www.wvgazette.com http://www.wvgazette.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Funerals for: August 03, 2014 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT01/308039968 OBIT01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT01/308039968 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:53 -0400 Adkins, Virginia 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.


Baire, Adam J. 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, alum Creek.


Bella, Maxine 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.


Blankenship, Junior 3 p.m., Wilson


Chandler, Troy E. 3 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.


Crews, Iris 2 p.m., Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home, Arbovale.


Dunbar, Guy 2 p.m., Groves Funeral Home Chapel, Union.


Hamrick, Joseph C. Noon, Simons


Hatfield, Pamela L. 2 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.


Keel, Novella 2 p.m., Long Branch United Methodist Church, Mount Hope.


King, Julia F. 2 p.m., St. Peter's United Methodist Church, St. Albans.


Moore, Lillian M. 2 p.m., Taylor


Phillips, Judith F. 2 p.m., Ridgelawn Abbey of Devotion Mausoleum, Huntington.


Shannon, Paul F. 1 p.m., Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.


Shaw, Jackie B. 6:30 p.m., Shiloh Fellowship Church, Sutton.

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Brenda K. Adkins http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039970 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039970 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:52 -0400 Brenda K. Adkins, 58, of Tyler Mountain, went to heaven on August 1, 2014. She was always a loving and caring mother and grandmother and she will be missed deeply. She was preceded in death by parents, William and Ollie Johnson and sister, Maggie Honaker.

Brenda is survived by her children, April Bradshaw, Scott Bogg and Dewayne Winell and their spouses; twelve grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; sisters, Jewel Golddizen and Susan Hall; brothers, Billy and Alfie Johnson.

We love you mom. You will forever be in our hearts.

Funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 5 at Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar. Burial will follow at Montgomery Memorial Park. Friends and family may call from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, August 4 at Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Arrangements are in the care of Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

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Peggy Grulla Amick http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039997 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039997 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:23 -0400 Peggy Grulla Amick, 84, of St. Albans, passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, with her family at her side.

She was born March 26, 1930, in Diamond, and was the daughter of Frank and Nell Custer Grulla. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by husband, E.D. "Bert" Amick.

Peggy graduated from McMillan Hospital nursing program and attended West Virginia University Nursing School. She was a registered nurse, retired from the state of West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Children with Special Health Care Needs Program. She was also a member of Riverlawn Presbyterian Church.

She is survived by her children, Paul Amick and his wife, Nancy, of Winfield, Chris Amick and his wife, Valerie, of St. Albans and Anne Amick Williams and her husband, Bill, of South Charleston; sisters, Betty Herron of Brighton, Mich., and Patsy Harrah of Belle; grandchildren, Alison Amick, Alex Amick, Evan Amick, Paige Amick, David Williams and Kevin Williams; and her beloved caretaker, Phyllis Watson.

In honoring her wishes, she will be cremated and a private family service will be held.

Online condolences can be sent to the family at www.casdorphandcurry.com.

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Elizabeth Beach http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039971 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039971 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:52 -0400 Elizabeth "Sis" Beach, 85, of South Charleston, went to be with the Lord on August 2, 2014. She was a life time member of South Charleston First Church of the Nazarene. Sis retired from Thomas Memorial Hospital after 35 years of service in the Dietary Department.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John W. Beach; parents, Garland and Sallie Hannan; and four brothers.

Sis is survived by her son, Robert Beach of South Charleston; daughters, Margaret Lewis of South Charleston and Susie Goode of Cross Lanes; brother, James Hannan; sister, Jean Higgins; grandchildren, Amber Lewis, CN Lewis of South Charleston, and Meagan Goode of South Charleston, and Cameron Goode of Cross Lanes; and great-grandchildren, Katie and Deryck of South Charleston.

She was a very caring person and will be greatly missed by all of her family and friends.

Funeral service will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 4 at South Charleston First Church of the Nazarene with Pastor Kent Estep officiating. Visitation will be held two hours prior to service. A graveside service, for immediate family, will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, August 5 at Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Arrangements are in the care of Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

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Alice Shaver Behr http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039969 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039969 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:53 -0400 Alice Ann Shaver Behr, 81, of Heaters, WV, passed away July 30, 2014. She is survived by daughter, Lisa and son-in-law, Don Bagwell. Stockert-Paletti Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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Esther M. Burks http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039987 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039987 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:39 -0400 Esther Marie Burks, 85, of Springfield, passed away on Thursday, July 31, 2014 in the Springfield Regional Medical Center. She was born on August 13, 1928 in Charleston, West Virginia, the daughter of Elbon and Willie Mae Bailey. Esther loved her family and in her earlier years she had a little silk flower shop that she ran out of her home in London, Ohio. In 1986 she was preceded in death by her husband, Cramer Burks Sr. Esther was also preceded in death by her parents, one sister, Virginia Wirtz, and three brothers: Wilbur, Homer, and Guy Bailey.

She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Cramer and Holly Burks of Springfield; her daughter, Susan Nicholls of Jackson, Ohio; four grandchildren, Heather (Dana) West, Megan and Micharti Nicholls, and Chad Seaman; three great-grandchildren, Morgan, Jacob and Regan; one sister, Wilda Hall of Springfield, several nieces and nephews; and special friend, Rita Matthews.

A gathering of family and friends will be held Monday, August 4, 2014 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Littleton & Rue Funeral Home, Springfield, Ohio, where services will follow the visitation at 7 p.m. with Pastor Chuck Graham officiating. Graveside service will be 1 p.m. Tuesday, August 5 in the Ed Bailey Cemetery, Sissonville, West Virginia. You may express condolences at www.littletonandrue.com.

Littleton & Rue Funeral Home, Springfield, Ohio is serving the Burk Family.

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E. Ruth Burns http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039988 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039988 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:37 -0400 E. Ruth Burns, 90, of Kanawha City, passed away June 21, 2014 at Hubbard Hospice House. Ruth was born to the late Ernie and Nora Hudkins on October 1, 1923 in Richwood, WV.

She was predeceased by brothers, Claude Hudkins and Cordie Hudkins Sr; nephews, James F. Hudkins and Cordie Hudkins Jr, and special friend, Dr. Carl Hall.

