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Western Md.’s chance to W.Va.? Slim at best
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Political theater was at its height last week when state legislators from Maryland’s 3 westernmost counties said they’d like to switch states and join West Virginia.

West Virginia’s leaders said they would welcome Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties “with open arms” while some local Maryland politicians grumbled about the proposal.

And the likelihood of it happening?

About the same as Frederick County, Va., joining the state, an idea that state Senator Charles Trump floated early in 2020.

Thanks, but no thanks.

But Trump, whose 15th District includes Hampshire County, was ever the optimist Monday.

“It’s an interesting thing to think about and talk about,” the Berkeley Springs lawyer said. “It would be wonderful. I hope they come.”

The 5 Republican lawmakers from the 3 western Maryland counties actually began the venture in September, visiting Charleston to float the idea. They followed up with letters earlier this month to West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair, who also represents the 15th District, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw.

The Maryland lawmakers said they sought “to open dialogue and request consideration of the possibility of these three Maryland counties to be added as constituent counties to the State of West Virginia.”

They said the request was generated as a result of various constituent requests over the years.

“We believe this arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies,” they wrote.

Trump sees logic in the idea.

“We have so much interaction with our counties to the north and south of us in our panhandle,” he said. “Part of it is the mountains move north south and you’re just crossing rivers.”

The cousins could be comfortable uniting, Delegate Gary Howell of Mineral County said.

“You could easily compare Garrett to Preston County, Allegany to Mineral and Washington to Berkeley,” Howell said.

West Virginia’s governor made the most of the offer.

“All this came to us without us going out,” Justice pointed out. “We’re not going out and looking, you know, to try and recruit counties from other states to West Virginia.”

The Baltimore Sun reported on the plan last week and other Western Maryland officials responded — some not so positively.

“I question why, and who, thought this was a good idea,” Allegany County Board of Commissioners President Jake Shade complained at a commission meeting last Thursday.

While West Virginia’s process for adding counties is provided for in the state constitution, severing the 3 counties from Maryland has a tougher road.

 “West Virginia’s process is fairly straightforward,” Howell said. “Our constitution allows us to take on new territory with the consent of the Legislature and a vote of the people.”

But Maryland would have to gain consent from the rest of the state.

“First you have to knock on the door and see if the person is willing to answer before we can discuss how it would work out,” Maryland legislator McKay told The Baltimore Sun.

Even if the counties got Maryland’s “blessing,” as Trump put it, Congress has to weigh in.

Stump said bluntly that’s “something that isn’t going to happen because it has to pass the United States Congress.”

That leaves the proposition where it started — a lot of fun talk.

Passions run amok
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Police end up on the field at a pair of football games 

“Hampshire High has promoted and will continue to promote and expect good sportsmanship by students, coaches, and spectators,” HHS Athletic Director Trey Stewart said. “And we are committed to upholding the highest standards of good sportsmanship.”

Unruly behavior from the coaching staff at Greenbrier East led to an ejection issued by game officials. After arguing the ejection, police were called in to remove the coach from the field.

Then on Saturday afternoon, West Virginia State Police were called to R.H. Armstrong Field outside Parsons when the middle-school Potomac Valley League playoff game between host Tucker Valley and Capon Bridge descended into obscene gestures, verbal abuse and fisticuffs after the final whistle blew.

Hampshire Superintendent Jeff Pancione said he has been working with Tucker County Superintendent Alicia Lambert to mend fences and sort out consequences on both sides.

At Friday’s game, the Greenbrier East coach took several steps toward officials to challenge the ejection ruling, which forced Stewart to request police assistance.

“When you first show signs of challenging the call or challenging the officials, the police have to step in,” Stewart explained. “Ejection can happen multiple ways. It is up to the official announcing the ejection to the game administrator when it concerns a player or a coach.” 

However, officials have the right to eject fans for disorderly behavior as well.

“For example, the official can tell the game administrator that Billy in the blue hat has to go,” Stewart said.

Hampshire County Sheriff Nathan Sions said his deputies escorted a fan out of Rannells Field at the request of referees.

Stewart noted that the game administrator themselves can remove the out-of-control fan, which also happened on Friday night due to vulgar language.

Prior to every Hampshire High home game, an announcement is made regarding the expected behavior of those in attendance.

“Any profanity, vulgar, or offensive comments or actions directed toward officials, students, coaches, or team representatives will not be tolerated and are grounds for removal from school property,” the announcement says.

Although police presence can be requested at games, their attendance is not required.

“Our county deputies are easy to work with,” said Stewart regarding home games at HHS. “When their presence is requested for game management, they are happy to make that happen.”

While Trojan games may have police present, many middle school games do not.

That was the case Saturday afternoon for the game between Capon Bridge and Tucker Valley in Parsons.

After the Tucker Valley victory, a member of the chain gang got confrontational with the visiting Bobcats and someone associated with the Capon Bridge team walked over to the home team’s sidelines and gave an obscene gesture to the spectators there while Bobcat coach Trevor Largent guided players off the field.

A physical confrontation ensued, and the state police were dispatched to the stadium.

State Police Sgt. V.J. Pyles of the Parsons detachment said 2 troopers were called to the stadium.

“They diffused the situation,” he said, but no arrests were made. “Nobody wanted to press charges.”

On Tuesday Pancione said the situation on the Capon Bridge end is being dealt with as an employee matter.

He said Lambert was dealing with consequences on her end.

“In the future we hope both our communities can work together with better sportsmanship in mind,” he said.

Ejection — whether of players, staff or spectators — has consequences in Hampshire County.

“If a spectator is ejected, they are out that game, then the 20% rule is applied, just like every other athlete that gets ejected,” Stewart stated. “If it happens a 2nd time, they are out the calendar year.”

