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February 5, 2019     The Hinton News
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February 5, 2019
 

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Volume 116 No. 39 (Continuing the Hinton Daily News & The Weekend Leader) Home of "W. Hinton, West Virginia Tuesday, February 5, 2019 50 Cents Summers County Huddle y Man Und Summers County Prosecutor Kristin Cook Released the Following Statement On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, a complaint was filed at the Hinton Detachment of the West Virginia State police regarding the possible embezzlement .of funds from the Green Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Department (G.S.S. V.F.D.). An investigation was,the initiated by Sergeant B. A. Wood of the West Virginia State Police and documents relating to the department's financial accounts were obtained through the cooperation of senior members of the G.S.S.V.F.D. On Thursday, January 31, 2019, Michael Edward Richmond of the Sandstone area of Summers County was arrested at the Hinton Detachment and charged with the felony offense of embezzlement and fraudulent schemes. It is alleged that Mr. Richmond occupied a position of trust, serving as Treasurer of the Green Sulphur Springs Vol. Fire Department from the year 2010, until the time of the complaint. Documents support that during this time Mr. Richmond allegedly forged and passed checks payable to himself from the various accounts with the G.S.S.V.F.D, which exceeded more than $100,000. It is also alleged that Mr. Richmond falsified audit reports in an attempt to cover his false expenditures of G.S.S.V.F.D. funds. This in an ongoing investigation Summers County Commission/Summers County Fire Board has also released a statement on Alleged Mishandling or Misuse of Funds Complaint The Summers County Commission and the Summers County Fire Board is aware of an investigation being conducted by the West Virginia State Police in conjunction with the Summers County Prosecuting Attorney's office into the alleged mishandling or misuse of funds by a member of the Green Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Department. At this point in time it would be inappropriate of the County Commission or the Fire Board to comment on details of an ongoing investigation by the West Virginia State Police. Inquirear about the-investigation should be directed to the Summers County Prosecutor's office. The commission can speak legal and appropriate expenditures of fire service fees collected under the Summers County Fire Service Fee Ordinance. Said fire service fee shall only be used to defray the cost of continuing, maintain and improving fire protection services within Summers County, West Virginia. Other state and locally obtained monies have similar restrictions as to how they may be used. Fire departments are subject to audits from the State of West Virginia as well as internal audits and mandated reporting to state and county per state code or under a memorandum of understanding with County Commission through the Summers County Fire Board. As president of the Summers County Commission I am confident that the West Virginia State Fire Commission in conjunction with the Summers County Fire Board, The West Virginia Auditor's Office and the Summers County Commission acting within our respective statutory authorities will be reviewing policies and procedures that are currently in place in our local volunteer fire departments regardless of the outcome of this investigation. This review will help ensure that he funds that are necessary for our volunteer fire departments to provide effective and efficient emergency fire, rescue and life safety services within our communities are adequately safeguarded. State and local government takes its responsibility to protect public funds very seriously. Individuals serving in government or in quasi-governmental capacity should expect to be held to a higher standard. If it is determined that public funds have been misused, then the individuals responsible shall be dealt with appropriately and with no exceib~ion of leniency under the laws of the State of West Virginia. Respectfully Submitted on behalf of the Summers County Commission and Summers County Fire Board, Jack David Woodrum, President Summers County Commission Manchin Urges Amtrak to Reconsider their Policies that Negatively Impact WV Railroad Thursday, January 31 U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (sent a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson expressing concern over Amtrak's policies and restrictions that are creating financial hardship for the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, Inc. Collis P. Huntington has long been both a means of transportation and a West Virginia historical artifact, helping to bring millions of dollars to West Virginia's economy annually through its operation of the New River Train. The letter also explains the impact of Collis P. Huntington's possible closure to West Virginia and urges Amtrak to re-examine their policies that are negatively affecting the historical railroad. Senator Manchin said in part: "For more than 50 years as the focal point of the Railroad Days Festival, the New River Train has been at the heart of West Virginia's proud railroading history. F rom providing jobs to bringing people from across the country to visit our beautiful state, railroads are still vital to the Mountain State today. ' That's why I find it so disheartening to see the impacts of these decisions. I am committed to doing whatever I can, legislatively or otherwise, to save the traditions and communities threatened by these policies. I stand ready to work with you to keep West Virginian's proud railroad history alive." ects At its annual meeting on Saturday, January 26, the Summers County Huddle elected new officers and discussed plans for community initiatives for 2019. Shalom Tazewell, former chair of the Huddle, resigned from that position to work as a county co-chair with Debbi McNeer for Stephen Smith's 2020 "We Can't Wait" campaign for governor. Chris Chanlett andSarah Wadsworth, both active members of the Huddle, were elected co-chairs. Nancy North was elected Secretary and Judy Peterson will continue as Treasurer. Chris Chanlett remarked that Shalom Tazewell had worked in the adult education/literacy program at the library for 25 years and developed a "practice of no demands and no guilt. Upon retirement, she brought that persistent idealism