Ruth graduated from high school and attended Wesleyan College earning her two year teaching certificate. She worked for 44 years at KB&T/United National Bank as a Note Officer. She was a proud member of the Quota Club, Elks Club and proudly served as a Grand Matron of Eastern Star. She earned The Elks Distinguished Citizen Award in March of 2008. She was a member of St. Marks United Methodist Church.

She is survived by her nephew, Richard Hudkins of Houston, Texas; niece, Susan Ginn and family of Canyon, Texas; nephew, David Hudkins of Salina, Kan.; nephew, Jerry Hudkins and family of Pennsylvania; niece, Susan Ginn and family of Canyon, Texas; niece, Martha Hudkins of Orchard Park, N.Y.; great-niece Lori A. Tincher and family of Orchard Park, N.Y. The family would like to say a special thank you to Joe Tran of Houston, Texas, John and Janet Walls of Cabin Creek, WV, Powers Smith of Charleston, WV, John Simpson of Charleston, WV, Dr. Omar Farooq of Kanawha City, WV and J.R. and Julie Smith of Florida. Ruth also leaves behind many wonderful friends, including dear friends, Martha Hess of Montgomery, Jeannie and the late, Bud Morgan of Charleston, WV, and Fannie and Jim Skiles of Georgia.

A celebration of Ruth's life will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 20, with Pastor Pete Thompson officiating.

Contributions in honor of Ruth's memory can be made to Hubbard Hospice House, C/o HospiceCare, 1606 Kanawha Blvd. W, Charleston, WV 25387.

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Fred W. Calhoun http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039979 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039979 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:46 -0400 Fred "Boomie" W. Calhoun, 84, of Pratt, passed away August 1, 2014, at home. He was born January 20, 1930, in Hitchens, Ky., to the late Lymon and Blanche (Kitchen) Calhoun. He was a retired coal miner and a member of UMWA. He attended and was a member of Old Kanawha Baptist Church, Pratt.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by two sons, Kevin and Greg Haymaker; brothers, Jerry and Paul Calhoun; sisters, Lorraine Massey, Bessie Savere, Peggy Brummitt and Debbie Woodrum.

He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Charlotte Calhoun; mother-in-law, Jean Pettry of Pratt; sons, Mike Calhoun and wife, Beverly of Roanoke, Va., Vance Haymaker of Charleston, S.C.; sisters, Noke Parcell of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio and Mandy Baldwin of Handley, WV; five grandchildren, Jason Calhoun, Lance and Logan Haymaker, Megan and Amber Haymaker; and two great-grandchildren.

Fred will be missed dearly and was loved by many; he never met a stranger.

Graveside service will be 1 p.m. Monday, August 4 at Montgomery Memorial Park, London, WV, with Pastor David Baughn officiating. Expressions of sympathy can be sent at www.odellfuneralhome.com.

O'Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery, WV, is in charge of arrangements.

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Dorothy A. Deal http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039982 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039982 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:42 -0400 Dorothy A. Deal, 77, of Huntington, died August 1, 2014. Service will be 1 p.m. Tuesday, August 5 at Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant with visitation two hours prior to the service.

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Dorothy A. Freeman http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039985 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/OBIT/308039985 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:02:40 -0400 Dorothy Ann Freeman, 74, of Uneeda, died July 30, 2014. Service will be 2 p.m. Monday, August 4 at Handley Funeral Home, Danville with visitation one hour prior to service.

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Eastern Panhandle politics shaping West Virginia http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809854 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809854 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 08:42:06 -0400

By JONATHAN MATTISE

Associated Press

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Glen Price is part Washington, D.C. suburbanite, part West Virginia moonshine aficionado.

On work days, the 41-year-old spends more than four hours hopping trains to and from Washington, where he designs websites for the federal government. The commute isn't all a grind. He met his wife, Tara, on one return trip.

Back home in Martinsburg, the bushy-bearded West Virginia University alum beams about his moonshine side business. "It ain't your college bathtub juice," his distillery's website says, assuring it's the legal stuff.

Price is politically independent, but veers conservative. He soured with the political system and picked President Barack Obama in 2008, but hasn't been a fan of the president or Democrats in general since.

Voters like Price are indicative of the growing political muscle of the Eastern Panhandle, a wedge of land in the northeast that juts in between Maryland and Virginia. While the rest of the state collectively shrinks, the D.C. bedroom community region - hundreds of miles away from the state's traditional power bases - is younger, better educated and growing.

In a historically Democratic state tilting further right, the Panhandle's growth could help determine the tipping point. Many of those new residents have rebuked the traditional parties. Voters who aren't Republicans or Democrats almost doubled in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the last decade, and now make up about one-third of the electorate.

In 2012, the region produced the state's first Republican attorney general in eight decades, Jefferson County resident Patrick Morrisey. He is also the Panhandle's first Board of Public Works statewide officeholder.

"They want people who are willing to take on the establishment," Morrisey said. "They have that independence, and they want to see that fresh blood that's not been part of the state power structure for decades."

The commuter-rich region lifted another Jefferson County Republican, Alex Mooney, to a May primary win against six competitors, including three from the Charleston capital area. He now faces Nick Casey, a former state party chairman from Charleston who represents the moderate Democrat mantra that has long dominated West Virginia politics.

Both Morrisey and Mooney have taken heat for not being West Virginia lifers, an argument that plagued even longtime Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller as far back as his statehouse bid in 1966.

Formerly a D.C. lawyer and lobbyist, Morrisey moved to Harpers Ferry in 2006. Since Mooney spent his career in Maryland politics and moved to Jefferson County last year, he faces even louder cries of political opportunism.

For Panhandle residents, however, it's not as much of an issue. They get new neighbors all the time.

In the last two decades, population grew by 58 percent in West Virginia's three major Eastern Panhandle counties - Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan. Berkeley's boom was nearly 85 percent from 1990 to 2011. Kanawha, including Charleston, lost 3.5 percent of its residents from 2000 to 2010.

The Panhandle doesn't easily connect to the rest of West Virginia. Price lives closer to downtown Manhattan than Charleston. Driving to the rest of West Virginia means leaving and then re-entering the state. Price's news comes from Maryland, Virginia or the nation's capital.

About 28 percent of Berkeley works out of state in the Beltway or elsewhere. The number rises to almost 48 percent in Jefferson, which is even closer to Washington, according to 2010 U.S. Census numbers.

Peppered with chain restaurants, big-box stores and housing developments that sprawl to Interstate 81, Martinsburg is the biggest city in the state's second biggest county, Berkeley.

