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WV Senate GOP debuts education bill

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Senate Republicans have pitched a broad-based education plan that allows for charter schools but doesn't include vouchers.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael released a lengthy draft of the proposal late Friday and said it's a compromise that folds in many ideas backed by Democrats.

"Nobody gets everything they want," he said.

The legislation includes a pay raise for teachers, mental health services for students and a provision that would withhold pay for teachers if a school is closed because of a strike.

The proposal comes as the GOPled Legislature nears special session debate on education measures. Carmichael said he put out the draft of the bill Friday to give lawmakers time to read it so they can come back next week and propose changes before the Senate reconvenes.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement praising the bill.

"I applaud the state Senate for making a significant move in attempting to create a bipartisan approach to education betterment," the governor said.

Democrats, who have already introduced a package of education bills, also sounded hopeful.

"We are encouraged to see the Senate leadership embrace much of our proposed legislation," Senate Democratic Minority Leader Roman Prezioso said in a statement. "We know that our ideas will work, and we are happy they agree. We're very glad to have some common ground to move forward on."

Justice called the special session after the Legislature failed to agree on education measures and teachers launched a two-day strike during the regular session.

Educators packed the Capitol and took to the picket line in February over a bill that tied a pay raise to the formation of the state's first charter schools and called for education vouchers that would've helped parents pay for schools. The bill eventually failed but was seen by teachers as retaliation for last year's nine-day strike across West Virginia over raises and health insurance.

Since then, public forums on education have been held and the state Department of Education published a report that recommended policymakers address the impact of the opioid crisis on students and oppose school vouchers called education savings accounts.

Workers prepare Dreamland Pool for a busy summer

KENOVA — Kenova's Dreamland Pool is set to open for its 93rd season this weekend. In preparation of the big day, city workers spent Tuesday afternoon preparing the grounds for another busy summer.

Dreamland Pool first opened in 1926, and the original construction included a three-story pavilion.

The pool itself measures 125 feet by 250 feet and was once known as the largest public swimming pool east of the Mississippi River. About the size of a football field, Dreamland sports two concrete floats in the middle of the pool to allow swimmers a place to rest.

The property also includes basketball and volleyball courts and newly resurfaced tennis courts for the 2019 season. According to Kenova Mayor Don Bias, Dreamland is expected to employ about 20 lifeguards this year and is scheduled to open Saturday, May 25.

4 dead in Lawrence County house fire

PERRY, Ohio — Two adults, two children and a service dog were killed in a house fire early Friday morning along Township Road 336 in Perry, which is northeast of Ironton in Lawrence County.

The bodies of Greg Taylor Sr., 54, who used a wheelchair, and his wife, Amreh Taylor, 52, were found in the bedroom of their Perry Township residence, according to Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Ben Mack.

Mack said the couple had been caring for their stepgrandchildren Zell Bias, 8, and Gemma Bias, 4, who were discovered dead still in bed in a separate bedroom.

The body of the Taylors' service canine also was discovered and appeared to have been attempting to alert the couple, Mack added.

The fire call came in shortly after midnight and crews from the Perry Township Fire Department responded to the scene and were assisted by crews from both Upper Township and Coal Grove fire departments.

"On fire department arrival, the residence was found to be entirely engulfed in flames and was extinguished," Mack said.

The Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office has investigators attempting to determine the cause of the fire.

"There are no obvious signs of foul play at this time," he said.

Mack said the victims' bodies have been taken by Hall Funeral Home to the Montgomery County Coroner's Office in Dayton for autopsies.

"Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the family as they cope with this unforeseeable tragedy," Mack said. "It is unclear if there were functional smoke detectors in the home; however, we would like to remind all residents to check the status of their smoke detectors regularly and to contact your local fire department should you need assistance in installing one."

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @Fred-PaceHD.

Former jail deputy convicted in Boyd death case


CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — A former Boyd County, Kentucky, jail deputy accused of abuse in connection with an inmate death that occurred last year has admitted her guilt in exchange for no prison time.

Alicia Beller, of Putnam County, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to wanton endangerment in the first degree, a class D felony, Friday in Boyd County Circuit Court. Her guilty plea came after the death of Michael Moore, 40, who was found dead Nov. 29, 2018, in the jail's restraint chair.

Also charged in the case are former jail deputies Zackary Messer, of Ashland; Brad Roberts, of Westwood, Kentucky; Colton Griffith, of Flatwoods, Kentucky; and Jeremy Mattox, of Grayson, Kentucky, who are all charged with first-degree manslaughter.

Beller's plea deal calls for a five-year prison sentence, which was diverted for five years in exchange for Beller to provide a sworn statement to the Kentucky State Police about the case and to testify truthfully in any state or federal proceeding against her co-defendants. She also will not be able to work in corrections for the diversion period.

Commonwealth's Attorney Rhonda Copley said the agreement was reached with only Beller because she did not touch the victim.

"She did not participate in any of the other acts of abuse," she said. "(She) was in the control room and the amendment to the charge is appropriate based on her involvement in the incident."

The same deal has not been offered to her co-defendants, Copley added.

"We have reviewed the file for each defendant independently to determine their involvement in the incident," she said.

Moore, who was arrested for public intoxication, had been jailed for 36 hours before his death. Moore had arrived to the jail highly intoxicated, which led to his confinement in the restraint chair. An autopsy could not rule out criminal activity as a contributing factor to his death.

During a state police investigation, troopers found the five charged had allegedly intentionally abused Moore or knowingly permitted the abuse prior to his death.

Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett resigned in early December after Moore and another inmate, Charles Shaun Finley, 36, died within four days of each other. Finley had been jailed for three weeks before his death.

Burchett served as jailer for 16 years and was replaced by county jailer-elect William Hensley, who was asked to fill the position a month before his term was to start.

There had been a number of problems at the jail in the past two years, including a riot and escapes. The State Department of Corrections removed dozens of prisoners from the jail earlier this year. However, Hensley said in early March that since Dec. 3, when he took over, the jail had had zero uses of tasers, zero uses of fist strikes, one use of pepper spray and two uses of the restraint chair, which were both for minimal time and under the recommendation of mental health providers to stop individuals from self-harming.

Another plea in the case is scheduled in Boyd County Circuit Court at 11 a.m. Friday, May 31.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at and via Twitter @HesslerHD.