www.wvgazettemail.com http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2017, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Funerals for: March 23, 2017 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT01/303239974 OBIT01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT01/303239974 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Allen, Rodney 1 p.m., Fairfield Church, Glenwood.


Barnett, David 11 a.m., Odd Fellows Cemetery, Cowen.


Bennett, Betty Jo 1 p.m., Wallace and Wallace Funeral Home, Lewisburg.


Crist, Clarence 2 p.m., Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home, Ansted.


Dowden, Brenda 2 p.m., Akers


Garrett, Rose 7:30 p.m., Wilson


Jennings, Wilda Mae Noon, Dodd


McPherson, Chris 11 a.m., Suncrest United Methodist Church, Morgantown.


Mullins, Jessie 11 a.m., Armstrong Funeral Home, Whitesville.


Raines, Howard 11 a.m., Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Beverly.


Roy, Doris "Dickie" Noon, Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

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Harry Adkins http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239984 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239984 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Harry Freddie Adkins, 69, of Hamlin, passed away: March 20, 2017. Funeral service will be 1 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin. Visiting hours will be 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 24, at Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

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David Barnett http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239975 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239975 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 David Wayne Barnett, 64, of Cowen, passed away February 27, 2017. Graveside memorial service will be 11 a.m., March 23, at the Odd Fellows Cemetery, Cowen. Arrangements by Morris Funeral Home.

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Helen Blanks http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239992 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239992 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Mrs. Helen Whitlow Blanks, 91, of Skelton, W.Va., died Thursday, March 9, 2017. Funeral service will be noon, Saturday, March 25, at First Baptist Church of North Beckley, 110 Ellis Street, Beckley. Friends may call one hour prior to the service at the church.Arrangements entrusted to Ritchie & Johnson Funeral Parlor, Beckley.

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Lacy E. Cochran http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239988 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/OBIT/303239988 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Lacy E. Cochran, 95, of Mathias, W.Va., passed away Thursday, March 16, 2017, at Sentara RMH in Harrisonburg, Va. He was born June 15, 1921, in Greenbrier County, W.Va. He was the oldest son of the late David F. and Ada Hankins Cochran.

He is survived by his wife of more than 70 years, Florence; three sons, Wendell and wife Faye of Mount Jackson, Va., Darrell and wife Madaline of Alexandria, Va., and Mark and wife Joyce of Raleigh, N.C.; seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He also is survived by one sister, Dorothy Newhouse of Baltimore, Md.;

One son, David; two brothers, Joseph and Edward; and two sisters, Edith and Glenna, preceded him in death.

He was a World War II veteran. A graduate of Berea College and West Virginia University, he spent more than 30 years teaching vocational agriculture in Hardy County schools. He received both the honorary West Virginia State Farmer Degree and the honorary American Farmer degree from the Future Farmers of America. Students and teams he coached won many state and national FFA awards. He served his community of Mathias in many ways, including helping to form a volunteer fire department and a cooperative telephone company. He was a devoted member of the Mathias Ruritan Club, with a 50-year-plus record of perfect attendance. He taught Sunday School at Cove Chapel United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. He also operated a successful insurance agency.

A funeral service was conducted on Monday, March 20 McKee Funeral Home in Baker, W.Va., with the Rev. Jonathan Hedrick and Pastor Heather Rogers officiating. He was buried in a private ceremony at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Mathias.

Contributions may be made in Lacy's honor to the East Hardy High Scholarship Fund or to other charities.

All arrangements were handled by McKee Funeral Home, Baker, W.Va.

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NC man gets max sentence in Boondocks shooting death http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329780 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329780 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:48:59 -0400 Kate White By Kate White Jerome Sutton said Thursday that he knows a North Carolina man didn't set out to kill his brother during a shootout last year at a North Charleston bar.

But Jacques Slade, of Gastonia, North Carolina, wasn't even supposed to have a gun the night Jamaine Sutton, 32, of Dunbar, was killed, said Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom on Thursday. Bloom handed down the maximum prison sentence to the man.

"People are too quick to pull out a gun. First of all, you should not have had a gun," the judge told Slade on Thursday.

Slade, 26, pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter for Jamaine Sutton's death, which occurred during a shootout at the Boondocks Bar and Grill on Washington Street West. Slade also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He initially was charged with murder.

Bloom on Thursday sentenced him to spend 15 years in prison for the manslaughter charge and five years for possessing a gun.

"To run consecutively," the judge said, "one after the other."

Before his sentence was handed down Thursday, Slade said nothing more than that he wanted to apologize to Sutton's family.

Slade, who is represented by former county prosecutor Mark Plants, admitted to firing shots on the night Sutton was killed, but said he wasn't aiming for Sutton.

"I didn't even know him," he said during his plea hearing.

The manslaughter charge carries a potential 3- to 15-year prison sentence and the gun charge carries a 5-year maximum.

Jerome Sutton spoke about what kind of person his younger brother was before the sentencing. The death has been a huge loss for his family, Jerome Sutton said.

"My brother had a daughter - has a daughter," Jerome Sutton said. "That's going to be rough road every day for her. He was a good person, a really good person. He was really well liked."

Although four other people were shot, Jamaine Sutton was the only one who died as a result of a shootout inside the bar which broke out just after 2 a.m. on May 14.

Jamaine Sutton was shot five times and pronounced dead at the scene, assistant Kanawha prosecutor Fred Giggenbach said. Any one of three gunshot wounds - one to his head, another in his shoulder and a shot in the back - would have killed the man, the prosecutor said.

