In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   PEIA shortfalls hinge on budget debate

CHARLESTON, WV — The Finance Board of the Public Employees Insurance Agency is slated to meet next week in an emergency session. It’s likely the board will restore more than $120 Million in cuts the agency originally presented to insured state workers and retirees last year.

The lack of a budget for next fiscal year left the Finance Board with no other option.

“Fiduciarily they do have to do that, because they have to operate off reality as it is,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall. “But in our conversations, should a budget pass that restores those funds, they can reverse that action.”

Some Republicans have been critical of the move, claiming the Tomblin Administration is using PEIA as a political football.  Tomblin Administration spokesman Chris Stadleman said Hall’s own words proved that wasn’t the case.

“Chairman Hall correctly said PEIA did what it had to do,” said Stadleman. “Somebody from the majority party, in the leadership in the Senate, agrees this is not a political game. We don’t want to play games with state and county employees’ lives.”

Originally the PEIA cuts were restored when the governor proposed his budget. The measure hinged on a 45 cent increase per pack tax increase on cigarettes.  The Senate pushed the increase up to a dollar a pack and the House rejected any and all tax increases.  Instead, the House version pulled additional money from the Rainy Day fund to balance the spending plan.  All three versions collapsed with the revelation revenues for next year are likely going to be another $94 Million below estimate.  The debate now centers on how best to address the shortfall

But, for PEIA the matter is more even more pressing.  The enrollment period begins April 1 and the agency needs some kind of a plan to put before state workers.

“I understand Higher Ed and a lot of places are in the same position they need to plan for next year,” said Hall. “A budget needs to pass that reflects what reality is going to be in the near future for all of these groups to plan.”

But there still appeared to be no consensus Thursday on where to fill the massive budget hole.  Hall said many lawmakers are firmly against tax increase because they told voters they would fight against raising taxes when they were elected.  Timing couldn’t have been worse as the coal industry has taken a nose dive.  Now few want to face voters this fall with a vote to raise taxes on their record.  However, it’s possible they might have to face voters and explain why the local college has closed or a major local program has been eliminated.  None of it is appealing.

“All options are on the table,” Stadleman said. “We’re willing to have discussions on any number of items, the one place the governor has drawn the line is on taking all of this money to balance the budget out of the Rainy Day Fund.”

Hall said he didn’t believe the state had reached what he called “the Caperton Moment” referencing the six percent tax increase imposed soon after Governor Gaston Caperton took office in the late 1980’s. The state was in an even worse financial shape at that time than today.

Stadleman said the reality is at some point there need to be tax increases and the governor is willing to work with lawmakers to make them as painless as possible.

“At some point, we firmly believe there need to be revenue enhancements–tax increases–on the table,”  he said. “We haven’t done that in 20 years.  If you look at what’s happening in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Louisiana, we’re not unusual.  We are not an outlyer when it comes to energy states.”

As for the anticipated cuts in PEIA, Hall assured MetroNews Talkline listeners on Thursday he believed at least in that area there will be a solution.

“I have a pretty high degree of confidence that if there are Draconian cuts to the budget, that one is one item that can be restored,”  Hall said.  ~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

►   12 Cases of Hepatitis Linked to Beckley Clinic

Officials have investigated at least 12 cases of hepatitis linked to a heart clinic in Beckley.

The viruses have been linked to injectable medications given during cardiac stress tests at the Raleigh Heart Clinic.

Department of Health and Human Resources Director of Communications Allison Adler says that eight patients receiving cardiac stress tests have tested positive for hepatitis C and four others have tested positive for hepatitis B. There has not been any evidence of HIV transmission.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta says the extent of how many individuals were exposed to the pathogens is unknown. Officials are now urging about 2,300 patients of the Raleigh Heart Clinic to be tested for hepatitis B and C as well as HIV.

►   WV Delegate reprimanded by DHHR for distributing raw milk during session

CHARLESTON, WV — Delegate Scott Cadle (R-Mason) has received a letter of reprimand from the state DHHR for distributing raw milk during the legislative session earlier this month.

Some lawmakers allegedly got sick from the milk, which was handed out March 3 according to the letter. It was unclear if the cause of the sickness was the milk itself or a stomach bug that had been circulating.

The letter to Cadle stated that he wouldn’t be fined because it was a first offense, but asked him not to sell or distribute raw milk again.

According to the letter, Cadle offered raw milk to anyone who wished to try it at the end of a March 3 floor session.

A bill allowing for herd sharing agreements and the consumption of raw milk was passed during the session, and signed into law by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

►   Archery in Schools tournament this weekend

CHARLESTON, WV — Over 500 students from 49 West Virginia schools will be at full draw this weekend in West Virginia’s capital city.  The 11th annual Archery in Schools State Tournament is Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.

Interest in the program has exploded from its introduction in West Virginia in 2005.  The inaugural year there were 12 West Virginia schools involved.  Today the program has expanded to over 300 schools and continues to grow.  Demand for instructors couldn’t be higher.

“We are to the point now that we have 18 DNR law enforcement and wildlife personnel who are certified as Level 2 basic archery instructor trainers,” said Krista Snodgrass, Special Projects Coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.  “They can now train school personnel as basic archery instructors.”

The program is available for elementary, middle, and high schools in the state.  Each school needs at least one certified instructor and must come up with the funding to launch the program.  The initial cost is about $3,100 according to Snodgrass.

“That gets them 12 bows, five targets, arrows, a net, and a repair kit,” she said. “There are some grants available which I can help them with to get started.”

Each student shoots the exact same bow.  All shooting is done instinctively, the bows have no site mount.  It’s up to the school to determine how best to implement the program.  Some use it as an extra curricular, after school activity.  Others use the program as part of the Physical Education curriculum.

The program is also heavily focused on insuring gender neutrality.  Each team can have 24 members.  The scores of the top 12 shooters on each team are counted toward the team score, although at least four of those shooters must be of the opposite sex.  In other words, you can’t count the scores of a dozen boys at least four of those scores have to be from girls and vice versa.

There were 509 students who qualified to shoot in Saturday’s tournament.  They qualified for the match out of 1,129 students.  The lineup Saturday includes the top six teams in the three divisions. The top 15 male sand top 15 females from each division qualify as individual shooters.

Saturday’s winners will qualify to move on to the National Archery in the Schools Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky in May.

►   WV medical schools agree with CDC opioid prescription guidelines

MORGANTOWN, WV — Leaders of the state’s medical school programs are applauding the federal initiative to lower the opioid addiction rate across the country.

“I think you want the best and most qualified people to prescribe these medications and follow people so you’re sure you’re not just creating people who are addicted to the drug versus people who are really getting relief credibly,” Clay Marsh, the Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences at WVU, said on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.

Marsh and Joseph Shapiro, Dean of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, agree education on prescribing opioids is a must.

“It’s important that we start with our students while they’re in medical school to teach them to respect these narcotic pain relievers as the potentially dangerous drugs that they are.”

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines encouraging doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to voluntarily try alternative treatment for patients opposed to prescriptions for narcotics.

“Even Tylenol along with physical therapy or mindfulness or other approaches that might relieve pain might be equally as beneficial to reduce the pain and much safer related to the lack of dependency we see,” explained Marsh.

