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Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WAJR-AM

‘Recycling pays’ on Morgantown demolition project

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A recent contract for demolition work at the Morgantown Municipal Airport comes with a refreshing difference- the contractor, Dilliner, Pennsylvania-based Safeco Environmental, Inc, will pay $500 for the opportunity to do the work.

Airport director Jon Vrabel says the T-hangar structures are part of the original airport configuration.

“The old T-hangars are about 80 years-old. they’re no longer being used,”Vrabel said,”A couple years ago we built a new T-hangar facility on the property, on the east side of the property, opposite of the terminal building.”

Vrabel says the buildings are in disrepair and have a plethora problems making it cost prohibitive to remodel, but in this case that’s a good thing.

“The buildings are all steel and the steel is very high quality due to the age,”Vrabel said,”When you look at reusing that steel, it has a value. So, we’re actually being paid to take the buildings down because of the value of the steel.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

WVU BOG approves contract amendment for MEA switch

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – During a special meeting of the West Virginia University Board of Governors an amendment to the contract with Morgantown Energy Associates regarding the switch from waste coal to natural gas at Beechurst Avenue power facility.

As of January 1, 2020 the plant ceased electricity production and began producing only steam for both WVU campuses. The facility has been producing 50 mega-watts of power since 1992.

WVU vice president for strategic initiatives, Rob Alsop told the board an amendment was needed to allow the switch.

“We have a contract to take steam from MEA through 2027,”Alsop said,”They have made a proposal to the university to no longer produce steam with coal , but with natural gas boilers.”

Alsop explained the original coal-based contract was negotiated about 25 years ago and were based on coal and board authorization is needed substitute natural gas for coal.

“The existing contract price resets several times each year based on the price of coal, natural gas and industrial commodities,”Alsop said,”We don’t know the extent of the savings, but we do believe it will be more stable than the previous contract.”

Workers are expected to do finish the and switch the natural gas boilers in the spring when the university can shut the steam supply down for a few days.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Major purchase sets the stage for long-term Morgantown redevelopment project

MORGANTOWN,W.Va. – A deal between Dave Biafora, Metro Property Management, and James Giuliani Enterprises LLC will open the door for a major long-term redevelopment project in Morgantown.

Dave Biafora tells WAJR News the deal could close by the end of the second quarter of 2020.

“At this point, one of our companies has a contract to purchase between 9 to 10 acres off Richwood Avenue from James Giuliani and his family,”Biafora said,”A few different companies that have acquired assets over the years, and he would like to retire at this point.”

Biafora believes this will be a community partnership to revitalize an important part of the city.

“Sunny Side Up, Morgantown Area Partners, the city, county, representatives from WVU, we would like to see how we consummate a deal over the next year or two,”Biafora said,”And see what is needed for the city and all the people.”

Biafora says they are exploring a wide range of housing options, not just housing tailored to the needs of WVU, along with a mix of businesses.

“This will most likely by a public/private partnership, it will pay taxes, it will do good for everybody,”Biafora said,”The cooperation of everybody to revitalize this end of town.”

Biafora says the development remains in the planning stages, but they have big expectations.

“We will probaly look at doing a TIF and hopefully working on getting cooperation,”Biafora said,”We’re working to get support to run a road all the way up to the Mileground.”

Biafora stresses this is a long-term commitment that will include input from the public.

“It’s going to be a very large project, it could be $50, $60, $70, $80 million, who knows what it will be,”Biafora said,”It will trickle up to the Mileground and the entrance into town and a neighborhood. We have to take our time and do it right.”

Biafora said his efforts will benefit greatly from preliminary conceptual plans and design completed by the Giuliani family.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

MGW traffic up for 2019

MORGANTOWN,W.Va. – Passenger traffic increased almost 20 percent from 2018 to 2019 at the Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW)according to data provided by the city. In 2018, 5,416 passengers flew from MGW compared to 6,491 in 2019.

Airport director Jon Vrabel says the community has become more familiar with Southern Airways and their reliability has improved. Vrabel says when the airline began service in 2017 it did so in the midst of a pilot shortage .

