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Defensive coordinator Brad Lambert coaches his team as the Marshall University football team conducts practice on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

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2018 1115 Weekend FOTT 02

Cost of Thanksgiving increases in 2019

BARBOURSVILLE — For many families, it’s a tradition on Thanksgiving Day to wake up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, hop on the couch to enjoy some early afternoon football, eat a few pounds of turkey and finally fall asleep early and content.

On Nov. 28, families and friends throughout the Tri-State region will come together to kick off the holiday season. Thanksgiving is not only a day to give thanks and to be happy, but also apparently a day to spend a lot of money, according to a recent survey.

For the third consecutive year, LendEDU conducted a survey of 1,000 adult consumers to uncover how much Thanksgiving will cost the average American.

You might be thinking to yourself, “How much money can one possibly spend on Thanksgiving?” But in reality, that special Thursday in November is not only one of the biggest travel days of the year, but also requires a lot more food than your run-of-the-mill dinner.

According to the survey, the average American anticipates spending $186.05 on Thanksgiving. This year’s figure represents an increase of nearly 6% compared with last year’s figure, in which the average Thanksgiving expenditure was $175.65. In 2017, the figure was $165.14.

So where is all of this money being spent?

According to data collected from the survey’s respondents, 18% of the average American’s total Thanksgiving expense will go toward travel in 2019, or $33.49. The remaining 82%, or $152.56, will be used for food, drink and other costs associated with the Thanksgiving feast.

Tim Forth, president of Forth Foods Inc. and FoodFair Supermarkets, said his stores are offering “can’t-miss” deals on some of the most common holiday food items, and his supermarkets’ prices have not increased from the previous year.

“Our prices are the same as last year,” Forth said. “We’ve got anything from frozen and fresh pies to vegetables and meat on sale here in the store. Anything you might find on the table at Thanksgiving, you can probably find on sale.”

FoodFair is running a $1.19 per-pound special on Butterball turkeys through Thursday, identical to the sale they ran for the past two years. FoodFair is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Kroger is offering Butterball Premium All Natural Turkey for $1.29 a pound through Jan. 7, 2020.

Prices as of Nov. 14 for 12 store-brand food items to make Thanksgiving dinner that includes a 12-pound turkey; one bag or two boxes of stuffing mix; 3 pounds of sweet potatoes; 5 pounds of white potatoes; 1 pound of fresh green beans; one turkey gravy packet; canned crescent rolls; canned cranberry jelly; 1 quart of chicken/turkey stock; 1 pound of butter; a half-gallon of milk; and prepared pie at Aldi came in just over $30. Walmart was close behind at $32 and change.

Americans will eat more than 46 million turkeys this year, spending $968.8 million, according to Finder.com.

Chris Tuck, from SJK Wealth Management, offered some tips on managing your money for the Thanksgiving feast.

“Thanksgiving costs can get out of hand if you host, especially with the popularity of cooking shows and organic options,” he said. “Depending on the size of your family and friends, budgets for hosting Thanksgiving average around $500. But that can go much higher quickly. It is important to first set a budget and then get creative on how to stick to it.

“Asking people to bring sides is always a big help. When building your budget, put a cost to each dish you plan to make and each accessory or feature, like tablecloths, flowers, etc., and then start eliminating them to hit your budget,” Tuck added.

Trump directed Ukraine quid pro quo, key witness says

WASHINGTON — Ambassador Gordon Sondland declared to impeachment investigators Wednesday that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani explicitly sought a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, leveraging an Oval Office visit for political investigations of Democrats. But he also came to believe the trade involved much more.

Besides the U.S. offer of a coveted meeting at the White House, Sondland testified it was his understanding the president was holding up nearly $400 million in military aid, which Ukraine badly need with an aggressive Russia on its border, in exchange for the country’s announcement of the investigations.

Sondland conceded that Trump never told him directly the security assistance was blocked for the probes, a gap in his account that Republicans and the White House seized on as evidence the president did nothing wrong. But the ambassador said his dealings with Giuliani, as well as administration officials, left him with the clear understanding of what was at stake.

“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland testified in opening remarks. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

The rest, he said, was obvious: “Two plus two equals four.”