It's a stark contrast to the industrial, energy-resource dependent image often assumed of West Virginia.

"You get a slice of Americana, but you get the lifestyle and the income of the city," Price said of Martinsburg.

Coal mining doesn't put the Panhandle to work. The Marcellus Shale natural gas boom doesn't stretch there, either. State, federal and local government jobs, a casino and racetrack, a Macy's Distribution Center, historic national parks and other varied employers balance out the local economy.

Its unemployment should stay below state and national average there for the foreseeable future, according to a West Virginia University economic outlook.

The Eastern Panhandle is blocked off from most of West Virginia by the Allegheny Mountains.

The region served a strategic purpose for Abraham Lincoln. When West Virginia was carved out of Virginia in 1863, the Panhandle helped maintain a continuous railroad line for the Union, said Robert Rupp, a West Virginia Wesleyan College history and political science professor.

Acres of rolling farmland still sprawl across the once-rural landscape, but demand for more Beltway suburban living has given the region a face-lift.

"It has changed immeasurably since I began representing it," said U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a seventh-term Charleston Republican whose district stretches to the Panhandle. "It grew from sort of a more rural, quieter community to a more bustling community, to more economic development, diverse populations."

Republican state Sen. Craig Blair and Democratic Sen. John Unger, both raised in Berkeley, said safety after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks became a selling point. The Panhandle was deemed just out of the "blast zone" should terrorists strike the D.C. metro area.

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Ohio's 4th largest city has no drinking water http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809855 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809855 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 07:37:20 -0400

By JOHN SEEWER

Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Long lines formed at water distribution centers and store shelves were quickly emptied of bottled water after Ohio's fourth-largest city told residents not to drink from its water supply that was fouled by toxins possibly from algae on Lake Erie.

The warning effectively cut off the water supply to 400,000 people in Toledo, most of its suburbs and a few areas in southeastern Michigan.

Worried residents told not to drink, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the water emptied store shelves and waited hours for deliveries of bottled water from across Ohio as the governor declared a state of emergency.

Gov. John Kasich pledged that state agencies were working to bring water and other supplies to areas around Toledo while also assisting hospitals and other businesses impacted. The state also was making plans to make more deliveries if the water problem lingered, he said.

"What's more important than water? Water's about life," Kasich said. "We know it's difficult. We know it's frustrating."

The governor said it was too early to say how long the water advisory will last or what caused toxins to spike suddenly in the drinking water.

"We don't really want to speculate on this," Kasich told The Associated Press. "When it comes to this water, we've got be very careful."

Samples of water were flown to the federal and state Environmental Protection Agency offices in Cincinnati and Columbus and a university in Michigan for additional testing, officials said.

Residents waking up to the warning on Saturday morning lined up outside just about any store selling water. Some were mothers concerned about how they would make formula for their infants and other were worried about their elderly parents.

"It looked like Black Friday," said Aundrea Simmons, who stood in a line of about 50 people at a pharmacy before buying four cases of water.

Families toting empty coolers, milk jugs and even cookie jars topped them off with well water funneled out of the back of a pickup truck.

John Myers, a farmer from nearby Swanton, loaded 450 gallons of well water into a container in the back of his pickup truck and gave it out for free in a high school parking lot.

"The more you got, the more we'll fill," he told residents carrying empty containers. "I never thought I'd see the day that I'd be giving water away."

Myers said his concern was that the advisory could go on for days. "This is a lot more serious than anybody's thinking about," he said.

Tyshanta DeLoney, of Toledo, filled up a big plastic container after spending much of the day searching for water. "That was a blessing," she said.

Late Saturday, Kasich ordered the state's National Guard to deliver water purification systems, pallets of bottled water and meals ready to eat, or MREs, to residents in Lucas, Wood and Fulton counties.

Toledo issued the warning just after midnight Saturday after tests at one treatment plant showed two sample readings for microsystin above the standard for consumption. The city also said not to boil the water because that would only increase the toxin's concentration. The mayor also warned that children should not shower or bathe in the water and that it shouldn't be given to pets.

The first tests indicating trouble came Friday night and additional testing confirmed the elevated readings, said Craig Butler, director of the state's Environmental Protection Agency.

Water coming from the lake into Toledo's water plant had relatively low toxicity levels this summer compared with a year ago until this sudden spike.

Algae blooms during the summer have become more frequent and troublesome around the western end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.

The algae growth is fed by phosphorus mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind toxins that have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can't survive. The toxins can kill animals and sicken humans.

Scientists had predicted a significant bloom of the blue-green algae this year, but they didn't expect it to peak until early September.

The state began delivering water to the Toledo area Saturday afternoon. Containers were being filled with water at a prison near Columbus and trucked about 130 miles north, said Nancy Dragani, director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

The state also asked major grocery chains to divert as much water as they can to northwest Ohio, she said. The Ohio National Guard planned to send units that can turn pond water into drinkable water to three hospitals and a state prison in Toledo.

As truckloads of water came in from across the state, Toledo leaders set up distribution centers at schools around the city, limiting families to one case of bottled water. Some stores were receiving new shipments of water and putting limits on how much people can buy.

"We're going to be prepared to make sure people are not without water," said Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins.

There were no reports yet of people becoming sick from drinking the water, Collins said.

Stores in cities up to 50 miles away were reporting shortages of bottled water. Some neighboring communities that aren't connected to Toledo's water system were offering their water to people who brought their own bottles and containers.

Operators of water plants all along Lake Erie, which supplies drinking water for 11 million people, have been concerned over the last few years about toxins fouling their supplies.

Almost a year ago, one township just east of Toledo told its 2,000 residents not to drink or use the water coming from their taps. That was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake.

Most water treatment plants along the western Lake Erie shoreline treat their water to combat the algae. Toledo spent about $4 million last year on chemicals to treat its water and combat the toxins.

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The enrichment of life lies in love http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809867 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809867 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 Rev. Dr. Richard C. Lamb I remember my mother's cooking quite well - her gooseberry pie, meat loaf sandwiches and muffins with a bit of fruit. Ah, yes. Good cooks know how to enrich a dish.

Chefs often have cooking contests, and who isn't caught up in it as each one tries to "gild the lily"? But food is small stuff when you consider the far-reaching idea of "enrichment."