“Folks don’t want to book a flight on a service that’s not reliable,”Vrabel said,”As long as the reliability is strong, the growth of passengers happens at the same time.”

In recent years the airport has had to seek waivers to keep FAA Essential Air Service grants.

The Essential Air Service program guarantees small communities served by certificated air carriers before airline deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.

Vrabel says statistics show most passenger traffic is business-related.

“We’re hoping 2020 is even a better year,”Vrabel said,”As long as Southern can keep their operations the way they have this past year, minimal amount of cancellations and good completion rates on the flights, they should do well.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Mon County commissioners talk Longview PILOT agreement on WAJR

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County commissioners are talking about how negotiations for the new PILOT agreement with Longview Power have progressed.

Groups like the Sierra Club and the Mon County Coalition for Clean Air have opposed the Longview Power L.L.C. expansion and have accused the commission of negotiating in private. Those in opposition have also claimed the commission is giving tax breaks away and the agreement is not in the best interests of taxpayers.

Commissioners Ed Hawkins, Tom Bloom and Sean Sikora appeared on WAJR’s Talk of the Town to explain their side of the negotiations.

“We started last spring, we had a lot of discussions, we had a lot of back and forth to get the point that we could approve a term sheet in September,”Sean Sikora said,”That’s where we’ve been, the term sheet that defines everything we still have to work out, we haven’t as a group met with Longview since September.”

Sikora says much work has been dedicated to developing an escrow agreement, PILOT agreement, lease and the facilities development agreement that will govern the relationship between the county Longview Power for many years.

“There are two parts of this process,”Sikora said,”There’s the process going on with us negotiating the actual PILOT agreement and the PSC process that is currently going on and is completely transparent, we’ve even offered our commission chamber for a public meeting.”

Sikora says most of the negotiations involving hundreds of pages of terms of conditions have been conducted by lawyers representing each entity. The latest draft is in the hands of Longview Power L.L.C. attorney for review and comment.

Sikora adds the draft agreement would pay the county much more than if there was no development and only property taxes were collected.

“The three properties that Longview owns and will build on, bring in about $3,800 a year in taxes,”Sikora said,”The Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement, when the facility is built will be $58 million over 30 years.”

The negotiations and PSC process is ongoing.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown shooting suspect apprehended

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Wednesday, a team including the U.S. Marshal’s Service, Morgantown police and the SWAT team from Monongalia County arrested a suspect in the November 17 shooting outside a downtown bar.

On November 17 Morgantown police responded to a shots fired call outside the 4th and Goal bar following a verbal altercation that ended in gun fire. The victim had been waiting outside the bar for a ride.

The shooting victim was treated and released at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Jaja Kiambu Fitzpatrick, 47, was taken into custody without incident from an apartment on Luke Street in Morgantown after forced entry was made.

U.S. Marshals deputy Terry Moore says the apprehension was made at 2:30 p.m.

“We maintained that element of surprise to get him,”Moore said,”Actually, forced entry was made into his residence and as soon as entry was made he was contacted and taken into custody without incident.”

Moore says due to the violent nature of the subject and that the weapon was not recovered police requested the SWAT team.

Moore says Fitzpatrick is known to law enforcement.

“I believe this subject is believed to be dealing in narcotics in the area as well,”Moore said.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Mon County construction crews add more than $1 million in 2019 efforts

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County director of facilities Bobby Doyle and his crew completed more than $1 million worth of remodeling, construction and maintenance projects in 2019.

Doyle detailed the list during the most recent Mon County commission meeting:

All new handicapped bathrooms and remodeled the kitchen, remodeled the county clerk’s break and lunch area, built a new shed to store road salt on Lockside Road, four new metal roofs on buildings at Chestnut Ridge Park, remodeled the Mason-Dixon Barn, new shelving/lighting for the
county clerk, a new office in the probation area and new retaining wall on Lockside Road.

Doyle thanked his workers and totaled the savings to the county budget.

“This year alone on those projects our county construction crews saved the county $1,011,205.83,”Doyle told commissioners.

Commission president Ed Hawkins recognized the efforts of Doyle and his crew.

“I’m really happy to acknowledge what the construction crew does for Monongalia County,”Hawkins said,”If we had to go outsource this would have to spend much more money.”

