West Virginia Week in Review - March 15, 2019



Each week, Gov. Jim Justice's Communications Office will release a recap of the prior week's events and press releases from across all state agencies within the executive branch.


Gov. Justice announces plans to fix secondary roads and refocus Division of Highways as maintenance-first agency
Gov. Justice announced Wednesday his intention to prioritize road maintenance as the main focus of the West Virginia Division of Highways moving forward. The Governor also laid out a plan to fix existing issues with West Virginia's secondary roads system, in part, by hiring over 100 temporary DOH employees and purchasing new equipment needed to get the work done across the entire state. [View Press Release]


Gov. Justice also announced that the DOH will begin a spring and summer statewide paving and resurfacing program for secondary roads, which will include a combination of contracted work as well as work done by DOH crews using state equipment. [View Governor's Full Photo Album]


Also, at the direction of the Governor, a Rapid Response Team of more than 100 DOH employees got to work this week in Preston County in efforts to immediately improve secondary road conditions in the area. You can read more about this story below in the Department of Transportation section of our Week in Review.

Gov. Justice signs State Budget Bill
Gov. Jim Justice Thursday signed House Bill 2020, the $4.636 billion Fiscal Year 2020 budget that was passed by the West Virginia Legislature on Friday, March 8. He also signed 10 supplemental appropriation bills and vetoed one supplemental appropriation bill. [View Press Release]


Toyota plant expansion to bring 123 new jobs to West Virginia; Governor releases statement
In an event Thursday, officials with Toyota announced they plan to invest $111 million to expand their Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Buffalo, WV, which will require an additional 123 jobs to be added at this location. West Virginia Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch spoke at the event, while Gov. Justice released a statement about Toyota's investment. [View Governor Statement]


Toyota also announced they will be expanding their equipment at the plant, in order to double production of hybrid transaxles from 120,000 units to 240,000 units by 2021.

Gov. Justice appoints Welch to lead Equal Employment Opportunity office
Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that Tia Welch has been appointed to serve as director of the West Virginia Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office, effective March 14, 2019. In her role as EEO Director, Welch will work to increase state agencies’ understanding of and compliance with equal employment laws, while also working to promote diversity and inclusion and eliminate barriers to employment. [View Press Release]


Governor's Office begins taking applications for Judicial Circuit vacancy
On Thursday, the Governor's Office announced the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will receive applications immediately for the pending vacancy on the Eighth Judicial Circuit, serving the County of McDowell. The deadline for application and submittal of letters of recommendation is March 27, 2019. Interviews will be held on April 4 in Charleston, WV. [View Press Release]



Fire Marshal investigator helps secure murder convictions, life sentences for WV mom who killed her two sons
Two years of diligent work by West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office Supervisory Investigator George A. Harms brought an emotional case to a close last week, as a mother from Berkeley County was convicted for murdering her two sons by setting fire to their beds in 2017. The woman, Molly Jo Delgado, received two consecutive, life-without-parole prison sentences. 
[View Press Release]


Harms’ experience and skills from 32 years as a fire marshal developed an investigation that yielded important clues, including from a near-exact replica of the boys’ bedroom. He also helped secure the mother’s confession that she set fire to both her 3-year-old son's bed and her 5-year-old son's bed.

Body scanners catching drugs, saving lives at regional jails
Last week, new body scanners at South Central Regional Jail caught a man attempting to bring drugs and drug paraphernalia into the facility. The scanners detected syringes and a packet of a white powdery substance hidden in the man's body. A subsequent strip search yielded even more contraband: a black makeup bag containing additional syringes, a crack pipe, and more white powder in a baggie. Across the state, these new scanners have acted as a safety net and a deterrent for would-be smugglers since they were installed in late-2017. Last month alone, the scanners recorded 36 positive hits. 
[View Press Release]


During the first six months of 2017, before the body scanners were installed, 32 inmates ended up in the hospital because of substance abuse issues including overdoses. Narcan doses, hospital life support and other medical expenses from those inmates cost taxpayers $1.5 million. In facilities where scanners are operating, no inmate has since required life support services.

DHSEM holds exercise to test response in case of radiological emergency
On Tuesday, West Virginia's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) conducted an exercise to test WV’s response to a release of radiological material from the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, PA. The plant is approximately 5 miles from West Virginia’s northern border at Hancock County.  This specific exercise is called an “ingestion exercise” and is held once within every 8 years as required by the Nuclear Regulatory Committee.


During the exercise, skills and abilities of those who would respond to a real-life event are tested. These responders include FEMA, representatives from the BVPS, DHSEM, DHHR, DEP, DNR, Agriculture, and local agencies in Hancock County. As part of the exercise, field teams sampled vegetation, soil, and water and sent those samples to a testing facility to determine amounts of radiological materials contained in each. This data is then passed along to the State Recovery Task Force who uses the information to decide if evacuated areas are able to be reentered, if livestock can ingest natural grasses or remain on covered feed and water, if vegetation from the area can be sold or ingested, and if uncovered waters are safe.


West Virginia export rates growing at nearly double national average
According to a report, released annually by the United States Census Bureau, West Virginia exports increased for the second year in a row, reaching $8.1 billion in 2018. The state outpaced the national average growth rate in 2018, as exports increased 14.2 percent, while the nation’s exports grew at just 7.6 percent. [View Press Release]


Plastics, chemicals, automotive, metals, aerospace, and hardwoods combined for more than $3 billion in exports from West Virginia. Notably, products and parts for the aerospace industry reported export growth at 17.8 percent over the previous year.

"Reverse" job fairs to be held through West Virginia apprenticeship program
Students ready for careers will set up booths and welcome prospective employers in a series of "reverse" job fairs to be held across the state. The West Virginia Development Office’s Apprenticeship In Motion (AIM) program will stage the job fairs at Career Technical Education Centers on eight dates throughout April and May.
 The AIM program promotes registered apprenticeship in West Virginia, with particular emphasis on nontraditional industries such as health care, manufacturing, high-tech, information technology, cyber security, logistics, tourism and hospitality. [View Press Release]



Gov. Justice’s Rapid Response roadwork initiative underway in Preston County
In response to Gov. Justice’s directive to immediately improve the condition of secondary roads across Preston County, a Rapid Response Team of more than 100 employees from the West Virginia Division of Highways started work this week in all DOH-designated sections of the county. [View Press Release]


A total of ten crews have been working on the early stages of various road improvement projects, including shoulder stabilization, ditching, pipe clearance, and pipe replacements. In addition to four District 4 crews, an extra 71 individuals from other districts across the state were brought in to supplement the workforce.


Statewide education forums announced ahead of special session
On Tuesday, the Department of Education announced that it will be holding seven education forum events across the state over the next three weeks. The forums will provide opportunities for stakeholders – including teachers, parents, service personnel and any other interested community members – to engage in constructive dialogue regarding possible education reform that may be considered during the special legislative session called last week by Gov. Justice to focus on education betterment. Each forum will begin promptly at 6 p.m. Dates and locations can be found on the WVDE's website. [View Schedule]


Also, on Wednesday, the West Virginia Board of Education launched the West Virginia Educator Voice online survey to solicit input from teachers, counselors, principals and assistant principals on teaching and learning conditions in their schools. Educators can complete the survey and share their opinions until March 29, 2019.

Eight county school districts removed from Financial Watch List
The Department of Education announced Wednesday that eight counties have been removed from the Financial Watch List. This list is maintained by WVDE’s Office of School Finance, which keeps an accounting of local county boards’ general fund balances. [View Press Release]


Counties removed from the list include Boone, Clay, Hampshire, Hardy, Lewis, Pocahontas, Summers and Tucker. Removal was prompted primarily by the improvement in the county boards’ unrestricted current general expense fund balances. Another factor considered was the number of personnel paid through local funds.

Annual Ham, Bacon and Eggs Auction earns $35,000 for FFA students
On Monday, WV FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) students participated in the 76th annual Ham, Bacon and Eggs Auction. The students auctioned the food, which they raised, prepared and cured themselves as part of educational and agricultural experiences. [View Twitter Post]


Total sales were $35,321.50, all of which will directly benefit participating students. The top auctioneers – and Grand Champions – were Austin Craven from Tyler Consolidated High School (Ham), George Brown from Valley High School (Bacon), and Autumn Radford from Greenbrier East High School (Eggs). 


HHOMA holds first event in statewide listening tour in Huntington
The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs kicked off its statewide listening tour at the A.D. Lewis Community Center in Huntington, WV on Tuesday evening. Representatives of partnering agencies were on hand to listen to concerns from community members and talk about the resources available to them. [View YouTube Video]



West Virginia ranked among "Top Places to Visit in 2019" by Outside magazine
The most recent edition of Outside magazine has ranked West Virginia in its "Top 33 Trips of the Year" list, which highlights vacation and adventure destinations across the globe. The magazine praised the Mountain State's "world-class" options for outdoor enthusiasts, including hiking at the New River Gorge. The feature also touted the state's exhilarating rapids and mountain biking locales. [View Tourism Website]



DEP to Host Earth Day Celebration at Clay Center
The Department of Environmental Protection announced this week its Make-It-Shine Program will hold its annual Earth Day celebration on Tuesday, April 23 at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston. The event is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. [View Press Release]


Approximately 20 educational displays and activities promoting Earth Day, environmental education, resource conservation and environmental stewardship will be available to individuals and school groups.



Contact Information

Butch Antolini, 304-890-2945, Butch.Antolini@wv.gov


Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

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