The Voice of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police are on the hunt of a man suspected of robbing a Walgreens at gunpoint late Tuesday on Charleston’s West Side.
According to police, the suspect entered the store on West Washington Street and went to the pharmacy counter where he handed the pharmacists a note. The note demanded a number of specific medications and told them to “be quick and no one will get hurt.”
Police said the pharmacist handed over the drugs and the suspect fled the store headed west toward the rear of the building.
The suspect is black, he wore a grey hooded sweatshirt with a black t-shirt over it, black sweatpants, a brown hat, and a surgical style mask.
Police are asking anybody who may know the suspect or have any knowledge about the robbery to come forward and share the information with investigators.
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — As Bridgeport wrapped up a 28-20 victory last Friday at previously unbeaten Parkersburg South, second-year Tribe head coach Tyler Phares rejoiced with fellow staff members and players on the sideline — and for good reason.
It marked the Indians’ fourth straight win since they suffered their only regular season loss in Phares’ two seasons back on September 2 at Morgantown, 10-6.
More importantly, BHS jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 in the latest West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Playoff Ratings and has itself in position to host at least two playoff games should those winning ways continue down the stretch.
Perhaps what most pleased Phares about the marquee win over the Patriots was the manner in which Bridgeport pulled it off. Sixty-five of the team’s 66 offensive snaps were rushing plays as the Indians gained 355 yards on the ground in a contest that did not feature a punt. After facing its only deficit of the matchup at 20-14 early in the second half, the Tribe never allowed an explosive PSHS squad to score again, instead rattling off 14 unanswered points to prevail.
“I learn more about our kids’ heart all the time,” Phares said. “Our kids get better as the game goes on and a lot of it has to do with drive and conditioning, but it’s really what’s in their chest. Our kids want to win. When we had the ball and it was our opportunity to finish that game off, the huddle was electric and that’s great to see.”
The Week 2 loss to the Mohigans snapped a 13-game regular season win streak for Bridgeport, which sputtered offensively that night at Pony Lewis Field.
That hasn’t been the case for the Tribe (5-1) in any other game this season, with BHS averaging better than 41 points in its five victories.
The single-wing offense Phares installed at a program known for utilizing both the Stick-I and Power Pistol formations over the previous decade keeps defenses guessing as to who has the ball, though the backfield is spearheaded by Zach Rohrig and Phil Reed.
Rohrig rushed for better than 200 yards and scored half of the Tribe’s four touchdowns to lead the way against the Patriots, while Reed finished with 107 yards and one TD. The duo combined for 57 carries and 335 yards while running behind an offensive line that was able to control the line of scrimmage for much of the matchup.
Charlie Brazier, a third reliable ball carrier, finished with seven rushes for 37 yards and scored Bridgeport’s first touchdown.
“Having Rohrig in the backfield is a big thing to help us out. He gets some tough yardage even for a smaller guy and he’s quick to both edges,” Phares said. “But we’ve gotten better throughout the season and that’s what the goal was. We went to Morgantown as a young team, got punched in the mouth and we learned from it. We’re very happy the kids are getting better every week and that’s our main goal.”
Perhaps even more pleasing to Phares was that his team did not commit a penalty in the victory at Erickson All-Sports Facility. By consistently avoiding undesirable down and distance situations, the Indians attempted seven fourth-down conversions and converted six, which played a major role in the outcome.
The Patriots, meanwhile, had 85 yards in penalties and failed on both of their fourth down attempts, though they were 6-for-7 on third down.
“Their game plan coming in was to milk the clock, keep it out of our hands and every time you have the ball, you have to capitalize,” PSHS coach Nathan Tanner said. “We came up short on a few possessions and didn’t get points on the board, but that’s a tough ball club. Kudos to their team and staff. They did a great job and executed a great game plan.”
The Tribe travels to Preston for a matchup Friday, before an open week in Week 8. Bridgeport then steps out of Big 10 Conference play in consecutive weeks when it welcomes Princeton and plays at Musselman, before concluding the regular season against Lincoln.
