Ex-coal miners to be hired for apple tree planting project

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Officials say displaced coal miners and veterans will be hired as part of an apple tree-planting project.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says in a news release that the Patriot Guardens Golden Delicious Apple Project will receive $5.3 million. It’s part of a $90 million abandoned mine lands reclamation pilot program in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The DEP says the apple tree project was initiated by the West Virginia National Guard. It involves planting 100,000 apple trees on 500 acres in Nicholas and Clay counties. Clay County is the birthplace of the golden delicious apple.

The DEP release didn’t say how many ex-coal miners would be hired. Thousands of miners have been laid off in recent years due to the economic downturn in the coal industry.

West Virginia wildflowers displayed in free calendar

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia conservation officials are offering a free 2017 calendar featuring photographs of wildflowers along roadsides.

Sponsored by the Department of Environmental Protection, the calendar contains 12 pictures of flowers growing naturally along West Virginia’s roads that were judged best by state officials.

They were selected to represent the months of the year with a grand prize winner on the cover.

That’s a photograph of wild phlox growing beside Hern’s Mill Covered Bridge in Greenbrier County taken by Leiane Gibson, of Princeton.

To order a calendar, visit http://www.dep.wv.gov/dlr/oer/reap/ow/Pages/default.aspx ; call 1-800-322-5530; or email dep.aah@wv.gov.

Requests are limited to one calendar per household.

DHS analyst who took a gun to work pleads to weapons charge

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A Department of Homeland Security analyst has pleaded guilty to making illegal silencers after taking a gun and other weapons into his agency’s building in Washington.

Jonathan Wienke pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to illegally making a firearm.

Court filings allege Wienke carried a backpack with a knife, infrared camera, pepper spray and handcuffs into agency headquarters June 9. Authorities found a gun in his pocket, and later found ingredients for explosives and gun silencers at his Martinsburg home.

Wienke faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a lesser sentence.

The department’s chief security officer told a congressional subcommittee there’s “no indication” Wienke planned workplace violence.

Officials to shift funds to save McDowell deputies’ jobs

WELCH, W.Va. (AP) — McDowell County officials have voted to shift funds in an effort to keep six deputies slated to be laid off by the end of the year.

Before the County Commission’s vote Tuesday, Sheriff Martin West told officials that if the deputies are laid off, the department would lose its night shift and could be seriously hampered in its daytime emergency responsibilities.

The commissioners voted to give the sheriff’s department $21,000 a month that had been bound for the McDowell County Ambulance Authority, news outlets reported. The money will be disbursed from January to July 2017, in what officials called a temporary fix.

County Commission President Harold McBride says the ambulance authority had to be idled earlier this year because of financial difficulties.

West said he hoped the commission’s action Tuesday would allow him to retain some of the deputies, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported. West estimated his department needed $38,000 to $39,000 a month to keep all six.

“They voted to help us out some, and that’s all I was asking for,” West said after the meeting. “If they could help sustain us until money starts coming in and we would be able not cut off six deputies, so I’m glad they offered some help today.”

Application approved to resettle refugees in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Organizers say the U.S. State Department has approved an application to resettle some international refugees in Charleston.

Episcopal Migration Ministries, a national organization, and the West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry submitted an application in October to resettle 100 refugees in Charleston within the first year.

Rabbi Victor Urecki, a local organizer, tells the Charleston Gazette-Mail (http://bit.ly/2haZKhF ) the application was approved.

The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, director at Episcopal Migration Ministries, says the Charleston affiliate will join its network of 30 sites across the country providing safety “for people who have had to flee their homes because of war, persecution, or other violence.”

The United Nations reported in June that 21.3 million refugees were displaced from their homes at the end of last year, more than half children.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.

West Virginia deputy shoots man with pellet gun

STONEWOOD, W.Va. (AP) — The Harrison County sheriff says one of his deputies shot a 26-year-old man wielding a pellet gun when authorities tried to serve him with a warrant.

Sheriff Albert Marano tells The Exponent Telegram (http://bit.ly/2h2o2Hl ) that Codey Hardman was shot Tuesday evening in Stonewood.

The Bridgeport man was taken to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where a hospital spokesman says Wednesday that he’s in critical condition.

According to Marano, the pellet gun looked like a .45-caliber handgun, causing the deputy to shoot.

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Information from: The Exponent Telegram, http://www.theet.com

Justice chooses former sheriff as his public safety chief

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov.-elect Jim Justice has made his first Cabinet selection, choosing former Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy to be his secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

A former special agent in the U.S. Treasury Criminal Investigations Division, Sandy is a Wood County native and currently partner in Perry Forensic Investigations LLC.

He was elected sheriff in 2008 and appointed to the board of the Regional Jail Authority, where he was elected chairman in 2012.

According to Justice’s transition team, Sandy has certifications for investigating fraud and money laundering, worked in Iraq on counter-terrorism and participated in a federally funded anti-terrorism training of police officers.

He would replace Secretary Joseph Thornton overseeing 10 agencies, including State Police, Division of Corrections and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Parkersburg closer to allowing Sunday morning alcohol sales

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Parkersburg is closer to joining other home rule cities to pass a so called “brunch bill” to allow alcohol sales before 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The News and Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2hd5dWG ) reports that the City Council passed the ordinance in its final reading Tuesday by a 5-2 vote.

Gene Butler, owner of the Polo Club in Parkersburg, spoke in favor of the ordinance, arguing that the city has been losing tax revenue because people drive across the nearby border to drink in Ohio on Sunday mornings.

Council President John Rockhold voted against the bill, arguing that the city was taking on a greater potential liability.

Rockhold says he believes the bill will be approved by the home rule board because similar measures have been approved for other cities in the program.

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Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com

Wheeling council passes anti-discrimination LGBT ordinance

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Wheeling has become West Virginia’s 11th city to pass a policy protecting the housing and employment rights for LGBT citizens.

News outlets report the Wheeling City Council voted 7-0 to establish new anti-discrimination protections in the city’s human rights ordinance based on sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status on Tuesday.

The Intelligencer (http://bit.ly/2h2mcpK ) says the ordinance includes exemptions for religious institutions, as well as employers with fewer than 12 employees.

It also gives the city’s human rights commission the ability to issue cease-and-desist orders in response to complaints under the new policy if attempts at conciliation fail. The commission can have the courts enforce those orders if they are not obeyed.

Wheeling is the fifth city in the state to approve such a measure this year.

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Information from: The Intelligencer, http://www.theintelligencer.net

Teen fatally stabbed in robbery attempt in Huntington

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Huntington police say a teenager has been fatally stabbed after attempting a robbery.

Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli says in a news release that the body of 18-year-old Steven Bryant Washington of Huntington was found Tuesday. His body has been sent to the state medical examiner.

The statement says charges are expected to be filed after evidence is collected and witnesses are interviewed.

According to Ciccarelli, after another 18-year-old man went to Cabell Huntington Hospital with a minor stab wound, police interviewed him and officers then went to a neighborhood and found Washington’s body.

Ciccarelli says an investigation determined Washington and two others broke into an apartment in a robbery attempt. Washington and the other teen were stabbed before fleeing. The statement says the apartment was the site of frequent drug parties.