In 2013, the CDC reported health-care providers wrote 249 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication.

According to Shapiro, part of licensure requirements in West Virginia is a course on opiate prescribing. The CDC’s 12 guidelines, although voluntary for physicians to follow, will help with the prescription pill addiction epidemic.

“We’ve had to develop changes in the way we’ve been teaching our prescribers. At least, we believe we’ve had to because doctors have been, albeit passively complicit in this epidemic, still part of the problem.”

Both medical school leaders suggest teaching alternative treatment methods and encouraging doctors to prescribe limited, lowest effective dosages and fewer prescription pain killers for pain in each prescription.

WVU and Marshall are on board with a White House directive for all medical schools to pledge to immediately incorporate new guidelines in curriculum for how to prescribe the powerful pain medications.

In 2014, more than half of the drug overdoses resulting in deaths in West Virginia were related to either hydrocodone or oxycodone.

►   Campaign advocates say child’s future should be top priority for WV candidates ahead of 2016 election

CHARLESTON, WV — Advocates for the Our Children, Our Future campaign are encouraging candidates to make West Virginia children their main priority as this election year rolls out.

“We’ve got budget problems. We’re having to cut funding to schools, higher education and services for kids. We want to see a refocus on making this a really great place to raise a child,” said Carey Jo Grace, regional organizer for the campaign with West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families.

On Thursday, community leaders met in Charleston to discuss the campaign’s platform for the 2016 election called the “Commitment to Our Children and Our Future.”

Grace said they laid out three main areas of focus when it comes to making West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.

“Jobs and education, healthy communities and a government who works for the people and people who work with the government,” she said.

Campaign officials have gathered policy ideas from citizens across the state for the last three months and now plan to sort through it. Public input will then be organized in a ballot that will be voted on statewide in April and May of what people with the campaign want to see on their commitment.

The commitment itself is going to be a document that lays out the policies that will be worked on over the next several years, but this year, they want to use what they know to speak with candidates, Grace said.

“We’re going to use that document to talk to candidates and ask them whether they support these issues or not, where they stand on them,” she said. “We’re also going to use it for individuals and organizations to make a pledge to end child poverty in the state of West Virginia.”

Campaign advocates will hold their annual meeting and summit at Pierpont Community and Technical College on April 22 to present the final ballot of issues to be voted on, which will then be included in their commitment. A roll out of the commitment will take place May 25.

The Our Children, Our Future campaign works with over 170 organizations and thousands of individuals.

The campaign secured several policy victories the 2016 Regular Legislative Session including legislation that helped get families back to work through new provisional driver’s licenses, kept child care and Pre-K programs open by allowing counties to set their own schedules and empowered nurses to provide more affordable care to patients in need, according to a news release.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Preteen Girl Arrested for Pinching Boy’s Butt

A 12-year-old girl in Florida is facing misdemeanor battery charges for—of all things—pinching a boy’s butt in between classes, WKMG reports. According to WFTV, Breana Evans and her friends “were just pinching random people” at Milwee Middle School to see their reactions. She says it’s a game a lot of students play. But one boy—who Breana didn’t know—complained, and Breana was suspended for “socially unacceptable” behavior. The boy told a school resource officer he didn’t want to press charges; then his mother got involved. She called police, saying she wanted Breana prosecuted for battery, and the girl was placed in a patrol car and hauled off to juvenile detention.

“I feel like it’s just stupid, just a stupid charge that shouldn’t have to happen,“ Breana tells WKMG. Her father, Ray Evans, agrees, telling WFTV the charges are “extreme,“ “crazy,“ and “not the American way.“ “Lord lord lordy, what has this world come to?“ he tells WKMG. “Kids can’t even be a kid … She’s 12 years old, she was acting like a 12-year-old child.“ Evans says the boy’s mother is being “too overprotective,“ and her son “might get some friends” if she loosened up about things. A state’s attorney for the county says the charges against Breana will be dropped and her record cleared if she completes a 90-day diversion program of classes and community service and passes drug tests. “Lord lord lordy,“ indeed.

►   What Happens When a Beer Truck Crashes Into a Chips Truck

It wasn’t a happy hour for some central Florida drivers when trucks carrying Busch beer and Frito-Lay chips collided, spilling them both along Interstate 95 early Wednesday morning near Melbourne in what KUSA is calling a “couch potato’s dream.“ Per the AP, Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Montes said in a statement that Zachary Basinger of Melbourne had stopped his Frito-Lay box truck on the right shoulder of the highway. Roberto Ferrer Rodriguez of Miami, meanwhile, told troopers he was trying to move his beer truck into the center lane but saw another vehicle and swerved back into the right lane. His truck then struck the chips truck, the Frito-Lay truck overturned, and beer and chips spilled onto the highway.

Traffic backed up as troopers closed the road while clearing the debris from the crash, which FHP investigators say happened around 3:20am. “We had a front-end loader come out and scoop all of the beer and chips and [push] them to the right shoulder,“ Montes says. She adds, to the horror of noshers and imbibers everywhere: “All of the products will be thrown away. They can’t take the risk of them having some type of internal damage.“ Rodriguez, 54, was ticketed for failing to maintain a single lane. WPBF notes that no injuries were reported.

►   College Student Takes LSD, Then Beats His Girlfriend to Death

A 21-year-old college student in Seattle allegedly killed his girlfriend after getting high on LSD over the weekend, the Seattle Times reports. According to the Tri-City Herald, police say the suspect, identified as Casey Henderson, and 22-year-old Katy Straalsund took LSD Saturday and walked around the University of Washington, where they were both students. Things apparently took a turn when they returned to Straalsund’s nearby apartment. “He did say that they never slept,” a Seattle Police Department detective wrote in the police report. “He states (that) after a while things ‘started to get weird.‘“ Henderson allegedly later told police he got paranoid and convinced that Straalsund was plotting against him, KOMO News reports.

Police say a neighbor called 911 Sunday afternoon after hearing a man yelling “You wanna die?“ and “I will kill you.“ Officers broke into the apartment and reportedly found Henderson strangling Straalsund. Police say he had already attacked her using techniques he learned in tae kwon do before they got there. Straalsund had no pulse when officers arrived and had no brain activity when she got to the hospital, where she later died. Henderson, who appears to have no criminal history, is being held on $1 million bail. He was expected to be charged with homicide Wednesday.

►   Answer to Enduring Navy Mystery Found Off SF

On his daily commute across the Golden Gate Bridge, Peter Hess would look at the city of San Francisco, from which the cousin he never knew last departed on the USS Conestoga on March 25, 1921. Then he’d look out to the ocean and to the Farallon Islands two dozen miles away. “Little did I know that George’s ship was out there,“ he tells the San Francisco Chronicle. Almost exactly 95 years after the Navy tugboat set out for Pearl Harbor shortly before winds hit 40mph, “one of the great unsolved mysteries in Navy history” has been solved. On Wednesday, scientists confirmed a wreck found near the Farallones last fall was the missing Conestoga, which sunk with 56 crewmen on board, including chief petty officer George Kaler, who was in charge of the vessel’s engine.