The goal is, as Phares noted, is to continue displaying improvement each week, and with an opportunity to add more marquee wins to its resume, Bridgeport hopes to stay in the top 5 and continue rising in Class AAA.
Should that be the case, last Friday’s victory will likely be viewed as a turning point as the Indians proved they can measure up to one of Class AAA’s contenders.
“Our kids were winning at the point of attack and doing a lot of good things,” Phares said. “Both teams were getting a little frustrated, but our kids played extremely hard in the second half and came up with a nice win.”
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greg Carey and Joe Brocato set the table for the weekend’s top matchups in Class AA and take a look back at the teams that impressed in Week 6.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — City Council has tabled a proposed ordinance that would reshape the Morgantown Utility Board by a 4-3 vote after an intense debate Tuesday night.
Councilor Brian Butcher made a motion to table, that was seconded by Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble, to reconsider the provision that would add a member of city council to the MUB Board of Directors and the city manager as a non-voting member. Butcher said he also wanted to revisit the provision requiring city council approval for MUB projects valued over $1 million.
The debate that led up to the vote to table included an option from Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom to propose a board made up of a blend of city and county elected leaders. Bloom also raised questions about the dollar limit for project approval and pointed out that many projects valued over $1 million have been approved outside the city limits. MUB Board Chairman J. T. Straface presented projects that would have required city council approval in the county including Mountaintop Beverage utility upgrades, WestRidge and Mylan Park developments and University Towne Center.
Straface went on to point out problems with getting city cooperation to complete projects like the sewer line replacement in White Park. Straface provided email documentation showing eight contacts over nine months beginning last December with city officials to reach an agreement to complete the project.
“MUB is sensitive to the White Park concerns and therefore provided substantial advance notice of the project to all noted including Deputy Mayor Trumble, BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Wiles, City Manager Kim Haws and other cut staff,” Straface said.
The White Park sewer line project was approved last month, the 1,000-feet of pipe will be replaced early next year.
During those negotiations, MUB, the county commission and the city had been negotiating the Popenoe Run sewer improvements. The city and county each pledged $1 million each to upgrade the system following two major flooding events in the summer of 2021.
“In a meeting held at the city of Morgantown office on July 19, 2022 Mayor Jenny Selin stated to MUB staff and a few board members in attendance that city grant funds would not be provided to MUB unless, and until an agreement was signed permitting recreation at the Flegal Reservoir and Dam,” Straface said.
Straface said by that meeting the MUB board made the decision to move forward with the project citing the need and benefit to the community.
Bloom offered an option that would add members of city council and county commission to the board to adequately represent all rate payers. Bloom also expressed concern about the potential negative effect on economic development following the Popenoe Run negotiations.
“That really worries us, if they’re asking for leverage on a small project what do you think they would do with Mountaintop and WestRidge,” Bloom said. “That’s worries me and it’s why we don’t want them involved.”
Mayor Jenny Selin insisted the project approval portion of the ordinance is nothing new and should not be construed as a power grab.
“This proposed ordinance just defines expectations for what is outside the ordinary course of business,” Selin said. “It does not add any oversight authority, it is the same approval that used to be required by the Public Service Commission issuing a certificate of convenience and necessity.”
Butcher acknowledged the two sides communicate, but said their interaction was ineffective and unhelpful at times.
“So, I don’t think it’s necessarily about communication, I think it’s about fostering a working relationship that works instead of being antagonistic toward one another,” Butcher said.
Butcher also clarified the importance of representing all the rate payers and an interest in supporting the Bloom amendment.
“I do worry about what, in particular what Tom was talking about, in representing rate payers which I do believe the appointments do that,” Bloom said. “I don’t think it’s a terrible compromise.”
One option city council has is to wait for the Straface term to expire at the end of October to nominate a council person.
“After 20 years of dedicated service to the MUB board and 12 being the chairman I fully expect to be reappointed to the board,” Straface said.
During the debate Selin and City Manager Kim Haws said a council member had served on the board in the past with no issues. Monongalia Magistrate and former Morgantown City Council member Ron Bane acknowledged that while he served on the MUB board, he consistently had to ease concerns over conflicts of interest and thought that characterization was inaccurate.
