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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Commissioners in Monongalia County have eliminated the mask mandate in county buildings for those who are fully vaccinated.
Commissioners and other elected officials have access to regular coronavirus status meetings, commission president Sean Sikora said then decision was made after consecutive weeks of falling numbers.
“My last report from the health department says we’re down to .7 cases per 100,000 people,” Sikora said,” And that’s lowest we’ve been in a long time and the numbers have consistently been dropping.”
As the most recent meeting of the county commission got underway Sikora made the announcement as many took their masks off.
“To come into one of our buildings, if you are vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask,” Sikora said,” If you are not vaccinated you’re required to wear a mask.”
County employees will still have access to plexiglass and can wear masks if they wish. Additionally, each elected official is free to establish their own guidelines moving forward. The guidelines can be relaxed or more strict.
“Each elected officer may address the mask differently for their particular office,” Sikora said,” But, for the must part we were all in unison.”
Sikora stressed the mask mandate is the only portion of the COVID response plan that is being rolled back. Public health officials are still monitoring cases closely as variant strains of the virus spread.
“We still continue to address outbreaks as they occur and take measures for each of those outbreaks,” Sikora said.
The Wednesday, June 23 seven-day trend map from the DHHR shows Monongalia County with 18 active cases.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County commissioners unanimously additional regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries proposed by the board of health.
Commissioners reached the decision after a deliberating following a two work session with board members one week ago. All three commissioners acknowledged the complexity of the medical cannabis business, security, safety and legal issues addressed by the board in their proposed regulations.
The regulations added requirements for two 24-hour security guards, indoor loading docks, an onsite medical professional and additional guidelines for distances from public buildings and other dispensaries. The added regulations were passed on May 27.
“This is a complicated issue, medical marijuana, but this issue to me is very clear,” Bloom said,” The proposed rules are beyond the lawful power and authority of the Mon County Board of Health.”
As the commission liaison to the Monongalia County Board of Health, commission president Sean Sikora observed the board during the process.
” I see that the regulations do have two fatal flaws that require me to vote to reject them,” Sikora said,” Several of the proposed cannabis rules go beyond the statutory authority of the board of health and they also conflict with state rules and laws already in place that regulate the same activities.”
Newly elected commissioner, local attorney Jeff Arnett referred to his objection strictly based on conflict with state law, but did take issue with a portion of comments made during the work session with the board.
“It was stated that you can get a legal opinion to say whatever you want it to,” Arnett said,” From an attorney’s perspective I take offense to that, and especially from the commission’s perspective I take offense to that. We didn’t have an opinion that we wanted, we simply sought an opinion as to what the law was.”
Because this would be the first action taken in the state that could fall under Senate Bill 12 commissioners agreed to produce an order for review and signature by the commission that would document the procedural history and the reason for disapproval.
Senate Bill 12 allows elected members of city councils and county commissions, other local governments more oversight over actions taken by local county health boards. At the time, lawmakers said the bill would allow more local input to potentially controversial issues.
Sikora acknowledged the work of the board and their effort to look ahead to possible futures issues involving medical cannabis, but believes there are procedures in place to address them.
“The effort going forward should to see how we can address these issues,” Sikora said,” Whether that’s through the legislature or the Office of Medical Cannabis.”
As liaison for the county board of health, Sikora expects to learn more about the next steps, if any, in the coming weeks.
“The board of health will meet in July and we’ll see how they follow up,” Sikora said,” I think the commission was loud and clear that we can’t do anything that exceeds the requirements that are in state statute.”
The next scheduled Monongalia County Board of Health meeting is July 29 at 9 a.m. at the Health Department Training Center.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A Morgantown man is behind bars following the execution of a drug-related search warrant on Hawks Nest Drive.
Members of the Mon Metro Drug Task Force and the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team recovered 80 grams of cocaine, $5,000 and a loaded .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun from the residence of Martin Tinsley, 42.
Tinsley has been charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit a felony. He is being held in North Central Regional Jail.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Several parts of Monongalia County are still recovering from the flash floods of June 2021.