Confusion surrounded the lost vessel from the beginning. The Navy only realized it was missing a month after its departure, then searched near Hawaii, though a life preserver and US Navy materials were discovered on the California coast. A lifeboat marked with a “C” was found off Manzanillo, Mexico, two months later, per the AP. Finally in October, archaeologists found a wreck near the Farallones and confirmed it was the Conestoga, based on the location and number of port holes, a 50-caliber gun on the main deck, and two porcelain marine heads, per a release. Experts say the ship might’ve sunk after a wave flooded the engine room. “I knew George must have stood by his post, stood by his shipmates, tried to get that engine going,“ Hess says. “We always talked about George and wondered what happened,“ he adds. “Now we know. It’s closure.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   New Zealand Rejects New Flag

New Zealand has voted to keep its current flag by 57% to 43% in a nationwide poll. More than 2 million people voted in the ballot to decide whether to keep the British Union Jack on their flag or replace it with a silver fern. The results were announced Thursday. The current flag has been the national symbol since 1902. It was up against a new design that was winnowed from more than 10,000 entries submitted by the public. Those advocating change argued the flag was a relic of the nation’s colonial past and too similar to Australia’s flag. Those favoring the status quo said the new design was uninspiring or an attempt by Prime Minister John Key to create a legacy.

The Free Press WV

►   Two Pieces of Debris ‘Almost Certainly’ From MH370

Australian officials say two pieces of debris recently discovered in Mozambique are “highly likely” to have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Transport Minister Darren Chester said in a statement Thursday that an analysis of the parts by an international investigation team shows both pieces are consistent with panels from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft. “The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370,“ he said. The dimensions, materials, and construction of both parts conform to those of a 777, and the paint and stenciling on both parts match those used by Malaysia Airlines, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a separate statement.

The discovery of the two pieces bolsters authorities’ assertion that the plane went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean. But whether the debris can provide any clues into exactly what happened to the aircraft and why is uncertain. One of the parts in Mozambique was discovered on a sandbank by American adventurer Blaine Gibson, who has been searching for Flight 370 over the last year. Soon after Gibson’s find was publicized, a South African teenager realized a piece of debris he’d found on a beach during a family vacation in Mozambique might also be from the plane. Earlier this week, an archaeologist walking along South Africa’s southern coast found a piece of debris with part of an aircraft engine manufacturer’s logo and authorities now plan to examine that part, too.

►   Women More Devout Than Men: Study

Every pope, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and most other major religious leaders have been men, and many religions have either only recently let up restrictions on women officiants or continue to ban them, the Guardian notes. Yet a new study from the Pew Research Center finds that women are the ones who are more devout in their faith, especially Christians. About 83.4% of women around the world say they identify with a religious group, while only 79.9% of men do, per 2010 figures—that’s about 97 million more women than men. The “Gender Gap in Religion Around the World” report administered surveys in 192 countries and territories and found women make up 54% of individuals identifying as Buddhists, 53% of Christians, and 52% of Jews; Muslim adherents are split down the middle, while men have a slight advantage in the numbers among Hindus and traditional/folk religions (51% to women’s 49%).

The group that claimed no religion affiliation (e.g., atheists, agnostics, and those who say they’re “nothing in particular”) is made up of 55% men, 45% women. Christian women also attend religious services more often in 81 countries surveyed for that particular question (though men head out to worship more if they’re Orthodox Jews or Muslims), and women pray more both in public and private, according to surveys in 84 countries. The genders in 63 countries are generally about even in whether they believe in heaven, hell, and angels. So what accounts for this gender gap among the devout? While the report notes there’s no definitive agreement, religious scholars have pointed to a variety of both nature and nurture factors, including “biology, psychology, genetics, family environment, social status, [and] workforce participation,“ as well as “a lack of ‘existential security’” woman may experience because they’re more likely than men to be adversely affected by poverty, sickness, old age, and violence.

►   Iraq Is Finally Trying to Reclaim City ISIS Took

The Iraqi military, backed by US-led coalition aircraft, has launched a long-awaited operation to recapture the northern city of Mosul from ISIS, a military spokesman says. In the push, Iraqi forces retook several villages on the outskirts of the town of Makhmour, east of Mosul, early Thursday morning and hoisted the Iraqi flag, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Military Command. It was not immediately clear how long such a complex and taxing offensive would take. Only recently, officials refrained to give a specific time on when the Mosul operation could begin, saying it would take many months to prepare Iraq’s still struggling military for the long-anticipated task of retaking the key city.

Iraqi state-run TV interrupted its morning program Thursday with a series of news alerts announcing the operation and broadcasting patriotic songs and flag-waving video clips. Rasool tells the AP that the US-led international coalition was providing air support, but he won’t divulge more details on the offensive, which he says is dubbed “Operation Conquest.“ Mosul—Iraq’s second-largest city—fell to ISIS during the militants’ June 2014 onslaught that captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Rasool’s declaration comes only a few days after the US announced that it has set up a small Marine artillery outpost in northern Iraq to protect a nearby Iraqi military base in Makhmour. A rocket attack at the base on Saturday killed a US Marine and wounded several others.

G-LtE™: What Now for the West Virginia School Building Authority?

The Free Press WV

We read the Gazette article here on FREE PRESS about the lack of funds for building repairs.  Knowing that has never been a big concern to the SBA.  Or obviously we would not have all the school building issues WV is dealing with.  Also a big shortfall for new construction.  SBA likes new and shiny.  Shiny equates progress and good education in the minds of the WV Board of Education.  That’s a story for another day.

Locals in Gilmer County remember that old audit that was thrust in the face of our elected school board and our own hired Superintendent.  The State Board of Education refers to that as “intervention”.  ‘Tyranny’ is more accurate.  We remember, many of us read it.  Thanks again to FREE PRESS.

I would encourage you Mr. Ramezan, to republish that audit report, to refresh everyone’s memory and make available for those who never have had the opportunity to read it.

I believe that audit stated we, GC, could not afford our schools, at least the number we had.  I believe also referred to the occupancy/utilization rates in all our buildings, as being low and not acceptable.  The WV School Building Authority website indicates a minimum 85% occupancy use rate for each and every building.  With this in mind, how can Gilmer County, with declining enrollments, begin to afford the expense of operating a Middle School?

Using numbers available online, talking with school administrators, something is very suspect, with the proposed Middle School.  The GC high school would have a capacity of near 700.  The new Hays City elementary being built for 400.  That comes to class space for 1100 students.  Glenville Elementary (located alongside plastics factory) has capacity over 300.  We are now at 1400 students.  Gilmer County has about 900 students currently.

Will the WV School Building Authority put their seal of approval on this?  Likely.  They approved the Leading Creek School built for 280 students, with current enrollment about 140.  That’s less than 50% utilization.  Its all ready being talked in Lewis County that they will drop about the equivalent of another classroom of students next school year as well.  That will make 6 empty classrooms.  Seems Common Core math is being practiced by the School Building Authority?

So… for 1400 students…...with only 900 students?  And we have not factored in any students going to the Lewis County School at Leading Creek?  Or how many students will attend the new Christian Day School?

One has to wonder how long before more parents will home school or move?  That’s coming.

Many pre-k/elementary arrive at school at least a half hour before classes start.  Parents know this.

This is after bus rides of over one hour too.

What about the little elementary children at Lewis County Leading Creek school?  Parents are telling that their children…...have to WAIT ONE HOUR AFTER CLASSES….. before the two Gilmer County bus arrives to take them home!

