www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Unemployment rates drop in 49 W.Va. counties in April http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150529/ARTICLE/150529203 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150529/ARTICLE/150529203 Fri, 29 May 2015 11:15:15 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Unemployment rates dropped in 49 of West Virginia's 55 counties in April.

WorkForce West Virginia says Pendleton County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.4 percent, followed by Jefferson County at 4.5 percent and Monongalia County at 5.1 percent.

Unemployment rates rose in six counties.

McDowell County's unemployment rate fell from 15.2 percent in March to 13.9 percent in April, but that was still the highest in the state. It was followed by Mingo County at 13.4 percent, Roane County at 13.1 percent and Calhoun County at 13 percent.

West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose four-tenths of a percentage point to 7 percent in April.

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Average rate for 30-year mortgages rises http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150529/ARTICLE/150529210 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150529/ARTICLE/150529210 Fri, 29 May 2015 06:21:37 -0400

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AP Photo NYBZ146

WASHINGTON - Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week to their highest level so far this year as new data showed strength in the housing market.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.87 percent from 3.84 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages advanced to 3.11 percent from 3.05 percent.

Rates have risen in recent weeks amid signs of improvement in the economy.

A government report issued Tuesday showed that more Americans bought new homes in April, evidence that the stronger job market is propelling the housing market. New-home sales climbed 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000.

Rising demand has created a supply crunch, and the limited inventory of homes for sale has pushed up prices.

Home prices rose at a steady pace in March, according to the latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showing a 5 percent increase in March from 12 months earlier. Prices rose at the same pace in February.

Home values are rising at a faster rate than incomes, potentially pricing many would-be buyers out of the market.

Still, Americans signed contracts to buy homes in April at the fastest pace in nearly nine years. The report Thursday by the National Association of Realtors showed the fourth straight monthly gain in pending home sales. Signed contracts are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

Despite their recent climb, mortgage rates remain low by historic standards. A year ago, the average 30-year rate was 4.12 percent and the 15-year was 3.21 percent.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage fell to 0.6 point this week from 0.7 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan slipped to 0.5 point from 0.6 percent.

The average rate on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 2.90 percent from 2.88 percent; the fee remained at 0.5 point. The rate on one-year ARMs averaged 2.50 percent, down from 2.51 percent last week; the fee declined to 0.3 point from 0.4 point.

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Kroger stores to host grilling celebration http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529230 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529230 Thu, 28 May 2015 20:44:03 -0400 Kroger’s 12 Charleston-area Kroger stores are hosting free barbecue grilling events Saturday as part of a two-week outdoor-cooking promotion.

The first “Red, White & Barbecue” celebration runs through June 9. In addition to grilling demonstrations this weekend, stores will have food samples for customers to try both this weekend and the next. Sample include Ball Park Finest Hot Dogs topped with Curly’s Pulled Pork, Wright Brand Bacon Steakhouse Scallops, a nonalcoholic cucumber and melon sangria, fresh cut pineapple and angus roast beef and blue cheese burger.

Spokeswoman Allison McGee said the stores will each have five different displays offering different types of food.

“The displays take customers on a foodie journey across the country from the South to the Midwest to the Northwest and West,” she said. “The displays will have recipes from each region.”

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Marshall center announces coalfields job program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529236 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529236 Thu, 28 May 2015 20:37:01 -0400 Marshall University’s Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences and the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall have partnered with the Coalfield Development Corporation to provide an environmental workforce training program in southern West Virginia.

The “Reclaim Appalachia: Quality Environmental Jobs Initiative” program will target unemployed and underemployed young adults, veterans and coal miners of Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln and Mingo counties.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization is providing a total of $192,300 in federal funding for graduates to develop wider skill sets that improve their ability to secure full-time, sustainable employment in the environmental field.

For more information on the program, contact Teresa Buckland at 304-696-3568 or buckland@marshall.edu, or Brandon Dennison at 304-501-4755 or bdennison@coalfield-development.org.

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Judge rules coal company must pay for Blankenship's defense http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/ARTICLE/150529252 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/ARTICLE/150529252 Thu, 28 May 2015 18:53:25 -0400

By SOPHIA PEARSON

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. must pay the legal expenses of former Massey Energy Co. chief Donald Blankenship for his defense to federal charges stemming from the worst U.S. coal disaster in 40 years, a judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling by Delaware Chancery Court Judge Andre Bouchard will make it easier for Blankenship to mount a defense to a criminal case that as of April 1 had cost him about $5.8 million. He is scheduled to go on trial July 13 in Charleston on charges of securities fraud and violating federal mine safety standards.

"Alpha does not have the right to impose any terms or conditions on Blankenship's advancement other than an undertaking to repay," Bouchard wrote in an opinion that cited the company's charter and its 2011 merger agreement with Alpha Natural Resources Inc.

Steve Hawkins, a spokesman for Alpha, said in an email that the company is reviewing the ruling.

Blankenship is accused of routinely instructing Massey executives to focus on coal extraction and turning a blind eye to safety problems before the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion that killed 29. He denies wrongdoing.

His lawyer, William Taylor, is seeking to delay the trial until January, saying he needs time to complete his investigation and prepare trial exhibits, witness examinations and jury presentations. If the trial proceeds as planned, "the defense will be unprepared," he said in a May 22 filing.

Blankenship stepped down as Massey's top executive in December 2010 with a $12 million retirement package just before Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha acquired the company for $7.1 billion. In February, he sued in Delaware over legal fees saying agreements he signed with Massey and Alpha required the payments.