The surpassing enrichment of life is love. It is said "to bear all things." It is the foundation stone that nurtures a sense of well-being. The giver feels the blessing of peace and the recipient receives a renewed sense of worth.

We know - or have heard - that God is love. Love nourishes life, it uplifts life, it prepares children in a creative way to take their place in a needful world. Love is kindness and mercy. Without love ... well, you read the newspapers.

Education, through primary grades and all the way up through advanced degrees, enriches the mind. It challenges our thinking. It extends our vistas. We are led to sit at table, as it were, with great minds of the past and present. We are challenged, yet encouraged, to go beyond our present understandings and assumptions in both religious and secular life. We are equipped to make a good contribution to the enrichment of life in a needful world.

Education is more than merely seeking a degree. It is largely a grooming to contribute to life. It is, or should be, ongoing, for we know only in part.

Self-examination, tough though it may be, moves us toward clearing out the "weed patches" that threaten to curtail our lives, lives that have been touched with love and kindness. Admittedly, it is hard going at times. It is tempting to go easy on oneself, to embrace the thought that "I have done quite well, thank you." It is not always a breeze to face the thought found in Scripture that we only know in part, or that from Robert Frost who wrote, "I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." If we think we "have arrived," then we are not going any place!

Who hasn't heard the trumpeting of these words, "Life is what you make it! Blah! That leaves out all the help we have received from family and community.

Consider the prophetic cry in the Old Testament that calls for amendment of life. Even though God is dissatisfied with our behavior, He doesn't wash His hands of us. His love is everlasting; His mercy endures that we might have hope and peace. "Love bears all things." (I Corinthians 13) That's enriching! It clears the windshields of our minds and restores the vertical in our thoughts that are all too often immersed in the horizontal.

How wonderful that God stays in there with us! We needed that as a child; we need that always. No one likes to be written off, and that includes God.

While on vacation I heard a bird cry, which I translated it into the word "outrageous." I suppose if wildlife could speak our language, it would tell us about the outrageous things we have done to the environment, affecting many forms of life.

It takes an outrageous love by God, so outrageous that some of us find it hard to believe that God would stay in there with us. But that's a part of the good news, isn't it?

Incidentally, we are told through Scripture that we are the "salt of the earth." We are a part of the enrichment of life through faith and love. Outrageous? Yes, but love, mercy and peace make a lot of difference in what we dish up in life.

Dr. Lamb is parish associate for First Presbyterian Church, Charleston.

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Cramming: Cell phone bills may contain third-party charges http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ03/140809868 GZ03 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ03/140809868 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Paul J. Nyden As he winds his Senate career down, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is continuing his battle against "cramming" - a practice that many American consumers don't know about, but one that has cost them billions of dollars in recent years.

Cramming takes place when third parties add charges onto people's telephone bills for services they approved, but did not understand or know how much they would cost. When printed on people's telephone bills, cramming charges are typically described in vague terms, such as service fee, service charge or other fees.

In 2011, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation - of which Rockefeller is chairman - found out cramming had cost consumers billions of dollars on their landline bills. The committee found that third parties had charged more than $10 billion in fees to people's landline telephones over the previous five years.

As a result, the three largest telephone companies - Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink - agreed to stop placing any third-party charges on their landline telephone bills. But they continued to allow third-party companies to place charges on people's cell phone bills.

Rockefeller's committee held another hearing last week, and the chairman said that the problem persists.

"Despite industry assurances that their self-regulation would protect consumers against unauthorized third-party charges on their phone bills, it now has become clear that - just as with landline phone bills - 'crammed' charges on mobile phone bills have been widespread and have cost consumers millions of dollars," Rockefeller said in a statement outside the hearing.

"We must review what we learned from consumers' cramming experiences to apply appropriate consumer protections to evolving billing methods," he said.

Today, crammers focus increasingly on people who use wireless cell phones.

In recent years, telephone companies have allowed third-party vendors to bill telephone customers for services including online gambling, online photo storage, roadside assistance and webhosting - which helps people and companies make their websites more widely available on the Internet.

Rockefeller's new report points out that telephone numbers have become "a payment method similar to credit card numbers. However, third-party charges levied on the phone bill platform did not receive the same protections as credit card payments."

"A consumer's liability for unauthorized charges made to his or her credit card is typically limited to $50. Credit card consumers also "have the right to dispute unauthorized charges and ... the right to reverse a charge," the report released in Wednesday's hearing states.

During Wednesday's hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said telephone companies "almost certainly welcomed the revenue that third-party billing was generating for them."

Wireless carriers began receiving between 30 percent and 40 percent of the bills each third party was adding to their customers' monthly phone bills.

"The financial incentive to allow third-party billing seems to conflict with protecting their customers from fraud," Blumenthal said. Some companies charged people $9.99 a month, month after month, to give people their horoscopes. Those small charges made a big impact."

Blumenthal hopes new measures recommended by the Senate Committee "will be truly effective."

Terrell McSweeney, the newest member of the Federal Trade Commission, said during the hearing, "The FTC began targeting landline cramming in the late 1990s. As consumers have migrated to mobile phones, they have been tricked in to subscribing for services such as free concert tickets and $1,000 gift cards.

"Frequently, consumers are unaware they are being billed for third party-services. It is unclear on their phone bills."

McSweeiney believes the federal government should take additional steps to block cramming, including making it "clear to customers that they can block all third-party accounts" and requiring telephone companies to "clearly delineate third-party charges on their bills."

Since the spring of 2013, the FTC has filed three enforcement actions, including one alleging that T-Mobile deceptively describes cramming on bills the company sends to its customers.

"In July, the FTC filed its first wireless cramming complaint against a major carrier, alleging that T-Mobile allowed unauthorized third-party charges on consumers' wireless bills, including in some cases, for services that had refund rates of up to 40 percent," Rockefeller said in a press release last week. A spokesman for T-Mobile, working at the company's offices in Washington, D.C., said on Friday, "A group of people will take a look at it. Our legal teams are going to look at it. T-Mobile will refund those customers."

The spokesman, who refused to give his name, then hung up immediately and would not take further questions.

On July 2, when the FTC action against T-Mobile was announced, Rockefeller said, "The FTC's allegations only heighten my concern about the industry's repeated assertions that voluntary oversight effectively protects consumers from cramming. I am pleased the FTC is scrutinizing carrier practices and look forward to seeing how this FTC action will inform the Committee's work to make sure the wireless industry is accountable to consumers."

