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Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WAJR-AM

Morgantown Ice Arena repairs approved, hockey players scramble in the interim

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a special BOPARC meeting Thursday board members approved $15,000 from levy funds to repair equipment in the Ice Arena and will ask the city council for another $10,000 to temporarily open the facility.

BOPARC executive director Melissa Wiles told the board members the only other option to pay for the repairs was to use budget money ear marked for playground equipment. In the pandemic era there just isn’t enough revenue or money in the budget to do it any other way.

“We had our budget immediately cut by $500,000 before the fiscal year even began,” Wiles said,” We returned over $250,000 in camp registrations due to the cancellation of our summer program.”

When park workers began to prepare the facility for the Morgantown Hockey Association they discovered the 10-year old ice making equipment was not working.

Specifically, the desiccant wheel, or rotary dehumidifier, chiller switch and valve are all bad.

“That $15,000 covers the chiller switch and valve for $3,000 and the dissecant wheel replacement and it will take about seven weeks,” said Danielle Trumble, BOPARC board member.

Wiles adds that the equipment was scheduled to be replaced during a multi-million dollar renovation that is now delayed due to COVID-19.

“The idea was to continue with this unit without replacing the wheel, just do our regular maintenance on it,” Wiles said,”Knowing we are going into a renovation phase.”

The Morgantown Hockey Association lists the ice arena as home to seven teams on their website from high school to 8-year-old and under leagues. Vice president of the association, Matthew Nelson was a guest on WAJR’s Talk of the Town and said participants are now road tripping to find time on the ice.

“We’re having kids travel to Connellsville, we’re having kids travel to Rostraver for practice,” Nelson said,” Those are about the only two ice rinks we can find that are affordable and within our budget.”

The BOPARC board will also ask Morgantown city council to restore some of the money cut early in pandemic, or at least $10,000 so the rink can open temporarily during the estimated seven week repair period.

“With this new delay until at least December, if they open at all,” Nelson said,” We’re in a situation where we have to start considering long term contracts with those rinks and once we enter those we can’t come back.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Pennsylvania doctor pleads guilty to illegally distributing narcotics in Mon County

CLARKSBURG, W,Va. – A Pennsylvania doctor has entered a guilty plea in federal court to illegally distributing controlled substances.

According to U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Dr. Felix Brizuela, Jr., 59, of Harrison City, Pennsylvania, admitted to illegally distributing oxycodone in Monongalia County in August 2013. The plea agreement sentences Brizuela to time served and three years of supervised release.

Multiple agencies participated in the investigation.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown plans $500,000 in road work this fall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The city of Morgantown has announced about $500,000 worth of road work is planned in the city this fall. The work includes improvements to Eighth Street between Beechurst and University Avenues and a slide repair on White Avenue.

Pittsburgh-based Baiano Construction has been awarded a $350,342.83 contract to improve pedestrian safety on Eighth Street.

The Eighth Street project includes repaving, 2,000 feet of wider sidewalk, storm drainage, ADA ramps and a bike path from Grant Avenue to Beechurst Avenue. Morgantown city engineer Damien Davis said a portion of the new sidewalk will be built into the edge of the existing roadway, reducing the lane width to 11 feet in each direction.

“It’s going to take a chunk of the roadway, this helps us avoid utilities that are in that area,” Davis said,”It helps us bring the cost of the project down because we don’t have relocate those utilities.”

Davis said Baiano has completed other projects on High Street and is familiar with the standards and expectations of completing work in Morgantown.

Work on Eighth Street is expected to begin in mid-October and be completed by mid-December.

White Avenue is the connector between Sabraton and Greenmont in Morgantown and has been closed to vehicle traffic near Marilla Park due to a slide that began to occur in the spring of 2018.

White Avenue remains passable for pedestrians and cyclists, but motorists are using Brockway Avenue as a detour.

Kingwood-based Rock Forge Bridge Company has been awarded a $151,017.00 contract to fix the slip and reopen the road.