During Monongalia County Commission’s regular meeting Wednesday, the Monongalia Emergency Centralized Communications Agency (MECCA 911), gave an update on some of the damage that was received around the county during the June 10-14 rainstorms that lead to severe flash flooding cross North Central West Virginia. Fortunately, according to MECCA 911 officials, damage was prevalent but not as severe as some videos seen could’ve implied.
“For having that amount of rain, our damage was not very extensive in that area,” said MECCA 911 Director Jimmy Smith on the flood damage as a whole.
According to Smith, damage was seen in several parts of the county, with the Morgantown Area receiving a brunt of the property damage. This included a necessary road repair in Morgantown, several fallen down trees, with some even going into homes, and of course severe flooding that affected homes and a basements across the area, all totaling around $375,000 in damage. The rainfall itself, which was originally tallied by the National Weather Service at approximately two inches of rain, was considered significantly more when the final calculations were made.
“We’ve now discovered several residents and private rain gauges throughout the Morgantown Area, and in that Suncrest Area, that Patteson Drive and University Avenue Area, we’re seeing reports now of up to five inches of rain fell in that area,” he said.
The other area that was greatly affected by the flooding was the Monongalia County Trail, where according to Smith, several trails that were already affected by storms in the late spring, got another dose of severe storms. By the time the most recent storms ended, seven different parts of the trail system were severely affected leading up to over $10,000 worth of damage. Despite that, it appears that most of the trail slippage and other flood related damages should be sorted by the end of the month.
“We’re looking at probably having the work done on Decker’s, I’m hoping by the end of Friday this week,” said Mon River Trails Conservancy Executive Director Ella Belling on some of the work being done.
Despite the costly damage, Smith advised the commissioners as well as those watching the meeting, that emergency funding courtesy of FEMA is more than likely not going to be happening. According to Smith, the threshold for the State of West Virginia to receive a FEMA classification for State of Emergency is approximately $2.8 million, with Monongalia County accounting for no more than $375,000 in damage from the floods. So in the meantime, those who are need of assistance are directed to call MECCA 911 for further instructions.
“Those individuals that need to report, we do ask that they contact MECCA, and that they contact our non-emergency number for that,” he said.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Detectives in Morgantown are investigating an early Wednesday morning shooting in the 200 block of Walnut Street downtown.
Officers responded in seconds to the call at 2:15 a.m. and found witnesses that said a lone male on foot and several people in car involved in the shooting had left the area. Officers located and stopped the vehicle on Beechurst Avenue. One female in the vehicle had suffered a minor gunshot wound to the side. She was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital after officers performed first aid.
Detectives are interviewing witnesses and collecting additional evidence. Anyone with any information that may help police solve the case is asked to call the Morgantown Police Department Detective Division at 304-284-7454 or use the Anonymous TIPS line at 304-284-7520.
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A long time non-profit who sustained extensive damage during days of repetitive flooding, is asking for help.
During the extreme rainstorms between June 10 and June 14 that lead to severe flash flooding all around North Central West Virginia, the Disability Action Center received approximately $200,000 worth of damage to their Fairmont facilities. This included damage to the exterior and interior of the building and equipment inside the facility such as computers, workout equipment and the flooding out of a banquet hall. As a result, the agency is requesting for community help via GoFundMe to help with a total relocation plan that would cost approximately $750,000.
“The flood waters just poured down from the backside of 1st Street down to Benoni Avenue as well, it just creates a river down through the back of our building,” said Disability Action Center Director Julie Sole describing in part of what happened.
Damage to the facility that took place between June 10 and June 12, lead to the options for either completely renovating the facility or relocating was brought up, which would’ve costs $200,000 and $750,000 respectively. Unfortunately for the Disability Action Center, they had to re-evaluate their options in order to keep serving North Central West Virginia families. After rainstorms between June 13 and 14, a total relocation of facilities at the $750,000 price tag was determined to be necessary.
“After we got flooded again on June 13 and 14, I only have one plan, and that is to relocate to higher ground,” said Sole. “That is to give our clients and their families a safe center that they can have a healthy learning environment for,” she said.
The Disability Action Center, is a non-profit agency that has served children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Central West Virginia for over half a century. Opened in 1958, they have provided services such as educational and enrichment programs to help those who are developmentally disabled as well as be the home for other agencies who focus on their needs.