~~  author on file ~~

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Gilmer County Democratic Convention Set for April 09, 2016 at The Glenville Inn Conference Room

The Free Press WV

Glenville, WV – Gilmer County Democratic Executive Committee Chair, Sandy Pettit, today announced that the Gilmer County Democratic Convention will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, April 09, 2016 at The Glenville Inn Conference Room.

During the county convention, an official convention chair and secretary will be elected and attendees will elect 6 county delegates (half women/half men) to represent Gilmer County during the State Convention June 10th in Charleston.

“We encourage all registered Democrats, who are residents in Gilmer County, to get involved in the Democratic process and attend this County Convention” County Chair Pettit said. “This convention is important because those elected as a county delegate will go to Charleston in June and will vote for the people who will represent our state at the Democratic National Convention in July.”

The delegates to the national convention are selected during the WV State Convention by the county delegates. The people’s vote for president on the primary ballot will determine how many delegates each presidential candidate receives from West Virginia.

The Convention is open to ALL registered Democrats in Gilmer County.

County Conventions are mandated by the West Virginia Democratic State Executive Committee. A county must hold a convention every Presidential election. At the State Convention the County Delegates will also approve the Party Platform and elect five representatives to the Electoral College.

FlashBack™: West Virginia Department of Education and Gilmer County

The Free Press WV

June 06, 2011: OEPA Report Shows Many Irregularities and Violations in Gilmer County Schools


West Virginia Department of Education has released the initial report on the audit conducted on Gilmer County Schools and the results are not good.

An unannounced on-site review of Gilmer County Schools was conducted May 02-04, 2011.

The OEPA (Office of Education Performance Audits) conducted the review which concentrated on official complaints that alleged the county board was in violation of policies or laws under which schools and county boards operate.

Based upon the Education Performance Audit, problems as well as a recommendation regarding Gilmer County Schools is presented in the report.

Click to read the entire printable:

OEPA Report on Gilmer County Schools



Gilmer County Schools are at an emergency stage. The county has lost over half their student population in the past ten years. The system has not adjusted their facilities and their staffing patterns to confront these realities. The current school board is dysfunctional, divided, not providing leadership, and actually impeding progress due to not following laws and policies/designed to improve student performance. Technology infrastructure is lacking and rules are not being followed due to board decisions. Financial irregularities are occurring in part due to decentralized accounting procedure decisions. Three school facilities of the five in the county are sorely lacking and maintenance at all facilities is desperately needed. One school has been condemned and portable classrooms are on site. The county does not have an approved Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan and has been unable to reach consensus on what is needed.

Documentation is mostly insufficient to determine if laws are being followed to hire the most qualified applicants. Board minutes, however, reflect that the school board is trying to micro-manage, essentially replacing their administrators’ and county superintendent’s recommendations with their own, leading to a flawed hiring, transferring, and reduction in force system. Numerous questionable and irregular decisions are being made by the board prompting distrust and suspicion.

Other problems observed were 16 licensure and authorization issues, several irregularities in personnel evaluations, incomplete mentor programs for new employees, inadequate physical education program, incomplete policies, and illegal preference for local individuals in hiring.

June 08, 2011: The Takeover of Gilmer County Schools

The West Virginia Board of Education declared a state of emergency in Gilmer County Schools on Wednesday, June 08, 2011, and placed the school system on non-approval status.

The board voted unanimously to intervene in the school system immediately.

The West Virginia Board of Education and West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) will oversee all finances, instructional programs, personnel, policy development and facility issues in the school system.

The action comes after an Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) report citing significant leadership, technology, facility, personnel and finance issues in the county.


An unannounced OEPA visit of the Gilmer County School District was conducted May 02-04, 2011.

Auditors found that “county board members were in discord, the county board operations were dysfunctional; and meetings were unproductive and resulted in the board being incapable of following State Code and West Virginia Board of Education policies.”

“It is further recommended that delaying the intervention for any period of time would not be in the best interest of the students,” said OEPA executive director Kenna Seal. “Based on the entirety of the problems in the county and the decisions, or lack thereof, there is scant hope that the school system can be improved with the current county board.”



The OEPA report further states that county school board meeting minutes reflect that the school board is trying to micro-manage, essentially replacing their administrators’ and county superintendent’s recommendations with their own, leading to a flawed hiring, transferring and reduction in force system.

Numerous questionable and irregular decisions are being made by the board prompting distrust and suspicion.

According to the report, technology infrastructure is lacking and rules are not being followed due to board decisions.



Financial irregularities are occurring in part due to decentralized accounting procedure decisions.

Three of the five school facilities in the county are sorely lacking and maintenance at all facilities is desperately needed.

The state board appointed Ted Mattern as the interim superintendent until a permanent replacement can be hired.



The Gilmer County Board of Education has also been directed to work with the WVDE to jointly develop and present to the state board a set of standards and/or a strategic plan that must be implemented in order for the Gilmer County Board of Education to regain control of the school system.

Currently Lincoln, Preston, Grant, Fayette and Mingo counties are under state intervention.


Gilmer County OEPA Motions

1)  that the State Board find, based on the report from the Office of Education Performance Audits, that extraordinary circumstances exist in the Gilmer County school system.

2)  that the State Board assign nonapproval status to the Gilmer County school system.

3)  that the State Board declare that a state of emergency exists in the Gilmer school system based on the information presented in the OEPA report.

4)  that the State Board find that the conditions precedent to State Board intervention in a county school system are present in this instance.

5)  that the State Board find that it would not be in the best interests of the students of Gilmer County to delay intervention for any period of time.

6)  that the State Board limit the authority of the Gilmer County Board of Education as to the expenditure of funds, the employment and dismissal of personnel, the establishment and operation of the school calendar, the establishment of instructional programs and rules and any other areas designated by the state board by rule and delegate decision-making authority to the State Superintendent regarding these matters.

7)  that the State Board delegate to the State Superintendent the authority to conduct hearings on personnel matters and school closure or consolidation matters and subsequently to render the resulting decisions, and the authority to appoint a designee for the limited purpose of conducting hearings while reserving to the State Superintendent the authority to render the resulting decision.

8)  that the State Board limit the authority of the Gilmer County Board of Education as to the ability to conduct real estate transactions and delegate to the State Superintendent the authority to act in lieu of the Gilmer County Board of Education in a transfer, sale, purchase or other transaction regarding real estate.

9)  that the State Board delegate to the State Superintendent the authority to replace administrators and principals in low performing schools and to transfer them to alternate professional positions within the county at her discretion.

10)  that the State Board delegate to the State Superintendent the authority to fill positions of administrators and principals with individuals determined by the State Superintendent to be the most qualified for the positions.

11)  that the State Board declare the office of county superintendent of schools of Gilmer County to be vacant at the end of the day on June 08, 2011, and declare that any existing contracts with the subsequent superintendents be voided.

John T. “Ted” Mattern
Interim Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools

12)  that the State Board appoint Ted Mattern to be the interim Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools starting June 09, 2011, to be paid at his current salary, continuing until a new superintendent is appointed.

13)  that the State Board grant the State Superintendent the authority to hire a county superintendent to replace the interim appointment and set his/her salary.