"The defendant chose to pull a gun and fire very recklessly into a crowd," Giggenbach said of Slade. "We ask the court to impose the maximum sentence and run them consecutively."

The weapon used to kill Sutton has not been recovered. There is video of the incident but it's not clear, as the bar was very dark, according to Giggenbach. There also is no DNA or fingerprint evidence to show who shot Sutton, the prosecutor previously said.

While he said he knows Slade didn't set out to kill his brother, Jerome Sutton said he hopes Slade will spend his time in prison trying to change his life.

"I don't know much about him," Jerome Sutton said of Slade, "but I do know the rash decision he made that night cost my brother his life."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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Thair Phillips: ACA disaster looms for seniors, health care providers (Daily Mail) http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/DM0403/170329782 DM0403 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/DM0403/170329782 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:47:02 -0400 A unified Republican Congress is hard at work on a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

There is a strong possibility that in repeal, millions of senior citizens would continue to be hurt if Congress fails to restore critical Medicare funding that was used to pay for Obamacare.

More specifically, if made permanent, these cuts to Medicare would have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on some of our communities' most important health care institutions - community hospitals - especially those in rural communities.

The U.S. population is rapidly aging, with roughly 46 million Americans aged 65 and older, and is projected to reach 98 million by 2060. Seniors have paid into Medicare for their entire working lives, and they expect it to be there for them when they retire. This is particularly impactful in West Virginia, which has the second highest senior population in the country.

But it might not be there in any meaningful sense for millions of seniors if hospitals drop critical services because Washington has shrunk Medicare payments to absurdly low levels.

Congress faced a real problem when writing Obamacare. How was Washington supposed to pay to cover this growing Medicare population while also subsidizing health insurance for everyone else?

The Obamacare solution, if you want to call it that, was to cut Medicare payments as the population with other insurance coverage grew. They cut Peter (seniors) to pay Paul (subsidies for the previously uninsured).

RetireSafe strongly advocated against these Medicare cuts, which totaled $700 billion when it was all said and done. If we are unable to provide our seniors with proper care through Medicare funding, we are breaking an important promise to those who have made the United States the great country it is today.

Americans over the age of 65 use hospitals at three times the rate of those under the age of 65. What's more, Medicare payments are already well below the actual cost of treatment.

In 2015, Medicare underpaid hospitals by $41.6 billion, a study by the American Hospital Association found. Hospitals have been able to cover those expenses because the expansion of insurance coverage through Obamacare has reduced their losses elsewhere. When that cross-subsidy ends, hospitals, and seniors, will be in a terrible position.

Under current law, Medicare payments continue falling for decades to come. Hospitals' Medicare losses will keep rising as those payments keep falling. As we have already seen, the Medicare population will be going up while the payments will be going down.

There are a few ways Congress can reduce this impact. The easiest and most effective would be to reverse the previous cuts to Medicare and to account for inflation. That would return hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals, allowing them to cover the growing population of Medicare patients without reducing or eliminating services elsewhere.

There is no better or quicker fix to this looming problem.

Congress promised seniors that Medicare would be there for them. If it doesn't pay hospitals enough to cover the cost of treating Medicare patients, that promise is broken.

Congress can't expect hospitals to provide services they don't get paid for. That is wrong and dangerous. It not only cheats hospitals and seniors, it puts hospitals in the terrible position of deciding what other services to cut to make sure seniors get the care Washington promised them.

It doesn't have to be that way. If Congress just reverses its earlier Medicare cuts, there will be enough money to keep the promise to seniors and prevent hospitals from cutting services to others. It's the only move that makes sense.

Thair Phillips is president and CEO of RetireSafe an advocacy organization for seniors.

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WV Senate Education Committee OKs school vaccination exemptions http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0115/170329783 GZ0115 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0115/170329783 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:13:45 -0400 Jake Zuckerman By Jake Zuckerman A bill allowing for exemptions for students from receiving vaccinations before enrolling in public schools narrowly cleared the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.

The body has spent its last several sessions hearing testimony from doctors regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

Current law requires public school students to receive vaccinations from several different diseases including chicken pox, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough.

The committee voted 7-6 to send the proposal to the Senate floor, with the recommendation that the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee look it over first.

The proposed bill also allows for exemption from a vaccination mandate at colleges, universities, vocational schools, and in the workplace.

Students only are allowed out of the mandate if they show a physician's note saying that the specific immunization could cause a health problem.

At the various hearings, speakers and counsel drew brow-raising questions from different committee members.

On Thursday, Dr. Sharon Istfan, who has practiced medicine in Charleston for upward of 20 years, urged the committee to shoot down the proposal, saying it would be "moving backward" in terms of science and medicine.

"The vast amount of medical literature overwhelmingly supports immunization in its effectiveness and necessity in public health," she said.

Likewise, Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said the proposal is an insult to years of medical progress, citing Jonas Salk, who created the groundbreaking polio vaccine.

"I wonder how Jonas Salk would have felt if we eradicated polio only 50 percent of the way, but it was still around and getting transmitted because not everyone got inoculated," he said.

However, the bill drew support from senators and physicians alike.

Two doctors, Dr. Alvin Moss, director of the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, and Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of the controversial "Dissolving Illusions," an anti-vaccination book, both testified that vaccinations can be dangerous and ineffective.

Both of those doctors conceded they were in the minority of health professionals.

For more information on the contents, efficacy and need for vaccinations, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Services' sub-site at www.vaccines.gov.

