided to expand it from only allowing professionals to participate to additional categories of biking.

“What we’ve done this year is we’ve added the U23 category, we’ve added the Junior category, so this is going to be like a festival of road cycling, this is going to be the biggest turnout of athletes, their families, their entourages, the biggest we’ve ever had,” said Quirk.

Finally, Quirk said while the event is a roadway race, residents should expect some travel impact during those five days in May. However, he said the peak of the travel disruptions should only occur on the weekend, May 18 and 19.

You can find more information about the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championship coming to Charleston here.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Justice says he awaits CPD to complete review of traffic stop involving Jimmy Wriston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice expressed concern when asked Wednesday about the ongoing investigation into a traffic stop involving Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston.

Gov. Jim Justice

Wriston was stopped Feb. 21 by the Charleston police officers east of the state capitol in the southbound lanes of I-77. A caller to Kanawha County Metro 911 reported Wriston driving erratically on Charleston’s East End minutes earlier.

No tickets were issued and no charges have been filed as a result of the stop.

“How does Jim Justice feel? He’s very concerned,” Justice said during his Wednesday media briefing. “And how Jim Justice feels–is probably disappointed.”

The Charleston Police Department launched an internal investigation the following day to determine if police followed proper procedures, according to Chief Scott Dempsey. Both the call to Metro 911 and the stop are believed to be under investigation.

Jimmy Wriston

Justice would not elaborate on any details of the investigation Wednesday, only to say it is ongoing, and when the details are released, he’ll address them with the media.

“Right now, there’s enough stuff that doesn’t look very good, but let’s just wait, let’s wait,” Justice said.

Since Wriston was stopped, Justice has insisted there is no coverup and wants to let the investigation produce the facts that answer the questions from the public and media.

“I give people the benefit of the doubt, and I absolutely want to make sure we’re on solid ground before we start accusing people or saying this or that,” Justice said. “But, once we get there, I’ll address it.”

Justice added Wriston has excelled as transportation secretary.

“Jimmy Wriston has done an outstanding job as far as his job, with all the work we’re doing within highways and everything else,” Justice said.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Wednesday rain leaves behind high water, power outages

High water along 39th Street East in Nitro as Armour Creek got out of its banks. (Photo/Nitro Fire Department)

NITRO, W.Va. — February thunderstorms have left behind high water issues in parts of West Virginia.

The storms moved through Wednesday morning causing several problems in central and southern counties.

The National Weather Service has parts of Cabell, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam and Wayne counties under a flood warning until 2 p.m. Wednesday, parts of Clay, Roane and Kanawha counties under a flood warning until 3:15 p.m. Wednesday and parts of Jackson and Mason counties until 4 p.m.

Residents report small stream and creek flooding. Meteorologists said runoff from morning rain had the potential to cause problems.

Heavy wind gusts also caused power outages. Appalachian Power reported more than 6,500 customers without power at midday Wednesday including 2,100 customers in Wayne County and more than 1,300 customers in Kanawha County. Mon Power reported more than 3,000 customers without service early Wednesday afternoon with most of the problems in Jackson and Clay counties.

Meteorologists said temperatures would continue drop through Wednesday afternoon with rain turning to snow by Wednesday evening with no significant accumulation expected. Temperatures will dip into the 20s Wednesday night.

Some of the high water was reported along the Interstate 64 corridor. There was high water in parking lots in Nitro and residents in a home along 39th Street East had to be evacuated. Water was receding by midday.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

CPD charge 14-year-old boys in violent crime spree

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police have now charged two 14-year-old boys in the murder and robbery last month of another teenager at a Charleston tobacco shop along with two other violent crimes that occurred in the past month.

Charleston police announced Wednesday morning that a second 14-year-old is now charged in the shooting death of Caden Martin, 19, of Dunbar.

Martin, who worked at Tobacco and Pipe on 7th Avenue in North Charleston was gunned down during an armed robbery on Jan. 30.  Charleston police charged the first 14-year-old a few hours after the shooting.

Police also announced Wednesday the two boys have been charged with malicious wounding after the Jan. 21 shooting of Christina White on Woodward Drive. White, 44, was shot in the face as she was walking with her boyfriend.

White remains hospitalized.

The juveniles also face charges in a third violent crime. City police said Wednesday they’ve charged them with first degree robbery in the armed holdup of a driver who was in a parking lot in the 300 block of Patrick Street on Jan. 24. Police said the boys robbed the man at gunpoint as he got out of his vehicle.