The violator is not permitted to be a participant for 20% of the season, which is enforced for both home and away games.

As the HHS athletic handbook states regarding spectators/parents and sportsmanship – “There is an irritating minority that will always be with us. The ‘positive’ spectators, we hope, will minimize the influence of these. But if this does not happen, then there is all the more reason for players to present themselves well, for the coach to be above reproach at all times and for the administrator to prepare and enforce procedures to keep fans and their actions in proper perspective.”

Cannabis signup headed here
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The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis will host a public sign-up for medical cannabis patients in Romney next week, a day after one in Martinsburg.

The Romney signup runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 3, at the Romney Rescue Squad’s training center, 534 Center Ave.

The Martinsburg signup is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Berkeley County DHHR office, 433 Mid-Atlantic Parkway.

Patients who have already been certified by a physician as having an applicable serious medical condition must bring the following items: 

• Completed patient certification form;

• Driver’s license or state ID;

• Proof of state residency, such as a utility bill;

• and the $50 application fee, in check or money order, for a patient ID card.

Patients who have not already seen a physician must bring the following items, in addition to the above:

• At least 1 piece of medical documentation that shows their diagnosis, such as medical records, a letter from a doctor, or office visit summaries;

• Valid photo ID;

• 2 proofs of West Virginia residency for state registration;

• and Cash, credit, or debit to pay the $149 physician evaluation fee

Patients who have a household income of 200% of the federal poverty level or less may apply for a waiver of the $50 patient ID card fee at the event. If a waiver is requested, applicants must provide the most recent W-2, paystubs within the last 30 days or proof of eligibility for low-income benefits. 

Appointments are strongly encouraged and may be scheduled by calling 304-356-5090. 

To date, OMC has received 3,948 patient applications for medical cannabis. 

Patient cards are valid only in West Virginia. Registration does not mean medical cannabis products can immediately be obtained. 

The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act permits West Virginia residents with serious medical conditions to procure medical cannabis for certified medical use in the following forms: pill; oil; topical forms including gels, creams or ointments; a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization; dry leaf or plant form; tincture; liquid; or dermal patch. 

In addition to these signups, eligible West Virginians can register for a medical cannabis patient card at www.medcanwv.org. A list of physicians registered to certify patients as eligible for the use of medical cannabis is available on the website. 

Romney depot may get another chance
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ROMNEY — The Hampshire County Development Authority board considered a new possibility for bringing a rail line into the Romney Business Park at its monthly meeting last week.

Region 8 Planning and Development Council executive Terry Lively described a Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Grant program of the federal Economic Development Administration, funded through the American Rescue Plan, that might be used to bring a railroad spur into the park.

Lively said applications might be more successful if they were not restricted to helping one business, but open up other possibilities. The authority’s application will include funding for a depot and loading dock.

Grant submissions are due in January. Lively was not sure what the timeline would be for awards, but thought they would move quickly.

The owners of the Potomac Eagle had approached the Development Authority in spring 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic erupted, with a proposal to bring the tourism train into the business park.

Calling the plan “one of the largest economic development projects in Hampshire County ever,” owner Robert Franzen asked for a 35-acre site at a cost of $6.5 million just for tracks and grading to bring the train to the business park.

Franzen’s plans also included a $3.2 million train depot, a $3.5 million maintenance facility and an $8 million hotel and conference center on a site stretching up the north side of the industrial park, to the right of the entrance road.

Work on the project was called off by the Development Authority board 2 months later as the pandemic scuttled economic development plans nationwide.

Boosters available for Pfizer and Moderna
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Booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine have been available for eligible citizens for several weeks now, and the Health Department is now offering boosters for the Moderna as well.

How do you know if you’re eligible for a booster shot?

People who are 65 or older, or over 18 and a. living in a long-term care setting, b. living with an underlying medical condition or c. working or living in a high-risk setting, are all eligible to make an appointment with the Health Department for a booster shot.

There will be a booster vaccination clinic Tuesday, Nov. 2 and Thursday, Nov. 4, both from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m. at Hope Christian Church in Augusta. Call 304-496-9640 to schedule your appointment, and be sure to bring your photo ID and vaccination card with you.

“We’re very pleased that the boosters have been released,” said Hampshire County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Daugherty. “And we still have people who have been hesitant to start the vaccination process coming in, but we’d love a stronger response. The vaccine is the key part of getting this under control.”

While booster availability is on the rise, new Covid-19 case numbers seem to be thinning slightly here, though the community is still seeing losses.

Last Friday, the Health Department confirmed the death of 2 more Hampshire residents: an 80-year-old woman from Green Spring and an 88-year-old Romney man. These mark the 49th and 50th Covid-related deaths here.

We’re not out of the woods yet, Daugherty said.

“We’re worried people will hear that (the pandemic) is ‘over the peak,’ but it’s not going away as quickly as we need it to,” explained Daugherty. “People need to put aside the concerns about the political stuff. We encourage people every season to get the flu shot, and many people do, and realize it’s not 100 percent effective, but it’s good and safe protection. It’s the same with Covid shots and boosters.”

Common sense is a necessary cog in the wheel of managing the virus here, Daugherty pointed out. While the vaccine doesn’t stop you from ever contracting the virus, it protects against serious illness and hospitalization.

The Health Department is still posting daily updates to their Facebook page, monitoring county outbreaks, listing new case numbers and totaling deaths and hospitalizations. The DHHR color map still places Hampshire County stoutly in the red as far as infection rate and percent positivity, though several surrounding counties have found themselves out of the red and into the orange, such as Mineral, Grant and Morgan.