“This is a pile and lagging wall, it’s about 100-feet long,” Morgantown city engineer Damien Davis said,”Once do the wall they’ll fix the road that’s broken away and do some drainage improvements as well.”

The performance period for the White Avenue work is 90 days.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Student athlete, staff COVID data added to WVU COVID dashboard as of Wednesday night

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia officials have added COVID statistics for student-athletes and staff members to the COVID dashboard.

Officials say the dashboard will be updated tonight and will include information dating back to September 2.

“By early September, we were able to determine the best way to incorporate the Athletics data into our overall campus testing numbers,” said Dr. Carmen Burrell, medical director of Urgent Care and Student Health Services. “This is the latest in our efforts to continually refine and improve our dashboard and public reporting processes to be as transparent as possible, especially as we ramp up additional screening testing on the Morgantown campus.”

Testing ordered by the Big 12 conference began in June and continues.

“Our goal is to identify cases of COVID-19 so we can limit spread of the virus both amongst our athletes and within the community,” said Dr. A.J. Monseau, head team physician and medical director for WVU Athletics. “We continue to do our absolute best to prevent cases, successfully isolate those who are positive, and effectively quarantine those who are deemed close contacts.”

All positive results reported to WVU are sent directly to the state.

The WVU COVID dashboard is updated Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. All data is broken down by each campus- Morgantown, Beckley and Keyser.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

CARES Act funds, fiscal discipline signals the beginnings of a Morgantown comeback

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The city of Morgantown has received $6,912,026.93 in CARES Act money to reimburse the costs of COVID-related expenses. Most of the money has gone to police and fire payroll reimbursement, according to interim city manager Emily Muzzarelli.

The funds have also been used for building modifications, cleaning supplies/services and personal protective equipment.

Since March, Muzzarelli detailed the financial cuts while the city continued to offer services.

“We’ve been on a hiring freeze and a spending freeze and eliminating any expenditures to the essentials,”Muzzarelli said,”I think nearly all the department are working down multiple staff and projects have been put on hold.”

Muzzarelli recognizes COVID-related budget woes are not over, she wants council to consider reinstating some cuts made earlier this year. Some items under consideration are some promotions, part-time to full-time changes, frozen positions, and funding the COLA for city employees.

“We’ve put nearly all of the reimbursements from the CARES Act money into contingency and financial stabilization,” Muzzarelli said,”We now have a fully funded contingency fund.”

Being able to triple the balance in the contingency fund during the pandemic will help secure the future as the pandemic wears on.

“We went from $350,000 approximately, to about $3.5 million in contingency fund,” Muzzarelli said,”Prior to COVID we had about $1 million.”

Councilor Zack Cruze who also serves as the chairman of the Community Policing & Citizens Review Committee expressed support for adding a social worker to the city payroll or embed them with police.

“When Huntington, West Virginia embedded a social worker within their police force they saved over $500,000 per year,” Cruze said,”Alexandria, Kentucky saved over $50,000 per year when they embedded a social worker.”

Jenny Selin, councilor from the Fourth Ward said keeping up with ongoing maintenance can save the city money.

“Tree maintenance, which people may not think that’s the most important thing in comparison with roofs or heating systems,” Selin said,”But, some things, just like those things still need some care.”

Council will consider the matter further at their next regular meeting.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

West Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of Calvary Baptist Church in city rezoning dispute

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled a city of Morgantown decision to deny rezoning a parcel of property along Borroughs Street in the Suncrest area unconstitutional.

Local businessman Bernard Bossio agreed to buy the 1/2 acre parcel with access onto Burroughs Street from the Calvary Baptist Church if they could reclassify zoning from R-1 Single-Family Residential to B-2 Service Business District. Dating back to 2011, several other parcels had been rezoned to make way for The Wine Bar, Suncrest Pub and Burroughs Place.

In the rezoning denial, the city said in order to plan for a population increase of 40,000 by 2040 areas of the city had to be set aside for single-family development. This parcel was designated as an area of “neighborhood conservation.”

Justice Margaret Workman said in here ruling, she said after hearing testimony regarding differences between the planning reports of 2016
and 2018, concluded that the city “looked for reasons to deny” the Church’s application and interfere with the “current neighborhood scheme.”