The teenagers are in custody as Charleston police continue their investigation.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

State Department of Transportation highlights placement of EV charging stations in NEVI plan

CROSS LANES, W.Va. — Members of the public are learning about the state’s plan to implement charging stations for electric vehicles.

The first of three public meetings in West Virginia was held in Kanawha County at the Cross Lanes Library Tuesday. There, DOH officials with the state Department of Transportation detailed the West Virginia National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVl) plan. The NEVI plan is required in order for the state to access federal funding for the deployment of the EV charging stations.

Back in 2022, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4797, which ordered the West Virginia Department of Transportation to create a plan for electric vehicle infrastructure development in the state.

Phase One of the plan includes constructing 15 charging stations no more than 50 miles apart on the major roads that run through the state.

Chief Economic Development Officer with the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways Perry Keller said they want to utilize Interstates 64, 70, 77, 79 and 81 for the placement of the EV charging stations.

“They can’t be greater than 50 miles apart on your electric alternative fuel corridor which we’ve designated as our interstate system,” Keller said.

The chargers also have certain requirements. Keller said stations must include four ports with 150 kilowatts per port for 600 total kilowatts for charging.

Phase One is primarily for drivers making their way through the state from neighboring states. The completion of Phase One then brings Phase Two.

Keller expects West Virginians will mostly focus on Phase Two which is the expansion of charging stations into more community-based settings. Phase Two would open up the possibility of placement at universities and state parks across the state.

“We can cover a lot more of the state and I think that’s what most people are looking to,” said Keller.

West Virginia ranks towards the bottom when it comes to EV use, but Keller believes the NEVI plan can improve on that.

“We’re on the lower side for states,” Perry said about West Virginians driving electric vehicles. “I think a lot of folks are anxious to see the program start though.”

The remaining public meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, at the Marilla Park Center in Morgantown; and 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, February 29, at the Shepherdstown Library.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Cross Lanes residents disapprove potential sale of Union PSD sewer assets to West Virginia American Water

CROSS LANES, W.Va. — It was clear how residents in Cross Lanes feel about West Virginia American Water Company (WVAWC) potentially purchasing the sewer system from the Union Public Service District.

At one point, residents in attendance for a public meeting Tuesday evening we’re all asked who was in favor of the water company purchasing the Union PSD and who was opposed. 99% of people raised their hands when asked if they were against it.

The proposal from the water company is to purchase the sewer system from the PSD for $24 million. Brooks Crislip, the director of Business Development for West Virginia American Water, said the company would then make investments totaling around $15 million over the first five years of controlling the system. Crislip also said an estimated $360,000 would be created in additional tax revenue for Kanawha County.

A possible close date is December 2024. It appears that a rate increase would be at just over 77% over 3 years until December 2027. The current monthly rate for the average customer’s bill is $39.91.

One resident said that number is too great to ignore.

“77% in three years is significant, I don’t care who you are.”

The Union Public Service District, a non-profit organization, employs at least 11 people, which WVAWC, a for-profit company, says they would retain if they end up taking over the wastewater system.

Crislip said the PSD is “in pretty good shape.” Right now, the water company only serves around 1,500 wastewater customers.

There are a total of 5,190 residential customers with the PSD in Cross Lanes, according to Marissa Wagner, who is an officer manager with the PSD. She spoke on behalf of PSD board members, agreeing that the PSD is in decent shape and has overcome some recent financial situations with bonds.

The PSD wanted a public meeting to display the facts of the proposal and get input from the public.

“We want what is best for the community and for the district,” said Wagner.

Cross Lanes resident Mike Stephens said he has never had any issues with the Union PSD in the close to 30 years that he’s lived there. After attending the most recent PSD board meeting with representatives from WVAWC there too, he asked them if the PSD was a failing one to which they both told him “no.”

He said he would rather WVAWC not take over the PSD.

“Even if they need to have their rates raise, I would rather see Union PSD keep control of it because they are a community-based, Kanawha County entity,” said Stephens.

Whether or not the purchase goes through is ultimately up to the PSD board. Their decision would then go to the state Public Service Commission for their approval, to which they could add a rate increase of their own on top of a rate hike proposed by the water company.

“The only way that it could be technically blocked is if the PSC agrees not to proceed,” said Wyatt Hanna, Kanawha County attorney.