Alpha hasn't provided a valid basis for terminating Blankenship's rights under Massey's charter, Bouchard said in his ruling.

The case hinged on Bouchard's interpretation of a March 2011 document that spells out Massey's indemnification obligations to Blankenship. In the document, Blankenship said he "had no reasonable cause to believe" his conduct was ever unlawful.

Lawyers for Alpha argued that the company was required to pay only if Blankenship was truthful. That interpretation was overly broad, the judge ruled.

The "provision, construed logically, makes sense as a form of reassurance to Massey, but not as a license for Massey to deny Blankenship further advancement," Bouchard said.

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Photo: Little Greek Golf Course gets upgrades http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM01/150529258 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM01/150529258 Thu, 28 May 2015 18:27:56 -0400 South Charleston officials on Wednesday held a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration for the new pro shop at Little Creek Golf Course. In addition to the golf pro shop, the building features a golf simulator, offices, a snack bar and a storage area for golf supplies.

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Lawsuit against Jim Justice's companies isn't a first http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM01/150529266 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM01/150529266 Thu, 28 May 2015 17:31:52 -0400 By Joel Ebert A lawyer representing a small business owner who filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday against companies owned by Jim Justice says suing the billionaire Greenbrier Resort owner and recent Democratic gubernatorial candidate is nothing new.

"There is a cottage industry in West Virginia of suing Justice-related industries," said Brian Glasser, who was hired by Thomas Lampert to sue Beckley-based Tams Management, Inc. and Southern Coal Corporation, both of which are owned by Justice.

The newly filed lawsuit alleges Justice's companies did not pay Lampert's trust $4 per ton for the first 500,000 tons of coal mined as was outlined in a 2013 agreement.

Lampert is seeking $2 million in damages, attorneys' fees, interest and other relief the court deems appropriate.

Tom Lusk, a representative for Southern Coal, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that there is a contract definition dispute that will be worked out fairly among parties.

But Glasser sees the case as fairly cut and dry.

"This case will go fast," he said. "We plan to move as quickly as we can and execute on our judgment."

The terms included in the documents the law firm included in the lawsuit makes it clear that Justice will end up owing Lampert, Glasser said.

Glasser said the actions described in the latest lawsuit are similar to what occurred in 2013, when Beckley-based Phillips Machine Services sued seven companies, including Southern Coal, owned by Justice for $1.1 million for unpaid invoices.

The company, which was also represented by Glasser's firm, Bailey and Glasser, sought payment of 244 bills, including $270,000 for rebuilding two shuttle cars.

Justice filed a counter-suit, seeking $7.5 million in damages, which was later dismissed.

In an August 2014 opinion, Chief Circuit Judge Robert Burnside of Raleigh County sided with Phillips Machine. The judge found Justice's companies could not produce any evidence of paying the invoices, despite claims made in response to the lawsuit.

"But had they paid any invoices, the Defendants would presumably be able to present evidence of payment such as, for instance, cancelled checks," Burnside wrote before granting summary judgment.

Glasser said the two lawsuits are quite similar.

"It's more of the same," he said, noting that it appeared Justice had a common business practice of not paying his debts to companies.

The Lampert lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions taken against Justice in recent years. In June 2013, the Associated Press reported that Justice faced at least nine lawsuits since the beginning of 2012. Five were filed in Kentucky, two in Tennessee and two in Virginia.

In 2011, Delta Air Lines sought $4 million in a lawsuit against The Greenbrier after the resort had guaranteed a minimum amount of money in return for providing flights to the local airport.

The year before, two landscaping companies sued the resort, seeking $1.4 million in damages for work they performed prior to The Greenbrier's first PGA tour event.

Justice entered the gubernatorial race earlier this month.

His campaign manager, Derek Scarbro, declined to provide comment for this story, instead deferring to Lusk's comments already provided to the Associated Press.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

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Construction begins on South Charleston Sheetz http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529267 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150528/DM05/150529267 Thu, 28 May 2015 17:30:21 -0400 By Jared Hunt The South Charleston Sheetz - the company's first convenience restaurant in Kanawha County - is scheduled to open Nov. 5, according to company managers.

City officials and representatives from Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. had a groundbreaking ceremony for the new location Thursday afternoon.

The company has been rapidly expanding in the area in recent years.

District Manager Jim Williams said the first area Sheetz was opened in the Barboursville-Huntington area six years ago and the company has been methodically expanding eastward along the Interstate 64 corridor. The company has opened four stores in Putnam County and now has its sights on locations in Kanawha County, with the site along MacCorkle Avenue between Park and MacDonald avenues being its first in the county.

"We're excited to be in Kanawha County right now," Williams said. "The closest store we have to Charleston is Poca, and every year we get a little closer to Charleston."

The company opened its 500th store earlier this year, and Williams said executives hope to grow the number of stores by 10 percent a year for the foreseeable future. He said the company was looking for lots in and around Charleston that could be the home for future stores, but said the company didn't have any locations secured at this time.

In addition to the South Charleston site, the company is working on building a store in Ripley.

Williams said the South Charleston store would feature the company's new "Big Six" concept, which features a self-serve ice cream creamery and coffee bar.

"There's going to be self-service ice cream, frozen yogurt and different things like that," he said. "We're going to have a premium coffee bar and obviously the everyday favorites, including MTO and SBC, which is Sheetz Brothers Coffee and our Made-To-Order foods."

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said city officials have been working with Sheetz executives for years to secure a site in the city. He was pleased to see the company finally begin to build at the site.

