W.Va. among handful of states to meet federal Real ID Act

CHARLESTON – The deadline to comply with new federal identification requirements meant to curb terrorism doesn’t happen until Jan. 15, but the Mountain State is ahead of the game.

West Virginia is one of just 13 states to comply with the Real ID Act, which enforces stringent proof-of-identity requirements for anyone trying to get a photo ID.

The law new was passed in 2005 in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks. All but one of the 19 hijackers had ID they should not have been able to obtain.

Birthday challenge: West Virginia libraries have launched a reading challenge to mark the state’s 150th birthday this year.

The goal of “West Virginia Reads 150’’ is for West Virginians to read 150 books by the end of 2013. The West Virginia Library Commission, the West Virginia Center for the Book and libraries across the state are behind the project.

They say people can read 150 books individually, or they can join in teams of up to 15 members to read 150 books collectively. The program is not limited to public libraries, but is also open to bookstores, school and academic libraries, literacy organizations and others.

Schools suit set: Former state schools superintendent Jorea Marple has given formal notification to the West Virginia Board of Education that it should either reinstate her or present “competent, admissible evidence’” of something she did that warranted her abrupt firing in November.

The letter was received by the board Jan. 3, a day after four prominent attorneys notified the state Department of Education that Marple planned to sue over her termination. Notification is required 30 days before suing a state entity.

Marple’s letter demands her job back, a formal finding by the board that it acted inappropriately when it dismissed her without warning and an undisclosed amount of money for wrongful termination on Nov. 15.

Victor Flanagan, one of the attorneys representing the board, said it’s not clear how the board would respond to the letter.

MARTINSBURG

Bells for Berkeley: Martinsburg residents are once again starting each weekday with the sound of a ringing bell.

The Berkeley County Council has revived a tradition of ringing the bell at the county’s historic courthouse in 9 a.m. to signal the beginning of the workday.

The longtime tradition was halted seven years ago, except on special occasions, after the Judicial Center opened.

Inmate found dead: Officials are investigating last weekend’s death of an inmate at Eastern Regional Jail.

Staff members at the jail found 30-year-old John A. Poole hanging from a sheet inside his cell on Dec. 29, a day after he’d entered ERJ for alleged probation violations.

The lifelong Hedgesville resident had been given a one- to 10-year suspended prison sentence and five years of probation after pleading guilty in 2009 to felony grand larceny.

Jail personnel were unable to resuscitate Poole. Now both Jail authorities and the West Virginia State Police are investigating.

BERKELEY SPRINGS

Solar woes: Morgan County officials say they’re working to get the courthouse’s geothermal heating and cooling system up and running.

The courthouse was completed in 2010 following a fire that destroyed the former downtown facility. The state-of-the-art complex is the first government building in West Virginia with a geothermal system.

Until the building’s geothermal system is working, county facilities director Vince Cichocki says the county is relying instead on boilers and cooling towers.

WEST LIBERTY

An eatery for school: A graduate of West Liberty University has offered up a tasteful gift to his alma mater: the former Roadworthy Tavern restaurant valued at $1.6 million.

West Liberty President Robin Capehart said the building – renamed the Gary E. West Events Center – will be used for campus activities

West purchased the property at auction in April. It had belonged to Bernie Metz, who is serving a nine-year federal sentence for embezzling and money laundering. Metz was arrested in 2009.

DECKER’S CREEK

A leg up for trail projects: A grant of nearly $116,000 for repairs to the Decker’s Creek Trail in Monongalia and Preston counties is one of 21 recreational trail projects in West Virginia to win federal assistance.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday presented $1.2 million in grants for that project as well as others in 18 counties.

The state Division of Highways administers the federal Recreational Trails Program for the state.

The Eastern Panhandle’s Yankauer Nature Preserve and North Berkeley Rail Trail in Berkeley Springs also won funding, along with a number of projects tied to the Hatfield and McCoy Trail System.

MORGANTOWN

Finding physicians: A new health care partnership hopes to ease a projected shortage of primary care physicians in north-central West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mon General Hospital, Cornerstone Care Teaching Health Center and Mountain State Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institutions Inc. plan to offer a family medicine residency program.

Mon Health System president and CEO Darryl Duncan says the program is a way to recruit new physicians to the area.

The three-year program – funded by a federal grant – will be offered in Morgantown, beginning July 1.

WESTON

Search for preschooler: Lewis County’s new sheriff is putting new energy and resources into the high-profile case of a 3-year-old who disappeared in 2011.

Sheriff Adam Gissy says he and Chief Deputy Randy Hyre are reviewing the case file of Aliayah Lunsford, who disappeared from her family’s Bendale home on Sept. 24, 2011.

Gissy says he hopes his team will notice something that others may have missed. The FBI also is investigating the girl’s disappearance, which has been classified as a crime. There have been no arrests and no suspects named.

SUMMERSVILLE

Record perch: A Putnam County fisherman now holds the West Virginia weight record for yellow perch after reeling in the nearly 2-pounder from Summersville Lake in Nicholas County.

The Division of Natural Resources says Joshua Wayne Estes of Hurricane caught the 14.5-inch, 1.93-pound perch on Dec. 1. He was using a live chub for bait.

The fish bested a 1.83-pound yellow perch caught in Tygart Lake in 1985. The length record of 15.44 inches still stands. That perch was caught in Summersville Lake in 2010.

DAVIS

Tube time: Visitors to Canaan Valley Resort State Park soon will have another option for sliding down its snow-covered slopes.

The new Canaan Valley Tube Park is set to open Friday. It has space for up to 16 lanes with a down slope of 1,200 feet. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says the tube park also features a 1,000-square-foot warming station with restrooms, a fireplace, lounges, viewing area and an outside plaza with a fire ring.

Boardwalk conveyers make getting back to the top of the hill an easy ride.

There are also dozens of other slopes for skiers and snowboarders. Also new: Horse-drawn sleigh rides, which can accommodate five to eight people.

BECKLEY

Too little ad dough: A state tourism official says an advertising fund fueled by video slot machine revenue doesn’t have nearly enough money to meet all the requests.

As of December, the Division of Tourism had $1.4 million in grant requests but just $200,000 in the Matching Advertising Partnership Program account.

Anna Plantz, director of cooperative tourism, said some applicants will be turned down and others will have to settle for less than what they requested.

The program has provided grants to a variety of attractions, including The Greenbrier, The Resort at Glade Springs, whitewater rafting, and convention and visitors bureaus.

Plantz says it’s been clear for years that money from video slots at West Virginia’s race tracks was decreasing, and it has finally reached “a critical phase.’’

BLUE RIVER

Program to catch: A cable TV show will feature West Virginia trout fishing in several episodes this year.

Officials with the West Virginia Department of Commerce say six episodes of “Fly Rod Chronicles’’ will be filmed on public waters in the state. West Virginia will be integrated into seven other episodes of the series on the Outdoor Channel.

The department says “Fly Rod Chronicles’’ draws nearly 1 million viewers per episode. Bridgeport native Curtis Fleming hosts the series, which is in its seventh season.

This season’s first episode, “Pipestem Trout Wrangler,’’ was shot on the Bluestone River in November. Other episodes will be shot around the state, including the Cranberry, Potomac and Greenbrier rivers.

– Compiled by Christine Miller Ford, with information from The Associated Press

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