14)  that the State Board direct the Gilmer County Superintendent and the State Superintendent, after consultation with the Gilmer County Board of Education, to jointly develop and present to the State Board at a future meeting a set of standards and/or a strategic plan that must be implemented in order for the Gilmer County Board of Education to regain control of the school system.

15)  that the State Board direct the Gilmer County Interim Superintendent and/or Superintendent to provide written and/or oral progress reports to the State Board as requested.

June 12, 2011: State Take Over of Gilmer County Schools on 06.08.2011


GCHS Lady Titans State Champs T-Shirt

The Gilmer County High School Lady Titans Basketball Team made history when they won the 2016 Girls Basketball Class A State Championship
The Free Press WV
The GCHS Girls Basketball Championship T-shirt is now available for purchase.

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Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


The prime minister refuses to accept the resignations of two ministers as prosecutors say six more people were detained in raids linked to the Brussels attacks.


A French official says there were no links “at this stage” between the plot and the attacks against Brussels.


A senior U.S. official says Marines in small Iraq outpost are providing artillery and targeting support for Iraqi troops.


Ted Cruz brands Donald Trump a “sniveling coward” after the mogul retweeted unflattering images of the senator’s wife.


The CBO says an 11 percent hike over the coming decade is mostly caused by higher-than-expected enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program.


Phoenix-area Democrats were frustrated by hours-long waits at some polling stations.


Islamic State militants appear to be on the verge of collapse in what would be a significant win for the Syrian government.


The student sued on the grounds she was promised that her degree would land her a full-time job.


The man who transfixed Seattle and the Internet by perching near the top of an 80-foot sequoia tree refused to leave a jail cell for his first court appearance.


The comic was best known for “The Larry Sanders Show,“ a masterfully comedic faux docudrama.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   West Virginia natural gas producer fined for spill

MOUNDSVILLE, WV - A natural gas pipeline company has paid a $14,440 fine to settle an environmental complaint stemming from a ruptured pipe in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that Williams Ohio Valley Midstream paid the penalty after 132 barrels of natural gas components discharged last year in Moundsville. Media outlets report the components leaked into three waterways, including a tributary of the Ohio River.

The penalty will go into a federal trust fund to be used for future oil spill cleanups.

Williams Ohio Valley Midstream is a division of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams.

►   CAMC Considers Changing Opioid Prescribing Policy

Officials from Charleston Area Medical Center may consider changing their policies on prescribing opioid.

CAMC chief operating officer Dr. Glen Crotty told members of the hospital’s board of directors Wednesday that the hospital system would consider placing more limits on what can be prescribed in its emergency rooms. Crotty says the hospital system is working on limiting prescriptions from 30 or 45 days to about five days.

The announcement follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Virginia Hospital Association, which are cautioning against filling long-term opioid prescriptions.

The guidelines recommend that doctors avoid opioids as a first choice when treating musculoskeletal pain. They also recommend that doctors should attempt to treat pain without medication or opioid medication.

►   Volunteer for Droop Mountain Battlefield Park Day, Saturday, April 02, 2016

HILLSBORO, WV – History buffs, community leaders and preservationists are invited to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, Saturday, April 02, 2016, for a “Park Day.” This is one of many scheduled across the United States for spring cleanups. Park Day, an initiative of the Civil War Trust, is celebrating its 20th year.

“More than 125 sites in 29 states are hosting cleanup days that help historic sites like Droop Mountain to get ready for spring and summer visitors,” said Droop Mountain Supt. Mike Smith. “Last year, the event was a big boost for Droop Mountain, and I am grateful for the assistance.” 

Work activities conducted in 2015 included clearing hiking trails, lawn work, cutting firewood, fixing signs and mending fences. “The work experience at Droop Mountain through Park Day allows volunteers to reflect upon West Virginia history and about state parks’ role is historical preservation. It is a very rewarding day for everyone involved.” 

The April 02 event begins at 10 a.m. The volunteer work ranges from general spring cleanup activities to minor building repairs.  Light refreshments will be provided.  Supt. Smith will be on-site to engage in conversation about the significance of the battle at Droop Mountain. Volunteers should meet at the park office/shop area and wear appropriate shoes or boots and bring a pair of gloves. To learn more, call Droop Mountain Battlefield, 304.653.4254 or visit

Civil War Trust

The Civil War Trust is the largest and most effective nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s hallowed battlegrounds. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1775 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved almost 43,000 acres of battlefield land in 23 states. For a complete list of participating Park Day sites, visit

►   Unemployment rates increase in most West Virginia counties

CHARLESTON, WV — Unemployment rates increased in 52 of West Virginia’s 55 counties in February.

WorkForce West Virginia says unemployment rates fell in Marion, McDowell and Wyoming counties.

Jefferson County’s 4.4 unemployment rate was the lowest in the state, followed by Berkeley County at 5.2 percent and Monongalia County at 5.3 percent.

Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate at 17.3 percent. Mingo was next at 14.9 percent, and Roane was at 14.1 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point in February to 6.5 percent.

►   Officials investigate possible Hepatitis exposure

BECKLEY, WV — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is urging thousands of patients to get tested after possible hepatitis exposure at a Raleigh County heart clinic.

Multiple media outlets report that a letter issued by the department in Charleston says several cases of viral hepatitis appear to be associated with a cardiac stress test performed at Beckley’s Raleigh Heart Clinic.

The DHHR says all patients who had the stress test at the clinic between March 1, 2012, and March 27, 2015 were sent a copy of the letter.

As a precaution, the department is recommending that all these patients get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Patients and healthcare providers who have questions may call the Bureau for Public Health information line.

Officials are investigating.

►   Manchin, D-WV, held town hall on Supreme Court nominee

CHARLESTON, WV - Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is in West Virginia to hear from his red-state constituents about President Obama’s Supreme Court choice.

Thursday’s town-hall meeting coincided with TV ads by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network targeting Manchin. They say the nominee, Merrick Garland, threatens coal and gun rights.

Obama nominated Garland to fill the vacancy left by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate won’t consider a nominee until the new president picks someone. Manchin wants a vote but hasn’t taken a stance on Garland.

On the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Garland has often sided with Environmental Protection Agency regulations. He’s also voted to review a decision that had struck down restrictions on gun rights in the District of Columbia.

►   West Virginia governor OKs drug-testing welfare recipients

CHARLESTON, WV - Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has approved a drug-testing proposal for some West Virginia welfare applicants.

The Democratic governor signed off Wednesday on the three-year statewide drug-testing pilot program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program applicants. The Republican-led Legislature passed it.

At least 13 states have public assistance drug testing.

West Virginia seeks federal approval to test applicants with a “reasonable suspicion” of drug use.

Caseworkers will decide who demonstrates “qualities indicative of substance abuse,“ including drug-related convictions within three years.

Failed tests will require substance abuse treatment, counseling and job skills programs. Subsequent failures will spur temporary and permanent bans.

Proponents say it could help address the state’s drug epidemic.