to our broader community and national issues by leading the formation of the Summers County Huddle. I have no doubt that her determination will persist." Mrs. Tazewell has been chair of the Huddle since it was organized in February 2017. She noted that she would continue to be active in Huddle activities, but that it would be a conflict of interest for her to continue as an officer of the grassroots organization since the Huddle does not endorse political candidates. Mrs. Tazewell said, "Huddle members are incredibly generous with their time and talents, and it's a true honor to work with them. I know we have had a positive impact in Summers County because we care about the county and the people who live here. We believe in putting the core values of a democracy ahead of politics; we believe that compassion and generosity can and will triumph over bigotry and bullying; and we believe that if we advocate for a just society then our community will thrive." Of her involvement in the Huddle, Sarah Wadsworth said, "at a time when the country is so divided it is important to many of us who love our state, county, and country to find common ground within our community to solve our problems. Locally, we share a lot of concerns and values, even when we differ about how to deal with them. The addiction crisis, the need for affordable health care, the lack of opportunity for our young people, the need to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the lack of resources in our schools and more continue to be concerns we want to address with our initiatives in ways that bring community together." Members at the annual meeting also began outlining initiatives for 2019. These include on-going Stand Up for Kindness activities, continuing to advocate for accessible health care and other safety net programs, registering voters and encouraging participation in the political system, sponsoring an Earth Day celebration and addressing environmental issues ir~ the county, monitoring state and federal legislation, and supporting the students and staff in our schools. You can find out more about the Summers County Huddle on our webpage at https:]/ summerscountyhuddl.wixsite. comPa0me or if you have an issue or concern that you think we can help with, please email us at summerscountyhuddle@gmail. com. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you. Board of Education President Issues Statement on Education Bill West Virginia Board of Education President David Perry today issued a statement on the Senate's Education Reform bill (SB451): "Speaking solely on behalf of myself, I have tremendoUs concerns about many items in the Senate's Omnibus bill. We continually hear about the toll the devastating opioid epidemic is taking on our children and that teachers are not currently equipped to provide the support these children need and deserve. Adding six additional children in classrooms will only expound this problem, and I believe is a grave mistake. I am also troubled by the Education Savings Account (ESA) program proposed in the legislation. The few other states that have operating ESA programs have put safeguards in place to provide a school choice option to parents while not simultaneously dealing a devastating financial blow to the majority of children in this state that attend public school. The West Virginia Board of Education's finance committee Get'n recently found that West Virginia's state aid funding Formula is grossly underfunded and the ESA program would further exacerbate the problem. Finally, I am concerned about the charter school proposal included in the bill. It is entirely disingenuous for legislators to continually say they value and respect teachers, while at the same time advancing legislation that includes no requirement that individuals providing instruction at public charter schools be certified teachers. The bill, as currently constructed, allows public funds to be diverted entirely to private entities and will further marginalize our less- fortunate populations. Year after year, the legislature places requirements on public school classrooms that it believes are essential for students' success and is now suggesting that schools will be able to do better if they are Healthy .in the not subject to those requirements. West Virginia's students should not ' be used as part of an experiment to check the box. As a veteran of the public education system and for the sake of our public education students, I sincerely hope cooler and reasonable heads will prevail as this legislation is discussed over the next few weeks. While cha~ges to West Virginia's public education system are most certainly needed, I personally believe that some of the proposals in the Senate Omnibus bill will not work to improve public education, but rather inflict great harm on our system, and possibly run afoul to the landmark Recht decision. Given the events that have transpired on the bill to date and because of the unprecedented, rapid pace and process this bill is following, I feel it is imperative the State Board of Education weigh in on this matter." Hills House Members Form Democratic Women's Caucus The Democratic women serving in the West Virginia House of Delegates have united to prioritize issues that face West Virginia's women and families and formed the first West Virginia House Democratic Women's Caucus. "We are working together towards a common goal-to improve the lives of West Virginia's women & families," said Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe (D-Greenbrier). "Having seen our numbers quadruple in the House this year, we feel we can effectively unite to shine a light on the issues facing these vulnerable populations. The West Virginia House Democratic Women's Committee will focus on legislation that supports women's economic security, protects women's health, prevents sexual assault and domestic violence, and supports women in government. "Women make up more than half of West Virginia's population," says Delegate Sammi Brown (D-Jefferson). "It makes sense that when we fight for the best interests of working families, we're focusing on legislation that will positively impact the broader population. We are mothers, teachers, businesswomen, students and leaders; and we as a Caucus seek to empower women to pursue true quality of life." Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), who is the longest serving woman currently in the House, says the new crop of Democratic women delegates was much needed. "I feel like the reinforcements have arrived!" she said. "I am excited to think that we can, together, make more progress on women's rights and protecting children and families. It will be easier to be an advocate for legislation that helps women knowing that there are more voices in the chorus." The Democratic Women's Committee has already had one bill introduced on the House floor; it is now set to go before the House Finance committee. House Bill 2500 would exempt certain hygiene products from sales tax, effectively removing the so-called "Pink Tax" for West Virginia's women. During the Committee's first caucus meeting, plans for additional legislation were discussed and more bills will be drafted and introduced in the coming weeks. The remaining members of the caucus are Delegate Amanda Estep- Burton (D-Kanawha), Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion), Delegate Margaret Staggers (D-Fayette), Delegate Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia), and Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D-Marshall). Statement on Omnibus Bill by Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso Another egregious affront to the legislative process took place the morning of Monday, January 28 on the Senate floor. After writing what is being called the "omnibus retaliation bill" under the cover of darkness in consultation with out-of-state interests, Republican leaders today voted to circumvent the committee process of the Senate. Republican leadership, fearful that they would not have the votes needed to pass it out of Finance Committee, instead referred the bill to the Committee of the Whole--a rarely used parliamentary move that will put the bill before all 34 Senators as if they were one committee. "We cannot allow this action to stand," said Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso. "There is no reason Finance should not hear this bill. This bill will defund public education as we know it. It's a slap in the face aimed at teachers and school service personnel to punish them for standing up for their rights last year." Senator Prezioso, who has served in the legislature for over 30 years, said "I have never, in all my time in Charleston, seen such a bold-faced, self-serving, and mean- spirited political evasion. It shows total disrespect for the democratic process." The bill, among other offenses, mandates an increase in property tax levies without a public vote and redirects public school funds to private and religious schools. The Minority Caucus stands united in opposition to this SB 451, which will not reform education in this state, but ruin it. The Hinton Hope Foundation will sponsor Southern West Virginia's Biggest Loser Competition, "Get'n Healthy in the Hills", beginning February 16th (until March 30th). The competition will be a 6-week weight loss and exercise challenge that is open to residents from Summers, Raleigh, Mercer, Monroe, and Greenbrier Counties. Residents can register for free and compete for great prizes from sponsors in each county. There will be a Biggest Loser from each county, the Biggest Loser Group, and an overall Biggest Loser. Residents can register/compete individually and as a group. West Virginia ranks the highest in the country in obesity rates. In 2017, 38 percent of West Virginians were obese. Based on current statistics, by 2030, over half a million West Virginians will have heart disease. In 2017, over 43 percent of West Virginians had been diagnosed with hypertension. Volunteers with Hinton Hope are interested in working with everyone to provide support in helping others to reach healthier goals and maintain a healthier lifestyle. The competition will provide daily motivational posts, LIVE videos regarding exercise and healthy eating habits, tips on meal planning, plus much more. To register, please visit https://docs.google.com/ forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScpmvMobg EBS9C6bgUu0fSNNUGQ6NDa- zPwNm8wkK8vbaTmGg/viewform Please visit the Hinton Hope Foundation on Facebook for more information, or call 304-573-5320. Hinton Hope would like to thank the following sponsors (at the time of publication): Harmon Construction, Nationwide Insurance/Benji Farley Agent, Bobcat Fitness Center, L A East Fitness, Planet Fitness, Greenbrier Valley Fitness, Giles County Wellness Center, On Point Accupuncture, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile Store, Today Show Nutritionist Joy Bauer, The Keto Dad, Tara Yoga, Mandi Lowry, WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, Ashley Brown, Brandy McPherson Photography, Sierra Brown, Yoga 304 Studio, and Active Southern WV. Assistance Program for Low Income Residents The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced applications for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) will be accepted beginning Monday, February 4, 2019, and ending February 22, 2019, or until funds are exhausted. The federally funded program assists eligible state residents in paying home heating bills. Eligibility for LIEAP benefits is based on income, household size and whether the household is responsible for paying its heating bill. Income must be at, or below, " 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline for the household size. In situations where a heating emergency exists, applicants must be seen by a DHHR worker. To qualify, households must meet all program guidelines. The maximum allowable gross income levels for LIEAP FY 2019 are listed below: Household Size; Monthly Allowable Income 1 Person- $1,518 2 Person - $2,058 3 Person- $2598 4 Person - $3,138 5 Person - $3,678 6 Person- $4,218 7 Person - $4,758 8 Person - $5,298 9 Person - $5,838 10 Person - $6,378 *For each additional person, add $540. Households whose countable income exceeds the maximum amount are not eligible. However, some types of income may be excluded for LIEAP. Applications may be obtained at local DHHR offices, community action agencies, or senior centers operated by any Area Agency on Aging. Applications are also available online at www.wvinroads. org. All applications must be received by DHHR or postmarked by February 22, 2019. Completed applications should be delivered or mailed to the DHHR office located in the applicant's county of residence. A list of local offices may be found at https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/ PagesfMapList.aspx. Mailing the application to any other office or to a utility company may delay receipt by DHHR and prohibit processing of the application. J t