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By Steven Allen Adams
The Weirton Daily
A bill making it easier for students attending West Virginia high schools to transfer and keep playing sports passed the Senate by a 27-5 vote last Wednesday.
Senate Bill 262 would require the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to modify rules for the 2023-2024 school year to allow students to transfer schools and retain their athletic eligibility one time during a student’s four years in high school.
The bill also requires the state Board of Education, when reviewing the WVSSAC rule, to ensure it complies with the intent of the Legislature to not require the student to sit out one year for transferring schools during or after the student’s ninth grade year.
A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but was never taken up by the House Education Committee. Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, was the lead sponsor of both last year’s bill and SB 262. He said he has talked with the House and expects the bill to be taken up this time.
“I’ve had some very encouraging conversations with our brethren in the House to get this across the finish line to help students across the state,” Weld said.
Weld said he was motivated to bring the bill back this year after the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in November blocking a decision by the Ohio County Circuit Court in March 2022 in favor of a legal guardian and her child.
The WVSSAC sought a writ of prohibition blocking the circuit court’s preliminary injunction against its Residence- Transfer Rule. The circuit court ruled that the rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and facially unconstitutional.”
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Fox’s Pizza in Petersburg is now under new management, with Branch Mountain Management officially taking over the location as of Jan. 9.
Branch Mountain, a local, family owned company headed by Billy Keplinger, also manage the Fox’s Pizza locations in Moorefield and Romney as well as Mullins 1847 Restaurant, also in Moorefield.
Keplinger explained that Fox’s Pizza has been in Petersburg for over 40 years and that updates to corporate structure have made slight changes recently, including requiring tables and chairs for patrons to eat their meals in the restaurant if they choose and an overall goal of providing customers a consistent experience no matter which location they visit.
To celebrate the change, the Grant County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the restaurant, taking over as operations manager and coordinator is Petersburg native Marcus Sites.
Fans of Fox’s will continue to see the same friendly faces they are familiar with, plus a few new ones with the addition of approximately five employees at the location.
One of these new faces is Tasha Keplinger, who brings a wealth of experience from the restaurant world, and is taking over as restaurant manager.
Since changing hands, Branch Mountain has worked to modernize the location with new equipment and will be offering delivery services in the near future.
For more information or to check out Fox’s Pizza, call 304-257-4342 or visit them at 426 Keyser Ave, Petersburg.
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Last weekend, Grant County community members and leaders traveled to Charleston to help bring attention to issues faced in the area.
During their visit, they met with lawmakers to discuss tourism, hike/bike trails in Petersburg, public transit expansion, broadband and emergency response support throughout the county and region, water issues, and much more.
“Thanks to Delegate John Paul Hott and Senator Randy Smith for their hospitality, insight, and willingness to listen to our issues from the Grant County Chamber, Grant County CVB, County Commission, city of Petersburg, and Potomac Valley Transit,” said Suzanne Park, who was among those to make the trip.
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Last week, a Grant County man admitted to using gasoline to ignite a trailer on fire, during the extinguishing of which, a firefighter was injured.
Christopher T. Burns, 37, of 1938 Franklin Pike, Petersburg, pleaded guilty to first degree arson and causing injury in an arson-related crime.
Burns’s charges stem from an incident on the night of May 31, 2022, when the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Company was dispatched to a reported structure fire at 1938 Franklin Pike.
The next morning, the fire rekindled and required further action from local fire departments. During this second event, one of the responding firefighters received minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
In the course of an investigation conducted by the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office, it was determined that the blaze was the result of two “non-communicating fires” and was incendiary in nature.
Investigators then interviewed the owner of the property, Burns’ grandfather, who was asked about his grandson’s whereabouts at the time of the fire. He told officers that Burns had been in bed but had gone out that evening with a flashlight, returning some time later.
Investigators then spoke with the witness who had called 911 to report the fire. The witness said they saw “fire spots,” which were moving and then they saw a flashlight coming down the hill. This information supported the report from the fire marshal, who indicated there had been more than one fire set at the property.
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Wife pleads to drug charges
A Cabins man appeared before a Grant County judge last week to plead guilty to an array of charges that span multiple active cases. His wife appeared before the court on the same day, also pleading guilty to being involved in the distribution of drugs.
The husband, Robert Buckley Jr., 41, of 25 Dora Drive, Cabins, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, driving with a revoked license, possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, conspiracy to violate, forgery and uttering.
Buckley, who is also currently facing charges of burglary in Hampshire County, has a prior conviction of larceny of water from the Grant County Public Service District.
The first charge Buckley admitted to last week occurred in January 2021 and involved a breaking and entering in to a house on North Fork Highway.
According to information obtained during the investigation, Buckley and another man entered the vacant house through an unlocked back entrance. Once inside, the two proceeded to take mason jars, old hand saws, a trunk suitcase, china and dishware, several boxes of knickknacks and other items.
The second charge Buckley plead guilty to last week occurred in November 2021, when he was stopped by officers while driving a vehicle on a suspended license. Buckley’s license was revoked in 2009 for driving under the influence. Since its revocation, he was convicted in 2012 in Hardy County and again in Grant County in 2020 for driving on a suspended license. This makes the 2023 conviction his third offense.
The third offense Buckley plead to occurred on May 2022 when officers were executing a search warrant on the home Buckley shares with his wife. During the search, officers entered the master bedroom of the home and found Buckley, his wife Nicole Dawn Buckley, 33, and another man along with a large amount of a white controlled substance that was suspected to be methamphetamine.
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The following cases were heard in the Grant County Magistrates Courtbetween the dates of Nov. 5 to Dec. 5:
Earl William Lloyd, 36, was charged with failure to register or provide notice of registration changes. Lloyd’s bond was set at $50,000 and the case was transferred to the Grant County Circuit Court.
Joshua Anthony Delveccieo, 19, was fined and assessed $471 after pleading no contest to charges of unlawfully disposing of litter.
Haylie Rock-Kay Bussard, 21, was fined and assessed $181 after pleading guilty to charges of operating a vehicle without a certified inspection or failure to produce certificate.
Ronnie Worth Arbogast, 37, was fined and assessed $362 after pleading guilty to two counts of expiration of registration and certificates of title.
Roy Thompson Agnew, 60, was fined and assessed $181 after pleading no contest to operating a vehicle without a certified registration.
Michael Edward Shoner, 56, was fined and assessed $181 after pleading no contest to charges of operating a vehicle without a certifi ed inspection or failure to produce certificate.
Caleb A. Evans, 20, was fined and assessed $181 after pleading no contest to charges of operating a vehicle without a certified inspection or failure to produce certificate.
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Editor’s note: Greg’s story was planned to be published in this week’s Press, but he passed away over the weekend. Because his story deserves to be told, we are printing in here with the family’s permission, in memory of him.
By Ravenna O. Redman
Director of Social Services
The employees of Grant Rehabilitation and Care Services have selected Gregory Bland as GRCC’s resident of the week.
Greg has been a resident of our facility since June 25, 2020. He was born on July 16, 1959, in Petersburg, to Billy Rush Bland and Hilda Elizabeth (Mauzy) Bland Henry.
Greg has an adopted sister and brother: Evelyn Ours and Joseph Bland; three brothers, Bobby, Billy Jr., and Jeff Bland; and one half sister, Beverly Goldizen.
Greg was in the middle of the children. His father did construction in D.C. and Virginia. His mother was a stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, the relationship did not last. Greg, with his two brothers, were sent to live with their maternal grandparents, Carl and Elizabeth Mauzy, who raised them.
Both of his parents remarried. However, his mother passed away in a vehicle accident when Greg was 10 years old.
Greg attended elementary school at Dorcas Elementary and Moorefield Elementary, eventually graduating from Petersburg, High School. He would go to Antietam Bible College in Hagerstown, Md., completing his fouryear degree in pastoral studies.
While at Hagerstown, Greg stayed with a Mennonite couple as he pursued his degree.
Greg met his future wife, Carol, while he was in school, and they went to the same church. Carol stated, “I never imagined at first being with Greg, but suddenly it was there. We just loved each other.” Greg and Carol were married on Aug. 27, 1983. Carol said, “Greg would joke, saying I married him for pity’s sake, but then would say, no, she married me for love.” Carol admitted, “I married him for love.”
Greg began ministering to the community. His first church was at White Pine/ Kelly’s Chapel in Purgitsville. He went on to serve in various churches in the tri-county area: Knobley Church of the Brethren, Maysville Bible Brethren, Harpers Chapel Church of the Brethren, and Brake Church of the Brethren which is now the Brake Covenant Brethren Church. Greg also served as an interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Petersburg.
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More than 4,500 locations will open to collect Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts for the Samaritan’s Purse project. Volunteers are preparing to collect shoebox gifts during National Collection Week, Nov. 14 - 21.
Living Hope Baptist Church is once again the local dropoff site and will begin taking shoeboxes on Monday, Nov. 14
Their hours for Nov. 14 - 17 are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Nov. 18, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Nov. 19, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Nov. 20, 1 - 5 p.m. and Nov. 21, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Other dropoff points in the area are Duffey Memorial United Methodsit Church in Moorefi eld, Valley Baptist Church in Mathias, Faith Mission Church in Wardensville, Living Faith Church in Franklin and Clinton Hedrick Community Building in Riverton.
Operation Christmas Child has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts—filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys—to children worldwide since 1993. This year, OCC hopes to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 11 million children.
Individuals, families, and groups still have time to transform empty shoeboxes into fun gifts. The project partners with local churches across the globe to deliver these tangible expressions of God’s love to children in need. Find a step-by-step guide on the How to Pack a Shoebox at www.samaritanspurse.org
“Now more than ever, children around the world need to know that God loves them and there is hope,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “A simple shoebox gift opens the door to share about the true hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ."
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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey visited Petersburg last week to update the area on multiple large lawsuits his office was overseeing and to ask for community input on local concerns. Community members gathered at the Landes Arts Center to meet with Morrisey last Monday, with representatives ranging from Grant Memorial Hospital, Grant County Bank, the Potomac Valley Transit Authority, local business owners and elected officials.
The most heavily discussed topic during Morrisey’s visit surrounded the distribution of settlement funds the state will be receiving as a result of lawsuits his office filed against multiple pharmaceutical companies for their role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic.
“Many of you may know that there is still a lot of national litigation, from nearly every state in the nation, against the opioid companies for the role they played in the opioid epidemic,” Morrisey said. “West Virginia has been out front leading in that area.”
Morrisey said West Virginia is set to get the largest settlement in the nation from these companies. Overall, the state will be receiving over half a billion dollars in settlements.
“We want to make sure this money is used to fix the problem,” Morrisey said. “We didn’t believe a settlement based on population was appropriate and thought it should be based on the intensity of the impact it has had on these areas.”
Medical research echoes Morrisey’s claims that West Virginia has been disproportionally impacted in the opioid epidemic. According to research published in the National Library of Medicine (by researchers Rachel Merino, Nicholas Bowden, Sruthi Katamneni, Alberto Coustasse) “the rate of overdose related to the use of licit and illicit opioids has drastically increased over the last decade in the United States. The epicenter has been West Virginia with the highest rates of overdoses accounting for 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people among the 33,091 deaths in 2015.”
This study was published in 2019.
“The number of people injecting drugs has increased from 36% in 2005 to 54% in 2015,” the research claimed. “The total US cost of prescription opioid abuse in 2011 has been estimated at $25 billion, and criminal justice system costs to $5.1 billion. The reasons for this opioid epidemic incidence in West Virginia have been a combination of sociocultural factors, a depressed economy, lack of education, and a high rate of prescribing and dispensing of prescription opioids.”
Morrisey said the goal to distribute the funds would focus on a comprehensive plan that targets the resources to the regions of the state that need the most help in battling back against the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid money is going to be big,” Morrisey said. “It is an opportunity to put systems in place. For example, you may need an extra deputy sheriff, you may need some extra help in funding mental health services. You may need to coordinate with other counties in the region to help make sure there are beds in rehabilitation facilities. There are a lot things I think can be done with these resources but it needs to be spent wisely.”
Morrisey explained that some of the funds won in the suit will be distributed directly to the counties and cities but the bulk of the funds will be placed with a new foundation that will vote on the money usage.
“3% of all the money that comes in will be held back by the state for litigation purposes,” Morrisey explained. “This is my way of trying to protect taxpayers in case someone tries to sue with offsetting claims, so we keep a little aside and if it doesn’t get used then it goes back to the counties and to the foundation. 24.5% will be sent directly to the cities and counties in the lawsuit directly and 72.5% will go into the West Virginia First Foundation. That is set up to ensure representatives from every region across West Virginia, six different regions, are represented.”