Opponents say it’s an unconstitutional seach and seizure. They point to costs and few positive tests in other states’ programs.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Girl Yanked From Foster Family for Being 1/64th Native American

A 6-year-old California girl whose birth parents were plagued by substance abuse and criminal infractions, per court documents, was taken in at age 2 by a foster family, NBC News reports. But little Alexandria (aka Lexi) is also 1/64th Choctaw Native American, which means where she ends up is dictated by 1978’s Indian Child Welfare Act—a law that “seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families.“ Rusty and Summer Page have long fought to retain custody of Lexi, but on Monday the girl was removed from their home by the LA Department of Child & Family Services in an emotional scene that had the Pages in tears. “Our family is so incredibly devastated,“ the family said in a statement. “We are trying to make sense of everything that has happened with our three other children who witnessed their sister Lexi forcefully ripped away from our family by strangers.“ By court order, the Pages weren’t allowed to tell Lexi beforehand she’d be taken, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Where Lexi was taken: to a Utah couple that’s “extended family” by marriage of Lexi’s biological dad, who, although a member of the Choctaw tribe, has never lived on a reservation or had ties to the tribe other than blood. After “reunification efforts” with her biological dad went south, the dad, tribe, and DCFS recommended Lexi go to Utah—even though that couple is “non-Indian” and Summer Page actually does have “American Indian heritage” but isn’t enrolled in a tribe, per the Pages’ petition. “The tribe’s statement suggesting that Lexi will be raised in ‘Indian culture’ in Utah is preposterous,“ the family’s lawyer notes, adding the Pages even offered “significant visitation” with the Utah couple, which they refused. The National Indian Child Welfare Association says in a statement that foster care is meant to be “temporary,“ not to “fast-track the creation of new families when there is extended family available”; a Choctaw Nation statement says the Pages always knew the goal was to place Lexi with “family.“

►   Man Lets Huge Python Loose in Sushi Restaurant

A 46-year-old man was arrested Sunday night after he allegedly unleashed a 13-foot python on a sushi restaurant filled with diners, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to CBS Los Angeles, the man finished and paid for a $200 meal at the restaurant then took out a small snake to show his fellow customers. The customers, understandably, weren’t as enthusiastic about the man’s snake as he was and asked him to take it outside. That’s when police say he got upset, left, and returned with a 13-foot python.

The man allegedly said “[Expletive] you guys,“ dropped the snake on the floor, and walked out of the restaurant. A waitress describes the chaos that followed to CBS: “Everyone’s eating, so customers are yelling, ‘Get this thing out! Are you crazy!‘“ A number of customers fled the restaurant. The snake also tried to flee but got stuck near the cash register. The snake was later freed by animal control, and the man was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats. The suspect, identified as Hiroshi Motohashi, was previously convicted of selling endangered animals and venomous lizards in 2005.

►   Man Steals BMW After Trying to Buy It With Food Stamps

Authorities in Florida have arrested a man they say stole a BMW after trying to buy it with a food stamp debit card, the AP reports. According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, 36-year-old Nicholas Jackson was arrested Friday and charged with grand theft auto. Deputies say Jackson was turned away at the Pompano Beach auto dealership after trying to buy the $60,000 car using his EBT card and a credit card. The suspect allegedly returned the next night and stole the car along with keys from 60 other vehicles. Deputies say they later found Jackson with the car and the keys after he ran out of gas because he didn’t have money to fill the tank.

►   Woman Reports Abandoned Baby, Learns He’s Her Grandson

Braeley Pettigrew wasn’t feeling well and thought she might have a stomach flu. Instead, during a visit to the bathroom early Tuesday, she gave birth to a baby boy in the toilet. Then she started to panic, police say, per the Journal Times. After cutting the umbilical cord and wrapping the infant to keep him warm, the 17-year-old high school student told her mother that the boy had been abandoned on their door step in Racine, Wis., reports WDJT. Her mother quickly called police.

Authorities arrived around 3:15am but soon noticed blood on Braeley’s clothes. She and the child were taken to a nearby hospital in good condition and, after receiving a supportive text from her mom, Braeley admitted to lying about the birth for fear her mom would be mad. “I never thought I would be having a baby at 17, but my first instinct was to get him out of the toilet and wrap him up to keep him warm,“ she says. She plans to keep the boy she’s named Kayden and attend college in the fall.

►   Families Say 4 Americans Are Missing From Brussels Airport

Four Americans believed to have been at the Brussels airport on Tuesday remain missing more than 24 hours after the deadly terrorist attack there, according to their families. Married couple Justin and Stephanie Shults, from Tennessee and Kentucky respectively, moved to Brussels for work in 2014, the AP reports. According to NBC News, they had just dropped Stephanie’s visiting mother off at the airport when two suitcase bombs exploded. The couple hasn’t appeared on any casualty lists so far, but their phones are going straight to voicemail. Stephanie’s cousin says the family is currently hoping the pair are simply busy helping people “which is very much their nature.“

Siblings Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski from New York are also missing, the New York Daily News reports. They were at the Brussels airport Tuesday speaking with a relative on the phone when the relative heard an explosion and lost the connection. Family has since been unable to reach them. Family and friends of the Shults were briefly given false hope when Justin’s brother Levi Sutton tweeted that they had been found. The State Department announced that was incorrect and asked Sutton to delete his tweet. “I apologize for the misinformation that was given to my family,“ NBC quotes Sutton.

►   NC Passes Bill to Stop Local Laws That Prohibit Discrimination

North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules, the AP reports. The legislation, if enacted, would deal a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country. The Republican-controlled General Assembly took action after the city of Charlotte recently approved a broad anti-discrimination measure that allows transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. Legislators now will ask Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, to sign it into law. Earlier this week, a top aide had concerns about the bill’s scope—raising questions about what the governor’s response will be.

Republicans and their allies have said intervening is necessary to protect the safety of women and children. There have been arguments that any man could enter a woman’s restroom or locker room simply by calling himself transgender. Representatives for gay rights groups said the legislation demonizes the community and espouses bogus claims about increasing the risk of sexual assaults. They say the bill will deny lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people essential protections needed to ensure they can get a hotel room, hail a taxi, or dine at a restaurant without fear. The bill would bar local governments statewide from prohibiting discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

►   Coffee Stand Employees Stop to Pray With Grieving Customer

A grieving woman who had just lost her husband found solace in an unexpected place: the young employees of a local drive-thru coffee stand. The Oregonian reports employees at Dutch Bros. Coffee in Vancouver, Washington, noticed one of their customers seemed upset while waiting in her car Saturday. It turns out her 37-year-old husband died the night before. When 19-year-old employee Pierce Dunn found out, he gave the woman a free coffee and asked if he could pray for her. The next thing you know, Dunn and two other employees were leaning out the drive-thru window, holding the woman’s hand, and praying. “We just love people,“ Dunn tells KATU. “Anytime we see someone sad or mournful, it takes five minutes to make their week, make their life. It’s a small price to pay.“

Barbara Danner was waiting in line behind the impromptu prayer circle and snapped a photo, which she posted to Facebook. By Tuesday afternoon, the photo had gone viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of shares and likes. Evan Freeman, a 21-year-old Dutch Bros. employee who joined in the prayer despite not being religious, says the employees didn’t want attention for their actions; they just wanted to make the woman feel the joy and love that is in the world. “She could have said she wanted an apple, and I would have gone and planted a tree and grown her an apple,“ he tells the Oregonian. The woman spent about 10 minutes talking and praying with the Dutch Bros. employees, but Dunn tells the Columbian waiting customers didn’t seem to mind at all.