"I think it's going to be a great success," Mullens said. "I'm telling you, I've answered more questions about 'When is Sheetz coming?' than any other business I've ever answered questions about. The response of our community has been absolutely amazing... They're going to do well."

Nic Ridenhour, who will be general manager of the South Charleston store, said he plans to hire two salaried assistant managers for the location, along with five shift managers and 25 full-time sales associates who will be paid on an hourly basis. He said all hourly employees will be paid at a rate well above minimum wage and have full benefits, including health, dental and vision insurance and the opportunity to participate in a company 401k plan.

Ridenhour said the company would hold open interviews for managers June 30 at the Charleston Workforce West Virginia office.

Williams said passers by will see the new store come together rather quickly.

"In Scott Depot, we went up from footers to finish in 85 days," he said.

Construction in South Charleston should follow a similar timetable, with staff in place and everything running by the Nov. 5 opening date.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Airport to pick engineer for landslide slope work http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM05/150529344 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM05/150529344 Wed, 27 May 2015 21:28:08 -0400 By Jared Hunt Yeager Airport officials hope to have an engineering firm hired by the end of the week to begin formulating a plan for how to stabilize and remove the remaining unsafe portions of its partially collapsed runway overrun area.

Last month, the airport's governing board awarded an $855,000 contract to Mingo County-based S&E Clearing and Hydroseeding to begin tearing down remaining unstable portions of the airport's Engineered Material Arresting System, which partially collapsed March 12, sending more than a million tons of dirt and fill material into the valley below.

However, airport executive director Rick Atkinson told board members Wednesday the airport has decided not to go forward with that contract with S&E Clearing because the company's plans to remove the remaining portion of the hillside did not get a stamp of approval from consultants. The company has been working to clear and stabilize the area around Elk Two Mile Creek, to help reduce the possibility of any future flooding in that area, but has done no work at the top of the hill.

"We certainly weren't comfortable with someone working in a situation that didn't have a quality set of plans," Atkinson said.

Instead, the airport has issued a request for qualifications for engineering firms to come in and create a new plan for how to bring down the remaining unstable portion of the hillside in a safe manner.

Atkinson said officials heard back from nine engineering firms interested in the project. He said airport officials would interview the four top candidates Thursday and then pick one by Friday.

The selected firm would then be given three weeks to come up with a remediation plan for the site. Atkinson said the airport already has been working with the West Virginia Contractors Association to line up contractors to perform the work once the engineering firm comes up with a plan. He hopes that work will begin by July 4.

"It's not as fast as I'd want it to be ... but it's not worth risking someone's life and limb to do it without a plan that's well thought out and has all the safety considerations," Atkinson said.

While the bulk of the unstable landmass collapsed into the Keystone Drive area during the initial landslide, there remains about 25,000 tons of dirt and fill material that is unstable and at risk of collapse. Engineers have advised the airport to go ahead and bring down that material in a controlled fashion to help stabilize the area.

Once that work is done, the airport and its engineers can begin coming up with a permanent solution for the slope.

Meanwhile, there are still three Keystone Drive families living in a hotel as they try to find new places to live in the aftermath of the landslide.

Atkinson said the airport has settled claims with six homeowners who were affected by the landslide. He said they planned to close on an additional claim Wednesday afternoon.

Airport assistant director Terry Sayre has also met with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who may approve $1.3 million in funding to reimburse the airport for expenses it has incurred since the hillside began to collapse.

Airport officials on Friday also filed a lawsuit against 20 companies involved in the construction and design of the engineered fill beneath the runway overrun area. That lawsuit is expected to be updated and refined in the coming days, and it will likely be more than a month before the companies involved issue responses to the airport's claims.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Jared Hunt column: More rate increases on the horizon http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM05/150529345 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM05/150529345 Wed, 27 May 2015 21:25:42 -0400 It's not going to be fun to be a West Virginia utility customer over the next year or so.

On Tuesday, the state Public Service Commission approved a rate increase for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power that will allow them to raise the average residential customer's monthly bill by about $14.30, with another $5.20 a month increase kicking in one year from now.

But that's not the worst of it: there are more utility rate increases on the horizon.

In fact, this likely won't be the only time your power rates go up this year.

"I'm really discouraged for residential customers," said Jackie Roberts, the director of the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division.

Roberts currently is representing consumers in several utility rate increase cases before the commission.

Tuesday's $123.5 million rate increase affected two parts of your power bill, the companies' base rate along with a new Vegetation Management Program Surcharge that will appear on your bill.

"The good news is that until this recent APCo order is that we had the second lowest residential rates in the country, now we're edging up to 10th," Roberts said.

"While it's good news that our rates compare very well to national rates, the bad news is that we're one of the poorest rates in the country," she said. "It doesn't matter how low rates are when people can't afford to pay them."

And those aren't the only increases the power companies had sought this year.

The companies in March filed a separate case asking for a 4 percent, or $61.5 million, increase in what they charge customers for their power plant fuel costs.

Each year, the power companies go through what's known as an Expanded Net Energy Cost proceeding, that allows power companies to recover how much they spend on the fuel, mainly coal and natural gas, that they use to generate electricity. Roberts' office says the companies are due just an additional $41 million. So whether the companies or Roberts' office prevail, it's likely consumers will see their bills go up again once the case is decided later this summer.

Meanwhile, Mountaineer Gas has asked for a 4.7 percent increase would raise the average residential monthly bill by $3.46. And then there's West Virginia American Water's request for a 28 percent increase, which could raise monthly bills by $11.63.

So if you're an "average" customer of all three utilities, you could see your monthly bills go up by at least $34.59 in the next year (Not counting the power company's looming fuel cost increase.)