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MILTON, W.Va. — Officials with West Virginia American Water Company attended the Milton City Council meeting on Tuesday with hopes of convincing municipal leaders to allow the utility to purchase the city’s water and wastewater systems.
West Virginia American Water has spent the last five years speaking to Milton leaders about the possible deal and offered $10 million for the systems.
“The city of Milton has been facing many water service issues over the last several years,” said Megan Hannah, West Virginia American Water’s senior manager of government and external affairs.
“We have heard from residents from all across the city of Milton who have struggled with unreliable water service, water service that does not meet water quality standards. Quite frankly, we have heard from many citizens that they would like to see West Virginia American Water become their water service provider.”
Milton and the company currently have an agreement regarding the bulk sale of water. According to Hannah, 50% of Milton’s water supply is from West Virginia American Water.
Utility representatives have spoken to municipal leaders with no progress on reaching an agreement in regards to assuming full control. The utility officials made a presentation during Tuesday’s meeting with an emphasis on working with the city to transfer control to the company.
“We are very interested in taking over 100% of that water service and acquiring that system in order to put to bed all of the issues — particularly the infrastructure issues — that the city of Milton cannot keep up with,” Hannah said.
West Virginia American Water is willing to listen to Milton officials to reach an agreement. The Public Service Commission of West Virginia would also have to approve the acquisition, but Hannah stated she hopes the commission would expedite the process considering the state of Milton’s water system.
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Today on MetroNews This Morning:
–Governor Jim Justice unveils plans to tighten security in West Virginia public schools
–Appalachian Power makes the pitch to the PSC to raise rates to cover their increased fuel costs
–An Ohio man drowns while rafting on the Gauley River
–In Sports, Aaron Judge hits #62 and Neal Brown talks about his teams woes against Texas
The West Virginia Supreme Court now has before it the question of whether the Hope Scholarship violates the state Constitution.
The Legislature created the program to award state taxpayer dollars to students who choose to leave the public school system for private school. The money can also be used for other educational expenses, such as tutoring.
Approximately 3,000 students and their families were to receive $4,300 each this school year, but Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit halted the program. Tuesday the Court heard both sides of the argument.
At the core of the dispute is Article XII, Section I of the state Constitution, which says, “The Legislature shall provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools.”
Opponents argue the Hope Scholarship undermines public schools. Tamerlin Godley, attorney for Public Funds Public Schools, told the court, “The private school voucher law enacted in 2021 violates the West Virginia Constitution and threatens the rights of hundreds of thousands of West Virginia students.”
Supporters admit there will be a decrease in funds for public schools. However, state Solicitor General Lindsay See, arguing on behalf of the state, said opponents “have to show that the loss of funding is going to be enough that school districts cannot perform their constitutionally mandated duties.”
Both sides have a point.
The state school aid formula allocates state funding to county schools based on the number of students. So, Hope critics are correct when they say fewer students means less money.
However, supporters have a more convincing legal argument for these reasons.
First, it is unclear how many students will take advantage of the Hope Scholarships over the years. The numbers may be nominal, which means the financial impact will also be miniscule.
Second, and more importantly, nothing about the legislation diminishes the constitutional requirement for our public schools. By definition, the Legislature is responsible for fully funding schools to provide for a “thorough and efficient” system.
If the Hope Scholarship cuts into education funding too deeply, the Legislature would be required to put more money toward public education. If it failed to do so, advocates could file suit and force the state to comply.
That is what happened in 1982 when Judge Arthur Recht handed down the landmark decision declaring that the state’s system of funding schools caused inequities from county to county. The decision led to sweeping changes in how schools were funded, as well as the construction of new schools and curriculum changes.
The state Legislature’s creation of public charter schools and the Hope Scholarship, as well as increased desire by parents in homeschooling, are strong indicators that parents want more education options for their children.
Even with that increased interest, the vast majority of West Virginia children are, and will continue to be, educated in our public schools. The state Constitution leaves no doubt these public schools must be properly funded so they are “thorough and efficient.”
