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High temperatures prompt heat-related calls at stadium

HUNTINGTON — Football season is supposed to bring a cooldown from the summer heat, but fans who attended Marshall University’s football game with Cincinnati on Saturday discovered it’s not time to put away the shorts just yet.

As announced to the media in the Ernie Salvatore Press Box at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the temperature at kickoff was 92 degrees with 39% humidity.

Workers from Contemporary Services Corp., which staffs Marshall games with event security and other amenities, were not able to speak specifically about it but said two members of its staff were taken to the hospital after falling ill from effects of the heat.

A supervisor with Cabell County 911 estimated between five and 10 calls were placed to it just from heat-related illnesses at the stadium.

Fans on the west side of the stadium got to spend the game, which kicked off at 5 p.m., in the shade, while fans on the east side and those who continued to tailgate after kickoff had to find ways to keep cool.

“You’ve got to watch what you eat, and drink lots of water,” said Randy Downs, of Hurricane, West Virginia, who spent last summer in Qatar as a member of the Air Force and said temperatures were higher but humidity was much lower. “If you feel dizzy or weak, seek medical attention. Water is your best friend; sports drinks are your friend.”

Downs had a tent set up in the parking lot of the stadium but also had water with him.

Alexa Perry and Anna Biedernan spent pregame in the air conditioning at a nearby restaurant before making their way into the stadium with water in hand.

Not ones to let the heat deter them, Perry said, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to the game.”

The announced attendance for the game was 32,192. By midway through the third quarter, the sun had gone down, helping with the cooldown.

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Crowd turns out for Greek Festival again

HUNTINGTON — Every inch of about three-quarters of an acre where St. George Greek Orthodox Church sits in Huntington was bursting at the seams this weekend during the church’s annual Greek Festival, celebrating the parishioners’ deep culture.

In its 37th year, the annual Greek Festival, held at the church located at 701 11th Ave. in Huntington, has grown to welcome thousands of patrons each year, giving the area’s Greek population a chance to enjoy their heritage, while also educating others about their traditions.

Patrons get the chance to experience Greek culture, as well as the Orthodox Christian faith, through music, dance, church tours and Greek food. Patrons sometimes travel hours and stand in lines wrapped around the block to get a taste of the Greek food ranging from pastries to gyros.

Davis Kellard, of Greenup, Kentucky, said his family drove hours to the festival to take a break from the normal “country eatings” in the family’s daily meal plan.

“I would wait in a line a mile long just to get some of the Greek fries,” he said. “I never really thought about Greece or Greek food a lot before a friend brought me a few years ago, but the church is so welcoming and the church-goers give you lunch and a really great show. It’s nice to step out of the Appalachian bubble. It’s really not an event we miss now.”

The festival offered two types of foods: street food and traditional dinners. The street foods, such as souvlaki, gyro and spanakopita, were prepared and served in a similar way as to how it would be found if you were roaming the streets of Greece. The dinners, which included moussaka and lamb dinners, were served inside the church.

The Greek culture also lives through the traditional Greek dancing — such as the zeibekiko dance, a freestyle dance centered around individual expressions — which is passed down from generation to generation.

Diane Southerfield, of Buffalo, West Virginia, watched in awe as parishioners ranging from small children to adults demonstrated traditional Greek dances for the crowd.

“How do they even do that, bend that low and move like that, especially on a stomach full of Greek food?” she said. “I could never do that, even when I was a kid. I’m jealous.”

The festival is the church’s largest fundraiser, and proceeds go toward paying clergy, sending children to church camp and more.

The festival continues from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. Guests can enjoy dancing at 1 p.m. and church tours at 2 p.m. Visit www.stgeorgehwv.org/festival/ for the full schedule and full menu.

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Pay raises proposed for future Huntington mayor, council

HUNTINGTON — Members of Huntington City Council have taken a first look at raising the pay for their positions as well as the mayor’s for increases that would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2021, which is after next year’s municipal election.