Workman has ordered the city to change the classification of the parcel.

The church planned to use the proceeds from the sale of land to fund sanctuary renovations.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown deputy mayor talks origin and purpose of police oversight effort

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown leaders are offering more insight into the origins and purpose of the proposed Community Policing & Citizens Review Board. Deputy mayor Rachel Fetty came to WAJR’s Talk of the Town said recent events have inspired council to enhance transparency within the police department.

“We wanted to show our support for members of our community who might feel disenfranchised, or hurt or emotionally distressed by the truly painful things that are happening across our country,” Fetty said.

Interim police chief Eric Powell was supportive of the process early on, then backed away after the committee seemed reluctant to include a police officer on a committee that could consider investigations into allegations of misconduct and discipline.

Fetty says while there are no problems or allegations against police in Morgantown, they want to be prepared for any eventuality.

“I think part of our job as policy makers is to look into an unknown future and make the best policy you can based on the social forces you see gathering around you,”Fetty said.

FOP leadership and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have asked council to remain within Chapter 8 of West Virginia State Code while forming the committee. Chapter 8 provides employment protections to police officers because they are not allowed to unionize or strike.

In the event of a complaint involving police officers and their use of excessive force, power or unprofessionalism, the proposed committee would compile it’s own independent investigation. This would include holding hearings of those involved in said incident and an internal review of the incident at hand, the findings discovered and discussions of recommended discipline. These recommendations would then be submitted to the Mayor and Chief of Police to take further action.

“A resident can come and say- I’ve had this difficult experience and I would like the city to fix it,” Fetty said,”Or I would like this officer’s actions to be reviewed.”

Fetty says she has, for the most part, has positive interactions with law enforcement, but said that changed when her husband was in involved in an accident on Dorsey Avenue with the West Virginia State Patrol. The procedures that were not followed by the state patrol and Mon County Prosecutor’s Office resulted in an unpleasant experience and there was no method file a complaint, according to Fetty.

“We are looking to protect students, visitors, tourists or folks who could have any kind of brush with the law,” Fetty said.

The committee meets virtually every Monday (minus federal holidays) at 3 p.m.

“Nothing in the proposed ordinance is final and it’s not in a finalized form where it could go to council yet,” Fetty said,”We have many, many more conversations to have.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Local residents oppose roundabout for Greenbag Road, Kingwood Pike intersection

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Longtime Morgantown farmers are urging residents to speak out against a potential roundabout on Green Bag Road.

Members of the Hastings Family, are voicing their concerns regarding a potential roundabout at the Dorsey Avenue/Kingwood Pike intersection scheduled to be built by the State Department of Transportation. The longtime landowners could very well be on the wrong side of the stick of the roundabout’s construction which would use up a fair amount of property if everything goes forward.

“We want people to know that the roundabout plan the only option that they have presented yet in a decade is very egregious,” said Mary Hastings, who’s family would lose up to an acre worth of space in the proposed plan. “It would drop eighty percent of that roundabout right on our growing space,” she said.

The project itself, has been in the works for several years as part of the statewide Roads to Prosperity project. Estimated at close to $10 million, the roundabout is designed to curb on truck traffic in the Downtown Morgantown area, as well help with traffic flow near South Middle, MTEC and White Park. While the project appears to show benefits, the Hastings feel that their family wasn’t properly contacted despite a past history with the State Department of Transportation.

“There’s no communication through the state, my dad has tried to get a hold of state roads numerous times,” said Ted Hastings, who also works on the farmland. “And the comments, he left a comment for them and they said ‘we’ll only really contact you when it comes time for acquisition, once we have made our plan and we are ready to take your land, we’ll work with you on a number, until then we don’t want to communicate with you,” he said.

According to members of The Hastings Family, the land has been farmed on and used for five generations for various purposes. Aside from farming various products on their acre worth of property, there is also a community garden that has been active for over a decade which has helped community farmers sell products in various parts of Mon County. This adds some extra value to the major financial risk the family could face if they loose the property due to the roundabouts construction.