►   Boy Shaken as Baby Dies 12 Years Later

A 12-year-old boy who was shaken as a baby and remained in a vegetative state for the rest of his life has died, authorities said Wednesday. Aiden Stein died Sunday at a Columbus hospital. The case drew national attention when his parents waged a successful legal fight to prevent a court-appointed guardian from having him removed from life support. Three doctors had testified that Aiden would never recover. The Ohio Supreme Court eventually ruled that a probate court lacked the authority to allow a guardian to stop the care keeping Aiden alive when his parents hadn’t permanently lost their parenting rights.

Four-month-old Aiden was rushed to a Mansfield hospital in March 2004 after his father, 21-year-old Matthew Stein, reported the baby had lost consciousness. Stein was later convicted of felonious assault and child endangerment and spent eight years in prison despite his assertions that he never injured his son. Richland County Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page told the AP on Wednesday that it was “unlikely” she’d pursue further charges against Stein. “I would have to look at the reason (Aiden) died,“ Couch Page said. “But there would probably be a stretch in jurors’ minds that he died as the result of what the dad did.“ It’s unclear if a cause of death has been determined.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Obama Does the Tango, Gets Panned

It takes two to tango, and when one of those is a US president, the boobirds come out in force. During a state dinner in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, President Obama danced the Argentine tango with professional dancer Mora Godoy. A YouTube video shows Obama decline her invitation several times before finally relenting. They were soon joined on the dance floor by Michelle Obama and a male dancer. Obama “was telling me he didn’t know how to dance [tango],“ Godoy says, per the Telegraph. “I told him ‘just follow me.‘“ The president managed “to hold his own,“ reports NPR. But critics are pouncing.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations said the dance “was a tremendous mistake” and “inconsistent with the seriousness of the day,“ as was Obama’s appearance at a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday—the same day as the attack on Brussels. George W. Bush’s former communications director said the tango and game were a “communications crime,“ per Politico. Democrat Steve Rattner added Obama “could have handled some of that differently.“

►   Egypt’s ‘Grand’ Museum Gets Influx of Artifacts

When visitors arrive at the Grand Egyptian Museum—to open near the Giza pyramids in 2018—they’ll be greeted by a 4-ton statue of King Amenhotep seated beside the Egyptian god Ra. But first, the 3,500-year-old pink granite statue will be restored, having just traveled 400 miles from Luxor, reports NBC News. Carefully secured by the Tourism and Antiquities Police, the statue rediscovered in southern Egypt in 2009 was one of 780 Egyptian artifacts to arrive at the museum recently in special humidity-controlled trucks, per Ahram Online. They’ll become part of a collection that will number 50,000 pieces, more than half of which have never been seen by the public before.

Clay pots, painted sarcophagi, and limestone blocks inscribed with hierogylphics are just some of the items hand-picked by General Director Tarek Tawfiq, per Ahram Online. Every piece will be arranged in its original context. “You will be transferred to ancient Egypt and you will have an enjoyable experience through real authentic pieces,“ Tawfiq says. The Grand Staircase alone will be a spectacle. It will showcase 100 artifacts representing kingship, including the statue of King Amenhotep, a granite column from the temple of King Sahure in Saqqara, and two black granite statues of the lioness war deity Sekhmet from Luxor, reports Ahram Online.

►   UK Wants Joan of Arc Ring Back, France Does Not Care

A ring said to belong to the French martyr Joan of Arc triumphantly returned to France, after French donors raised $425,000 to buy it at an auction last month in the UK—where it had resided for nearly 600 years since she was burned at the stake. But just as it was publicly unveiled at a celebratory rally in front of 5,000 spectators at an amusement park called Le Puy du Fou, the park’s founder, Philippe de Villiers, announced that Britain has already come calling for the gold-plated first-communion ring, reports the Independent. Turns out the “spat” that has “marred” its return revolves around the not so exciting topic of licensing, reports Reason.

Apparently the French needed to obtain a special export license, given the ring’s age and value, a process that takes about a month, and failure to do so could result in the deferral of the license and the forfeiture of the ring back to the UK for additional bidding. But De Villiers claims his team checked the rules and found that the license is only required if the object leaves the European Union, reports the Local. “Ladies and gentlemen from Britain, if you want to see the ring, then come to the Puy de Fou,“ he told the crowd. “For the rest it’s too late.“ Though the ring appears to date back 600 years to the time of Joan of Arc’s death in 1431, it has yet to be authenticated, and the head of the Joan of Arc archives in the French town of Orleans notes there have already been “several cases of false objects.“

►   California Couple Jailed in Africa After Buying Souvenir

A California couple on safari in Africa bought a souvenir that ended up being far more expensive than they could have imagined. Jon and Linda Grant picked up the souvenir, a 15- to 18-inch giraffe bone onto which a herd of elephants had been carved, at a game reserve in South Africa after being assured by the clerk that it was perfectly legal. That may have been the case in South Africa, but the Grants ran into trouble when the safari took them to Tanzania. They were jailed after being informed at the airport that the giraffe was Tanzania’s national animal, reports ABC7. Anti-poaching officials were called to the scene, and the Grants were suddenly facing a 20-year sentence and a $150,000 fine.

Eventually, the charges were reduced to failure to have an export permit, which carries a still-hefty $30,000 fine. “They said, ‘Are you willing to pay it?‘“ Jon Grant, a 72-year-old retired dentist, tells KTVU. “We said, ‘Absolutely.‘ Cost us $30,000 for buying [the] souvenir plus another $30,000 in bribes to get out of the country.“ Local Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who helped get the original charges reduced, thinks this was likely more than a mix-up—that the Grants were targeted as wealthy Americans. “This is pretty egregious,“ she tells ABC7, adding that US officials should be on the lookout for a pattern and that American tourists should be on alert. The Grants, meanwhile, “never knew” they could “be that afraid.“

►   UK Guy Jailed After Asking Muslim Woman to ‘Explain Brussels’

A partner at a PR agency specializing in social media has landed in jail after tweeting about an encounter on a London street following the Brussels attacks. “I confronted a Muslim women [sic] yesterday in croydon,“ Matthew Doyle wrote Wednesday in a since-deleted tweet. “I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ‘Nothing to do with me.‘ A mealy mouthed reply.“ He followed that with, “Who cares if I insulted some [slur].“ Users quickly expressed their outrage, reports the Guardian. “What has a Muslim woman in Croydon, got to do with the horrific events in Belgium, you simpleton?“ reads one of the tamer responses. “Hey mate I’ve chosen you at random for my ancestors’ slavery reparations,“ reads another. Dozens also began spoofing the comment. One example: “Confronted a white man in Croydon yday. Asked him to explain Hitler & the Holocaust.“

Doyle tells the Telegraph that he didn’t actually confront the woman. “I just said: ‘Excuse me, can I ask what you thought about the incident in Brussels?‘“ he says. “She told me it was nothing to do with her … I said ‘thank you for explaining that’ and her little boy said goodbye to me as we went our separate ways.“ His other tweets were intended as a joke, he adds. “I’m not some far-right merchant. I’m not a mouthpiece for any kind of racism or radicalism.“ But he tells the Huffington Post that the woman’s hijab meant the confrontation was justified. “If I was walking down the street wearing a jacket emblazoned with a Union Jack then I would be open to some abuse,“ he says. Police on Wednesday confirmed that a 46-year-old man was “arrested at his home in Croydon on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on social media.“ He remained in custody as of Wednesday night.