Travis LeBlanc, acting chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau, said during the hearing, "The report released in 2011 by Rockefeller showed these companies had put $2 billion in charges on land line bills.

"Consumers' increased reliance on mobile phones makes the problem ever more serious. Since 2010, we have had thousands of complaints. Wireless complaints have grown from 15 percent to 55 percent [of all our complaints].

"These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Since most people do not know they have been crammed," LeBlanc said, "we have no reason to believe T-Mobile is the only phone company doing this."

During the July 2011 hearing, Rockefeller said, "More than a decade after telephone companies implemented their voluntary guidelines, hundreds of cramming companies continue to place tens of millions of bogus charges on families' and businesses' landline telephone bills every year.

"While the individual charges are usually small amounts between $10 and $30, they have added up to billions of dollars in bogus charges for American families and businesses over the past decade."

The Senate Committee report released on Wednesday said, "Third-party billing on wireless phone bills has been a billion dollar industry that has yielded tremendous revenues for carriers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon generally retained 30 percent to 40 percent of each vendor charge placed."

Gayle Kansagor, a corporate communications official with AT&T, said her company "is discontinuing third-party billing for third-party services on our landlines."

AT&T offers advice to consumers, Kansagor said, about how to avoid cramming and how to avoid signing up for services people do not want on its website at: www.att.net/ smartcontrols-Cramming.

That advice includes:

- Avoid placing any calls to 900 numbers.

- "Avoid accepting collect calls, signing up for sweepstakes or contests online."

- Avoid entering your contact information on websites that are not secure, such as websites that make solicitations over the phone.

- When you sign up for various services, websites "sometimes have fine print that note by providing your information, you're signing up for additional services."

- "Always read the fine print and know what you're signing up for. In some cases, customers simply may not have understood a transaction when it took place." Customers who fail to do that "may be giving away your information and signing up for services you don't want."

The FCC also offers advice on its website about how to avoid cramming on landlines, wireless telephones, beepers and pager services at: www.fcc.gov/guides/cramming-unauthorized-misleading-or-deceptive-charges-placed-your-telephone-bill.

The FCC urges all telephone users to review their monthly telephone bills carefully, looking specifically for:

- Charges explained in general terms, using words and phrases like "service fee," "service charge," "other fees," "voicemail," "mail server," "calling plan," "psychic" or "membership."

- Charges "added to your telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided, using terms such as "monthly fee" or "minimum monthly usage fee."

- Charges for a service that customers authorized, but were misled about its actual cost.

The FCC also urges telephone users to look at the names of all other companies that are listed on monthly bills and to determine what services were provided by those companies.

State government officials have also taken action against abuse of telephone numbers to trick consumers into signing up for services they did not know about or did not want.

Between 2008 and 2010, the report states, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum "reached settlements with AT&T Mobility, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, wherein the companies agreed to issue refunds to consumers billed for ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile content that had been advertised on the Internet as free, but resulted in consumers being signed up for monthly text message subscriptions."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

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Sunday cartoon http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809869 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809869 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:56:00 -0400

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James Binder: Children, families safer in homes without guns http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809898 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809898 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By James Binder, M.D. Seventy people injured and 12 killed by gunfire while watching a movie in Aurora, Colorado; 15 first-graders massacred in one classroom in a matter of minutes at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut; 30 people murdered by guns each day in the United States.

Thirty people! A daily tragedy, yet we still do not enact national legislation to effectively control handguns, or even automatic weapons. How does one explain this incongruity?

At a basic level, it appears that an adult's right to own and carry a gun trumps a child's right for a safe and secure environment. We literally could cite hundreds of articles documenting the need of children to feel safe and secure in order to grow up healthy, physically, emotionally and intellectually. Violence and the sensationalized portrayal of it in the media, create a climate that obviously erodes a child's sense of security. A 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on firearm safety specifies that "The absence of guns from children's homes and communities is the most reliable and effective means to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents."

Arguments in favor of free access to firearms have been based on myths.

Myth: Owning a gun protects one from danger.

Fact: Women who live in a home with a gun are three times as likely to be murdered, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for gun policy research. Home possession of a gun significantly increases the risk of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths. In fact, children are twice as likely to die from a firearm as cancer.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard School of Public Heath, says, "The scientific studies suggest that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit. There are no credible studies that indicate otherwise."

Myth: People kill people, not guns.

Fact: Actually, people kill a lot fewer people when they don't have guns available. Consider the recent mass stabbing at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa. Twenty-five people were stabbed. There were no deaths. Or, consider England, which has far fewer firearms per capita than the U.S. They have 30 times fewer murders due to firearms and a much lower overall murder rate. This trend is found in other developed countries that have a low firearm possession rate, such as Japan, Poland, Hungary and South Korea.

Myth: Improving mental health care in the U.S. will resolve the problem of our extraordinarily high murder rate.

Fact: The vast majority of murders in the U.S. are committed by people who are not mentally ill, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

It is true that our mental health system needs improvement. Access to timely and good mental health care is a huge problem for many people. Even if we built a stronger mental health program in the U.S., we would be unable to prevent most of the deaths that occur. Psychologists and psychiatrists cannot accurately predict who will become violent and when they will become violent. In addition, and very importantly, the vast majority of the 30 firearm homicides a day in the U.S. are committed by people who do not have a mental illness. Rather, they are the result of a quarrel or a dispute made deadly by the presence of a gun. Less than 1 percent of murders are mass murders, which do have an association with mental illness. The risk of mental illness and violence has been grossly exaggerated by the NRA and given credence by much of the media. Shamefully, this has greatly contributed to the stigma that has been attached to the mentally ill in our country.

The above myths are empty, lacking scientific support. They are no less empty because they are repeated over and over again by certain groups, such as the NRA, or are expressed in a loud forceful way. As a pediatrician and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I do not accept that it is OK to discount a child's sense of security just so an adult is free to own and carry a gun. And, I do not accept that the status quo is unchangeable. If you agree you can:

1. Keep your home environment free of guns, particularly if you have children.

2. Call or e-mail your Congress member and demand that he or she support a child's right to a secure environment and vote for legislation that eliminates firearm possession.