“But if we were able to sell everything we grew, like as of like distributor price to retail sale, two hundred thousand I would say,” said Ted Hastings. “I would say there’s about a quarter of a million dollars worth of product in that field if sold correctly,” he said.

Right now, the project appears to be moving forward but there will be opportunities for members of the community to speak out either for or against the project. Even though they are against the roundabout project, both Ted and Mary Hastings expressed a desire to work with the DOT in finding an alternative. This includes the offering of a piece of their land as agreed upon in prior contracts to help expand the Dorsey Avenue/Kingwood Pike intersection be adding turn lanes where they could definitely be used. For now, it appears that the over two hundred people that have spoken towards alternative plans appear to need to speak up on September 29th more than ever.

“This road is plenty wide to share, we would let them have as much as they want for a turning lane,” said Hastings. “We’d put in enough for them to have a three-way road all the way up the Pike, because that is their right-of-way, but when they want to take this whole field and make it into a roundabout, the only problem here is that there’s no turning lane,” he said.

A link to make a public comment is here.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Police oversight effort in Morgantown inches forward

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown leaders are working through concerns as an additional police oversight committee is created.

Recently, interim police chief Eric Powell told members of the media he was hopeful the committee would provide an opportunity for civilians to better understand police operations. However, when the committee began to consider investigations into allegations of misconduct and discipline would be handled he had second thoughts.

Members of the law enforcement community insist the committee should have someone with law enforcement experience. FOP leadership and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believe the committee could violate Chapter 8 of West Virginia State Code. The code provides employment protections to police officers because they are not allowed to unionize.

Additional concerns have been raised about how this committee would function with the existing Police Civil Service Commission.

Morgantown mayor Ron Dulaney extended an official inviation to state FOP president Steve Walker during the last meeting.

In the event of a complaint involving police officers and their use of excessive force, power or unprofessionalism, the proposed committee would compile it’s own independent investigation. This would include holding hearings of those involved in said incident and an internal review of the incident at hand, the findings discovered and discussions of recommended discipline. These recommendations would then be submitted to the Mayor and Chief of Police to take further action on.

Chair of the Community Policing & Citizens review committee, councilor Zack Cruze expressed frustration and insisted the Monday meetings at 3 p.m. are, and always have been open to the public.

“At this point, our administration is fracturing into two separate divisions,”committee chair and councilor Zack Cruze said,”And that’s frankly not an acceptable way to go about a sub-committee to me.”

Deputy mayor and committee co-chair Rachel Fetty wants more participation from the public, including from police officers.

“This is the best forum for us to accomplish this goal, so I would like us to continue,” Fetty said,”Honestly, I would encourage those who want to contribute anonymously to contribute anonymously.”

Self-proclaimed activist, Amy Bolyard told committee members Monday police officers should be represented and council members should focus on fairness for all.

“I very concerned about protecting our police officers, I’m concerned about protecting people too,” Bolyard said,”I love my faith, I love my people- we have one race, the human race.”

The Community Policing & Citizens Review Committee meets every Monday at 3 p.m.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Unidentified woman sets campaign sign on fire in Mon County

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – An unidentified woman set a campaign sign on fire the weekend belonging to Mon County commission candidate Jeff Arnett.

The sign was larger, and had been placed near the intersection of Halleck and Grafton Roads. Two witnesses working at a nearby car lot saw what happened and called Arnett after putting the fire out.

“She got out of the car, walked over to the sign and kicked it,” Arnett said,”Then she proceeded back to her car, got something out of it and went back to the and lit it on fire and left.”

The two witnesses put the fire without injury and the only damage reported was to the sign.

Arnett says the campaign has been very cordial and is suprised one of his signs would be set on fire in broad daylight.

“I don”t know if it was traffic related, if she didn’t like the location of the sign perhaps,” Arnett said,”Or maybe she didn;t like political signs, I don’t know her motivation, honestly.”

Police sources say the woman could be charged criminal damaging of property or all the way up to intimidation.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV