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Plans to host International Overdose Awareness event at Landes Arts Center in Petersburg

The Grant County Harm Reduction program, sometimes referred to as the needle exchange, saw a massive uptick in use last month when approximately 238 syringes were brought in.

The topic was discussed during the monthly PITAR (Prevention, Intervention, Treatment, Anti-Stigma and Recovery) community meeting.

Roger Dodd of the Russ Hedrick Resource Recovery Center, said the increase has been a slowly building effort and that is would likely have a positive effect on the community.

“At the end of the day, that is 238 syringes that are safely locked in my office and not discarded in the park,” Dodd said. “It’s programs like this that remove that danger from our streets.”

“I just think people shouldn’t forget Bayard. This is a compounding issue if we don’t’ get it cleaned out this time, it will be worse next time. 

And that will go on forever.”

-Steve Durst


Nestled on the line between Grant County in West Virginia and Garrett County in Maryland, is the small town of Bayard. 

Like so many in West Virginia, the town was built on coal mining and industrial growth and once boasted a population of more than 1,000 people. 

It also holds a unique distinction of patriotism after sending more soldiers per capita to fight in World War I than any other town in the country. The town recalls this history with a large memorial in their town park.

However, over the years the town has shrunk. The population declined steadily over the decades and much of the industry in the region diminished. But while it may be smaller than it once was, Bayard is home to many Grant County residents.

One resident is Steve Durst, the town’s longtime mayor and advocate.   

Durst will point to many positive things about calling Bayard home, from the friendly atmosphere of a small town, the supportive nature of the residents, the beautiful landscape of the mountains and the safe community in which to raise a family. 

It is for these reasons that, apart from a six year hiatus, Durst has been mayor of Bayard since he was 25 years old. In that time, he has pressed for many local improvements, including everything from town roads and has strived to support local businesses. 

However, one of Durst’s longest-running battles has been the fight against the town’s surface water and flooding issues. Durst explains that the surface water issues faced by Bayard can be dated back to the Flood of 1985, when the town’s accumulation of sediment and debris began to greatly increase with each subsequent flooding event.

TEACHER - Amanda Barger, adult education instructor with Eastern Panhandle Instructional Cooperative (EPIC).

For more than 12 years, Grant County’s Amanda Barger has worked to ensure education is open to everyone, regardless of their age.

Barger is an adult education instructor with Eastern Panhandle Instructional Cooperative (EPIC), a program that partners with both the South Branch Career and Technical Center and Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College.

“We’re excited to work with EPIC because they provide all kinds of educational needs for the community,” Barger said. “And it fits right in line with what we do. Pretty much anything that deals with ensuring adults have ongoing education opportunities, we do it. And we do it for free, because it’s grant funded.”

Barger explained that the program goes far beyond high school equivalancy tests, and encompasses everything from tutoring, life skills, technology programs, interviewing and resume skills, and college support.

The final two individuals indicted by a federal grand jury for organizing and participating in a multi-county fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine distribution ring pleaded guilty for their role last week.

Dennis James Miller, 44, of Moorefield, has admitted to his involvement in the operation, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl.

Overall, Miller confessed to distributing more than 64 grams of fentanyl and more than 69 grams of 100% pure methamphetamine from January to June in Grant County and elsewhere.

Jared Judy, 29, of Petersburg, admitted to distributing more than 69 grams of 100% pure methamphetamine in May in Berkeley County.

Bob Milvet, the chief executive officer of Grant Memorial Hospital, appeared before the Grant County Commission last week to provide a quarterly update on the hospital. Through his presentation, Milvet said the hospital was working on multiple updates, including to the facility, as well as the services provided. He also pointed to positive up-turns in the hospital’s financial performance.

“Overall, I believe the hospital is slowly growing out of several years of dealing with volume declines as well as lagging and sluggish financial performance,” Milvet said. “There is no question we have had a bad couple of years in those two areas. When we start to have patients drive by our facility, we lose revenue.”

Milvet said one of the focuses of improvement for GMH has been growing the hospital within the community and striving to keep local residents comfortable remaining in the area for treatment as opposed to traveling to other hospitals.

“We have made decisions for the sole purpose of keeping business here locally in this community,” Milvet said. “That is how we will keep the hospital thriving in the future.”

According to an update given by CMTA Energy, the Grant County Board of Education is now seeing smaller electric bills due to countywide updates, including a large solar array that is now powering Petersburg Elementary School.

In the seven-month update, the board was informed that since making the changes, the county had saved approximately $86,400 in energy to the school facilities. These saving are the result of more effective technology and a nearly $18,000 correction in the county’s electric bill that was discovered previously by the company.

The CMTA representative explained that, due to the recent updates, Grant County has moved to the top 15% of the most energy efficient schools in the state. This point was echoed by facilities director Brent Nelson, who said the county was recently mentioned at a conference he attended as having one of the most improved energy systems in West Virginia.

Superintendent Doug Lambert said he was excited about the update, pointing to the changes as having multiple benefits not only for the schools but for the county.

Also speaking during the meeting was Maysville resident, Larry Porter, who addressed the board on their school safety efforts.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Department issued a reminder last week, cautioning drivers to slow down when driving near school zones.

“Please slow down and watch for buses,” the department cautioned. “Last year in the nation was one of the worst for children being struck and near misses loading on the buses.”

Beyond the danger presented to the students, drivers were warned that they could potentially lose their licenses and receive a fine for illegally passing a school bus.

They also encouraged local parents to take action in educating their children on basic safety topics.

“Parents, talk to your kids about bus stop safety on strangers, as well as looking for cars before going to the bus,” the department said. “Just because the stop sign is out, cars may still keep coming due to not paying attention.”

This is also a discussion that was echoed in this month’s meeting of the Petersburg City Council, with multiple complaints being expressed to the council concerning speeding in the areas surrounding Petersburg Elementary, Petersburg High and South Branch Career and Technical Center.

Last week, nearly a dozen citizens attended the regularly scheduled Petersburg City Council meeting to express their ongoing concerns with rising crime in the city, specifically in the region of Petersburg referred to as “The Field.”

The citizens asked to remain anonymous, due to possible retaliation seen by others speaking before the council in the past about the issue. One citizen said that one of the speakers in a past meeting even received property damage in retaliation.

“We are all here to talk to the council about a lot of issues we see in the east side of our community,” said one speaker. “Drugs run rampant down there and we have such an issue with drug houses.”

One speaker said they often sit out on their front porch and routinely see drug deals occur in front of nearby homes, namely rental properties.

On Aug. 8, Sergeant K.R. Thorne of the Grant County Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to Sheetz in Petersburg for a male who was reportedly under the influence of illegal drugs.

Upon the officer’s arrival, he observed a male standing at the counter, who was later identified as David Juan Phares, 30, of Petersburg.

Carole Taylor

Five women were chosen as 2019 West Virginia Women in Agriculture for their lifetime of work in the industry. The inductees were honored by Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt during a reception at the State Fair of West Virginia, on Aug. 11. From raising cattle and poultry to running a greenhouse and mentoring students in 4-H and FFA, these women are out- standing in their fields.

“Women now make up 38 percent of our state’s farmers,” said Leonhardt. “As more women consider agricultural careers, a lot of thanks is due to those who paved the way. These five women have had a tremendous impact on our state’s agricultural sector, as well as helped inspire the next generation of farmers.”

The WVDA began honoring Women in Agriculture in 2010. Since then 51 women, including this year’s honorees, have been recognized for their significant contributions to the agriculture industry.

Undercover FBI investigation leads to the arrest of local parents for severe abuse and exploitation

One of the most severe indictments returned from the Grant County Grand Jury last month, involved a set of local parents investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who allegedly committed multiple acts of sexual assault against a young child, with charges including everything from sexual violence to bestiality.

Jasper Elijah Shook, 32, and Christine E. Shook, of 2137 Kellers Ridge Rd., Petersburg have been indicted on charges of sexual abuse by a parent, sexual abuse in the first degree, displaying obscene matter to a minor, electronic distribution and exhibition of material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronic possession with the intent to view more than 50 but fewer than 600 images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronic possession with the intention to view more than 600 images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct, electronically possessing with the intention to view images of material visually portraying minor females engaged in sexually explicit conduct which depicts violence against a child, electronically possessing with the intention to view images of material visually portraying minor females engaged sexually explicit conduct which depicts a child engaging in bestiality and four counts of conspiracy.

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