3. Join a group, such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence or the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

James Binder is a pediatrician with Cabin Creek Health Systems.

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Without new incentives, U.S. transportation infrastructure is on a road to nowhere http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809899 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/ARTICLE/140809899 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Aaron Klein Without action by Congress, funding for highways, bridges and buses will be cut in West Virginia and every other state in the nation. This is because the federal government's Highway Trust Fund has been paying for more roadwork than it has the money for from collected revenue.

This funding gap has been "filled in" temporarily by Congressional action many times, and it is possible another short-term solution will be found at the last minute to prevent calamity. Even so, temporary stopgaps can only paper over the growing pothole of a problem for so long.

America has underinvested in its infrastructure for quite a while. As a result, many of our critical systems are aging, deteriorating and severely congested. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently rated the nation's infrastructure a D+. Wise investment in infrastructure can create construction and manufacturing jobs today and more importantly sow the seeds for long-run economic growth and global competitiveness for the future. Nothing in life is free and funding for infrastructure investment has proven difficult to find.

But given the current political atmosphere, funding for federal infrastructure investment is likely to be lacking for years. Persistent budget shortfalls and a growing national debt constrain federal spending. Such realities will lead to a shift to financing mechanisms that leverage federal resources. For example, in the most recently enacted surface transportation authorization bill, federal support for infrastructure financing increased by over 800 percent despite flat funding in real terms. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was instrumental in the passage of that law and he is still trying to expand federal support for infrastructure financing, most recently with his introduction of the American Infrastructure and Investment Fund Act.

The difference between funding and financing may seem unimportant at first. But when considered through an intergenerational lens, the difference becomes apparent. At the federal level, these funds were based on user fees, such as a gas tax, so that current users were funding the construction of an infrastructure network which would last for many decades. Previous generations built and paid for infrastructure that it could pass on, free and clear of debt, to future generations. The interstates and bridges built with federal funds in West Virginia in the 1980s didn't come with bonds attached to them to be paid back by West Virginia taxpayers in the 2010s.

State and local level governments typically financed capital infrastructure investments. They borrowed funds, hopefully matching the duration of their debt with the expected life spans of the assets. By financing the investment, they effectively require current and future users of the transportation system to pay for it. Costs are shared across generations. Projects begun today with a 20-year, West Virginia bond will be paid back by taxpayers through 2034.

Given the difference in budget systems between federal and state governments, these different approaches make sense. The federal government has a unified budget where all expenses are treated equally. States and localities, on the other hand, have separate operating and capital budgets, and most states, including West Virginia, require annual balanced operating budgets. This practice allows states and localities to account for the long-term nature of infrastructure assets through their capital budgets.

The historic bipartisan consensus to require current users to fund infrastructure has faded at the federal level. The motor fuels taxes that pay for the majority of the Highway Trust Fund, commonly known as the "gas tax" were raised by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton. However, since it was last raised in 1993, it has remained non-indexed for inflation at 18.4 cents per gallon. Put another way, when last raised, the tax was about 20 percent of the price of a gallon of gas; today it is closer to 5 percent.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has called for a federal program to support and reward the development of new or expanded state financing tools and of sustainable revenue sources by states and localities. One example is the West Virginia Economic Infrastructure Bond Fund, which provides loans to encourage economic development. When shifting away from federal funding to federal financing, it is important to apply certain key principles:

n Federal loans and financing must be repaid.

n Spend our limited dollars more wisely by targeting projects with the greatest benefits and returns.

n Project selection should be merit-based, rigorous and transparent. Projects that receive federal assistance should be accountable for outcomes.

n There should be a level playing field between eligible infrastructure modes and types. For example, we must figure out whether an additional road or a smarter bus system makes sense in a given situation.

As we confront our nation's aging infrastructure and debate how to keep America moving, we have an opportunity to develop a new set of incentives to guide future investments. If we fail to seize this opportunity, we may find our economy as well as ourselves stuck on the road to nowhere.

Aaron Klein is director of the Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center and participated in the recent Transportation & Infrastructure Summit in Charleston.

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DEP sympathetic to gas drillers, but bill leaves few exemption options http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809900 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809900 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Ken Ward Jr. On Jan. 20, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced his proposal for legislation to increase regulation of above-ground chemical storage tanks across West Virginia. It was less than two weeks after the Freedom Industries' leak that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents in Charleston and surrounding counties.

Despite public outrage over the water crisis, Tomblin took a cautious approach that aides said was aimed at not "overregulating" industry. The governor's proposal, crafted in part in behind-the-scenes talks with corporate lobbyists, included a long list of exemptions for whole classes of chemical storage tanks and entire industries.

With the Freedom leak fresh in their minds, many lawmakers were wary of the governor's proposal. It took two months of debate by multiple committees, but the Legislature eventually moved to mostly abandon the governor's business-friendly model. Lawmakers passed SB373, setting up a long list of new chemical tank safety mandates and giving industry limited options for avoiding new permitting and inspection requirements.

Now, House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, is taking up the cause of oil and gas drillers who want a broad exemption from the new law. Early last month, Miley urged Tomblin to somehow use executive powers to delay the bill, or to call lawmakers into special session to let oil and gas operators off the hook.

Miley, in a letter to Tomblin written six months to the day after the Jan. 9 Freedom leak, insisted that he considers "our obligation to provide clean and potable water for the citizens of our state sacred," but that state leaders also "have an obligation to avoid the excessive regulation of an industry" whose operations "pose little threat to public water intakes around our state."

"If not, lost jobs and an increase in bankruptcy filings may be the undesired result," Miley wrote in his July 9 letter to the governor.

Nearly a month after Miley's letter, the Tomblin administration is still trying to craft a concrete response.

Officials said the governor is sympathetic to the situation but has no plans for an executive order. It's not clear yet if Tomblin will consider a special session.

DEP officials say they are likewise sympathetic, but they are quick to point out that the Legislature had the chance to exempt oil and gas industry tanks from the bill and didn't, and gave agency regulators very narrow authority to create such waivers as they write a rule to implement the law.

"I don't know how much room there is," said Scott Mandirola, director of the DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management, whose office is writing the agency's rule. "A lot of these things were discussed by the Legislature, about who should be covered and who shouldn't be covered."

Mandirola's boss, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman, said last week, "The law is what it is, and we're going to enforce it."