Board members of the Union PSD are appointed by the Kanawha County Commission. Lance Wheeler, Commission President, who was at the public meeting, also took questions from the public.

“It’s their decision at the end of the day,” Wheeler said about the PSD board.

“The commission is focused on finding a way to get this (PSD) where it needs to be five, ten, fifteen years from now,” he added.

Wheeler also said rumors swirling around that the Kanawha County Commission was going to dissolve the Union PSD board were not true.

Tracy White, President of the Kanawha County Board of Education and longtime Cross Lanes resident, said the community needs to stand behind the PSC board, no matter their decision.

“I need this community to understand that whatever this board decides, we have to stand behind them,” said White.

Glasgow mayor Donald Fannin said the water company helped his town in 2020 when they purchased the town’s water system.

“Every promise that they’ve made to me, they’ve fulfilled,” he said. “They came in, bought everything out, fixed everything and I couldn’t be happier.”

Over 700 people signed a petition in the Union PSD office going against the water company making this purchase.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Kanawha County Commission opposes WVAWC rate hike approved by PSC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As West Virginia American Water Company officials work to hammer out the details of a new rate increase approved by the state Public Service Commission, members of the Kanawha County Commission are voicing their opposition to the hike.

Lance Wheeler

“When does this end? It seems like every six months one of these utility companies will get approval for an increase and they’ll come back to the PSC we need more. There needs to be a plan for this,” Commission President Lance Wheeler said on Tuesday’s “580 Live” with Dave Allen heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.

The PSC on Saturday approved an 8 percent rate hike for water and sewer rates for WVAWC, which is significantly less than the 22.5 percent increase that the utility was seeking. The official filing was closer to $44 million last May.

The average water customer’s bill increased by $5.69 a month and the average sewer customer’s bill increased by $5.59. The change took effect Saturday.

Wheeling said the increase doesn’t seem like much, but that’s on top of other increased spending residents have to think about.

“We have to budget, as individuals, what we’re going to be spending for whether it’s buying a new car or buying a new house. The $5 a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you start adding in the Mountaineer Gas, the electric company, the water company, this is really starting to add up,” he said.

WVAWC spokesperson Megan Hannah wrote in an email to MetroNews the company has received the order from the PSC.

Megan Hannah

“At this time, the company is still reviewing the contents of this order to determine customer rate impacts. Any numbers that have been reported so far have not been verified by our company,” Hannah stated.

The water company proposed the rate hike to pay for water and wastewater upgrades that have been made since 2020 and for upgrades projected through Feb. 2025. Those investments total approximately $340 million.

Wheeler said he understands infrastructure upgrades are critical, but said the utility needs to get a better handle on its spending despite rising costs.

“We understand that with inflation in the last three years prices are going up and the cost of business is going up. There needs to be some type of increase for these utility companies so they can continue to upgrade because we are currently in a situation of the past 20 years that the infrastructure is falling apart. They need this money now to catch up. I understand that, but what we need to also make sure that we’re doing is have a plan in place,” he said.

The company defended its proposed hike during a Dec. 2023 evidentiary hearing.

WVAWC has more than 560,000 customers in West Virginia.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Former auxiliary police officer in St. Albans gets prison time for child porn possession

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — A former St. Albans auxiliary police officer will serve more than a decade in prison for possession of child pornography.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia said Monday that Billy J. Griffith, 58, of St. Albans, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for receipt of child pornography and possession of prepubescent child pornography. He was found guilty by a federal jury on June 15, 2023.

Griffith had been an auxiliary officer with the St. Albans Police Department for about seven years. His wife operated a child daycare at the residence.

On August 24, 2022, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Griffith’s home on Baier Street. The search warrant was obtained after officers traced an Internet Protocol (IP) address to Griffith’s residence that had been used to download multiple digital media files of child pornography.

Officers seized an external hard drive, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, and a cell phone during the search warrant. A total of 3,383 images and four videos depicting child pornography came from the four electronic devices.

United States Attorney Will Thompson helped prosecute the case.

“I helped try this case personally because Mr. Griffith betrayed his position of trust in the community with criminal conduct that involved the degradation of prepubescent minors,” Thompson said. “I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and our other law enforcement partners who investigated this case and analyzed the evidence.”

Griffith must also register as a sex offender.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

University of Charleston launches UC Works, a program allowing students to work while in school to alleviate student loan debts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students at University of Charleston will soon have the opportunity to work in a field pertaining to their degree program while getting through school debt free.

