Three airport towers in West Virginia face closure

Three airport towers in West Virginia face closure

CHARLESTON — Air traffic control towers at three West Virginia airports are on a list of 149 across the country set to close starting April 7.

The list issued Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration includes contract towers at airports in Lewisburg, Parkersburg and Wheeling.

Earlier this month, the FAA announced that 189 contract control towers nationwide were being proposed for closure to help achieve the 5 percent reduction in spending called for in the federal budget sequestration process. After reviewing the proposal, the FAA decided to keep 24 of the towers open. An additional 16 towers operating under a special congressionally mandated cost-share program will remain open, but their host airports will make 5 percent spending cuts through other methods.

Susan Cherneko, director of the state Aeronautics Commission, said Friday’s announcement does not necessarily mean the end of commercial air service at Lewisburg’s Greenbrier Valley Airport and Mid-Ohio Regional Airport, serving Parkersburg. She noted that the Beckley airport doesn’t have a tower but still has commercial air service, with pilots using controllers from another airport.

Cherneko said the Parkersburg and Wheeling airports host West Virginia Air National Guard units, and Wheeling also hosts training flights for C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft under a U.S. Air Force contract.



Driver faces alcohol charge: A former Berkeley County school bus driver faces an alcohol charge stemming from an accident in February.


Sam Lee Newton, 61, of Martinsburg is charged with operating a commercial vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of .04 or greater.

He was arraigned Saturday in magistrate court.


According to a criminal complaint, a school bus driven by Newton went through the scene of a two-vehicle accident at the entrance to the Berkeley County school bus garage and hit one of the disabled vehicles.

Court documents show Newton’s blood alcohol content was .072.


Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon says Newton retired the day after the accident.



Hydrogen fuel station planned: Ground work is underway for a new hydrogen fueling station in Morgantown, the first in West Virginia.

The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium at West Virginia University says it’s only the 10th nationwide — and most of those are in California.

WVU will demonstrate the efficiency of running automobiles on hydrogen fuel made from electricity, using five hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Consortium director Bill Davis says hydrogen is being used as a fuel for passenger vehicles. This study will test its use in internal combustion engines.

Davis says in the long term, hydrogen will either be produced from coal, or coal will provide the electricity necessary to produce hydrogen via electrolysis.

The fueling station is expected to be finished by midsummer.



No injuries in gas line rupture: Authorities say homes near Cameron were briefly evacuated after a natural gas pipeline ruptured, but there was no fire, no property damage and no injuries.

Williams Partners owns the line. Spokesman Scott Carney says an 8- to 10-foot long section of 24-inch-diameter line ruptured last Friday, but the company immediately shut down the line and isolated the area.

The force of the explosion unearthed the pipe.

The gas was shut off and people in the 3- to 4-mile evacuation zone were allowed to return home.

Carney told media outlets the cause of the rupture is under investigation.

In December, a 20-inch line owned by Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured near Sissonville, triggering a massive fire that cooked a section of Interstate 77.

Several homes were destroyed but no one was seriously hurt.



City considers home rule: Parkersburg officials are considering participating in the state’s Home Rule Pilot Program.

City Council is expected to vote on a resolution that would authorize the city to apply for participation in the program.

Mayor Bob Newell says that the program would allow the city to try different things.

The program shifts more government power to the local level. Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport took part in the initial five-year pilot. The Legislature is considering inviting 10 more cities to participate and opening the program up to towns with 2,000 or fewer people.



Folk recordings to be preserved: Davis & Elkins College’s Augusta Heritage Center is working to digitally preserve rare audio recordings of performances at the West Virginia State Folk Festival.

The festival’s first president, the late Fern Rollyson of Glenville, made the 19 recordings on quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape in the mid-1950s through the 1970s.

The West Virginia Humanities Council awarded a $1,500 matching grant for the project.

Augusta Folk Art coordinator Gerry Milnes says in a news release that the recordings captured some of the only existing performances of traditional musicians from central West Virginia.

The recordings are stored in a climate-controlled room at the Booth Library. Milnes says reel-to-reel tape isn’t a permanent archival medium. Digitizing the recordings will ensure their archival quality and value.



Man sentenced for threatening police: A Brooke County man will spend more than two years in prison for sending threatening letters to two police officers.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld says 42-year-old James W. Richard sent the letters to a Wellsburg police officer and a Brooke County sheriff’s deputy.

Ihlenfeld says the officers were involved in an investigation that led to Richard’s conviction on breaking and entering and other charges. Richards sent the letters from the Northern Regional, where he was serving a sentence for those crimes.

Richard was sentenced on the threat charge in U.S. District Court in Wheeling.



Tobacco ban considered: Buckhannon City Council is considering banning tobacco in all city-owned parks and other recreational facilities.

The ban would include the annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival.

The council plans to vote on the proposed ordinance at its April 4 meeting.

If the ordinance is approved, it would go into effect May 4.

Violators would face a $50 fine for a first offense. The fine would increase for subsequent offenses, up to a maximum $500 for a fifth or subsequent offense with-in a 24-month period.



Miners to be honored: A memorial marker honoring the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion is being placed on the Raleigh County Courthouse lawn.

The Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce will unveil the marker on April 5, the third anniversary of the disaster.

Chamber member Mick Bates said that the dedication ceremony will memorialize the fallen miners and recognize those who continue to mine coal and provide electricity for the nation.

The memorial marker was funded through a partnership of the chamber and the Raleigh County Commission, along with a state grant.

Another memorial honoring the Upper Big Branch miners is located in a small park-like plaza in Whitesville. It was dedicated in July 2012. Volunteers raised money for that project.



State to host marble tourney: The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will host a marble tournament for children ages 7 to 14.

The A. James Manchin Memorial Marble Tournament will be held April 6 at the Culture Center.

A boy champion and a girl champion will be eligible to compete in the 90th annual National Marble Tournament in Wildwood, N.J., in June.

All skill levels can participate. Tournament marbles will be provided.

The West Virginia Marble Shooters Association is sponsoring the tournament.



— Compiled by Robert Smith with information from The Associated Press

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