In writing SB373, lawmakers set up three basic mandates for above-ground chemical storage tanks:

| Operators must register their tanks with the DEP, providing information about location, size and contents

| Companies must apply for and receive permits that will spell out new safety standards for those tanks

| Tank owners must have a professional engineer perform annual safety inspections on all their tanks.

The idea was to find out where tanks were, what was in them, and ensure they were built and maintained to not leak their contents, especially into drinking water supplies.

The law defines "above-ground storage tank" to include any tank that holds more than 1,320 gallons of most types of fluids. The law requires the DEP to compile an inventory of such tanks by Oct. 1, and agency officials are in the process of doing that now, by requiring owners to register their tanks.

In his letter to Tomblin, Miley alleged, among other things, that the registration process is too time-consuming and costly for many small oil and gas operators. Miley complained, for example, about operators needing to report who owns the land where they have their chemical tanks, information Miley said is "not normally found in the files" of the operators.

Miley did not return a message seeking an interview for this report. The speaker copied his letter to Tomblin to S. Michael Shaver, president of Bridgeport-based Mountain V Oil & Gas Inc. Shaver had complained about the law's requirements in a May 21 letter to the DEP, saying he feared that "pressure to 'do something'" in the aftermath of the Freedom leak would "override a common sense approach to adopt meaningful regulation."

In his letter, Miley said he was concerned about the impacts of the bill on small oil and gas drillers that have smaller - about 100 barrels or 4,200 gallons - tanks that they use to temporarily store salty brine-water, oil and other liquids from their operations.

Such tanks are large enough to meet the new law's definition of an above-ground storage tank. However, if they are already covered by a federal "Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure" plan, as Miley says they are, they already are generally exempt from needing to get an additional permit under the new state law. Tanks with such plans would be required to get a state permit if they are located in a "zone of critical protection" near public drinking water intakes. Miley also complained about the potential costs of the annual engineering inspection.

The DEP's Mandirola said the law doesn't currently give the DEP a way to exempt tanks that meet the Legislature's definition from the requirement to register with the DEP. The law does allow the DEP to exempt entire categories of tanks from the state permit requirement, if the agency concludes those categories of tanks are covered by another regulatory program with safety standards similar to those in SB373, Mandirola said.

But, the ability of the DEP to create categorical exemptions doesn't appear to apply to the requirement for annual engineering inspections of all tanks. So, tanks could be exempt from permit requirements, but still have to be registered with the DEP and inspected annually, officials said.

The DEP's Huffman said last week that he agrees with much of what Miley says in his letter and is sympathetic to the oil and gas industry's concerns.

In an interview, Huffman described a gas company tank he sees frequently when he's hunting: It sits on top of a hill, inside an earthen dike, located nowhere near a public water system intake. It's old, but it's rarely full. Huffman said he's "absolutely confident" that such tanks pose little if any threat to public health or the environment, Huffman said.

Huffman and Chris Stadelman, the governor's communications director, noted that Tomblin's proposed legislation would have exempted these kinds of tanks. Tomblin's bill contained a specific exemption for "tanks that are used to store brines, crude oil, or any other liquid or similar substances or materials that are directly related to the exploration, development, stimulation, completion, or production" of oil or gas.

"The face of the bill changed significantly from the governor's bill," Huffman noted.

Lawmakers removed many of the exemptions after a hearing in which numerous DEP staff members who regulate various industries testified that they weren't sure where those exemptions came from or what the impact of the exemptions would be, and told lawmakers that existing regulatory programs don't necessarily contain the sort of engineering inspections of tanks being proposed in the new bill.

Last week, Huffman said his agency doesn't yet have a lot of data about the oil and gas industry's tanks. The DEP is still compiling its inventory. Exact locations, contents and condition of tanks haven't been gathered together yet, Huffman said. And it's possible some of these tanks have had problems in the past.

"They are old," he said, "and I am sure there are leaks associated with them, and I'm sure that, in the history of these programs, there have been a lot of leaks associated with them."

Huffman said he doesn't support "categorical exclusions," but he would consider something less drastic that would help the oil and gas industry.

One option for dealing with the oil and gas industry complaints would be to find a way to exempt tanks that aren't located in a "zone of critical concern" near drinking water intakes.

In a prepared statement responding to Gazette-Mail questions about the issue, Stadelman said the governor believes "the goals of the legislation can be accomplished without undue burden on West Virginia's businesses."

The statement said Tomblin is committed to following "the intent" of the legislation and that the DEP "is discussing and is committed to ensuring zones of critical concern receive priority so our water sources are protected."

Meanwhile, during the DEP's initial public comment period, held while agency officials drafted their first cut of a rule to implement SB373, various industry lobby groups outlined their own requests for exemptions. The West Virginia Coal Association said existing laws do enough to regulate tanks at mine sites. The state Farm Bureau is concerned about whether the law applies to certain agricultural tanks or not. The West Virginia Manufacturers Association outlined ways it believes various types of tanks should be exempt.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, are worried where the exemptions will end.

"It's important for state leaders to think very carefully about excluding large numbers of tanks from the new regulations," said Evan Hansen, an environmental consultant with the Morgantown firm Downstream Strategies. "Which tanks will be left?"

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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W.Va. broadband-expansion panel pays $2M of $5M budget to Pa. consultants http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809901 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809901 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Eric Eyre A governor-appointed council set up to give away $5 million in state funds for projects to bring high-speed Internet to homes and businesses in West Virginia wound up paying nearly $2 million to an out-of-state consulting firm, according to a financial statement released last week.

Since late 2009, the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council has paid L.R. Kimball, an Edensburg, Pennsylvania-based company, $1.88 million. The payments are expected to top $2 million - about 40 percent of the council's entire $5 million legislative appropriation - by Dec. 31, the day the council is scheduled to be disbanded.

L.R. Kimball received the bulk of its consulting fees - nearly $1 million - to manage the Broadband Deployment Council's grant program. The council has awarded 11 grants over the past two years.

Council Chairman Dan O'Hanlon said Kimball's consultants have done exemplary work, but he acknowledged, "They're not cheap."

Kimball has charged the council about $30,000 a month this year, O'Hanlon said. "They're very knowledgeable, very professional," O'Hanlon said.

In 2009, then-Gov. Joe Manchin established the broadband council to fund projects that would make high-speed Internet available in West Virginia's most remote areas. State lawmakers set aside $5 million for the council to spend.

