Some news highlights from 2015 included:
1. The prescription drug problem, along with the influx of heroin from Ohio and Michigan, continued to be a problem for local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. 119 Drug Task Force, along with the West Virginia State Police, Logan County Sheriff’s Department and local city police departments, have all made arrests in combating the growing problem.
2. Jason Harwood, a former judge in the 9th Family Court Circuit, resigned on July 10, due to Judicial Code misconduct. In its investigation, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission said Harwood violated multiple canons of the state’s Judicial Code of Conduct because of the relationship with his secretary. Also, it said Harwood gave legal advice to a friend who had a case pending in Preston County Family Court. Judges are not allowed to give legal advice, according to the Code of Conduct. In October, Governor Tomblin appointed Christopher Workman to fill Harwood’s unexpired term.
3. Longtime Logan Circuit Judge Roger L. Perry retired at the end of June. Perry, who first was elected to the position in 1992, submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in which he cited health issues as the reason for his retirement. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday named attorney William Douglas Witten circuit judge of Logan County.
4. The stagnant economy continued to worsen with the closing of coal mines in southern West Virginia. Many miners have been laid off and the domino effect has hurt many other businesses such as the railroad, mining supply companies and many other stores.
5. Federal prosecutors stayed busy in 2015 with the convictions of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and Freedom Industries President Gary Southern. Blankenship was found guilty Dec. 3 of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety rules at the Upper Big Branch Mine, where an April 2010 explosion killed 29 men. Southern pleaded guilty in August to federal pollution charges in a 2014 chemical spill in Charleston that sullied tap water for 300,000 people. Blankenship is a high profile Mingo County native.
6. The opening of the West Virginia Army National Guard’s Logan/Mingo Readiness Center was held Friday, November 6. The site is situated on a reclaimed mine site straddling the border of Logan and Mingo counties. The 50,000 square feet that encompasses the main building and storage facility cost nearly $16 million to complete, and the facility is set to house Troop A of the 1-150 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, the 156th Military Police Detachment and Detachment 2, Company D of the 230th Brigade Support Battalion.
7. Field turf comes to Logan County. A new era was ushered in for Logan County football as Logan, Man and Chapmanville high schools were all carpeted with Field Turf for the 2015 season. The project to turf all three county football stadiums began in late July and was complete by late August in time for the high school season. The job cost $2.5 million and was funded by the Logan County Commission and the Logan County Board of Education. It’s believed the Field Turf will last at least 10 years and will allow for unlimited games to be played on perfect field conditions and also for the future additions of soccer at all three schools.
Martha Sparks is a news reporter and can be reached at 304-752-6950, ext. 1728, or via Twitter at @MarthaSparks.