The Voice of West Virginia
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.
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.
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — A senior student at Buckhannon-Upshur High School is hailed as a hero after he helped his neighbor out of her burning home last weekend in the French Creek community of Upshur County.
Ian Strader, age 18, was headed out to his car to grab his laptop for some school work on Saturday. He noticed smoke and heard the smoke alarms ringing in the home of his neighbor. According to the Banks Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby, Ian wasted no time springing into action.
“Without hesitation, Ian ran up to the back door that was open and saw the occupant in the hallway. He proceeded into the hallway and assisted her outside and to her mother’s home next door,” Roby wrote in a memo to the State Fire Marshal and the Upshur County Commission.
The neighbor was recovering from a broken leg and wasn’t moving very well. She was also unable to access her walker in the burning house. Strader said he tried to get to the walker but could not due to the heat and smoke.
“I had her put her hands on my shoulders and I held under her arms so I could basically be her walker. I walked her down from her house all the way to her mom’s because the smoke was starting to pick up and come out the house door onto the porch,” Ian told MetroNews.
He was also able to get the woman’s dog out of the home as the two of them exited the burning house to safety.
“The dog was staying right around her, so as we were walking I just kept making sure it was walking with us,” said Ian.
“Without this young man’s heroic act, the occupant of this residence would have been seriously injured or worse in this fire,” wrote Roby.
“What else would I have done is what I think about after the fact. There was nothing else going through my mind other than thinking go and help her get out,” Ian added.
State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree is due to be on hand to recognize Strader at the Thursday meeting of the Upshur County Commission.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two teacher unions in West Virginia will merge into one organization.
The announcement, made on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline”, came from the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.
The unions together will represent a majority of educators in the state.
AFT-WV President Fred Albert said the merger will create strength in numbers.
“We feel that it would be best to have more of a unified voice and look to the future with a new organization that is merged,” Albert said on “Talkline” from the state Capitol.
WVEA President Dale Lee, also a guest on “Talkline”, said the 2018 and 2019 statewide teacher strikes and recent legislation in the state Legislature all factored into the decision to combine the unions.
“It doesn’t make sense with all the attacks on public education, with all the bills telling us what to teach, when to teach, how to teach and everything else, and we continue to fight each other for members. If we’re going to save public education in West Virginia, it’s going to have to be a united effort,” Lee said.
Albert said the merger will make a huge difference to non-members and build on the momentum they’ve already started.
“It’s going to be attractive to some of our educators who don’t belong to either at the moment. It’s going to be something better. That’s our goal,” he said.
There will be shared values and leadership with WVEA, AFT-WV and their national organizations. Albert said they are meeting regularly to discuss how the union will operate.
Lee said he believes the one organization will not only have a stronger influence on state legislation but also on issues voted on in elections.
“They won’t be able to play us against each other,” he said. “It will also give us a stronger voice heading into elections making these political decisions and to make sure people know where we stand and which politicians do what they say.”
Members will still be part of the national organizations. A plan to work out how members will pay dues is currently being discussed.
Lee said they will have input from members regarding the new organization moving forward.
“It’s not just us that’s doing this. We’re going to have focus groups and different things where members will have a say in what they want to perceive in an organization,” he said.
Each of the governing bodies of WVEA and AFT-WV will vote on the merger at some point next year.
The merger is scheduled to be finalized in Sept. 2025.
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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.
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.
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.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate President Craig Blair says the last 10 days of the 2024 Regular Legislative Session will be busy as his chamber works to pass bills dealing with the state budget and unemployment.
“Our budget is ready to go,” Blair said on MetroNews “Talkline” Wednesday, known as Crossover Day in the Legislature where bills must pass their house of origin in order to be considered this session.
Blair said the Senate plans to run the budget bill out of the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday afternoon while suspending rules to pass it on the floor by the end of the day.
Exactly how the Senate will treat state employee pay raises is up in the air, but Blair said he’s hopeful there will be some sort of increase whether it’s Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed 5 percent pay raise or a little less than that.
“I’m hopeful for it and I’ve said that in the past. It might not be 5 percent. It might be 4 percent. It could be 3 percent,” he said.
The House of Delegates has already passed some pay raise bills, but Blair said those bills will remain separate from the Senate’s budget bill.
Blair hinted at possible adjustments to triggers in the state personal income tax cut.
“I’m anticipating a special session in May,” Blair said. “We’re going to fix some triggering mechanisms because, as it stands right now, we have $1.24 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. It doesn’t need any more money in there. We’re set to trigger in about $150,000 dollars that doesn’t need to be moved there.”
Blair said the Senate is also working on ways to have WorkForce West Virginia better address unemployment needs in the state.
Cleveland-Cliffs announced its tinplate production plant in Weirton will idle in April, resulting in potential job losses for 900 workers. Allegheny Wood Products also announced it will closed its doors and eliminate about 600 jobs at multiple locations.