Tom Hunter, spokesman for the state chapter of the AARP, which monitors rate cases, described this as a time of rate "pancaking." He said the combined increase could have a dire effect on those living on fixed incomes.

And it's not just the rate increases that worry AARP officials.

The PSC is also looking into the process by which gas and electric utilities disconnect customers.

Hunter said power companies have safety concerns with regulations requiring utility employees to personally knock on the door of delinquent customers and notify them one day before they plan to shut off service. They don't like the idea of employees being greeted by a gun when they notify someone about shutting off service, and would prefer the requirement be eliminated.

Hunter said that with all the rate increases in the pipeline, this isn't the best time to make it easier for utilities to cut off service, especially for elderly customers or those who need to power medical equipment.

"While we understand you have some rogue folks out there that are just skirting the policies ... there are those other situations where there are health and safety concerns with shutting off someone's power," he said. "Why eliminate some of those basic consumer protections that have been in place since 1980, when this can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis."

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Brothers, friend open Charleston motorsport store http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM01/150529346 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/DM01/150529346 Wed, 27 May 2015 21:23:47 -0400 By Laura Haight The owners of Charleston's newest motorsports store saw an open road - or more like an open trail - for another power sports business in town.

Hidden Trails Motorsports, located on the corner of Morris and Smith streets near Appalachian Power Park, sells everything related to power sports and racing, from street bikes to four-wheelers to personal watercrafts. It opened its doors on May 16.

Trey Frame runs the store with his two brothers, Stephen and Cameron, along with their close friend, Shawne Monk. The four, who all share the title of general manager, grew up together and remained best friends over the years.

Frame grew up working on motorcycles and personal watercraft with his father, who got him into the sport of racing when he was 11 years old.

They opened their first store in Shrewsbury in eastern Kanawha County in 2013, but the location has a "niche market," according to Frame.

He saw a need for a Charleston locale when people would come up to him at events and say they had been meaning to go to his store in Shrewsbury but just weren't sure where his shop was located, or they didn't want to travel outside Charleston.

Frame, who also owns Daniel's Electric, a contracting business, had extra space in his shop and thought it would be perfect for selling sporting vehicles.

Frame got the inspiration for the store layout after visiting an REI store in Charlotte.

The most popular vehicles are UTVs or "side-by-sides," similar to ATVs but with dune buggy or SUV-inspired body styling.

"To put it in perspective, West Virginia sells more side-by-sides than any other state in the U.S. except for Texas and we're just a fraction of the size," Frame said.

He credits the mountain terrain and the Hatfield and McCoy trail system for the industry's success in West Virginia.

Frame said Hidden Trails focuses on customer service and while most store mechanics will specialize only in what they sell, his mechanics can do it all.

"Our mechanics are versatile and have been trained on all major manufacturers," he said.

While watercraft have been their biggest seller so far at the Charleston location, Monk said he expects more side-by-sides to sell.

"It's the way of the future as far as off-road goes," he said.

Monk encourages consumers to educate themselves either through research or by speaking with the employees at Hidden Trails before making a purchase.

"Be safe. Research what you want to buy," Monk said. "Come talk to us, we won't pressure you to buy anything. Be careful and have fun - that's what it's all about."

Monk said his favorite aspect of the store is its trendiness. He said the showroom isn't rough-looking on the inside like other power sports shops and that it even sells apparel.

The brothers also helped bring the National Championship Jet Ski race to Charleston as part of SportsFEST at Magic Island. This year's SportsFEST will be Aug. 15 to 16.

For more information, visit http://hiddentrailsmoto.com.

Contact writer Laura Haight at 304-348-4872 or laura.haight@dailymailwv.com. Follow her on twitter at @laurahaight_.

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Amtrak to install cameras in trains http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/ARTICLE/150529429 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150527/ARTICLE/150529429 Wed, 27 May 2015 06:24:42 -0400

By JOAN LOWY

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Amtrak said Tuesday it will install video cameras inside locomotive cabs to record the actions of train engineers, a move that follows a deadly derailment earlier this month in which investigators are searching for clues to the train engineer's actions before the crash.

The Amtrak engineer, Brendan Bostian, suffered a head injury in the accident and has told investigators he can't remember what happened. Northeast Regional train 188 accelerated to a speed of 106 miles per hour in the last minute before entering a curve where it derailed. The speed limit for the curve is 50 mph. The crash left eight people dead and about 200 injured.

The train was equipped with a "black box" data recorder and an outward-facing camera focused on the track ahead, but neither of those devices reveals what was happening inside the cab.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending that the Federal Railroad Administration require passenger and freight train cabs to have audio recorders since the late 1990s. They revised that recommendation five years ago to include inward-facing sound and video recorders.

Railroad administration officials say they support use of the cameras. In the past year, the agency has told the NTSB that it intends to propose regulations requiring the cameras. However, no regulations have been proposed and it typically takes federal agencies many months, if not years, to move from proposals to final regulations.

Joseph Boardman, the railroad's president and CEO, said Amtrak has supported efforts by a railroad administration safety advisory committee made up of industry and labor representatives to come up with standards for the cameras. The committee has yet to issue recommendations.

"We've been supporting it all the way along," he told reporters in a telephone briefing. "It's just a matter of working out some of those details. ... There may be some adjustments we have to make later down the road, but I think it's time to do it and I'm doing it."

Besides accident investigations, Amtrak will review the recordings to monitor engineers' actions, Boardman said.

Unions representing engineers at Amtrak and other passenger and freight railroads have generally opposed use of the cameras. As recently as 2012, railroad administration officials had also opposed requiring the cameras, telling NTSB they were concerned the cameras might lower employee morale and the images might be used punitively by railroads.

Officials for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cameras will first be installed in 70 new Amtrak locomotives that will power all Northeast Regional and long-distance trains between Washington, New York and Boston, as well as Keystone Service between New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Most of those locomotives will be equipped with the cameras before the end of the year, and the rest by sometime this spring, Boardman told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Amtrak is developing a plan for installation of cameras in the rest of its locomotive fleet, including Acela Express locomotives, but no time table has been set for those installations. The railroad has about 300 locomotives nationwide.

It's not unusual for engineers to be killed in train crashes, or to be seriously injured and not remember details clearly. The NTSB first recommended requiring audio recordings of sound in locomotive cabs following a 1996 collision between commuter train and an Amtrak train in Silver Spring, Maryland. None of the commuter train's operating crew members survived, and the board was unable to determine their actions leading up to the crash.

The recommendation was revised to include video cameras with sound in 2010 as the board wrapped up its investigation into one of the worst train collisions in memory - a Metrolink commuter train that failed to obey signals and collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train near Chatsworth, California. Twenty-five people were killed, including the Metrolink engineer, and over 100 injured in the 2008 crash.

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W.Va. program invests in Greenbrier County company http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529471 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529471 Tue, 26 May 2015 19:21:20 -0400 The West Virginia Capital Access Program has approved an investment of $400,000 in Greenbrier Technical Services, located in Ronceverte.

Founded in 1989, the company serves the banking, restaurant and mining industries by manufacturing replacement parts, repairing printed circuit boards and modules and providing parts-sourcing services. The company currently has 24 employees, but hopes to create up to 36 new jobs in the next three years.

The Capital Access Program provides state small businesses with the capital needed to invest, expand and create jobs. It is administered by the state’s venture capital program, the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust. INNOVA Commercialization Group, a seed and early-stage investment capital program, also served as a lending institution for the transaction.

The $400,000 in funds will be matched with a combination of a bank loan and private investors.

Anyone interested in working for Greenbrier Technical Services should submit a resume to Tawana Martin at tmartin@greenbrier-tech.com.

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Groundbreaking set for South Charleston Sheetz http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529473 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529473 Tue, 26 May 2015 19:20:47 -0400 Sheetz Inc. will have a groundbreaking ceremony for the company’s first Kanawha County store Thursday afternoon.

Company executives and South Charleston officials will gather at the site of the convenience restaurant, located along MacCorkle Avenue east of Thomas Memorial Hospital, at 2 p.m. for the ceremony.

The Altoona, Pa.-based family-owned company has been rapidly expanding in recent years, celebrating its 500th store opening in February. It plans to open 30 stores this year.

In addition to the South Charleston site, the company is also building a store in Ripley.

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PSC approves power rate increase http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529491 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150526/DM05/150529491 Tue, 26 May 2015 17:29:17 -0400 By Jared Hunt The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a $123.5 million rate increase for American Electric Power subsidiaries Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power.

The new rate system went into effect immediately for the more than 476,000 customers in 24 West Virginia counties served by the two companies.

The overall $123.5 million increase represents a 9 percent bump in the companies' annual rate base. It's more than $100 million less than the $226 million, or 16 percent increase the companies had originally sought.

The overall increase includes a $79 million increase in the companies' base rates and an additional $44.5 million to cover costs from the companies' Vegetation Management Program, which involves trimming trees and brush from power line rights of way.

But while the increase represents an overall 9 percent bump, residential customers will see a larger increase. That's because the amount of the increase varies across the companies' residential, commercial and industrial customer classes.

To dampen the immediate effect of the rate increase, commissioners approved a one-year phase in of the overall 16.1 percent increase in residential customer rates.

The first 11.8 percent of this increase will go into effect immediately, increasing the average residential customer's bill by about $14.30 a month. The remaining 4.3 percent portion of the increase will go into effect one year from now, bumping up the average customer's monthly bill by an additional $5.20.

Had commissioners not opted for the one-year phase-in, the average residential customer's bill would have immediately gone up $19.50 a month.

The $79 million increase in base rates was significantly less than the companies had asked for. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power originally had asked for a $181 million increase in base rates, so the approved increase in base rates is about 56 percent less than what the companies had asked for.

The commission said the base-rate increase was driven by the $407 million the companies had invested in plants to meet new environmental regulations and increased maintenance expenses. Part of those costs were offset by the 2010 increase in the companies' base rates.

The remaining $44.5 million increase will be collected through a new VMP Surcharge that will appear on customer bills. That surcharge will cover the costs of the Vegetation Management Program, which was developed as a response to the power outages that occurred during the 2012 derecho and Superstorm Sandy.

The PSC conducted a general investigation into the companies' tree trimming programs following those storms and recommended they create new comprehensive programs to avoid future widespread storm-related outages.

Appalachian Power executives were still reviewing the commission's 163-page ruling Tuesday evening.

Spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said the company was pleased they received nearly all the funding they had asked for related to the tree-trimming program, though she said the company was still analyzing the effect of the other aspects of the commission's ruling.

"We're still looking at the long-term impact of some of the things they have in the order," Matheney said. "It's hard for us to know at this early stage."

The company does have the option of asking the commission to reconsider all or parts of the decision, though Matheney said it was too early to say if the company would pursue that route.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Power grid well supplied for summer, operator says http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM05/150529560 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM05/150529560 Mon, 25 May 2015 19:54:17 -0400 By Jared Hunt The region's electricity grid operator says it should have ample supplies to keep West Virginia and surrounding states adequately powered when demand spikes for the summer air conditioning season.

PJM Interconnection, the company that oversees and operates the electricity transmission grid that runs throughout West Virginia, 12 other states and Washington, D.C., said last week its electricity suppliers should have more than enough power generating capacity to meet the anticipated high demand over the hot summer months.

Power demand typically spikes in June, July and August as consumers and businesses power air conditioners to provide indoor comfort during the summer heat. During this time, power companies try to operate at full capacity to help meet that demand.

That's something PJM executives are confident they will be able to do this year.

"We expect to have sufficient power to keep air conditioners and all electrical devices running this summer," said Michael Kormos, the company's executive vice president for operations.

PJM expects power demand across the region to peak at 155,279 megawatts this summer. That's down from the highest peak of 165,492 megawatts, which the company observed in July 2011. To put that in perspective, one megawatt of electricity is enough to power between 800 and 1,000 homes.

The expected 155,279-megawatt peak in demand will fall well short of the amount regional power plants will be able to supply this summer.

PJM said it has 177,650 megawatts of installed generating capacity at its disposal and ready to use.

While it said that generating capacity is slightly less than what was available last year, due to power plant retirements, the extra capacity is still well above what the company is required to have. Regulations require PJM to maintain a 15.6 percent reserve margin; the 177,650 megawatts of generating capacity represents a nearly 21 percent margin.

The company has faced challenges meeting demand spikes during heat waves in recent years.

In 2013, a late-summer wave of unseasonably hot weather in the Mid-Atlantic strained the region's power transmission system, causing blackouts in some areas.

"Summer can be the real test of our system because of heavy use of air conditioning across the 13-state region," Kormos said. "This is why we work year-round to ensure that power resources are in place to meet consumer demand."

During the 2013 incident, a widespread outage was averted using a power conservation technique known as demand response.

In a demand response program, customers - typically commercial power users - are paid or receive breaks in their bills for reducing or interrupting their power usage during major demand peaks or power system emergencies.

PJM said it has the capacity to reduce demand by about 8,500 megawatts using demand response and other energy efficiency initiatives in its 13-state territory.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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John Burdette column: Seuss book offers financial wisdom for graduates http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM05/150529566 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM05/150529566 Mon, 25 May 2015 18:51:08 -0400 This is the time of year a fresh batch of college graduates will take their first steps into their chosen careers. Dr. Seuss brilliantly captures this moment in his classic book "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

As you read it, you'll find examples of the ups, downs and choices you face throughout life. While financial advice is not overtly apparent, many of the fundamentals you need to succeed financially are indeed there.

"Be sure when you step, step with great care and great tact, and remember life's a great balancing act."

As a new graduate, you're now responsible for the choices that will shape your life. These choices are often a balancing act between today's pleasure and tomorrow's security. For example, the difference in the monthly payment for a $20,000 car versus a $30,000 car is only $190. If you bought the cheaper car and put the $190 a month in a Roth IRA earning 8 percent over 40 years, you'd have a tax-free account worth nearly $600,000.

You will have to decide what trade-offs you want to make in life. It's important to understand the consequences and make them with full knowledge and opened eyes.

"And when you're alone there's a very good chance you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants."

It's quite natural to feel scared or unsure as you navigate your way through life. We've never dealt before with many of the things life throws at us. Fortunately, we're surrounded by people who have experienced similar circumstances. Work on creating a network of mentors and professionals that can offer advice in uncertain times. Members in the business community, your place of worship, or faculty and alumni at your school may offer a timely bit of sage advice. Experienced financial advisers, accountants and attorneys also have deep well of knowledge that can help you on your way.

There is no shame in asking for assistance; we all get stuck along life's path.

"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to great places! You're off and away!"

It's finally your turn. You get to begin to shape your life and affect our world. Keep yourself in position to take advantage of opportunities that may arise. While you may not have great financial resources yet, you have the most valuable asset you can possess - time. Use it wisely because it's not renewable.

Keep your debt low and always live on a little less than you earn. Allow time to work for you through the power of compound interest. Even small steps toward savings and investment can have a big effect in the future.

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)"

Even Dr. Seuss realized we are not 100 percent guaranteed success. But your chances greatly improve if you strive to understand the future effects of your decisions, seek out quality mentors and place a priority on saving and investing early. Good luck! I can't wait to see what you do.

"Your mountain is waiting. So ... get on your way!"

John Burdette is a financial adviser at Fourth Avenue Financial in South Charleston.

Disclaimer: Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corp. (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fourth Avenue Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.

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KFC campaigns to win back diners http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/ARTICLE/150529568 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/ARTICLE/150529568 Mon, 25 May 2015 18:49:32 -0400

By DREW HARWELL

The Washington Post

These are dark days for KFC's once-dominant chicken empire. After five years of crumbling sales, the extra crispy mega-chain, which in 2012 lost its throne as America's top chicken seller to Chick-fil-A, now makes less money than eateries half its size, like Applebee's and Panera Bread.

Now, 75 years after "Colonel" Harland Sanders first served his original recipe at a six-seat dining table in rural Kentucky, the chain is betting $185 million on a massive, bizarre turnaround campaign in hopes of winning a seat again at the fast-food table.

The chain is blasting out TV ads, offering new Southern-style grub and remodeling some of its 4,300 stores with humanized touches, like boards they say will name the regional farm where their chickens came from.