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Arrest made in fatal Morgantown holiday crash

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Police in Morgantown have made an arrest in connection with a fatal crash on December 28, 2019.

Police say a van crossed the center line on Dorsey Avenue near Marcus Drive and struck a car driven by Shelly Duffer, 57, of Morgantown on December 28,2019. The van driver fled the scene toward South Park where the vehicle caught fire on Ross Street and the driver escaped on foot.

Duffer died as a result of her injuries at Ruby Memorial Hospital on January 9, 2020.

Detectives were able to determine the driver of the car that fled the scene was Codie Leigh Richards, 27, of Morgantown. Wednesday, Richards was arrested by Morgantown police and deputies from the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department.

Richards has been charged with leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, her bond has been set at $10,000.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

First Presbyterian Church, Morgantown supports Fairness Act

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The First Presbyterian Church, Morgantown has penned a letter to lawmakers in Charleston in support of the Fairness Act expected to be considered during the West Virginia Legislature.

The letter endorsed by several members of the congregation says they believe “each and every individual is created in the image of God, with inherent worth and sacredness.”

Pastor Zach Morton says not only do they believe all are equal but they want to engage the community and be advocates.

“We’ve also realized it’s part of our call to get engaged with some of the advocacy work in helping to make sure not only in our congregation, but people in our state have equal opportunity,” Mortan said.

Morton says the church wants to see the state take action and protect some of these groups of people.

“We want to make sure we include everybody and see everybody exactly as being equal in terms of our faith and how God works through the poeple,”Morton continued.

Morton adds over of the 230-year-old congregation is, or has ties to the LGBTQ community.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV

Morgantown debates riverfront bike, kayak rental facility

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Assistant city manager, Emily Muzzarelli provided Morgantown city council members with an update on Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront park construction and unveiled a new recreation proposal.

Construction at the park is moving at a brisk pace and soon crews will be working in the area of the Walnut Street Landing.

Muzzarelli explained an opportunity that has been explored to enter into a partnership with WVU, or Adventure WVU, or BOPARC or a private entity to operate a bike and kayak rental facility in the area of the Walnut Street Landing. She explained to council members that time was a critical component, because the contractor is already onsite and negotiations were progressing with the groups from WVU.

She says WVU has expressed strong interest to partner with the facility, but a final decision has not been made. Muzzarelli says they were not able to get the final decision before presenting the proposal to council.

Muzzarelli and the mayor believe if a WVU entity does not partner on the rental facility, BOPARC or even a private contractor could step in and manage the property.

Because of the converging circumstances she recommended council give the city manager authority to negotiate the change order to build the two-story facility with March Westin. The estimated cost is between $300,000 and $400,000 and would be paid for through the Capital Escrow account.

Councilor Jenny Selin assured council members this has been a proposal under consideration by committees in the community and there is demand for riverfront recreation options.

Councilor Ron Dulaney expressed concern and caution.

“This has been in the works for along time, again it sounds great, but we get this on a Thursday and are asked to vote on it on a Tuesday, we haven’t seen it, there’s no proforma, we’re not sure if there’s a lease or not,”Dulnaey said,”I’m very uncomfortable with the way this is unfolding and being asked to approve this in this way.”

Former Rail-Trail board member Dave Harshbarger also expressed caution.

“If anybody would support this type of project it certainly would be me from my years on the Rail-Trails board,”Harshbarger said,”I feel like it’s a partial proposal, it would not be in the best interest of public money, without knowing more about the project, no diagram and no plan.”

Mayor Bill Kawecki expressed cautious support.

“We need to have these things in place in order to make it an attractive community, and you need to do them when you can do them,”Kawecki said,”If we can afford it, if it works, if we get the detail, I suggest we at least move forward on it with the proviso that we get the detail and if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work we get the heck out of it.”

Councilor Zack Cruz told council members he is totally in favor of it, but cannot ethically approve up to $400,000 in expenditures without details.

The matter has been tabled while the city administration gathers more data and information.

Source: Local News | 104.5 FM & 1440 AM | The Voice of Morgantown | Morgantown, WV