CHARLESTON — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a stricter seat belt law for West Virginia motorists.
Tomblin signed the bill Thursday during a ceremony at the state Capitol. It is effective July 9 and allows police to pull over motorists if the driver or passengers aren’t wearing seat belts. Previously the driver had to be stopped for another violation first.
The fine for failing to wear a seat belt will be $25, with no court costs or points on a driver’s license.
State police and other supporters say the new law will increase seat belt use and save lives.
August trial set: An August trial has been set for the former chief of the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department and his wife.
A Fayette County grand jury indicted Timothy Whittington and Patricia Whittington earlier this month on felony charges related to allegedly taking department funds for personal use.
Timothy Whittington is charged with embezzlement. Patricia Whittington is charged with fraudulent schemes.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges last Friday in Fayette County Circuit Court. They are scheduled to stand trial Aug. 20.
Timothy Whittington is accused of taking money from the fire department between July 2010 and September 2012. An audit showed thousands of dollars was missing from the department.
He resigned in February.
Officials plan for Jamboree traffic: Transportation officials are making plans for the expected rush of traffic during the 10-day National Boy Scout Jamboree in July.
Officials said Thursday that plans were being made to use the West Virginia National Guard for traffic assistance. Officials also are considering waiving tolls during that time to ease traffic congestion on the West Virginia Turnpike.
All construction that requires a permanent lane closure also would be suspended during that time.
Officials expect some 20,000 staff members to begin arriving ahead of the jamboree, which will run July 15-24. That’s before buses begin bringing in thousands of Boy Scouts for the event.
Another 50,000 visitors are expected during the same time at the annual Friends of Coal car show.
Spring turkey kills increase: Hunters killed nearly 11,000 bearded turkeys in West Virginia during the recent four-week spring season.
The Division of Natural Resources says the total is a 32 percent increase over last year and was the highest since 2003. The number of turkeys killed rose in 52 of the 55 counties compared to 2012.
Last year’s spring kill was the lowest since 1989.
Preston, Mason and Harrison counties had the most turkey kills this spring.
DNR Wildlife Resources section chief Curtis Taylor says a successful chick production in 2011 helped this year, since a significant portion of the harvest is composed of 2-year-old birds.
Wheeling tax, Huntington blight plan OK’d: Wheeling has won state approval to impose a municipal sales tax, while Huntington can proceed with its plan to reduce blight.
The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board approved both cities’ requests during a recent meeting in Clarksburg.
Wheeling plans to charge a half-a-percent sales tax on most goods and services. Revenue from the tax will be used to pay for infrastructure needs and downtown development.
Huntington plans to authorize building and health inspectors to issue citations on the spot for code violations, rather than taking violators to municipal court.
Wheeling and Huntington, along with Charleston and Bridgeport, are participating in the state’s pilot home rule program. The Legislature expanded the program during this year’s regular session to allow other cities to participate.
Monitoring protocols recommended: A panel of doctors has released its recommended protocols for medical monitoring of residents exposed to a chemical used by a DuPont plant in Wood County.
The medical panel was formed as part of a 2005 class-action settlement of a lawsuit that claimed water supplies in Ohio and West Virginia were contaminated with the chemical C8.
A separate science panel found probable links between C8 and several health issues, including thyroid disease and testicular and kidney cancers.
An attorney for Parkersburg-area plaintiffs, Harry Deitzler, says the medical panel’s report addresses protocols for initial screening and diagnostic testing.
Deitzler says in a news release that the court-appointed director of medical monitoring and Brookmar, Inc., will develop a plan and process to implement the screening and testing program.
Ground broken for interpretative walkway: Work is under way for a walkway exploring Bluefield’s history with the railroad and coal industries in West Virginia.
Officials broke ground Friday on the railroad and coal heritage interpretative walkway. Construction is set to begin Tuesday and the project is expected to be completed by August.
The walkway will eventually be incorporated into the Colonial Intermodal Center, a transportation hub with room for future businesses in downtown Bluefield.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall secured a $600,000 federal grant for the project. He called it a symbol of future economic development for the region.
The Coal Heritage Authority says preserving the area’s coal heritage through the interpretive signage is important not only to Bluefield but to the entire coalfields region in southern West Virginia.
— Compiled with information from the Associated Press