►   Syria Poised to Retake Ancient Town From ISIS

Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes pushed Thursday into the ancient town of Palmyra, which has been held by the Islamic State group since May, state TV reported. The advance came after the troops managed this week to capture several hills and high ground around the town, famed for its priceless archaeological site and Roman ruins, reports the AP. The state TV broadcast footage of its reporter, embedded with the Syrian military, speaking live from the entrance of Palmyra and saying that as of midday Thursday, the fighting was concentrated near the archaeological site on the southwestern edge of the town.

Recapturing the town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, would be a significant victory for Syria’s army and its Russian allies. Russia withdrew most of its forces and aircraft from Syria last week after a monthslong bombing campaign that succeeded in turning the tide of the war again in President Bashar Assad’s favor. Earlier in the day, Governor Talal Barazi said from the nearby city of Homs that the Syrian army has determined three directions to storm Palmyra and was clearing all roads leading into the town of mines and explosives. “We might witness in the next 48 hours an overwhelming victory in Palmyra,“ he said.

►   Paris Suspect ‘Didn’t Know’ of Brussels Plot

Salah Abdeslam, the Paris terror suspect whose arrest in Brussels may have triggered Tuesday’s carnage, is claiming he knew nothing about the Belgium plot. Outside a Brussels court hearing surrounded by extremely heavy security Thursday, Abdeslam’s lawyer said his client had changed his mind about fighting extradition and wants to get out of Belgium as soon as possible so he can “explain himself” in France, the Telegraph reports. Lawyer Sven Mary—who closed his offices after being attacked last night, per the Guardian—says Abdeslam has not been cooperating with authorities investigating the Brussels attacks and has said he didn’t know about them. In other coverage:

  • According to Belgian media, suspected Paris bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui, initially thought to have been on the run, was a third suicide bomber. Authorities are still hunting a suspected airport attacker seen in a white jacket and a possible fifth suspect filmed walking with a suicide bomber before the Brussels Metro attack, the AP reports.
  • The attacks killed at least 31 people and injured hundreds more, but authorities have discovered they could have been even worse, the New York Times reports. A suicide belt and two large, undetonated bombs packed with nails were found at the airport. Two more bombs were found at an address from which two suspected attackers took a taxi the morning of the attacks.
  • The Financial Times reports that authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands are struggling to explain why Ibrahim El Bakraoui was not being monitored. On Wednesday, Turkey said both countries were warned that El Bakraoui, who was deported to the Netherlands after being arrested at the Syrian border, was a dangerous extremist.
  • The Washington Post takes a closer look at the background of both El Bakraoui brothers and finds that they were violent thugs long before they were radicals—just like many others in the latest wave of extremist recruits.
  • The BBC reports on the emerging stories of the dead, injured, and missing from the attacks. The missing include at least four Americans.

G-Eye™: Gilmer County Commission Regular Meeting Report - 03.18.16

The Free Press WV
March 18, 2016 @ 9:00 AM
Gilmer County Courthouse – Commission Office
10 Howard Street, Glenville, WV

The Gilmer County Commission met on Friday, March 18, 2016 at 9:00 AM. Commissioners Larry Chapman, John Bennett, and Brian Kennedy were present.  County Clerk Jean Butcher as well as Angel Ball, the accounting deputy were also present.  Following is the summary of the meeting:

  1. There was not any Exonorations and/or Cosolidations to approve.

  2. Estate Qualifications and Estate Settlements were approved.

  3. There was not any Board Appointments and/or Resignations to approve. However, there are opening on the following board: Unsafe Buildings & Lands Enforcement Agency - DeKalb/Troy & Glenville Corporation.

  4. The Commission approved invoices for payment totaling $118,055.31.

  5. Clark Persinger was at the meeting regarding Personal Property Taxes. He was asking for help to pay his ~$400 past due personal property taxes. He said he was out of state and his mother had not paid the taxes since 2011. The tax was on a mobile recreation trailer which he claimed to be in real bad shape. Assessor Gary Wolfe said the trailer is assessed for $1,800.00. Persinger said he does not have any job and his wife is on social security. He wants to register his vehicle, but he cannot because there are past due taxes. Since this property is personal it could not be used in tax sales. He asked the commission to do whatever they could to help. After good bit of discussions the commissioners exonarated the taxes from 2008-2015 and asked Persinger to pay only the 2007 tax in the amount of $43.42.

  6. The commission achknowledged the receipt of totals from Lewis-Gilmer E911. The document is available for review at county Clerks office.

  7. Pitney Bowes Lease Agreement: There is no lease or maintenance agreement on the equipments currently. The commission decided to leave it the same due to financial hardship.

  8. Agreement between the Records Management and Preservation Board and the Gilmer County Commission for $12,347 grant award was signed. The amount will be used at the Clerk’s Office.

  9. Commission received the Gilmer County Extension Office 2017 FY Budget Memorandum. Since the amount is set and it all goes to the Extension Office and commission does does not handle their budget and expeditures anymore, the commission did not have to worry about this. Also the commission does have to worry about any carryovers.

  10. Court Security Fund Grant – WV Supreme Court Floor Plan: This grant is to be done by April 01, 2016. This leaves the commission with not enough time to act. The grant required budget information for next fiscal year which is not done yet. At this time the commission tabled this grant.

  11. Assessor’s Certificate of Valuation: Accoding to County assessor Gary Wolfe, the valuation is just a little more that last year. Real Estate has been consistant, but the oil and gas down. Wolfe said, next year the valuation should be better since there are a lot of construction going on. Oil and gas is projected to be the same for next four years. It was noted that Calhoun County’s valuation is down. After some discussion, the commissioners accepted the valuation.

  12. Commission approved State Mileage Reimbursement Rate .54/mile effective January 01, 2016.

  13. Abandonment and Re-designation of Highway:  The CR 119/3 – Hiney Hill Road beginning at a point being .95 mile east of the junction of CR 119/3 and US Hwy 33; thence easterly a distance of 0.40 mile to mile point 1.35 and ending was abandoned by WVDOH. Total length to be abandoned is 0.40 mile with new length of CR 119/3 to be 0.95 mile and right-of-way width of 30 feet. The partial redesignation of CR 119/3 begins at a pont on CR 26, said point being 0.66 mile north of the junction of CR 26 and CR 28; thence westerly a distance of 1.05 miles and ending. Total length to be redesignated is 1.05 miles and it is assigned CR 26/3 with right-of-way of 30 feet. The commission approved this request from WVDOH.

  14. Property Tax Levy Rates and Taxes Levy 2016-2017 FY: The maximum rate of 14.3% was approved. The maximum rate that a county can afford is set by State Auditors Office.

  15. Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Center wanted the commission to ask the E-911 to put up the sigh for the Recreation Center. It was taken down and never put up.

  16. Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Center has not been able to get anyone to bid on their audit. Commission suggested contacting the State Auditors Office since they can do the audit.

  17. Finally the Commission had a workshop on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year with the elected offices.

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