In collaboration with WorkForce WV and other business partners, the university is launching UC Works, a new scholarship and work program designed to encourage more high school students to go to college who have not considered going before due to its cost.

UC President Dr. Marty Roth said they will match students up with a local employer for part-time paid work while they’re still enrolled at the school.

Marty Roth

“The objective is for the students to not have to incur any out-of-pocket costs for tuition,” said Roth.

Students must be residents of West Virginia and first-time, first-year students to enroll in the program. They must also be an in-seat student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, or School of Health Sciences.

In addition, they must be eligible for a federal Pell Grant, a West Virginia Higher Education Grant, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIQA) funds.

Roth said the jobs offered to students as part of the program will primarily be with local companies and possibly governmental organizations.

He said students will be able to work in an environment where they’re not only applying what they are learning in the classroom, but also forging other paths that will one day lead to jobs within those organizations. For example, Roth said a student studying business may be employed part-time at Toyota and work toward a future at the company while attending UC.

“If they do a good job and Toyota likes them, and they enjoy that type of working environment and responsibilities that Toyota offers them, then hopeful there will be an opportunity for them to be employed full-time at Toyota once they graduate,” he said.

He said the program is starting specifically for students who plan to commute to UC so they can utilize federal and state financial aid, as well as institutional aid that the university provides that will help them avoid tuition, costs for books, computers, among other necessary resources.

Roth said the program was created out of a need to attract more future, qualified and entry-level employees to companies in the Kanawha Valley and throughout the state as more and more companies migrate in to the state and continue to expand the workforce.

“We know there is really a demand from those employers to provide paid part-time work, paid internships and full-time employment after graduation for skilled workers,” he said.

Roth said they are currently working with Kanawha County Schools and other school districts in a relatively close distance from the university to share information about UC Works. He said so far they have already garnered much interest from many students as they actively recruit for the program that kicks off in the Fall semester 2024.

Students would complete a standard application for the university and indicate whether they are interested in UC Works, and then he said the university will work with the student to get them enrolled in the program.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

WV Civics Coalition to host an event at state Culture Center to kick off Civic Learning Week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia citizens are invited to the State Capitol for an event educating them about the importance behind the rights and duties of that citizenship. It’s in recognition of Civic Learning Week, March 11 – March 15.

Hosted by the West Virginia Civics Coalition, the “Civics Education– Now More Than Ever” event is set for Monday, March 11 at the WV Culture Center to kick off the week highlighting civic learning and engagement as a nationwide priority.

President of the WV Civics Coalition, Rebecca Tinder said on 580 Live with Dave Allen Monday that students and civic-minded individuals alike will get the opportunity to hear from a number of civic leaders during the event. West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Tim Armstead, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger, and WV Secretary of State Mac Warner are among some that are expected to speak.

Tinder said it will be a very educational day for those to learn about the significance of civics, as a whole.

“We hope to be highlighting all of the wonderful things that civic education is and can do, and make sure that people keep it top of mind,” said Tinder.

She said voting machines will also be a part of the event to help facilitate hands-on learning about how the process works, as well as a scavenger hunt for both students and adults to go into the museum at the Culture Center and find artifacts that represent various constitutional amendments.

Tinder said the mission of the coalition is to “create an active coalition of civic-minded individuals and organizations to foster equitable civic engagement and education, and make meaningful improvements to policies and practices in civic learning.”

The longtime dialogue that civics isn’t being taught in public schools in West Virginia is a myth, Tinder said on 580 Live Monday. She said civics education is most certainly alive in schools across the state.

“There are standards for students in elementary, middle, and high school in the areas of civics and history, so it is being taught and it is a focus of our coalition,” she said.

Tinder went on to say that amid the U.S. Supreme Court currently taking up a couple of cases on how social media applies to the First Amendment of the Constitution, there is almost virtually no bigger platform for spreading news and information now, especially among young people.

She said young people have a focus on what’s going on in the world today, as well, even though they get that information in more non-traditional ways.

“There’s nothing more important to our young people than social media, they get news and information from the internet, and what can and cannot be placed in front of them is something that’s important to them,” Tinder said.

She said the March 11 event will help encourage young people to get more educated on other ways they can consume information and how they can more effectively be good citizens.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested must complete a registration form by Friday, March 1 to participate in the event.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV