ROMNEY — A good deal turned into a nightmare for a Hampshire County woman last week when her van was carjacked behind Helping Hands.
“It makes me very sad,” said the victim, who asked to not be identified. “I was in my hometown. I was a block and a half from my work.”
Within an hour, the van was recovered — totaled — and the people apparently responsible were behind bars.
Adriana Elaine Flanary, 28, and Jason Daniel Wolford, 35, both face a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle in Hardy County and charges of grand larceny and conspiracy in Hampshire County.
They were still in jail Tuesday afternoon, each on $10,012 bond.
The saga began on Tuesday afternoon when the woman pulled into the parking lot behind Helping Hands, on Romney’s West Main Street, to drop off “6 or 7” bags.
The store was locked, but Flanary and Wolford, who were sitting in the gazebo in the green space beside Taggart Hall, offered to help.
“My van’s hatch was up; my driver’s door was open,” the woman recalled.
Her keys were in the ignition and her purse was in the front seat.
“My telephone was in there. My medicine was in my pocketbook,” she said.
The pair helped her carry the bags of donations to the back of Helping Hands. As the victim got the last bag, Flanary asked how to close the hatch.
“I turned around and they were in the car,” she said. “I grabbed the door handle and he jerked it from my hand. She hit the lock button.”
She chased the car on foot out to Marsham Street to see which way it went, then ran up Main Street to Anderson’s Corner to call 911.
Hampshire 911 alerted Hardy County that the Pacifica might be headed that direction.
Hardy County sheriff’s deputies and Moorefield police began working their way north.
A resident on Trough Road called in a vehicle that had been driven into a ditch and the tags matched the stolen vehicle. The caller said the occupants were acting erratically. Moorefield police made the arrest soon after.
“It quit running,” the owner said, “It was totaled, both sides and the front. He must have ping-ponged up River Road because there wasn’t a straight piece on my van.”
Authorities recovered all her possessions except one credit card, the victim said. That was canceled.
“It makes you feel very violated when you don't have ID or a credit card,” she said. “It’s a terrible experience.” o
A third of Hampshire County students will be learning remotely, a school survey of parents shows.
The total could climb as details of Hampshire County’s plan to return to the classroom are made public.
The results of the survey that was sent out by Superintendent Jeff Pancione has seen that around 935 students, as of Tuesday morning, are enrolled in online-only learning, which makes about 34 percent.
"I think [the number] is slowly creeping up," Pancione said. "I thought we'd be between 30 and 40 percent with the results from the initial survey. I think we're going to come right in where we thought we'd be."
With the massive undertaking that is sending students back to school, it’s an equally hefty feat to implement a fully-remote plan for the students whose families aren’t comfortable with a re-entry so soon.
The school board has elected to use Schoology as the remote learning platform, and Lori Gnegy, director of technology for Hampshire County Schools has been working to push the county into the future.
One of the best aspects of the platform, Gnegy explained, is the opportunity for collaboration with other counties.
“The collaboration and communication piece will be huge in our new normal,” Gnegy said. “Right now, Berkeley County is sharing stuff with us, and hopefully we can share everything that works for us, too.”
Schoology is a platform best suited for K-12 learning, as opposed to college students who use more real-time platforms like Blackboard.
With back-to-school considerations including transportation, scheduling, sanitation and more, remote learning has just as many concerns, which the board and Gnegy are preparing to address.
“If we set it up right on the back end, it’ll be seamless for the teachers. The kids and the teachers aren’t going to have any problems,” Gnegy said. “The piece that I worry about is the parents and guardians, especially grandparents, and getting them to communicate with us.”
As a part of the remote learning plan, all students will have a school-provided device to use for their assignments with Schoology, and hotspots through Kajeet are hopefully going to be available outside in various locations around the county for students that live in underserved areas for connectivity.
“My goal is that by Sept. 8, everyone will have a device and connectivity and the kids and staff can log in and get going,” Gnegy outlined. “My main purpose right now is to get the kids and staff settled, and once they have what they need to get going, I can step back and work with the parents and grandparents.”
With the back-to-school undertaking, it appears Hampshire County families are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Students can either be sent to in-person classrooms and risk illness, or face a different learning landscape with online learning. It won’t be easy, either way, President Debbie Champ pointed out.
“I think the number 1 thing is going to be communication,” Champ said, noting that it’s an area where Hampshire needs to improve as a county.
With all of the moving parts in the back-to-school plan, there are plenty of changes, and adapting won’t be easy, but Gnegy is facing the challenge with optimism.
“I’d be lying if I said this was going to be a walk in the park,” Gnegy said. “There’s going to be some obstacles. We have to take a step in some direction, and we can always improve on this as we go.”
At their work session Tuesday morning, the board also heard plans from Nutritional Director Amy Haines about how mealtimes will work to keep students as safe as possible while in the physical school building (for example, students will not be transporting food, they will maintain social distancing in the cafeterias, they will not be allowed in the kitchen and barriers will attempt to minimize the spread of respiratory droplets between students and kitchen staff).
