The Voice of West Virginia
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Today on MetroNews This Morning:
–Governor Jim Justice comments on his financial disclosure form showing a lot of assets, but few making any money
–Protestors rally in Coonskin Park against a potential plan for a runway extension for WV International Yeager Airport
–A short line railroad in central West Virginia will benefit from the US DOT grant
–In Sports, a beat up, but 4-1, Mountaineer football team gets a much needed off week and Marshall gets ready for a road trip to Raleigh
Gov. Jim Justice, when asked about several noteworthy liabilities on his U.S. Senate financial disclosure form, said they’re a sign of a tenacious approach to finances and positive personal relationships.
For many years, Justice was described as West Virginia’s only billionaire, but Forbes downgraded him after 2021 debt disputes. Justice’s political persona has been as a businessman who can buzz the numbers.
U.S. senators and candidates have to submit financial disclosure forms that list sources of income, assets and liabilities. Justice submitted his last week, revealing assets valued at millions of dollars — with many listed as providing little or no income. The disclosure also showed millions of dollars in personal liabilities.
“You’ll see a family that has worked really, really, really hard — a family that, at one time, if you’re really fair and you’ll step back from it, you’ll say ‘Well, when things were really tough, why didn’t they take bankruptcy like every coal company almost in the land that was in trouble that wrote off hundreds and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.’ And we didn’t do it,” he said.
“There’s no big pots of gold sitting around. Absolutely, at the end of the day, you can see that. And from that you can see a family that sometimes are a little late on a bill and everything, but we pay them, don’t we?”
Among the financial disclosure filings a couple of specifics stood out:
- Two debts on the filing are promissory notes characterized as between $1 million and $5 million each to Bray Cary, the broadcaster and businessman who served as Justice’s senior adviser, as well as his Cary Foundation Inc. No explanation is provided for the notes, both issued August 31, 2021, shortly after Cary left the administration.
- And, the disclosure form lists several personal lines of credit from companies in the Justice family’s network of businesses to Jim Justice at 0 percent interest rate with payment on demand.
West Virginia reporters asked about each of those financial questions during an administration news briefing. MetroNews asked about the loans from Cary, wanting a general explanation as well as more context about whether there were any loans from Cary prior to the ones listed on the disclosure.
“What’s on the disclosure form is exactly what happened, and everything. To get into the play-by-play of those funds, that’s not fair. That’s not fair to Bray Cary. He’s a good, good man, did a great job here, and really and truly with great pride I appointed him to the West Virginia (University) board of governors. He’s doing a great job there. There’s no question in anybody’s mind about his love to WVU,” Justice said.
“We had a business relationship, and that’s what we did. I’m sure Bray benefited from the business relationship. Bray benefited from the business relationship. And that’s all there is to it. Everything I have in the world is an open book. I’m not going to do anything that’s not right. You make mistakes from time to time, but at the end of the day we’re going to do the right stuff and we’re going to continue to do the right stuff.”
MetroNews texted and emailed Cary to invite comment for this story, but didn’t hear back.
Cary, prior to joining the Justice administration, had been publicly critical of Justice’s debts and financial dealings. But the two mended fences as Cary came on board as senior adviser in 2018.
“From the time that Bray Cary was here, what a job he did. He did a really, really good job. And I’m proud of our friendship, and I’m going to be that way until I die,” Justice said.
The personal lines of credit to Justice from his own businesses also came up.
An example is a line of credit from the Greenbrier Hotel Corp., owned by the Justice family, to Jim Justice for $5 million to $25 million at 0 percent interest.
More examples include a line of credit from the Justice-owned Tams Management of $500,000 to $1 million to Jim Justice at 0 percent interest. And: a line of credit from Bellwood Corporation of $1 million to $5 million at 0 percent interest.
Reporter Steven Allen Adams of the Ogden Newspapers asked about that matter: “I wonder if you could explain that a little bit and whether you think it looks like you’re hiding possible income — or if it can be perceived that way.”
Justice responded, “I don’t get an income from The Greenbrier.” He continued, “From the standpoint of me receiving a check or an income from The Greenbrier, I don’t receive a check or an income from The Greenbrier.”
The headline for the resulting newspaper article wound up being “Justice deflects questions on U.S. Senate financial disclosure report.”
Justice declared his candidacy for a competitive and expensive U.S. Senate race on April 27, facing Congressman Alex Mooney in the Republican Primary and aiming for incumbent Senator Joe Manchin in the General Election.
State Senator Eric Tarr, a Republican who has endorsed Mooney, had already raised questions about the no-interest lines of credit from Justice businesses and the loans from Cary. Tarr said the governor’s responses were not particularly revealing.
“He’s avoiding the question. That’s the primary thing that needs to be realized,” Tarr said.
He elaborated, “It was crafty the way Governor Justice phrased his words that ‘I never received a check or income from The Greenbrier.’ The reality is, if you have a company that you own loaning you money, that is not income to you and so it’s the correct answer. It’s not income, but it’s not saying you didn’t pay yourself through a loan.
“If he paid himself through lending to himself he didn’t do it with a check. He did not straightforward answer the questions posed by Ogden media.”
And he continues to wonder what the financial relationship was with Cary.
“It perks my ears up. If that would have happened within a state agency, it makes you look for impropriety. It’s fairly significant to note it’s 10 percent interest on stuff too, so apparently Mr. Cary thought it was risky, whatever it was,” Tarr said.
“The reason it’s on disclosures is to see if there’s things that should be asked about. To say that it’s too far to reach into the business dealings related to those liabilities is to be completely non-transparent to the public that you’re asking to trust you as a U.S. senator.”
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Boscov’s will open the 50th store in their chain at the Meadowbrook Mall in a three-day grand opening event beginning Thursday.
Friday is Family Day, and Saturday is the official ribbon cutting and fireworks display. Sunday and Monday, the celebrations continue with entertainment like Elvis Presley Jr., balloon artistry, face painting, and special activities for kids.
Boscov’s CEO and Chairman Jim Boscov said their brick-and-mortar stores are fully stocked with helpful associates that he said online retailers can’t and will never be able to compete with. The company has a group of buyers that can acquire a wide variety of merchandise at competitive prices. Boscov said big box stores will stock maybe four to six coffee maker options, while Boscov’s is able to double or even triple that selection with items.
“Shopping is a social experience. You have a chance to interact with people; you go with your friends or you go with your family, and I don’t think that will ever go away,” Boscov said last week on MetroNews “Talkline”. “I think as long as you offer excellent service, great pricing, and a great assortment in a nice environment, people are going to want to be there.”
Many people in the area are already familiar with Boscov’s, and for most, it’s a special occasion-only event to make the trip. Boscov said, they are excited to be able to serve them in their own state with people that live in their communities.
“This is a wonderful market. This is a self-contained market, and we have people driving two hours to go to some of our other stores, and we can save them a drive,” Boscov said.
Thursday is themed as the first day of shopping, Charity Day—Shop for a Cause, according to Boscov. The charities sell the Boscov’s Charity Day pass for $5 that allows the shopper early entry for special deals, and the non-profit keeps 100 percent of the $5.
“We provide them with shopping passes; their supporters make a $5 donation to their organization, and they keep 100 percent of the $5,” Boscov said. “That shopping pass will get them in that Thursday before all the grand opening specials.”
The company has hired 220 local people that Boscov calls “empowered.” He said the hiring process was smooth and there appears to be a strong work ethic in the local labor market.
“Empowered means I can solve your problem. Empowered means if I see someone walking down the aisle carrying too many packages, I can say, Here, let me help you get that to the car or I can take that to Customer Pickup for you, and you can pick it up,” Boscov said.
Boscov said another important distinction is that they are a family-owned company, not publicly traded. That allows them to take chances on stocking items that people want, not items that are known to be strong sellers. The stores are also known for full-service departments that are stocked all year, not seasonally.
“Kids have birthdays 12 months out of the year, and we’ve got a toy department that is outstanding 12 months out of the year,” Boscov said. “And a candy department where you can walk up and pick your own assortment from bulk candy.”
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Emergency responders in Bridgeport and personnel from the North Central West Virginia Airport will hold an emergency drill this week.
The drill will be conducted Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Bridgeport Emergency Management Director Tim Curry said multiple agencies and their emergency response plans will be tested during the full-scale exercise.
“This is going to be a full-scale exercise at the North Central West Virginia Airport that’s going to be working with county-wide emergency services and the airport staff, and it’s going to be an airplane accident,” Curry said.
It’s likely residents will see activity in and around the airport or hospital, but Curry said it’s all part of the training exercise that is expected to last about two hours.
“People could see emergency apparatus heading toward the airport; they could see a large number of ambulances at the hospital because we’ll be transporting some simulated patients to the hospital,” Curry said.
Curry said there are many benefits to holding these events with organizations they do not train with often. In addition to evaluating responses, agencies and airport staff also learn specific details about the capabilities of local first responders. Individual organizations will not have the opportunity to make plan adjustments as a result of training, which is a real tragedy.
“If something bad does ever happen, we’ll know how we will work together with other agencies and what their capabilities are, and we’ll be testing the emergency response plan for the airport to see how they fit into everything,” Curry said. “So, if we have to go back to the drawing board after the exercise, we’ll know where our weaknesses are.”
Curry said extra personnel will be on duty across all agencies in case an actual emergency does occur.
“It’s all a drill, and no services will be impacted,” Curry said. “The hospital will still be doing their normal thing; the airport will be doing their normal thing; there won’t be any impact on normal operations anywhere.”
The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to hold full-scale emergency response exercises every three years.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds rallied together Sunday to help save a beloved thousand-acre Charleston greenspace.
The Save Coonskin environmental group held a rally at the park in protest against West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s potential runway expansion plan that would extend one of its runways into the park via mountaintop removal.
After having already held an information day at the park, garnered the support of over 11,000 people on a recent petition, as well as having future plans to continue reaching out to lawmakers on the issue, the movement decided a rally at the park would be one of the most impactful ways of letting their voices be heard.
“It feels like mother nature is on our side blessing us with a beautiful fall day and the people are starting to roll in,” a Save Coonskin Park group leader, Beth Segesseman told MetroNews at Sunday’s event. “Everything is coming together, and it’s just an amazing feeling to be able to celebrate this place with people who also agree that we should save it.”
The hundreds there Sunday supporting the movement all have one major thing in common– they love Coonskin Park. With that, they want no harm to come to the park and fear that’s what would happen if the airport follows through with the expansion plan.
The group asserts nearly 400 acres of Coonskin would become inaccessible to public use, with another close to 450 acres essentially getting destroyed.
They claim the park’s mountaintops would be stripped down many feet and the valleys filled with the leftover dirt, debris, and rubble.
In addition, Segessemen said this would jeopardize the health of the environment as well as the needs of the community in having the vast greenspace the park offers, as it’s a treasured rarity for the area.
“There’s so much of the park that we love, all of the trails, the upper park, the woods and the shelters, and Gorman Shelter where we are today would be gone if this proposal went through, so we want people to learn how it not only threatens our park but our community,” said Segesseman.
Several people got up and spoke for the main part of the rally, sharing more about specific areas in the park that are threatened from the proposal.
One person who spoke was Kanawha County resident Judy Spradling, a direct descendent of Calvin Spradling who was one of the area’s first settlers in about 1840. He has a cemetery located in the woodlands of the park where his family is buried, Judy Spradling said it’s one of the areas at risk of being destroyed if the proposal would go through.
“This is my ancestors, we want to honor them, they were laid to rest here in this park forever, and we can’t allow them to be destroyed,” Spradling said.
Along with the need to protect the property her family’s cemetery is on, Spradling said she was going to be talking about the history of the estimated 170 year old cemetery, which is located near the Wildlife Trail in the park.
CRW released a statement a couple of months ago about the runway project and the environmental impact study they are currently conducting with the FAA to assess if it would be environmentally feasible to move forward with the project at the park, stating they are looking to find a solution that would benefit all parties involved.
“The FAA will consider all reasonable alternatives of the project with a full and fair discussion of the significant environmental impacts of the Proposed Action. West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) is committed to operating our facilities in an environmentally responsible manner to conserve the existing resources unique to CRW while also providing a safe and pleasant experience for the public at large, and the Airport’s customers, vendors, and staff. We’re working to prepare the airport for the future of aviation, to ensure CRW can continue to serve as the gateway to West Virginia and the world by retaining and attracting additional air service.”
Segesseman said in the meantime the group will be waiting on the results of that environmental study, and continuing to try and garner more signatures on their petition to save the park, as well more support for the movement as a whole.
They have become the surprise team of the Big 12 Conference.
Picked to finish 14th in the league’s preseason poll, the West Virginia University football team enters the month of October tied with Texas and Oklahoma for first place.
WVU (4-1) is winning old-school. The Mountaineers, a 13-point underdog, won at TCU Saturday night with a combination of physicality and kick-blocking bravado. In what’s believed to be the first time WVU ever blocked two field goals in a road game, the Mountaineers hung on for a 24-21 victory.
In this episode, the “Guys” put the victory into perspective, and analyze the grades on offense, defense and special teams.
Listener questions and comments complete the show.
Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown city leaders are planning to consider the city’s Comprehensive Plan this week.
City Council will hold the first reading to adopt the plan at its Tuesday night meeting.
The document has been recommended for adoption by city council after a unanimous vote by the Morgantown Planning Commission and presentation by planners Rhodeside Harwell Landscape Architecture, Planning, and Urban Design.
The two-year process included multiple meetings with elected leaders, community leaders, and residents that included input and interaction about aspects of the plan.
Rhodeside Harwell Landscape Architecture, Planning, and Urban Design Associate Principal Ron Sessoms said throughout the process people expressed a desire for safe places to work, raise a family, and recreate.
“Making sure we have a robust public safety department was something top of mind in the community,” Sessom said. “As well as addressing the addiction crisis and making sure we have strong coordination with area social service agencies and providers.”
Two important future growth opportunities, downtown and Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, are close and can complement each other. Sessom said the two areas can draw interest and economic activity individually, but together they can create an active area of the city for future growth.
“You have a lot of great assets downtown and serve as a great starting point, but it even has even more potential to become an even more livable place for people to come live, work, and play,” Sessom said.
Residents expressed great pride in their neighborhoods and made it clear that the future plan should maintain the identity of each. Adding sidewalks and more pedestrian options while reducing truck traffic were high priorities.
“The creation of human-centered complete streets, not just emphasizing cars and vehicles,” Sessom said. “But, making sure we create walkable places that are pleasing for people to get out and stroll that are comfortable.”
More affordable housing options were also a common theme for public input. Sessom noted the aging state of housing stock and suggested different options could be added as areas become available.
“What’s missing are the more affordable housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes, which oftentimes have a smaller footprint and can be more affordable and accessible for people,” Sessom said.
Also, Sessom said considering more areas for mixed-use developments could create more commercial and urban zones and economic activity.
“These new ideas and this new vision may need and require future zoning code updates to make sure the vision established in the plan is reflected properly in the city zoning code to make sure we can make these things happen,” Sessom said.
The Fifth Ward Councilor and member of the Morgantown Planning Commission, Danielle Trumble, asked Sessoms to include the 10-acre Richwood Avenue project.
More than 50 structures are set for removal to be replaced by a mixed-use development.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During the 2023 Ruby Summer Concert Series, Morgantown was the destination for about 33,000 people from 12 states.
Vincent Kitch, director of Morgantown’s Arts and Culture Development, said pictures from a summer of live music events show fans of all backgrounds attending.
“The audiences here truly represent every possible demographic you can imagine,” Kitch said. “Age, economic, cultural, social, and any other category you can think of. We intentionally program music so there’s something for everyone.”
The line-up included The Stranger, Color Me Badd, Love and Theft, Debbie Gibson, Oak Ridge Boys, MANIA, Caleb Johnson, Thunderstruck, Los Lobos, Home Free, Sam Bush, and Smash Mouth.
The largest crowd of the season was at the finale, featuring the group Smash Mouth. The August 25 show was a test for the facility designed to hold about 1,600 fans.
“We’re calling it 6,000; it was by far the largest we had—we had a large contingent of WVU students as well as people, and it was a fun night,” Kitch said. “They loved it, the artists loved it, and the people seemed to enjoy themselves.”
According to Kitch, the city of Morgantown spent more than $20,000 on lodging for the artists, and the thousands who traveled here, some as far away as Texas, also fueled the local economy. Officials hope Morgantown will be a return destination for many when the 2024 schedule is announced.
“Our food vendors actually sold $140,000 worth of food and drinks,” Kitch said. “This is over 13 or 14 events for about four hours a day.”
Kitch said they brought thousands into the city and made a huge splash throughout the summer with the help of local media partners like WVRC Media.
“With a combined strategy of commercials, on-air promos, interviews, events, emails, and QUU displays (synchronized radio add), they delivered over 7 million audio and digital impressions,” Kitch said.
Each Sunday, the park now hosts the free Ruby Movie Series, which includes a family-friendly movie early, followed by an adult-themed movie. The final free event of the year is scheduled for Oct. 29, featuring two free movies, food trucks, and trick-or-treating. Kitch said adults are asked to dress in costume for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but props will not be allowed.
“From 3 to 5 p.m., we’ll have a trick-or-treat for kids. We’ll have a showing of Monster House at 5 p.m. and the Rocky Horror Picture Show at 7 p.m.,” Kitch said. “There will be food trucks; we’ll have 15 to 20 community groups handing out candy to the kids.”
FORT WORTH, Tx. — Neal Brown’s last three postgame press conferences have focused on similar themes following similar results, each perhaps more satisfying than the previous game. After victories over Pittsburgh, Texas Tech and Saturday’s 24-21 triumph at TCU, Brown has discussed mistakes made and errors overcome with stout defense and timely plays on offense, usually in the running game. After a busy September, the Mountaineers find themselves tied atop the Big 12 with Texas and Oklahoma with 2-0 marks in the league.
“This was a fight. And we are a team that is kind of built for ugly football, and for fights,” said Brown. “We have a really tough team.”
Nicco Marchiol led WVU to their last two victories and he appeared to be in line to start once more against the Horned Frogs while Garrett Greene continued to recover from an ankle injury. That plan was adjusted midweek after Marchiol suffered an ankle injury of his own. Greene returned against TCU and accounted for 222 yards of total offense and two rushing touchdowns.
“I think I was pressing too much in the first half,” Greene said. “That’s something I have to continue to get better at. I was pressing too much but in the second half, I just let it fly and my guys made plays for me.”
“If you can push off your back foot to throw it, if you can show me, this is your opportunity to show you can play and be close to a hundred percent, this is your chance. He went in and threw it really well,” Brown said.
West Virginia’s defense continues to remake its image after struggles throughout the 2022 season. In their last three games, the Mountaineers have yielded a total of ten second half points. After scoring 21 first half points, the Horned Frogs were blanked after halftime.
“We bent a little bit but we never broke,” Brown said. “We’ve got to work on our hands, this bye week. We dropped four interceptions I think. But our D-line is talented and we got pressure there late.”
Brown has often remarked that special teams needed to be an edge for his team. A pair of blocked field goals by Mike Lockhart and Sean Martin preserved Saturday’s win.
“I told Lee [Kpogba], Tyrin [Bradley], I told all my teammates that I am going to block a field goal for us. The hole came open and I blocked it. The rest is history,” said Lockhart.
Time off comes at the best possible time for the Mountaineers after a 3 hour, 45 minute game in Texas heat. WVU enters their lone bye week of the season.
“We emptied the tank,” Brown said. “We’re going on a bye week and I told those guys that I will see you all on Wednesday. Take some time. I need some time.”
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