These two paths of education can co-exist without diminishing the other.
— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Taimu Okiyoshi got his first points of the season and Matthew Bell struck for yet another goal to lead No. 6 Marshall past Robert Morris, 3-1, in men’s soccer Tuesday night in front of 1,059 fans at Hoops Family Field/Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.
Okiyoshi got the assist on the Thundering Herd’s first goal as Joao Souza took his pass and fired a right-foot shot into the left corner of the goal at 36:02.
Late in the match, Bell made a run down the middle as Alexander Adjetey did a sprint down the left side with the ball. He made the cross and Bell buried the feed to make it 2-0 at 83:13.
Bell’s goal was his eighth which leads the team and Sun Belt Conference.
The scrappy Colonials of the Horizon League countered quickly with Anass Hadran getting his first of the season at 84:37.
Okiyoshi responded with his first goal when a ball went off a Robert Morris defender to him in the box and he banged it home.
Herd coach Chris Grassie saw the night as the Herd did enough to survive.
“As long as we can take the result,” Grassie said. “Not a great game. We created a lot of chances. We were not fluid and didn’t press well enough.”
Okiyoshi said on his assist, he knew where Souza would be.
“I knew he’d run there and it went where I wanted,” he said. “On my goal, I didn’t think [the ball] was coming to me. It went off their guy, the ball comes to me again and I finished this time.”
Tuesday’s match was a break after three tough Sun Belt contests.
“We had to focus on ourselves,” Okiyoshi said. “We did what we needed to do.”
Herd keeper Oliver Semmle had one save on two shots on goal.
Marshall improves to 6-1-2, 1-0-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. The No. 6 Herd resumes league play Saturday against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.
Robert Morris, on a four-match skid, is 3-6-1, and 2-2-1 in Horizon League action.
Bell, a freshmen from Kingston, Jamaica, stepped up Tuesday.
“He has all the skills in the world,” Grassie said. “That’s why he’s got those positions.”
Saturday’s 1-1 tie at Coastal Carolina caused the Herd the fall from third to sixth in the United Soccer Coaches/NCAA Top 25.
The all-time series with Robert Morris now stands at 5-5-1. The Herd has won the last two meetings.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Police has launched an investigation following multiple reported overdoses at the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County.
According to Captain R. A. Maddy, four inmates received naloxone once troopers arrived at the jail. Naloxone — also known by its brand name Narcan — is a nasal spray used for reversing the effects of an opioid overdose.
The four inmates were taken to Charleston Area Medical Center for treatment. Three other inmates were transferred to another unit for observation for a possible overdose.
Officials said there have not been any deaths in connection to the overdoses.
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West Virginia’s Supreme Court justices are considering whether scholarships for students leaving public schools will erode the constitutionally-required education system — or whether the state can meet its obligation to support the public school system and then go farther by providing even more options for families.
Over a little less than an hour, justices today heard arguments on multiple sides of that issue. Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit earlier halted the scholarships, concluding that the program creates “an incentive to leave the public school system, reducing its enrollment and funding.”
The question before the justices is how the Hope Scholarship interacts with the West Virginia constitutional mandate to provide “a thorough and efficient system of free schools.”
Justices interjected today to ask some questions, as they always do, but generally they let the arguments flow. The justices who asked the most questions were Beth Walker and Haley Bunn, focusing sometimes on precedent that could shape interpretation of the case and also asking more specifically about the workings of the Hope Scholarship law.
After the case was over, both supporters of the Hope Scholarship and those challenging it put out statements expressing confidence in the court system’s consideration.
“We have a very strong case and the argument is very clear: the decision of a Kanawha Circuit Court judge is flawed in many ways and only renders harm to the thousands of families set to receive funds from the Act,” stated Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose office was defending the program on behalf of the state.
“I strongly support the right of parents to choose the best education possible for their children and will fight to prove the Act provides constitutionally for that right.”
The lawyer for parents challenging the scholarship program, Tamerlin Godley of Public Funds Public Schools, expressed hope that the justices will conclude the program is unconstitutional.
“This Court clearly takes very seriously the requirements of the state constitution, particularly when it comes to the guarantee of a quality public education for every West Virginia child,” Godley stated. “The private school voucher law enacted in 2021 violates the West Virginia Constitution and threatens the rights of hundreds of thousands of West Virginia students.”
The Hope Scholarship would provide money for students leaving the public school system to use for a variety of education costs. West Virginia’s program also allows students old enough to enter the school system for the time to be eligible immediately.
The scholarship amount varies each school year. For the 2022-23 year, that amount was to be about $4,300. So the total amount of public funding so far would be about $13 million.
Over time, that amount would increase. A fiscal note for the Legislature anticipated the cost could be more than $100 million upon full implementation.
People challenging the program say it naturally diminishes the resources of the public education system. Chief Justice John Hutchison honed in on that question toward the end of today’s hearing.
“Do you agree, counsel, that absent some future act by the Legislature, in two years there will be a decrease of some type, of some amount to the public schools in the state?” Hutchison asked Lindsay See, the solicitor general who was arguing the state’s case to maintain the scholarship program.
“We are not contesting that, that there will be some decrease in funds,” See began to respond.
Hutchison then rephrased: “The real question is, looking at the evidence in the record, does that defunding, whatever amount it is, rise to a constitutional level?”
See replied, “It is the question, whether it’s enough to get below the constitutional floor, and not because again, all these variable factors — that wasn’t something for the circuit court to weigh in the abstract.”
See went on to say the funding formula that the state uses for the school system would still continue to operate.
“And even if the court disagrees with that, to show that there’s some loss of funding is only part of respondents’ burden. They have to show that the loss of funding is going to be enough that school districts cannot perform their constitutionally-mandated duties. There’s no absolute constitutional right to existing funding levels.
“The constitutional right is to make sure schools can do their duty. And the way that the Legislature has chosen to do that through the funding formula is a constitutional method. The act doesn’t change any of that.”
The Legislature passed and the governor then signed a bill establishing the Hope Scholarships in 2021. West Virginia’s law is one of the most wide open in the country because eligibility in most other states with similar programs is more narrowly defined.
Families can use the accounts for a range of expenses like homeschooling, private school tuition, online learning, after-school or summer-learning programs or educational therapies.
More than 3,000 students had already been awarded the scholarship, which would have been used for education expenses this fall, when it was halted in the court system. Without the money, they had to make other arrangements.
The hearing before the five members of the Supreme Court explored the arguments of parents who want the scholarship money for their families’ unique education needs versus other parents who say the program will diminish the public education system.
Also at odds in the case were attorneys defending the law on behalf of the state versus a separate set of lawyers for the state school board president and superintendent.
Attorney Michael Taylor presented arguments against the Hope Scholarship program on behalf of Superintendent David Roach and state school board President Paul Hardesty.
“The issue before the court is whether the Legislature may constitutionally incentivize public school students to attend private schooling through a scholarship which results in a reduction of funds to public schools. The answer is clearly no,” Taylor said.
He described the funding of public education as having a constitutionally-preferred status in the state, a top priority. Net enrollment is a significant factor in the funding of public education, he added, for costs including improvements to educational programs, operations and maintenance, hiring teachers and hiring maintenance staff.
“This is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Taylor said. “Public education is constitutionally mandated to be funded by the Legislature. Private education is not.
“By directly resulting in a reduced net enrollment, which is the Legislature’s system of funding schools — primarily by encouraging public education students to leave to go to private schools — you’re reducing enrollment.”
Bunn asked a question at that point, wanting to know about other state policies that could indirectly reduce enrollment. She wanted to know if that “opens up the door to challenging many, many laws that have an indirect effect on enrollment, on where the population of teachers go, and that sort of thing.”
Taylor disagreed that this case represents an indirect effect on public schools because of the eligibility requirements for the scholarship: “Hey, leave public school and go to private school. If that’s not a direct effect on the funding of public schools, I don’t know what would be.”
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