Later Wednesday, another witness undercut a main Republican argument — that Ukraine didn’t even realize the money was being held up. The Defense Department’s Laura Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials started asking about it on July 25, which was the day of Trump’s phone call with the country’s new president when he first asked for a “favor.”

Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a major donor to Trump’s inauguration, was the most highly anticipated witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry into the 45th president of the United States.

In often-stunning testimony, he painted a picture of a Ukraine pressure campaign that was prompted by Trump himself, orchestrated by Giuliani and well-known to other senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Sondland said he raised his concerns about a quid pro quo for military aid with Vice President Mike Pence — a conversation a Pence adviser vigorously denied.

Pompeo also dismissed Sondland’s account.

However, Sondland said, “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

The ambassador said that he and Trump spoke directly about desired investigations, including a colorful cellphone call this summer overheard by others at a restaurant in Kyiv.

Trump himself insists daily that he did nothing wrong and the Democrats are just trying to drum him out of office.

As the hearing proceeded, he spoke to reporters outside the White House. Reading from notes written with a black marker, Trump quoted Sondland quoting Trump to say the president wanted nothing from the Ukrainians and did not seek a quid pro quo.

“I want nothing, I want nothing,” insisted the president, who often exhorts Americans to “read the transcript” of the July phone call in which he appealed to Ukraine’s leader for “a favor” — the investigations.

He also distanced himself from his hand-picked ambassador, saying he didn’t know him “very well.” A month ago, he called Sondland “a really good man and a great American.”

The impeachment inquiry focuses significantly on allegations that Trump sought investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — and the discredited idea that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — in return for the badly needed military aid for Ukraine and the White House visit.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was pleased that the “political battles” in Washington had overtaken the Russia allegations, which are supported by the U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Thank God,” Putin said, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Another hearing in the impeachment inquiry gaveled open Wednesday evening with Cooper, a Defense Department official who had raised concerns about the suspended Ukraine aid, and David Hale, the No. 3 official at the State Department.

Sondland said that conditions on any potential Ukraine meeting at the White House started as “generic” but more items were “added to the menu including — Burisma and 2016 election meddling.” Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son Hunter served on the board. And, he added, “the server,” the hacked Democratic computer system.

During questioning in the daylong session, Sondland said he didn’t know at the time that Burisma was linked to the Bidens but today knows “exactly what it means.” He and other diplomats didn’t want to work with Giuliani. But he and the others understood that Giuliani “was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”

He also came to understand that the military aid hinged on the investigations, though Trump never told him so directly.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier, has emerged as a central figure in an intense week in the probe that is featuring nine witnesses testifying over three days.

The envoy appeared prepared to fend off scrutiny over the way his testimony has shifted in closed-door settings, saying “my memory has not been perfect.” He said the State Department left him without access to emails, call records and other documents he needed in the inquiry. Republicans called his account “the trifecta of unreliability.”

Still, he did produce new emails and text messages to bolster his assertion that others in the administration were aware of the investigations he was pursuing for Trump from Ukraine.

Sondland insisted, twice, that he was “adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid” for Ukraine. “I followed the directions of the president.”

The son of immigrants who he said escaped Europe during the Holocaust, Sondland described himself as a “lifelong Republican” who has worked with officials from both parties, including Biden.

Dubbed one of the “three amigos” pursuing Ukraine policy, Sondland disputed that they were running some sort of “rogue” operation outside official U.S. policy. He produced emails and texts showing he, former special envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry kept Pompeo and others apprised of their activity. One message from Volker said, “Spoke w Rudy per guidance from S.” He said, “S means the secretary of state.”

Democratic Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California said, “The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide.”

Schiff warned Pompeo and other administration officials who are refusing to turn over documents and testimony to the committee “they do so at their own peril.” He said obstruction of Congress was included in articles of impeachment during Watergate.

The top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes of California, decried the inquiry and told the ambassador, “Mr. Sondland, you are here to be smeared.”

Nunes renewed his demand to hear from the still-anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led the House to open the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland’s hours of testimony didn’t appear to sway Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate, who would ultimately be jurors in an impeachment trial.

Mike Braun of Indiana said the president’s actions “may not be appropriate, but this is the question: Does it rise to the level of impeachment? And it’s a totally different issue and none of this has.”

“I’m pretty certain that’s what most of my cohorts in the Senate are thinking and I know that’s what Hoosiers are thinking — and most of middle America.”