West Virginia is one of three states, along with California and Mississippi that does not allow for any exemptions from school immunization requirements, according to research from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

However, 20 other states allow for philosophical exemptions, which can include religious reasons, according to the same source.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5149 or @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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New WV Senate bill leaves mine safety enforcement, targets water standards http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329784 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329784 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:09:47 -0400 Ken Ward Jr. By Ken Ward Jr. A new coal industry bill unveiled Thursday in a West Virginia Senate committee meeting would preserve the ability of state inspectors to enforce mine-safety standards, but still attempts to give companies another tool to fight federal lawsuits over water pollution from mountaintop removal mining.

The bill is a wholesale retreat from previously proposed legislation that would have eliminated almost all the authority of the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training to issue citations or levy fines when safety hazards or violations are discovered in West Virginia's mines.

Under the new legislation, six of the various mine safety boards that handle appeals and write rules would be consolidated into three panels. Existing powers, duties and staff would be retained.

Members of the Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining chose by unanimous voice vote to move the new bill on to the full Senate.

Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, again portrayed his original legislation as simply an effort to get various sides to the negotiating table to sort out some form of a bill to help the state's declining coal industry.

"There were a lot of problems with the original bill," said Smith, who is chairman of the EIM committee and is employed as a safety director for Mettiki Coal. "The original bill was kind of 'shock and awe.' We pulled a bunch of stuff out that we never had any intention of running."

As originated in committee Thursday, though, the bill contains only one practical improvement in mine safety: A requirement that all mines include in their first-aid equipment an automated external defibrillator.

Lobbyists for the United Mine Workers union and the West Virginia Coal Association told lawmakers they support the new bill. However, environmental groups complained that they weren't consulted by Smith on portions of the bill affecting how the state regulates strip mining.

"Nobody consulted with us," said John Street, legislative director for the West Virginia Environmental Council. "Nobody consulted the West Virginia Rivers Coalition."

The bill does away with additional scrutiny before bonds are released for reclamation at mountaintop removal mines with variances allowing them to ignore the general requirement that mines be reclaimed to their "approximate original contour," or AOC. That language was added to state law nearly two decades ago, when the Department of Environmental Protection settled a citizen lawsuit over lax enforcement of the AOC standard.

Retained in the new bill is language from the original proposal that would eliminate a requirement that the DEP ensure West Virginia's water quality standards support "a balanced aquatic community that is diverse in species composition."

Asked to explain that language, Smith referred a reporter to a coal industry lobbyist.

"I'm not the one to speak on the environmental [language]," Smith said. "That was Jason Bostic and the West Virginia Coal Association."

Bostic said later that the changes are part of the industry's continuing effort to fight U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance and rulings by U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers related to water pollution discharges from mining operations. Citizen lawsuits have targeted the effects on aquatic communities and species diversity from coal mining operations in successful court actions against mining operators.

Bostic said the issue is that state officials - not the EPA or federal judges - should decide how West Virginia regulates water quality.

"There is nobody in this country that can determine West Virginia's water quality standards but the people in this building." Bostic said at the Capitol. "Not the EPA or Judge Chambers or anybody else."

The original coal legislation caused a bit of a national stir, prompting an editorial in The New York Times and a Los Angeles Times commentary in which Coalwood native and "Rocket Boys" author Homer Hickham called moves to reduce state safety in enforcement in West Virginia and Kentucky "foolish ideas."

The new bill contains none of the broad-reaching changes to West Virginia's mine safety program that were in the original bill. That original bill, introduced by Smith, came from the coal association, a committee lawyer said Thursday, while the new bill was drafted by the committee lawyer, with input from other groups.

"The original language of Senate Bill 582 was prepared by the West Virginia Coal Association," said committee attorney Stephanie Ojeda, who formerly worked for Patriot Coal and Massey Energy. "This originating bill in front of the committee came from some discussions with other stakeholders, in addition to the West Virginia Coal Association."

The new bill transfers functions of the state's Mine Inspectors' Examining Board, the Board of Miner Training, Education and Certification, and the Mine Safety Technology Task Force to the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety.

It leaves two other panels, the Board of Appeals and the Coal Mine Safety and Technical Review Committee, intact. The bill also contains language to eliminate a board related to the use of diesel equipment in underground mines, but that board actually was abolished two years ago.

Smith called representatives of the coal association and the UMW to the podium during Thursday's committee meeting and asked if they supported the bill.

"As far as we can see, it looks like something we can live with," UMW lobbyist Ted Hapney said. Chris Hamilton, vice president of the coal association, said, "We do support the proposed bill."

Also, Bill Tucker, administrator of the state mine safety office, told lawmakers that, while he had only just received the bill, it did not appear to diminish safety protections for West Virginia's miners.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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WV DEP investigating coal slurry leak in Boone stream http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329785 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329785 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:49:39 -0400 Staff reports By Staff reports Officials with the Department of Environmental Protection are investigating after coal slurry leaked into a stream in Boone County.

Coal slurry on Thursday leaked into Crooked Run, which is near Peytona, according to a news release from the DEP.

Boone emergency dispatchers said they received one call about it at about 3:05 p.m. Thursday from a person in the Emmons area, which is northwest of Peytona.

The amount of coal slurry leaked wasn't known Thursday evening. Crooked Run flows into Drawdy Creek, which then flows into the Coal River. Some of the spilled coal slurry still is on site and remains in containment ponds, according to the release.

The DEP issued an imminent harm cessation order to Admiral Processing, an affiliate of Alpha Natural Resources, on Thursday following the spill, according to the release. That order remained in effect Thursday evening.