Perhaps KFC's biggest gamble: Reviving the long-dead visage of Colonel Sanders himself, "the brand's greatest asset," with a handful of increasingly odd "web, broadcast, social media and in-store experiences."

"Young people all have this idea that everyone can be a star on social media. Well, the Colonel was the consummate American showman," said Kevin Hochman, KFC's chief marketing officer. "People see him as an old person, because we haven't talked about him in a while. But he was the person with bling before bling was even a word."

In the United States, KFC has joined other once-infallible fast-food kings, like McDonald's, in seeing a drop-off in business from buyers increasingly lured to fast-casual, advertised-fresh outposts like Chipotle Mexican Grill. In China, the chain (and others) has seen sales disappear amid worries over the Avian flu.

It has struggled against small-but-growing rivals like Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits, which debuted on the stock market this month, and faces new competition from upstarts like classy burger joint Shake Shack, whose shares climbed this week after it filed a trademark application for "Chicken Shack."

But KFC's biggest loss so far has been in its Cersei-Margaery-style battle with Chick-fil-A, its younger Southern rival. After eclipsing KFC in 2012, the cult favorite known for its boneless chicken sandwiches ran with the prize, making $1 billion more in the United States than KFC did last year.

But KFC has big backing from its owner, Yum Brands, the $40 billion fast-food colossus behind Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. And executives say it has the name, history and nostalgia they're hoping will win Americans back.

Over the next few years, KFC will redo its packaging, uniforms and dining decor in red-and-white stripes, which executives call a throw-back to the classic look of carnival tents. The chain will also expand its menu, offering Southern-ish fare like barbecue baked beans with slow-pulled chicken alongside a river of ranch-like Finger Lickin' Good Sauce.

In a world of health-food hype, the chain is doubling down on its fried-chicken bucket, which Hochman called a "shareable innovative package" that still gets about three-quarters of its sales from parents with kids at the table.

"Many families see our bucket meals as home-meal replacements," Hochman said. "They may want to cut corners, but they want to know the people who are making their meals aren't cutting corners."

Unlike its fast-food competitors - Wendy's with its veggie burgers, McDonald's with its kale - none of KFC's rebranding promises touch on a shift toward healthier cuisine. Instead, the chain will continue to trumpet its heaping helpings of extra-crispy yardbird, buttery biscuits and gravy-flooded mashed-potato bowls. (One new package design includes the quote, "There are few problems a bucket of fried chicken can't solve.")

The chain also will try and get people to think less about trouble spots in its history of poultry farming - including a scandal last year involving a tainted meat supply - and think more about its chicken "traceability." Promotional spots will say KFC's chickens come in raw from regional farms and are hand-breaded and fried before leaving the kitchen.

"The new healthy is really about real food: I know where the chickens are from, how they're prepared, that it's done the proper way," Hochman said. "We're very on trend with that."

Amid all these changes, KFC has yet to announce any shift on one of the biggest issues in modern farming: The use of chicken raised by antibiotics. McDonald's said in March it would phase out the chicken due to worries over deadly, treatment-resistant "superbugs." This week, Wal-Mart became the first major retailer to ask its farmers and meat producers to limit their antibiotic use.

To market these changes, KFC tapped Saturday Night Live alum Darrell Hammond to resurrect a live-action version of Colonel Sanders, who has not been seen on TV in 20 years, in ads that will launch next week.

On Tuesday, KFC tweeted a "State of Kentucky Fried Chicken Address," in which Hammond's Colonel wheezes and drawls his way through all the changes he's missed before declaring, "I'm back, America." (Of cargo pants, he declares, "You seen these pants? That's too many pockets.")

In real life, the Indiana-born Sanders worked a parade of odd jobs before franchising KFC, which he sold to a group of investors in 1964 for $2 million. (Sanders died in 1980, and the chain made $4.2 billion last year in the U.S. alone.)

KFC hopes to play that story for laughs, launching a Web site, the Hall of Colonels, that plays out Sanders' history. One still highlights a gas-station gunfight that has spread (spuriously) across the web.

The chain also unveiled an offbeat, 8-bit-style web game, ColonelQuest, that plays like a dark acid trip of Sanders' life. In one level full of bouncing babies, the player, as Sanders' "amateur obstetrician," is told to "catch as many babies as you can so the Colonel won't get sued for malpractice!"

It's not the only way KFC is trying to hook young eaters: An ad campaign in Germany includes a tray liner that can be used as a Bluetooth keyboard for a smartphone. Those stores are part of KFC's growing global enterprise: The chain now has 7,300 international outposts, 3,000 more than it has back home.

But KFC draws the line at comparing its rebranding to that of McDonald's, the fellow global fast-food titan now going through its own turnaround. In the company's view, Sanders is far removed from the legacy of Ronald McDonald.

"This is much more than a mascot," Hochman said. "He was literally the greatest chicken salesman in the world."

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Coal's worst fears affirmed in analysis of Obama climate plan http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/ARTICLE/150529569 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/ARTICLE/150529569 Mon, 25 May 2015 18:46:50 -0400

By JIM SNYDER

and TIM LOH

BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON - A new government analysis of President Barack Obama's signature effort to fight climate change affirms what critics suspected: the proposal could further weaken an already battered coal industry.

Electricity generation from the carbon-intensive fossil fuel would fall by 90 gigawatts, more than twice the decline government analysts had predicted as recently as April, according to a report released Friday by the Energy Information Administration.

Most of the coal-plant closures would come by 2020, when the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions would kick in. Consumers may also take a hit as electricity prices would increase as much as 7 percent on average by 2025, partly because of the costs of building new power plants.