The Hampshire High School administration also further discussed the possibility of block scheduling for HHS in order to limit gatherings and close contact among students, as well as minimize transition time between classes.
The board will hold their next regular meeting Monday at 6:30.
More than 200 businesses in Hampshire County protected nearly 1,600 jobs with the Payroll Protection Program that the federal government rolled out in April as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The combined cash influx was in the range of $8 million, judging by the information the Small Business Administration provided earlier this month.
The payments were a godsend to the county, the heads of The Bank of Romney and FNB Bank agree.
“Many businesses have reported that the PPP funds were a true life saver and have provided hope in remaining open post-pandemic,” FNB Bank President Travis Delaplain said.
“Providing millions of dollars in the last several months has certainly been a boost to our local economy and helped keep our local businesses and their employees paid,” Bank of Romney President Dean Young said.
Both men pointed toward the unemployment rate here as a measure of the success of the program. Hampshire County’s unemployment was 2nd-best in West Virginia in April and May as the state and nation closed down to try to stop the pandemic’s spread.
Congress approved $349 billion for the business stimulus called the Payroll Protection Program on March 27. Applications opened April 3 and 11 days later the pot was tapped out. Another round of funding added $250 billion to the pot.
The program provided a 2-year loan at 1-percent interest to pay a company’s workers for 8 weeks. If a business kept all its employees on payroll for the entire time, the federal government will pay the loan off.
Businesses could actually apply for 2.5 times their average monthly payroll to help with other expenses, like utilities or rent.
The SBA’s database provided some specifics on each payment and payee.
For the smallest of loans — under $150,000 — the SBA identified the exact amount, the number of employees in the business and its geographic location. The names of the businesses were not released, however.
Loans over $150,000 included the name of the borrower, but only categorized the loan in categories of $150,000 to $350,000, $350,000 to $1 million and $1-2 million.
Hampshire County had 9 larger businesses receive PPP money, with 7 in the $150,000-plus category, 2 more in the $350,000-plus category and 1 for over $1 million. The Review is not identifying those recipients.
Combined, those 10 companies claimed 592 employees.
The much larger list is businesses who received less than $150,000. It includes 198 businesses with addresses in Hampshire County, or out of Burlington (Mineral) or Paw Paw (Morgan) that could be in Hampshire County.
The 198 firms represented 992 jobs and received $5.15 million in PPP money.
The recipients included 11 nonprofits, 2 professional associations and 2 self-employed individuals.
The smallest payment was for $850 to a sole proprietorship on the eastern end of the county.
Hampshire County’s biggest 1-week increase in COVID-19 cases includes 2 at Hampshire Memorial Hospital’s long-term care unit.
Two employees there tested positive late last week, sparking tests for all 30 employees and 28 residents.
As of noon Tuesday, not all the results were back, but those that were all showed negative, Hampshire County Health Director Stephanie Shoemaker said.
But HMH wasn’t her only concern as the county recorded 14 new cases between last Tuesday and this. That’s as many cases as the county had between March 13, when Gov. Jim Justice abruptly closed schools, and May 21 — more than 2 months.
“It’s becoming a mess,” Shoemaker said.
Four recent cases stemmed from a gathering of up to 25 people.
On the positive side, a high school athlete who tested positive 2 weeks ago has recovered and none of his contacts — fellow athletes, coaches and family — have contracted the virus.
But, Shoemaker said, “We’re just waiting.” She said some cases are pending that she knows will come back positive.
The uptick is all across the county.
“It’s very difficult,” she said, particularly with the public’s ambivalence toward wearing face coverings.
Justice signed an executive order last month requiring face coverings, but it has loopholes — anyone with breathing difficulty, anyone 9 or younger. And in buildings, it’s not required if people can socially distance.
“We’re getting blasted on social media for not enforcing the mask,” Shoemaker said, “but there is no enforcement of it.”
Testing coupled with rapid results is key to getting a handle on the virus, Shoemaker said. Last Tuesday, the health department tested 31 people who had symptoms or contact with patients at a drive-through clinic.
Next Wednesday, free drive-through testing will be available to any Hampshire County resident (bring ID) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hampshire High School parking lot.
The tests are being sponsored by the Health Department, schools, Office of Emergency Management and Hampshire Memorial Hospital.
Last week’s positive tests at the HMH long-term care unit “prompted a cascade of precautionary steps to identify, notify, isolate and test those who may be at risk for virus exposure,” the hospital said in a press release.
West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources defines one or more positive test results in a congregate living facility as an “outbreak.”
The hospital is working closely with the local health department and Valley Health Employee Health and other resources to complete contact tracing and mitigate any possible exposures.
All residents of the unit are being asked to stay in their rooms and wear a mask.
“The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our top priority,” said HMH President Tom Kluge. “We continue to monitor our staff and residents closely and adhere meticulously to daily employee screening requirements, universal masking and frequent hand washing, and visitation restrictions to safeguard residents and staff from exposure.”