DEP inspectors from the agency's Division of Mining and Reclamation believe the spill was the result of a burst pipe at the facility.

Jake Glance, a spokesman for the DEP, said in the emailed release that the nearest water system is the Lincoln County Public Service District, which has a water intake about 17 miles downstream on the Coal River. The City of St. Albans also has a water intake on the Coal River. Glance wrote that officials at both water treatment plants had been notified of the spill.

According to the news release, the state Bureau for Public Health has reported that both water intakes will be shut down overnight as a precaution, which won't affect customers. The bureau will contact both plants Friday morning to determine what, if any, changes are detected in the raw water supply.

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Trial approaches for South Charleston man charged in child's killing http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0118/170329786 GZ0118 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0118/170329786 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:38:20 -0400 Kate White By Kate White Before jurors decide the fate of a South Charleston man accused of killing and stuffing a 2-year-old boy in a freezer, prosecutors must decide which charge they want him to be found guilty of.

Jarrel Stricklen, 24, who is accused of killing Gavin Aldridge in May 2015, was indicted by a Kanawha County grand jury on both charges of first-degree murder and death by a parent, guardian, custodian or other person by refusal to supply necessities.

During a pretrial hearing on Thursday, one of Stricklen's lawyers asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King to require prosecutors pick one of those charges to bring against Stricklen at trial.

"These are contrary indictments," said Charleston lawyer Matthew Stonestreet. "One of them accuses him of premeditation, while the other says he failed to care. This puts [Stricklen] at a disadvantage defending himself. Are we accusing him of failing to do something or actually doing something?

"We just want to know what he's charged with," Stonestreet said.

Assistant Kanawha prosecutor Maryclaire Akers told King that Stricklen is indicted "in the alternative." That means jurors are presented with both charges to decide between.

Akers said the case was brought with an alternative charge against Stricklen because of the autopsy conducted on the 2-year-old by the state Medical Examiner.

King, despite saying he didn't see how the two charges put Stricklen at a disadvantage, ruled prosecutors must make up their mind about which charge for jurors to deliberate on before closing arguments are made in the case.

Gavin Aldridge died from "physical assault with fatal asphyxiation with the possibility of hypothermia," according to an autopsy conducted by the state Medical Examiner. "We charged it that way because it depends which way the Medical Examiner goes," Akers said of the two charges Stricklen faces.

Something stopped the boy from breathing, but no water was found in his lungs or nose, South Charleston police previously said. Stricklen initially told police the child's death was an accidental drowning. The Medical Examiner wrote that the "findings were inconsistent with a drowning," however.

The child had been dead for several hours when Stricklen allegedly placed him in a freezer. He didn't call 911 until the next day, prosecutors said.

Stricklen's trial had been set to begin on Monday, but King agreed Thursday to push it back. Prosecutors requested a continuance in the trial because a witness they expect to call to testify as an expert won't be available next week, Akers said.

A new trial date was expected to be scheduled Friday, King said.

Stricklen had been set to go to trial in December but a psychological report to determine his competency hadn't yet been provided to King at the time. Stricklen was determined competent to stand trial, the report showed.

Akers revealed during Thursday's hearing that on the day of the toddler's death, Stricklen had asked to babysit the boy three times. The child's mother eventually dropped the boy off at Stricklen's house before taking his twin brother for an emergency room visit because that boy had hit his head on a coffee table, according to Akers.

Troy Giatras, another of Stricklen's lawyers, has questioned why the child was left with Stricklen in the first place. He wasn't a paid babysitter and didn't really know the child's mother, Meghan Aldridge.

Stricklen's lawyers Thursday asked that they be provided transcripts of interviews conducted by officials with Child Protective Services and Meghan Aldridge's three other children in the aftermath of Gavin's death.

When prosecutors pushed back, Stonestreet said that prosecutors "are saying every bruise [on the child] is a product of this one incident."

"If there have been other abuse allegations made we should know about them. One kid went to the emergency room on the day the child went to the defendant's," Stonestreet said.

Akers said she didn't have any documents from CPS involving an investigation into the child's mother. She said it would require an order from King to obtain the sealed information. The prosecutor also said she didn't think a CPS report would change the case against Stricklen.

"The defendant only watched one of the twin boys and maybe only one or two times before this incident. The mother was never present and there are no allegations of abuse against her," the prosecutor said. "He is the only person who had custody of the child when the child was suffocated and killed," Akers added, pointing toward Stricklen.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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WV House committee sends watered-down voter ID bill to floor http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0101/170329787 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0101/170329787 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:17:53 -0400 Jake Zuckerman By Jake Zuckerman The House Judiciary Committee sent a bare-bones, edited version of a new voter-identification law to the chamber floor Thursday for consideration by the full West Virginia House of Delegates.

The original bill would have required state-issued photo identification to vote, making West Virginia one of the strictest states, in terms of voting standards.

However, the new version of the bill only delays last year's voter identification law - which has not yet been enacted - until July 1, 2019.

The new bill also stops a requirement that the Division of Motor Vehicles forward to the Secretary of State's Office information from anyone who opts out of registering to vote.

To cast a ballot under the originally proposed bill, voters would have needed to present a driver's license, West Virginia identification card, a government-issued employee photo identification card or a military photo identification card.

The House passed a similar proposal last year, although the Senate whittled it down to the state's new standards, where voters can use almost any form of identification, including a hunting license, bank card or even another adult to vouch for their identity to a poll worker.

Voter identification has been polarizing state legislatures across the country. Opponents say it's a means of disenfranchising poor, elderly and minority voters who tend to lack state identification more than other demographics, and also tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

On the flip side, proponents of the bill say it's a necessary move to combat voter fraud.

In an interview before the bill went into subcommittee, Delegate Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, who also is the lead sponsor of the proposal, said her constituents have provided her enough anecdotal evidence to convince her that stricter laws are needed.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in West Virginia.

Blair could not be reached for comment on the updated bill.

Joseph Cohen, executive director of the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, lauded the committee substitute for the original bill.

"We're very happy to see that the bill that was introduced has been dramatically improved," he said. "We're opposed to voter ID laws, in principle, but we're very, very happy to see that the legislation that the subcommittee came out with would not make last year's law any worse."

Last year's law and this year's bill call for voters to present one of the following at a poll to vote: a government-issued identification card, with or without a photo; a college or high school identification card; a health insurance card; a utility bill; a bank card or bank statement; or another adult who has known the voter for six months or more confirming his or her identity to the poll worker.

Last year's law is scheduled to take effect July 1 of this year. If the Legislature and governor approve Thursday's bill, it will be delayed until July 1, 2019.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814, or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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WV Senate bill would eliminate civil service for state employees http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0101/170329789 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0101/170329789 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:58:37 -0400 Phil Kabler By Phil Kabler All West Virginia state employees could be fired at any time under a bill up for consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charlie Trump, R-Morgan, lead sponsor of the bill (SB408) to end civil service protection for employees, said it would make state agencies more nimble and flexible in addressing personnel matters, making it easier to hire state employees, and to promote good employees and remove poor employees.

"We have excellent employees working for the state in all branches of government, and we also have others that don't meet that standard," Trump said Thursday.

However, Communications Workers of America representative Elaine Harris said the bill would take away what little job security state workers have.

"There's no checks and balances with this bill. It wipes out everything," said Harris, who represents Division of Corrections workers, among other state employee groups.

"These are hardworking, low-paid, and oftentimes, not respected state workers that struggle each and every day," she said. "This is the last thing they need to worry about."

Civil service laws date back to the 19th century, intended to quash political hiring and firing and a spoils system for public employees, creating a system of hiring and promotions based on qualifications and seniority.

Trump said he wants to eliminate a "culture of grievance" in state government.

According to the state Public Employees Grievance Board annual report, state employees filed more than 1,200 grievances in 2016, most often for compensation, disciplinary actions, or non-disciplinary employment actions, including transfers, reductions in force or other actions. A significant number of grievances alleged violations of state or federal laws or regulations by employers.

Harris said the proposed legislation would leave state employees with no protections in the workplace.

"There are good bosses and there are bad bosses. If somebody doesn't like you, they can find ways to make things difficult, or sometimes, make you lose your job," she said. "If there's an issue in the Division of Personnel, let's fix it, rather than broad-brush wipe out a system that's working."

Besides eliminating civil service and making all state employees at-will employees as of July 1, the bill would also change procedures for employee grievances, and has been amended to include provisions sought by Gov. Jim Justice to be able to furlough state employees during times of state fiscal emergencies.

The furlough provisions would authorize the governor to furlough state employees to address budget deficits or in the event the state budget has not been passed prior to the start of the new fiscal year, each July 1.

State employees would maintain state benefits during periods of furlough. Without that provision, if state government were to shut down if no state budget is passed by the start of the fiscal year, employees would effectively have to be terminated and rehired, potentially losing accrued benefits.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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Coalfield Development Corp. gets $20,000 donation from Moses Auto Mall http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ03/170329790 GZ03 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ03/170329790 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:54:56 -0400 Staff reports By Staff reports The Coalfield Development Corporation will receive a $20,000 donation from Moses Auto Mall of Huntington to develop its business incubator space in Huntington.

A ceremony to mark the donation will take place at 10 a.m. on March 29 at the Ritter Park Rose Garden in Huntington, according to a news release from Coalfield Development.

The business incubator space, known officially as the West Edge Creativity Activation Nexus, is located inside the West Edge Factory in the city's West End, formerly a garment factory slated for demolition. It will focus on assisting artists to turn their creative skills into a profitable business enterprise.

The donation contributes to a campaign that plans to create at least 35 jobs and 200 professional certifications in enterprise sectors as part of the West Edge Factory's development.

Coalfield Development is a nonprofit company with a focus in community redevelopment and workforce training in southern West Virginia.

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Daily Mail editorial: To improve education, stop micromanaging educators http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/DM0402/170329791 DM0402 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/DM0402/170329791 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:19:50 -0400 It seems like the state's governing structure for public education is sort of like your 12th-grade English teacher at the time the class was assigned to write its first term paper (before such assignments were done online).

The teacher issues a long list of instructions: Center the heading at the top of Page 1. Double-space each line. Set the left margin at 1 inch, the right margin at one and one-half inches. Put the page number, starting on Page 2, on the lower right-hand corner of each page. Document your sources with footnotes following exactly Strunk and White's Elements of Style.

Even though there have been some efforts toward improvement, micromanagement of public education still seems to be a fault of the West Virginia Legislature.

As reported by Gazette-Mail education reporter Ryan Quinn, Senate Bill 18 would ban the state Board of Education from using its current Smarter Balanced tests or tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), even though the state school board has said it plans to discontinue Smarter Balanced.

Both Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing systems specifically were built to align to the Common Core math and English language arts national education standards blueprint. The legislation also would require the state to, starting next school year, "use a new comprehensive statewide student assessment program."

It says this assessment program must be used "for at least a total of four consecutive years." Meaning, even if administrators find the new program a disaster, by law they would still have to implement it in subsequent years regardless.

And it goes on like those detailed rules for your 12th-grade term paper.

The point here isn't to favor or disfavor those particular standards but to remind legislators of the often overlooked 2012 Education Efficiency Audit, which pointed out that West Virginia had the most overly controlled school system of any state the auditors had seen.

Much of that over control is due to well-meaning legislation over the years that imposes burdens and restricts flexibility among local school administrators and teachers.

West Virginia ranks among the bottom in education achievement. Not all of the factors that cause low performance are the fault of the school system.

But we must wonder, perhaps overregulation of our school system is holding our teachers back from doing a better job educating their charges.

Innovation is one subject that needs more attention in school. Teach students a trade or skill not just so they can find jobs, but so they might create their own. The same lesson is needed for legislators and education bureaucrats: Free the teachers and administrators to innovate, and watch them improve our state's education system.

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WV Senate amends Tourism funding bill to include bond sales http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329792 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ01/170329792 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:14:55 -0400 Phil Kabler By Phil Kabler Gov. Jim Justice's plan to reorganize the state Division of Tourism will be up for a passage vote in the Senate Friday - but with an amendment approved Thursday that could effectively hold funding for all state tourism advertising hostage.

In Senate Bill 535, as amended by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, the state would have until Jan. 1 to sell some $52.5 million of bonds to build lodges at the Cacapon Resort and Beech Fork state parks.

If that deadline is missed, under the amendment, all funding for state tourism advertising would be cut off until the projects are funded. Justice has made promoting and expanding tourism a key component of his economic development agenda, with proposals to increase state Tourism's advertising and marketing budget by $10.6 million a year.

"We could set a TV up. There's 283 days," Trump said of the proposed deadline to sell the bonds, referencing the "budget countdown" monitor Justice has set up outside the governor's office counting down the time remaining in the regular session.

Legislators in 2012 approved legislation in authorizing the sale of bonds for improvements to the parks in Morgan County in the eastern panhandle and in Cabell and Wayne counties, and the state Economic Development Authority voted to issue the bonds in 2013.

However, the bonds - which are to be financed with state Lottery profits - have never gone in market, because of an ongoing downturn in state Lottery revenues as openings of casinos in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have siphoned gamblers away from the state's four racetrack casinos.

In January 2015, then-Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told legislators the state had maxed out the amount of bonds it could issue using future Lottery profits as bond payments. Over the years, Lottery profits have been committed to a wide variety of bonds sold to build public schools, as well as a number of economic and community development projects, including the Clay Center and Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.

On Thursday, Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, likened the state's situation with Lottery funding to a family that has a home mortgage, a car loan, and a loan on a boat.

"It's like if you go back to buy something else, and they [the bankers] tell you, well, you have too much debt," Hall said, adding, "There's some concern if you want to sell these bonds, either the interest rates would be prohibitive, or you couldn't sell them at all."

Nonetheless, the Senate approved Trump's amendment on a 27-6 vote, with Sens. Facemire, Hall, Miller, Palumbo, Prezioso, and Romano voting no. Sen. Robert Beach, D-Monongalia, was absent.

It's not the first time Trump has tried to use legislation to secure funding for the Cacapon Resort State Park improvements. In 2015, he amended a supplemental appropriations bill to include a directive to sell the bonds.

However, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin used his line-item veto authority on budget bills to erase that provision.

Also Thursday on the House floor, delegates soundly defeated an amendment by Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, to remove a section of a bill that would allow firearms at Coonskin Park outside of Charleston.

Pushkin said the provision, which would prohibit county commissions from enforcing firearms bans in county parks, was inserted into a "clean-up" bill to correct language in legislation passed last year allowing firearms in state parks.

Pushkin said, as best he can determine, the county prohibition would apply only to Coonskin Park, which he said presents unique circumstances, given its proximity to Yeager Airport and the National Guard armory.

"You can see the nuts and bolts of aircraft when they're landing or taking off from Yeager Airport," Pushkin said, saying the provision also is at odds with the Republican-controlled Legislature's philosophy to shift governmental powers from Charleston to localities.

"We're dealing with the constitutional right of our citizens to bear arms," Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, countered. "It's very important to have uniformity in these laws."

Pushkin's amendment was rejected on a 7-92 vote, with Delegates Caputo, Fleischauer, Hornbuckle, Lane, Pushkin, Pyles, and Rowe voting in favor, and with Delegate Brad White, R-Kanawha absent.

The bill will be on passage stage in the House Friday.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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Adolescent abortion bill up for floor vote in WV House http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0115/170329793 GZ0115 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0115/170329793 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:02:17 -0400 Erin Beck By Erin Beck The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would place new restrictions on adolescent abortion in West Virginia.

Lawmakers had originally introduced a bill that would no longer allow a physician to waive the parental notification requirement before an adolescent abortion. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, would have required the minor to be emancipated or go before a judge for abortion access.

West Virginia law currently requires a doctor to give parents at least 24 hours notice before another doctor can perform an abortion on an adolescent, but it includes two exceptions - minors may obtain a waiver from a physician or from a judge.

After a public hearing drew mostly opposition, from both sexual abuse survivors and women's health advocates, the judiciary committee sent the bill to a subcommittee for further review.

Members of the subcommittee, which included Delegates Amy Summers, R- Taylor, Barbara Fleischauer, D- Monongalia, and Kessinger, amended the bill so that most physicians would no longer be able to waive parental notification, but psychiatrists, as well as licensed psychologists, would be able to do so.

Thursday, the judiciary committee approved the subcommittee's amended version of the bill and sent it to the House floor for a vote. If it passes there, it will also have to go to the state Senate for consideration.

Summers said after the meeting that she wasn't aware where the state psychological or psychiatric associations stood on the legislation.

Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, said they do not have an official stance on the bill, but upon first look, they are concerned about how quickly adolescent girls could access a psychologist or psychiatrist and would like to see a process in place for getting them referred quickly.

"I'm sure our members would be willing to do that," he said. The association represents the 13 comprehensive community mental healthcare centers in West Virginia, as well as some private clinics.

"Nobody's asked about that," he said.

Allison Adler, spokeswoman for Department of Health and Human Resources, said DHHR has also not been consulted for input.

In the original version of the bill, physicians could also have been subject to criminal penalties. The House Health and Human Resources Committee previously amended it so that physicians who violate the law are subject to discipline from state licensing boards.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Adolescence, the American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association have spoken out against requiring minors to go to court for access to care.

West Virginia Free, the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group and the West Virginia State Medical Association spoke against the original bill. West Virginians for Life and the Catholic Conference of West Virginia have supported it.

Following Tuesday's subcommittee meeting, representatives of WV Free and the ACLU who were present said they continue to oppose the bill.

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5163, Facebook.com/erinbeckwv, or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

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Paine picked to return as WV state schools superintendent http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0117/170329794 GZ0117 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0117/170329794 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:00:27 -0400 Ryan Quinn By Ryan Quinn Steve Paine will return for a second stint as West Virginia schools superintendent. State Board of Education members voted to hire him Thursday, after several hours of closed-door meetings.

Paine, who was superintendent from mid-2005 through the end of 2010, and two other candidates were interviewed, and Paine was then hired at an annual salary of $230,000. The board hired Paine in a voice vote, with no nays heard. There was no public discussion among board members before the vote.

Paine will start Monday. In September, Superintendent Michael Martirano announced that he planned to leave on June 30. School board President Tom Campbell said he asked Martirano on Thursday to leave earlier, and Martirano agreed.

"He's got some family things going on, and the board feels that we have a - obviously there's a lot going on here," Campbell said. "We wish him very well, he's been very gracious throughout this process, and we wish him well. We just, the board felt we needed to establish some stability."

Campbell noted that the legislative session is ending on April 9 and a tough budget year is ahead.

"We had talked about the fact that we might find it necessary before June 30 to make a transition," Campbell said of Martirano, whom he said is expecting the birth of a grandchild.

Martirano was out of the office Thursday afternoon. He also made the equivalent of $230,000 annually, but he has no contract that must be bought out, and Terry Harless, the Department of Education's chief financial officer, said his pay period ends Friday.

The state superintendent is an at-will employee of the Board of Education.

Campbell said there were many factors involved in the decision to pick Paine but said, in having the job before, "he does have a great deal of experience of the position and how to implement it."

The board's announced finalists were Paine; Kathy D'Antoni, the education department's chief career and technical education officer; and Blaine Hess, superintendent of Jackson County's public schools.

The board spent about an hour with D'Antoni, at least an hour with Hess and about an hour and a half with Paine, all behind closed doors. School board secretary Virginia Harris said all three finalists had asked for their interviews to be in closed session.

Board members spent about an hour and a half in closed session after the interviews. In all, they met behind closed doors from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

The board's two newest members, Jeffrey D. Flanagan of Kanawha County and Frank Vitale of Monongalia County, took part in the interviews. Flanagan was sworn in at the meeting, and Vitale was sworn in beforehand. Gov. Jim Justice announced their appointments to the board Wednesday afternoon.

Vitale took part in the meeting by conference call, but was not present for the vote to hire Paine. All other board members were either at the meeting or on the telephone.

Paine began serving as Wayne County's interim schools superintendent last month, according to the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington. He served in 2010 as president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a role in which he advocated for states to adopt the Common Core math and English language arts standards blueprint. The council and the National Governors Association were leaders in the development of the standards.

According to a National Assessment Governing Board biography, Paine also is one of the founders of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which developed the Common Core-aligned standardized tests that the West Virginia school board is now planning to move away from.

Paine also served on the separate National Assessment Governing Board, which controls the National Assessment of Educational Progress that's given to statistically representative samples of students across the country.

Following his first term as state superintendent, Paine worked for a year as a vice president for New York-based test maker and education software giant CTB/McGraw-Hill, with which West Virginia had done millions of dollars in business during Paine's superintendent tenure.

Paine's LinkedIn page says he later worked as a senior adviser for the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation. He also worked for California-based Engrade, and later for California-based BrightBytes, which has an existing $1.5 million, three-year contract with the West Virginia Department of Education.

Seppy Basili, BrightBytes' chief revenue officer, said Paine was involved in supporting BrightBytes' rollout in the state, providing advice and counsel.

"I retired, like, right at the beginning of 2011 and went to the private sector, when I was eligible to retire," Paine said. "And I thought I'd try something different, and I've done that. And now I'm ready to give back some lessons that I've learned over my career, both in the public sector and the private sector, and I think that what I've learned and, perhaps, the knowledge and the skills that I've gained could be very beneficial here."

Regarding the companies he worked for before returning to the superintendent position, Paine said he has absolutely no conflicts of interest.

"I am fully divested of any interest in any of these companies, and so that happened before I went to Wayne County Schools," Paine said. "I have no association with any of those companies."

Regarding Wayne schools, Paine said that he and other staff must notify 70 to 80 employees on Friday that they are to either be transferred or have their jobs cut.

The Department of Education, which the state school board oversees through its superintendent, publicly released the names of the finalists in a news release distributed Wednesday morning. Campbell said the board came up with its list of finalists late last week, but said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, someone still had to notify his or her current employer before the names would be released.

Campbell has said there were eight in-state applicants and four-out-of-state applicants for the job, which had been posted from Feb. 17 through March 10.

Board attorney Mary Catherine Tuckwiller said two of the dozen applicants were deemed unqualified.

Education department spokeswoman Kristin Anderson would not say this week if a posting in the national education news outlet Education Week was the only posting of the position beyond the one on the state department's website, or how long the Education Week posting was up for before the application deadline.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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Police: Current, past Boone school board members under investigation http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0118/170329796 GZ0118 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0118/170329796 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:39:27 -0400 Giuseppe Sabella By Giuseppe Sabella West Virginia State Police are investigating Mark Sumpter, a former member of the Boone County Board of Education, and Danny Cantley, a current member, as part of an embezzlement case that led to the arrest of two others earlier this month.

Cantley is listed as a current board member on the Boone County Schools website, along with a criminal complaint filed in Boone County Magistrate Court on March 8.

Sumpter left his position as the board's president in late October 2016. In a past interview, Sumpter said personal issues and his plans to leave the county led to the resignation.

Cpl. Dean Brinegar, who is investigating the case, confirmed both Sumpter and Cantley are being investigated.

"They received property that was paid for by Boone County Schools," he alleged.

Brinegar said more information about the ongoing investigation will likely be available in the coming weeks.

Earlier this month, police arrested two employees of the Boone County Schools Transportation Department after they allegedly stole more than $20,000 through fraudulent purchases.

David Jarrell, who served as the transportation director, and Tracy Harvey, who worked as a mechanic, reportedly bought tires, lift kits, mud flaps and a host of other goods for their own use.

Authorities charged Jarrell and Harvey with embezzlement and fraudulent schemes. Before their arraignment, both men told police they made fraudulent purchases for Cantley and Sumpter, who are still under investigation.

After the initial arrests, Superintendent Jeff Huffman said the lost money could have gone toward employee salaries.

When it comes to the public school system's more than 500 employees, the full-time professionals suffered a $3,800 to $4,000 salary cut in July, and the full-time service employees - including custodians and bus drivers - suffered a $3,650 to $3,850 salary cut.

Huffman, Sumpter and Cantley could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Reach Giuseppe Sabella at giuseppe.sabella@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or @Gsabella on Twitter.

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Huntington's Mikal Dawson among All-MSAC boys hoops first-teamers http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0203/170329798 GZ0203 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170323/GZ0203/170329798 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:22:43 -0400 Staff report By Staff report Mikal Dawson of Class AAA state champion Huntington is one of eight players named to the first team of the All-Mountain State Athletic Conference boys basketball squad.

Dawson averaged 22 points per game to rank second in the MSAC in scoring. The league scoring leader, Jamison Hunt of Ripley (23.3 ppg) is also on the first team.

Rounding out the first team are Anthony Pittman (Capital), Justin Phillips (George Washington), Tamon Scruggs (South Charleston), Karson Snyder (Parkersburg), Chandler Stacy (Spring Valley) and Isaiah Francis (Woodrow Wilson).

Earlier this season, Capital senior point guard Leondre' Rogers was announced as the MSAC player of the year and the Cougars' Matt Greene was selected as the coach of the year.

All-Mountain State Athletic Conference

First team

Mikal Dawson, Huntington, Jr.; Isaiah Francis, Woodrow Wilson, Sr.; Jamison Hunt, Ripley, Sr.; Justin Phillips, George Washington, Jr.; Anthony Pittman, Capital, Jr.; Tamon Scruggs, South Charleston, Sr.; Karson Snyder, Parkersburg, Sr.; Chandler Stacy, Spring Valley, Sr.

Second team

Bunky Brown, George Washington, So.; Tracy Conliffe, George Washington, Sr.; John Dawson, Huntington, Sr.; Nick Muto, Hurricane, Jr.; E.J. Phillips, South Charleston, Jr.; T.J. Wood, Riverside, Jr.; Breland Walton, Woodrow Wilson, Sr.; Courtney Walton, Woodrow Wilson, Sr.

Special mention

Capital - Anthony Dean, Kerry Martin Jr.; George Washington - Traevon Isabell; Huntington - Grant Subik; Hurricane - Braxton Dobert; Parkersburg - Tyler Lawrentz, Brenton Strange, Kam White; Ripley - Eli Casto; South Charleston - Cam Allen, Isiah Hodges; Spring Valley - Derek Johnson; St. Albans - Rodney Toler; Woodrow Wilson - Tarek Payne

Honorable mention

Cabell Midland - Tanner Brandon; Capital - Tevin Pinkett; George Washington - Ben Arthur; Huntington - Jadon Hayes; Hurricane - Jacob Lawrence; Parkersburg - Parker Miller; Ripley - Nathan Hall; Riverside - Jacob Clark; South Charleston - James Moore; St. Albans - Dionte Patterson; Spring Valley - Casey Hinchman; Woodrow Wilson - Bryce Radford

Special awards

Player of the year - Leondre' Rogers, Capital; Coach of the year - Matt Greene, Capital

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