Residents offer feedback on proposed Ohio River bridge near Merritts Creek

HUNTINGTON — People got their first chance to give feedback on the proposed construction of a bridge that, if completed, would cross the Ohio River northeast of Huntington.

The KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission held an open house Wednesday at its office in Huntington to discuss a preliminary feasibility study that evaluated the need for a new crossing connecting Ohio 7 and W.Va. 2.

Some people lauded the effort for its potential to bring in more economic opportunities and faster interstate travel, while others had concerns the proposed bridge construction could take out homes or bring in unwanted traffic to smaller communities. More than 80 people attended the meeting.

Building such a bridge would be the final step in completing the long-anticipated Tri-State Outer Belt linking Ohio, West Virginia and key segments of Interstate 64. Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Transportation recommended $5 million in funding for the second phase of that state’s portion of the project, which would construct a 4 1/2-mile bypass connecting Chesapeake and Proctorville.

In West Virginia, the feasibility study identified three potential corridors for the location of the proposed bridge, which would be called the Huntington Outer Belt. The study evaluated the corridors’ ability to meet future traffic needs, enhance regional connectivity, support future economic development and create more pedestrian use while minimizing impacts to the community and environment.

One corridor would have a crossing near W.Va. 2 (Ohio River Road) and W.Va. 193 (Big Ben Bowen Highway). A crossing there would provide the most direct connection between W.Va. 193 and Ohio 7, according to the study. If completed, the existing W.Va. 2/W.Va. 193 intersection would be upgraded to a diamond interchange with an overpass bridge to accommodate four travel lanes. Ohio 7 would also be upgraded to four lanes.

Another corridor would have a crossing near W.Va. 2 and County Route 11 (Big Seven Mile Road). This corridor is along Cox Landing Road, extending over the Ohio River before intersecting with Ohio 7. If completed, the existing West Virginia intersection and Ohio 7 would be upgraded to four lanes.

The third corridor is located less than a mile south of County Route 7 (Nine Mile Road) along Douthat Lane, extending over the Ohio River and intersecting Ohio 7 near Private Road 1286. This corridor would feature flyover ramps for northbound traffic on Ohio 7 due to width restrictions beside the Ohio River.

Manuch Amir, project manager of the proposed bridge, said planners wanted to include public feedback as early as possible in the bridge’s evolution to learn about people’s concerns or if they have opinions about on which corridor the bridge should be constructed.

The bridge would be a federal project, which would be funded up to 80% with a 20% match from the state. At this point, it’s too early to determine how much a new bridge spanning the Ohio River would cost, he said. The planners would need to develop an inter-agency agreement and have discussions with stakeholders along the river, including companies that use it for transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The construction will depend on the next phase of the process, which would examine the proposed bridge’s impact on the environment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Realistically, Amir said if the project is funded and greenlit for construction, it would take approximately 10 years to complete.

Brandon McCallister said he lives near the Big Ben Bowen Highway and wants to see the bridge constructed in the first corridor. Doing so could attract more economic opportunities to the area and would be a short drive from his house. The fact the bridge is under discussion is an indicator that it’s coming down the pipeline, he said.

“They’re already talking about it, so it’s already over,” McCallister said. “So we might as well make it the best it can be.”

Roy Ramey lives in Lesage and said he is concerned about potential traffic the bridge would bring to his community. He said he moved his family there to get away from noise, and he is also concerned about potential drug trafficking.

“What a project like this is going to end up doing is bring a lot more traffic through this particular corridor,” Ramey said. “In that particular area is kind of a little backwoods town. It’s very quiet, it’s rural and there isn’t a whole lot up there except some farmers and some country folk.”

Donna Krucz lives in a home near the Ohio River within the third corridor. She said she is concerned the planned construction could affect flooding in the area. Flooding this year, she said, turned her home into an island, and she is worried disrupting the river further could bring the water level above her house.

Amir said the project team would take people’s comments and concerns to include them in a draft report in spring 2020. A final report is scheduled for June 30, 2020, and will review regional transportation needs and financial requirements to determine if the project should be carried on to the next phase.

To learn more about the proposed bridge and to give feedback on the project, visit ohioriverbridgecrossing.com. All feedback is due no later than Dec. 20.