“We’re working on a way to make it so there’s better communication with WorkForce and the employers so that if somebody gets laid off, they’ll go into a system and businesses will be able to see that that welder or that electrician is available for work and that business will be able to talk to t them directly,” Blair said.
SB 840 makes a range of changes, most significantly using West Virginia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate to determine the maximum number of weeks of benefit eligibility. So, for example, if the average unemployment rate is below 5.5 percent, the maximum duration of benefits would be 12 weeks.
That bill specifies that West Virginians would only remain eligible for unemployment benefits if they conduct at least four work search activities each week.
The bill lowers the maximum weekly benefit rate from its current 66 and two thirds of the average weekly wage in West Virginia down to 55 percent. The amount is not to exceed $550, according to the bill.
Blair said he’d like to make changes.
“The high amount that you can draw on unemployment if made the maximum wages which if you draw would be $662. The proposal that we have in place would increase it to $713 and then it would slide down and if you were still on unemployment on the 24th week, you would $458.65,” he said.
SB 841 focuses on unemployment taxes and benefits. It’s a companion bill that reflects some of the changes proposed by SB 840.
“We’ve got to be able to get that tax straightened out so that we can keep the jobs, the economic activity and growth coming in,” Blair said.
The final day of the 60-day session is March 9.
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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A season unlike any other in the history of Liberty Harrison’s boys basketball program came to an end Tuesday night when the Mountaineers suffered a 54-48 loss to Lincoln in a Class AAA Region II, Section 2 semifinal.
Thirty minutes before the longtime Harrison County rivals faced off, nearly every seat inside the Liberty gymnasium was occupied while a lengthy line waited to be let in.
“The crowd hasn’t been like that for 20-plus years around here,” Liberty head coach Zak Bart said.
They had come not only to offer their support to the Mountaineers or Cougars, but to pay respect to Ryan Lantz, a teacher and coach at Liberty who lost his life at the age of 52 during a tragic accident at the school parking lot February 20.
Prior to Bart assuming his current role of head coach, the title belonged to Lantz, who held it for four seasons up until 2021. At the time of his passing, Lantz was a journalism teacher and assistant football coach at Liberty as well as the head basketball coach of the freshman basketball team at nearby Robert C. Byrd.
On Tuesday, Liberty jerseys featured the initials ‘RL’ in the upper lefthand corner. Lincoln players donned white, red and blue ribbons in warmups and the Cougars’ coaching staff had them on throughout the game. A moment of silence was observed before the start of the contest.
So as Lincoln, the No. 4 seed in a four-team sectional, scored an impressive road win over the top seed to prolong its season and end Liberty’s, there was more on the minds of everybody associated with the contest than the outcome of a win-or-go-home game.
“Huge emotions. I knew coach Lantz. He was the head coach [at Liberty], and he and I had a good relationship,” veteran Lincoln head coach Jordan Toth said. “So glad I got to see him when we played Byrd at our place and went over and gave him a hug. A super human being and a great man of faith.”
For Liberty, which finished 16-6 for its first winning campaign in 28 years, there was even more emotion.
What proved to be the Mountaineers’ final game this season was their first since Lantz passed away. Liberty had last played February 19 when it secured a resounding victory over Notre Dame approximately 11 hours before Lantz’s death.
“He’s coaching at a rival school and we’d go get a big win and one of the first people to text me was coach Lantz that night. It just shows what kind of person he was,” Bart said. “Ten years ago, I coached against him, but finally getting to know him recently these last couple of years while working at Liberty, he was the real deal.”
The Mountaineers upped their win total from six to nine in Bart’s first two seasons, before getting to 16 in his third year.
Bart credited Lantz for maintaining strong relationships with the Mountaineers’ current coaching staff and roster, some of whom Lantz was familiar with from when their days as freshman while Lantz still manned the sidelines on the hardwood at Liberty.
“In today’s society, we have a lot of jealous people,” Bart said. “Coach Lantz was the coach here before I was hired and things didn’t go as successful from a wins and losses standpoint, but I cannot explain how supportive he was of our team and players.”
While Liberty would have liked nothing more than to move on to play in Thursday’s sectional game against a Robert C. Byrd team it defeated twice in the regular season, the Mountaineers will one day look back at what they accomplished and remember it in a positive manner.
For a school facing an uncertain future and a strong likelihood of merging its students to RCB in the near future, for at least this season, the boys basketball team helped provide the Liberty community with an abundance of hope and no shortage of excitement.
Despite taking it in from afar, Lantz enjoyed it as much as anyone.
“Everything that people say is true,” Bart said. “We lost a good one.”
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CHARLESTON, 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.
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SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — An out of control semi caused serious damage to a school in Putnam County early Wednesday morning.
The tractor trailer came off of U.S. Route 35 around 12:30 a.m. and crossed Teays Valley Road where it rolled up on a retaining wall next to Teays Valley Christian School. The other side of the trailer gouged a hole into the side of the school’s gymnasium.
