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Natural gas smell around Huntington not cause for alarm, Steel of West Virginia says

HUNTINGTON — Officials say people who smell the odor of natural gas around Huntington should not be concerned — it’s just Steel of West Virginia cleaning its mill ponds.

Every year in November, the company drains and cleans its mill ponds, exposing anaerobic bacteria to the air. The bacteria emits an odor similar to mercaptan, which is a substance added to natural gas so that it can be detected by smell, according to information Steel of West Virginia provided the Huntington Fire Department.

The odor disperses through town either from manholes around the vicinity of the plant or as the non-hazard byproducts from the process are transported from the facility.

When this happens, 911 dispatchers and the city of Huntington receive dozens of phone calls about the smell of natural gas. Although the smell is unpleasant, breathing it is harmless, according to the company. Various state and local agencies are contacted prior to the cleaning.

The mill ponds are tanks used for wastewater treatment and are subject to inspection by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Steel of West Virginia notified the Huntington Fire Department that the smell should dissipate by noon Wednesday, Nov. 27.

W.Va. governor searching for way to expand Lily's Place

HUNTINGTON — With about 300 children now having passed through their doors, the leaders at Lily’s Place, a first-of-its-kind facility in Huntington that helps babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, would like to expand the facility’s reach to other parts of West Virginia, but they need more help to do it.

After five years of operation, Lily’s Place is still operating under what Executive Director Rebecca Crowder said was a fragile financial situation. Most of the funding for the facility comes from grants and private donations because they are limited in their insurance billing capabilities.

“Until we have the sustainability at this facility, we cannot replicate across the state,” Crowder said. “The governor expressed he is going to look for options to help us create a sustainable environment for what we already have so we could take on that challenge.”

Gov. Jim Justice, however, is now working to find a solution. The governor was joined by Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch and Cabell County’s legislative delegation Tuesday in touring Lily’s Place.

The facility, which opened in 2014, works with babies suffering neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of symptoms experienced by infants exposed to addictive substances while in the womb. Lily’s Place is the only licensed center of its kind in West Virginia and can only accept up to 16 babies at a time.

Justice commended Lily’s Place for seeing a problem and then finding a solution that works.

“They have to get donations locally and from wherever they can, and work grants like crazy just to be able to do the goodness that is off the charts,” Justice said. “I go back to just this: When are we going to realize the magnitude of the problem that we have, and when are we really going to step up and award the people that have it figured out and are really making good progress?”

Justice said it would cost the state “peanuts” to open five to seven other NAS facilities in the state, not considering the return the state would see by creating better starts for new babies and their families.

“You’ve got a great playbook, so let’s bring it all together,” he said.

Crouch said the system needs to change before expansion is possible.

Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell and chairman of the House Committee for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, said he thinks the Legislature will be able to find a way to open more facilities like Lily’s Place.

Crowder said Lily’s Place has always had champions, like Rohrbach and state Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins, but it was reassuring to see the governor agree with their needs.

Justice said he knows Huntington has seen challenging days, but that he agrees with what Mayor Steve Williams says is true: Huntington is a city of solutions.

Teen with ‘Purge’ list placed on home confinement

HUNTINGTON — A teen accused of making threats toward other students at Cabell Midland High School will be released from jail after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to waive his initial evidence hearing.

Harrison Grant Taylor, 18, who is facing six counts of stalking and one count of terroristic threats, was scheduled to appear for a preliminary evidence hearing Tuesday, but instead waived his right to the hearing in exchange for being released on home confinement, according to his attorney, Kerry Nessel.

His case will now be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Taylor was arrested Friday after Cabell Midland Assistant Principal Kellie Daniels told Cabell County sheriff’s deputies she learned from a teacher that Taylor allegedly maintained a list of students he wanted to kill. After interviewing Taylor, she found he did have a “Purge Day To-Do” list — referring to the movie “The Purge,” about a fictional society where murder and crimes are legal for one night only — but he said it was not something he would act upon.

The list, along with a suicide note dated Nov. 13, was found on his phone.

Nessel said his client was the victim of bullying at school.

“This is a case about freedom of speech and the First Amendment,” he said. “This is a case about a bunch of bullies bullying a quiet kid, somebody nobody is actually protecting at that school, even after numerous complaints. That’s what this case is about.”

According to the complaints, the to-do list said “torture and kill” and then listed six male students. The list then said “Rape, torture and kill” and listed two female students.

Also on Taylor’s cellphone were threatening letters directed at one of those male students, who was dating Taylor’s ex-girlfriend last school year, according to the complaints. The letters were dated in August and March and apparently Taylor never sent them.

Deputies interviewed that male student, who said Taylor had shown up at one of his jobs three times between March and June. Taylor allegedly showed up at another of the student’s jobs on Nov. 18.

The student said Taylor would come in and “linger and stare at him.” One time Taylor called the student an expletive before the student’s boss asked Taylor to leave, according to the complaints.

A.D. Lewis Community Center serves up annual Thanksgiving dinner

HUNTINGTON — The A.D. Lewis Community Center hosted its annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Tuesday evening to provide a free meal to members of the Fairfield community.

Turkey, dressing and all the fixings were served up during the dinner, which was open to the public.

The A.D. Lewis Community Center has been hosting its Thanksgiving dinner since 1985. The center will host a Christmas party for its children in December.