Each of the six regions will elect a voting representative to sit on the foundation (a registered 501C-4), along with five additional representatives chosen by the governor. Grant County will be represented as part of the Eastern Region, sharing its votes with Pendleton, Hampshire, Hardy, Morgan, Jefferson, Berkeley and Mineral counties.
“I recognize that Berkeley and Jefferson counties are not right next door to you here in Grant,” Morrisey said. “I know to some it will be a big difference. But what you want to do is work together on your county and regional needs up front, because that is what is going to get fueled into that statewide effort and really give you a voice.”
Morrisey said he hopes that the foundation will ensure the funds in the foundation will be a longterm, sustainable solution.
“The goal is to have money to holistically go after the problem from a supply side, educational and prevention side, from an accountability side and a law enforcement side,” Morrisey said. “And that is what the foundation is doing.”
Morrisey said that once the litigation closes, a statewide needs assessment will take place to determine funding priorities.
“I think this is going to be a really big deal for the eastern part of the state,” Morrisey said. “I know when I have come to Grant County in the past, I have talked to many of you and to people about the transportation problems, of sometimes driving to get to health care facilities, including mental health services. This is a rural area and we recognize that, so we need to make sure that the money is spent taking that into account and that Grant County and other regions of the state don’t get left behind.”
Morrisey said money will begin being distributed to the state from the settlements later this year or early next year.
Other topics discussed during the event included:
• An update on a lawsuit fi led by the office concerning the Waters United States rule. Morrisey referred the rule as “federal overreach,” saying it attempted to restrict small waterways on private property, making it diffi cult and expensive for property owners to build on their own land. Morrisey said the effort was going well, and that progress had been made under former President Donald Trump but had stalled by President Joe Biden.
• Concerns he had about the Environmental Social Governance Policy, which he said would put an undue burden on businesses and companies concerning their environmental policies.
• A brief update on multiple lawsuits and investigations, including election law cases, abortion legislation, charter school rights and suits defending the state’s energy sector.
As Corridor H nears completion, residents fight state highway officials to route it around their towns
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By Alexa Beyer
Mountain State Spotlight
It was the quiet hour before Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe opened, and Walt Ranalli was rushing from the dining area to the storage room, carrying boxes that a supplier had left earlier that morning. The wood-paneled walls of the restaurant are decked with framed professional ski posters from the ‘80s and a portrait of Tucker County High School’s Mountain Lion of the year.
In a few hours, every table at Sirianni’s would be full. Tourism in Canaan Valley is thriving, even in the off-season and even without a highway exit nearby.
“If the powers that be want us to look like ‘everywhere- else America,’ I guess that’s how we’re gonna end up looking,” Ranalli said. He tapped the table for emphasis: “They don’t realize that that’s not why people come here. People come here because it doesn’t look like everywhere- else America.”
That’s why Ranalli is worried about Corridor H.
The long-planned project will stretch from I-79 near Weston, to the Virginia state line, across Tucker, Grant and Hardy counties. It is part of a network called the Appalachian Development Highway System that has been in the works since 1965 to better connect Appalachia with the rest of the country. Of the 24 highways in that system, Corridor H is one of the last to be completed. It’s also the one that West Virginians have argued about for decades.
Until recently, people in the region were divided about whether the highway should exist at all. Environmental groups and some area residents opposed the construction, saying the highway would destroy some of the most beautiful parts of West Virginia, fragmenting forests and changing the character of the small towns in the area for the worse.
But now, everyone seems to know the fourlane highway is coming. Most of Corridor H — stretching 117 miles — is open to traffic. So the fight is instead over where the most controversial, 10-mile section of the road will go. West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston is set on the state’s long-preferred route, which would take the road directly between the towns of Davis and Thomas — and he doesn’t seem to be wavering from it.
“The completion of Corridor H is inevitable, we’re going to build that road,” he told lawmakers in September.
But many residents and business owners — previously not always on the same page when it came to Corridor H — have joined to press the state for an alternative, one that would divert the segment to the north of Davis and Thomas. They say this route would preserve the uniqueness that attracts people to the community in the first place, unlike the DOH’s plan.
“I think it’ll just ruin the whole flair of what we’ve been able to create here,” Ranalli said.