City Council members are required to address compensation for the mayor and City Council by ordinance every four years. During a Sept. 23 city Administration and Finance Committee meeting, city attorney Scott Damron said now is an appropriate time to address salaries before candidates begin filing in January for the 2020 election.

A proposal, if approved, would change the mayor’s annual salary in 2021 to $114,500, and council members would see at least a 6% cost-of-living increase added to their base salaries. Mayor Steve Williams currently makes $85,000 a year, while the 11 City Council members each make $7,500 a year.

The mayor’s compensation may only change at the end of the previous term and council members’ compensation may only change one year after the passage of an ordinance, Damron said.

“So this is the right time to consider this, a little bit over a year before the election,” he said. “It would also provide anyone who is seeking to run for any position, (they) would have knowledge of what the compensation to be paid is.”

Council chairman Mark Bates, who serves on the committee, said he asked Damron to draft an ordinance adding a cost-of-living adjustment to both salaries. He previously proposed creating some sort of independent committee to look at the salaries and make a recommendation. However, he said the cost-of-living adjustments would be the fairest way to address compensation.

Damron said cost-of-living adjustments are calculated by the Social Security Administration. He added together adjustments to compensate for the four-year terms of both mayor and council members. This would be an approximate 6% increase, meaning council members would go from making about $600 a month to more than $630 a month.

Council member Alex Vence requested the ordinance be amended to change the mayor’s compensation to a base salary increase instead of a cost-of-living increase.

“I’ve said for years the mayor’s position is incredibly way too low,” Vence said. “Nowhere in the private sector could you get a CEO to run a $60 million operation for what we pay.”

Vence amended the ordinance to change the future mayor’s salary from $85,000 a year to $114,500 a year, which was approved by committee members.

Council member Mike Shockley said he feels Huntington’s mayor should make equal pay to mayors in Charleston and Beckley. Charleston’s mayor makes $125,000 a year and Beckley’s mayor makes $70,000 a year.

“I’ll agree with council, knowing the time and the effort, at least with our current Mayor Williams, puts in,” Shockley said. “If you would break his time down by the hour, it’s underfunded.”

Committee chairwoman Joyce Clark said she believes the mayor should make more than the city manager position, which pays $94,884 annually.

“I think the mayor needs to be at or more than the city manager,” Clark said. “He or she should be the highest person on the city’s payroll.”

Council member Jennifer Wheeler, who was observing the committee meeting, said she agreed and believes the mayor should be paid more than the executive director of the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, which pays more than $100,000.

“At the very least, our mayor is worthy of the same salary as the director of the Park Board,” Wheeler said.

The proposed ordinance was unanimously forwarded by committee members to full City Council with a favorable recommendation. The proposed ordinance could be introduced for a first reading as early as the council’s Oct. 14 meeting. It will require two readings before they may vote on it.

Mayor Williams has publicly declared his intention to run for a third and final time in 2020. Huntington’s mayors and council members are only allowed to serve three consecutive terms, and a term consists of four years.

“Setting the salary of the position of mayor is a responsibility given to City Council in the city charter,” Williams said in a statement. “With that said, I appreciate their praise and am humbled that they believe I have added value to the office of the mayor.”

Council members Mark Bates and Rebecca Howe are both in their third consecutive terms, meaning they are ineligible to run in 2020. All other council members are eligible to run again.

Bates, who represents District 6 and has served as council chairman since 2016, and Howe, an at-large council member, were first elected in 2008. District 6 includes small portions of Huntington’s Southside and South Hills area above Ritter Park. It also includes Enslow Park, several streets off of Washington Boulevard, sections of Walnut Hills and Beverly Hills, Stamford Park and streets off of Norway Avenue to the eastern city limits.

Vence, Shockley, Clark, Bates and Carol Polan serve on the city’s Administration and Finance Committee.