“We serve close to five hundred individuals with disabilities, children and adults with special needs, all over Marion County and regionally,” said Sole describing the details of their services. “We also house three on-site partners, Special Olympics of Marion County, the Homstead Farm Center and Playworks Child and Adult Therapies,” she said.
So far, the GoFundMe for the Disability Action Center is at $4,795, a bit short of their $100,000 goal. Even though the goal itself is way short of the near three-quarters of a million dollars that will be needed for a total relocation. According to Sole, the GoFundMe will be one of several sources of income expected to be taken for the relocation with request made State Senators Bob Beach and Mike Caputo to get grant money designated to the new facility’s construction. The hope now is that with a combination of several different financial resources, the longtime non-profit will be able to resume operations as soon as possible.
“It won’t make up the lion’s share of what it’s going to take to get us to higher ground, but not only will it help monetarily, I think it will show a real community support and that the community wants to rally around us,” she said.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to a criminal complaint, a 43-year-old Westover man faces wanton endangerment involving a firearm and a weapons charge after waving a gun in a convenience store parking lot after allegedly being “ripped off” while trying to purchase crack cocaine.
Witnesses told police Corey Robert Marable was brandishing a black firearm in the parking lot near the gas pumps at the at the intersection of Van Voorhis and Chestnut Ridge Roads and fled in an SUV. Police did recover the handgun they believe Marable threw in the parking lot.
Marable returned the scene highly agitated and told police he had come to the gas station to buy crack and was ripped off.
Witness accounts say Marable back into a vehicle, pulled out a firearm and began waving it at people. Reports indicate two children were on the scene as well.
Marable’s felony criminal record goes back to 1998.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Commissioners in Monongalia County are expected to take a vote on new regulations proposed for medical cannabis dispensaries, already approved by the county board of health. The health board unanimously passed the regulations May 27, however for the first time the ordinance also requires approval from the county commission.
Senate Bill 12 was passed in the last legislative session giving county commissions the authority to review regulations passed by county health boards.
“The health department recognizes that there are true risks that are involved and that there are multiple dark elements,” Chico said,” And those range from medical issues to safety issues, but there all health issues.”
In October of 2020, the Monongalia County Board of Health approved 20 dispensary permits unanimously. In early 2021, the DHHR Office of Medical Cannabis approved 100 dispensary permits statewide, 14 of those are approved for Mon County.
State regulations require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from any school or daycare facility.
Guidance from the Monongalia County Health Department adds libraries and parks to the 1,000 foot list, while recommending dispensaries must be stand-alone or not in a strip mall. The regulations also include strict storage security for guidelines and other local legal requirements that are over and above the state law.
On WAJR’s Talk of the Town, health board chair Sam Chico said large amounts of cash and medical marijuana in these 14 locations present many challenges for local officials. Chico believes the amount of cash and marijuana in the area could draw organized crime to area and endanger dispensary employees and the public at-large.
“We’re a proactive health department. We do not wait until a disaster strikes to be prepared,” Chico said,” We try to avoid clear issues and we saw this coming.”
According to Chico, the additional regulations passed by local health officials take up issues that the board felt were overlooked during the legislative process. Adding increased security and an onsite medical professional are specific ways to enhance safety.
“Civics 101 taught me a local ordinance or regulation can always enhance any state or federal regulation,” Chico said, “It can’t lessen any regulation, but of course a local ordinance can go above and beyond any state or federal reg.”
Local officials recognize medical cannabis is a highly sought after substance and a large amount of cash onsite could entice criminal activity. Additionally, the cannabis is not heavy or bulky and can be quickly sold on the black market.
“Criminals in general are searching for cash, or something very easy to convert to cash,” Chico said,” Marijuana is very easy to convert to cash on the black market.”
Chico operates several convenience stores in the region and also know others in the industry that contributed personal experiences to develop the regulations.
“I’ve operated convenience stores- I’ve seen many, many instances of people putting guns to peoples’ heads and asking for money,” Chico said,” And unfortunately, I’ve seen people shot and killed over $100, much less than $1,000,000 or $100,000.”
Monongalia County commissioners will vote on the regulations Wednesday during their regular meeting at 10 a.m.