In August 2009, the Broadband Council signed a contract with Kimball. The state law that established the council exempted the council from state purchasing regulations. Kimball received its first payment in October 2009.

The Broadband Council didn't start distributing grants until December 2012, after getting sidetracked with discussions about a $126.3 million federal stimulus project designed to bring fiber-optic cable to schools, libraries and other public facilities. The Legislative Auditor's Office issued two scathing reports about the statewide project, citing waste and mismanagement.

The Broadband Council paid Kimball consultants more than $1.1 million in consulting fees - mostly for "strategic planning" - before awarding a single grant, invoices show.

O'Hanlon, who was appointed to the council in 2011, and other panel members suggested hiring an executive director, and possibly more staff, but the proposal never got traction. Kimball's contract allows the firm to charge up to $260 per hour for the work of its highest-paid consultants.

The Broadband Deployment Council has no full-time staff.

"I said, 'Let me hire somebody, and it won't cost as much,' but that's not the way it went," O'Hanlon recalled.

Kimball has a stable of consultants who are experts on multiple topics, such as broadband technologies, grants and government rules, O'Hanlon said.

"We could have hired somebody for $60,000 [a year], but you wouldn't have found one person who has all the skill sets that Kimball had," he said. "We've had three or four different Kimball employees, and they've all been top flight. We are very satisfied with their work."

Kimball's project manager, Joshua Clemente, would not comment last week.

In late 2012, the Broadband Deployment Council asked Kimball to manage the panel's grant program. Many council members had potential conflicts of interest because of their ties to organizations and companies seeking grant funds for broadband projects.

Kimball set up a grant application website, and scored and reviewed applications before board members voted to award funds to nine projects in December 2012 and two projects earlier this year. Nine of the council's grants went to one company, StratusWave Communications, a Wheeling-based company that provides wireless Internet to homes and businesses.

Kimball also received and kept confidential business information from Frontier Communications and other Internet providers that detailed where the companies offered broadband service, or planned to expand. Kimball used the information to score grant applications, and recommended against projects that would bring high-speed Internet to communities that already had it.

"The Ethics Commission said we needed an outside group to handle things," O'Hanlon said. "We decided to let Kimball do that."

For more than a year, Broadband Council members repeatedly asked for financial statements that would detail the group's expenditures. Last week, the council received its first written financial statement, which lists Kimball's $1.9 million in charges to date.

Since its contract started, Kimball has submitted monthly invoices to the Department of Commerce. The invoices list 16 tasks that the Broadband Council asked the firm to complete. The tasks include "strategic planning," "stakeholder coordination," "kick-off," and "outreach." Kimball provides a running total of expenses charged for each task.

The invoices don't include the names of the Kimball consultants who worked for the Broadband Council or hourly rates. Kimball's invoices don't disclose any details about the work for which the firm bills the council.

"I've looked at the invoices," O'Hanlon said. "They all seem reasonable. They've always done what we asked them to do."

Broadband Deployment Council members plan to discuss Kimball's invoices at their next meeting, in October.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @EricEyre on Twitter.

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Some W.Va. colleges face stricter regulations after MSU controversy http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809908 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140803/GZ01/140809908 Sun, 3 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Mackenzie Mays Because Mountain State University was forced to close in 2012, West Virginia higher education officials are exercising more supervision over the state's colleges, and providing more information to the public about potential risks institutions might face.

Last year, legislators made the state Higher Education Policy Commission responsible for regularly authorizing West Virginia's colleges and universities - including nonprofit and private institutions. Previously, the commission oversaw only the state's four-year public higher education system.

The new policy is designed to protect consumers, to ensure students are offered a quality education and have the tools to accurately compare institutions on factors such as loan default and graduation rates.

The now-defunct Mountain State University was a private, not-for-profit school based in Beckley. It became the first college in West Virginia history to have its primary accreditation revoked by the Higher Learning Commission - a corporation that works to ensure that colleges are upholding national standards - after years of failing to correct major problems in leadership, program evaluations and campus governance.

"The closure of MSU had a major impact on the concerns that caused this legislation to go through, because we had no authority to step in to do anything," said Kathy Eddy, secretary of the HEPC. "We did step in to try to help. We did that before they lost accreditation, and then, after they lost it, we tried to work with them to get students placed in other schools. But we were doing that just because we were looking out for student interest - not because we had the authority to do so.

"Now we have the authority to step in if there are major issues and concerns," she said. "We can do something."

In the HEPC's meeting on Friday, commissioners reviewed reports on three nontraditional schools facing problems: Ohio Valley University, Salem International University and Future Generations Graduate School.

In April, the HEPC voted to delay reauthorization of those three schools until a review team could conduct site visits and share findings with commissioners. (The commission also approved reauthorization for 16 other schools in April.)

Salem International, a private school in Harrison County, again failed Friday to gain reauthorization. Commissioners said they still want more information.

They also raised concerns about Future Generations, a graduate school in Franklin, because of low enrollment - about 21 students in 2013 - and even lower graduation numbers.

The commission called the financial condition of Ohio Valley, a faith-based institution in Vienna, "weak" and "fragile," with less than $330,000 in net assets, and liabilities exceeding by $2.2 million as of 2013.

However, commissioners determined Friday that the issues at Future Generations and Ohio Valley could be resolved with the institutions' proposed reform plans, and voted to approve reauthorization for the schools.

"There wasn't a bad enough reason to not reauthorize them, but we wanted to make the commission aware of what we saw," Eddy said. "Part of the legislation requires us to gather data and make it available to the public . . . and then the HEPC takes a look and, if we see that areas could be of concern, then we're supposed to go in and delve farther, to make sure there aren't more issues we need to be aware of."

Kay Goodwin, secretary of the state Department of Education and the Arts, was the only HEPC member to vote against both of the approvals. Goodwin pointed to the MSU failure and said she was concerned that the HEPC was simply handing out checkmarks and leaving the real regulation up to others.

"Evermore, we're being called to task as a governing body - a policy-making body - that is charged to oversee oversight of the institutions that we're sending up to the Higher Learning Commission . . . . It's very concerning to me that we seem to say, 'Well someone else can take care of it,'" Goodwin said Friday. "I am very worried about the monitoring ongoing of this institution [Ohio Valley]."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @MackenzieMays on Twitter.

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