"In short, EIA confirms EPA's rule is all pain, no gain - a symbolic gesture that continues the administration's policy path for destroying high wage jobs for generations," said Hal Quinn, chief executive officer of the National Mining Association, a lobbying group that represents companies including Peabody Energy Corp.

Coal, which has served as the backbone of U.S. electricity generation for decades, is in the middle of its worst downturn in decades amid competition from lower-cost natural gas and pressure to meet tougher emissions standards.

The Obama administration's proposal, released in June, is not final. Supporters, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, noted that the EIA projected the plan would cut carbon emissions from all U.S. power plants 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

"As proposed, the Clean Power Plan will significantly reduce carbon pollution that will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $93 billion," said Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for the EPA.

The EIA analysis doesn't consider possible health and environmental benefits. It predicts a minor impact on the U.S. economy overall. Gross domestic production could fall as much as 0.25 percent by 2040, assuming emissions are further restricted after 2030, the EIA said.

Purchia said the EPA is reviewing more than 4 million public comments and working to ensure the plan is affordable.

The EIA analysis found that coal production will decline 20 percent by 2020 and 32 percent by 2035, from a business-as-usual case.

Coal use has already been dropping, generating 37 percent of the country's electricity in February - down from over 50 percent in 2007, according to the EIA.

The market capitalization of the publicly traded U.S. coal companies has shrunk to about $19.4 billion from $78 billion in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Patriot Coal Corp. filed for bankruptcy last week for the second time in three years, joining at least a half-dozen other coal producers that have sought protection amid the downturn.

Murray Energy Corp., the closely held miner that's rapidly expanded amid the downturn, is now planning to lay off a quarter of its staff - about 1,800 people - at nine locations, according to a person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified Thursday evening because the information isn't public.

Natural-gas use initially would replace lost coal, with wind power and other renewable energy sources taking a greater share of U.S. electricity production in later years, the EIA said.

Natural gas generation in April and May is predicted to have almost reached the level of coal use for the first time since April 2012, the EIA said in a short-term energy outlook on May 12.

While retail electricity prices are projected to increase as much as 7 percent on average from 2020 to 2025, in some regions the costs begin to recede to the EIA's baseline levels by 2030. Electricity costs in the Southwest and Southeast may remain higher than without the EPA rule, according to the report.

Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and critic of the EPA, requested the analysis from EIA.

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Longtime hospital volunteer has helped patients, families for more than 50 years http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM06/150529612 DM06 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150525/DM06/150529612 Mon, 25 May 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith For more than half a century, Susan Hufford has volunteered her time to put a smile on the faces of hospital patients and visitors.

Throughout the decades she has been seen pushing a snack cart, working in a gift shop, offering directions, or delivering flowers to patients' rooms. Her only pay is brightening someone's day and she figures that is more than enough.

"It's a feeling of satisfaction to give people a little reassurance," Hufford said. "People are nervous or unsure when they come to the hospital. It's not a great thing, but it's a little something to make the day a little easier for someone."

Hufford was recently recognized for more than 50 years of service at Charleston Area Medical Center's annual employee dinner at the Charleston Civic Center. The event was held April 21 with 800 people attending. Longtime employees who were recognized had anywhere from 25 to 45 years of service. Hufford was honored for 50 years of volunteerism by David Ramsey, CAMC president and chief executive officer. She was presented with an award and roses.

Hufford, 75, first began volunteering at age 24 in October of 1964 at the old Kanawha Valley Hospital that was located on Virginia Street in Charleston. The ladies who introduced her to the post were Edith Barber and her daughter-in-law Barbara Barber.

"I would run the cart to different rooms," Hufford said. "We had candy, magazines, coffee and pop. The coffee was in a big urn. If I ran out, I would go to the kitchen and get more. Then I ran up and down the stairs. Now I walk slowly. I think there were four floors."

Volunteers were recognized by their uniforms consisting of peach jumpers and white blouses.

"CAMC took it over," she said of the old hospital. "When I came here I wanted to work in the gift shop at what is now Women and Children's" Hospital.

She now works the information desk where folks stop to ask questions and flower shops leave bouquets to be delivered to patients.

"I help folks find their way," she said of the flurry of visitors seeking directions either within the hospital or the city. "Many people who come here are not from Charleston."

Hufford can be found at the information desk at Women and Children's on Tuesday afternoons when she greets visitors with a smile and a kind word.

"I am a liaison," she said. "I am not public but I am public. I am not the hospital but I am the hospital. I am in-between."

She is grateful to her family for the support she has received throughout the years as she has continued to do volunteer work at the hospital.

She and husband, Fred, a mental health therapist, are the parents of two grown children, Timothy of Charleston, and Rebecca of Wadsworth, Ohio. They also have four grandchildren.

She holds a degree in education from Wheelock College in Boston and taught elementary school for three years before deciding her niche was hospital volunteer work.

She is also active in her church, Kanawha United Presbyterian, and enjoys reading, especially historical books.

She looks forward to her hospital volunteer hours. Aside from helping the public, she enjoys socializing with friends she has made throughout the years.

The recent award for her service was a nice surprise, she said.

"I never expected it," she said during a break from her post at Women and Children's Hospital. "Coming here every week is enough of a reward for me."

Kristy Fidler, CAMC director of volunteer services, said the hospital is grateful for the time and compassion Hufford gives so freely.

"Susan is just a genuinely kind person," Fidler said. "She is pleasant to be around and has been an asset."

She said the hospital could use more volunteers, especially with the opening of the new Cancer Center. For more information go to camc.org/volunteer or call 304-388-7426.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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