“There was some damage to the retaining wall between our school and Hedrick Road. Damage to the building, it created a hole about three cinderblocks high and four cinderblocks wide in the gymnasium wall,” said Jody Sowards, a member of the school’s administrative team.
He added he was thankful it happened at a time when nobody was at the school. It’s unclear what caused the operator of the truck to lose control.
“All that is still under investigation. I don’t know what had occurred. I know when I got here, the two individuals in the semi-were taken to the hospital,” he said.
The condition of the two is unknown, but it appeared their injuries were not life threatening.
Sowards said a structural engineer had taken a look at the damage and said the building is still structurally sound. They’ll soon get estimates on the cost for repairs. He expected school to resume on Thursday.
“We’re hoping to be back in school tomorrow, once I get the go-ahead from the structural engineer,” he said.
Delegates passed bill that would provide pay raises to State Police personnel, educators and non-uniformed corrections officers.
More consideration is still ahead for raises for other state employees.
Gov. Jim Justice has pushed for average 5 percent pay increases for state employees. Workers whose wages are not reflected by wage scales in state code could, potentially, receive raises more broadly through the state’s general revenue budget, which is still being assessed and negotiated.
House Bill 4883 provides pay increases for state workers whose pay scales are in state code. So, State Police personnel and public school educators would be affected.
As explained to delegates, that means State Police personnel would receive a $2,900 annual salary increase. Teachers would receive a $2,460 annual pay increase. And school service personnel would receive an additional $140 a month.
The bill passed the House 99-0 and now goes to the Senate.
House Education Chairman Joe Ellington noted that his committee earlier in the session advanced a more financially ambitious bill meant to bring teachers into pay alignment with their peers in surrounding states.
Ellington, R-Mercer, regretted that the pay raise passed by the full House couldn’t be larger.
“Every year we just keep doing this, raising it incrementally,” Ellington said.
House Bill 4734 represents a pay raise for non-uniformed employees of the Divisions of Corrections, juvenile services and the regional jail authority. Last month, the House Committee on Jails and Prisons advanced the bill to provide pay bumps for non-uniformed personnel.
The bill passed 99-0 in the House.
Uniformed corrections officers received pay raises as an outcome of a special legislative session in August.
“These folks are heroes,” said Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, chairman of the House Jails and Prisons Committee.
Governor Justice declared a state of emergency in August 2022 because of the many vacancies in West Virginia’s jails and prisons. The National Guard was deployed to fill support roles in the facilities. Recently, state officials have said unfilled positions have begun to ease, and the National Guard presence can begin to subside.
This bill would provide a $3,000 pay raise for non-uniformed administrative staff who have accumulated three or more years of continuous employment with the corrections system.
Non-uniformed staff who haven’t yet been employed for three continuous years would receive the raise once they do accumulate that number of years.
The total fiscal impact was estimated to be about $2.2 million.
Delegate Ty Nestor, R-Randolph, spoke in favor of the pay raise.
“I, like everybody else in this room, love to give pay raises to state employees because that means we’re doing our job, we’re making more money, we’re creating better infrastructure and we’re able to compensate the people who work for this state, make it work, make it happen,” he said. “We’re able to reward them, able to keep them here, able to provide for their families.”
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WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to designate the Clarksburg Federal Courthouse as the “Irene M. Keeley United States Courthouse.”
The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, passed the Senate Tuesday night.
The legislation now heads to the U.S. House for consideration.
Judge Keeley was appointed first female judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia and held the position for 30 years.
“I am thrilled the Senate unanimously passed our legislation to designate the Clarksburg Federal Courthouse in honor of Judge Keeley’s career and her decades of service to West Virginia,” Capito said in a statement. “As the first female judge for the Northern District of West Virginia, and in her 30 years of service on the bench, Judge Keeley has earned a reputation as someone who conducts herself with integrity, consistently demonstrates a thorough understanding of the law, and treats each case before her with fairness and thoughtfulness. I am thankful we have widespread support for our effort to honor Judge Keeley, and appreciate the unanimous passage of this legislation by my colleagues in the Senate. We are one step closer to making this a reality, and I encourage the House of Representatives to quickly pass this legislation.”
“I’m pleased our bipartisan bill to dedicate the Clarksburg Federal Courthouse in Judge Keeley’s honor has unanimously passed the Senate,” Manchin said. “As the former Chief Judge and first woman to serve on the bench for the Northern District of West Virginia, Judge Keeley has inspired generations of legal professionals through her commitment to justice and integrity. This tribute is beyond deserving and I will continue working with Senator Capito and our colleagues to ensure the bill is signed into law by the President.”
Keeley earned her law degree from the West Virginia College of Law in 1980 and served in private practice until she was nominated by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate later that year. Keeley took inactive senior status on September 30, 2022.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.
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