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All-inclusive splash pad now complete, will officially open in 2021

HUNTINGTON — The all-inclusive playground at St. Cloud Commons in Huntington will be twice as fun next spring.

On Thursday morning, Huntington officials and other representatives celebrated the completion of an all-inclusive splash pad that neighbors the playground, which opened nearly two years ago at St. Cloud.

“It’s great that we now have more play features on this end of town. The closest splash pad is in Milton, which is a little far away. There are no public pools in the immediate Huntington area, so this just gives another added water feature to enjoy that will service this end of the community,” said Kathy McKenna, Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District interim director.

There is a splash park at Barboursville Park; however, it is not in the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District as April Dawn Park in Milton is.

The all-inclusive splash pad features aquatic play structures for children and adults of all physical abilities, addressing an inclusion and diversity need throughout the greater Huntington area. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, American Water Charitable Foundation board member Laura Martin, West Virginia American Water President Robert Burton and Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District commissioners Dr. Rocco Morabito and Gordon Jones were on hand to give remarks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The project was made possible by a $250,000 Building Better Communities grant from American Water Charitable Foundation and was one of just two grants in that amount given out in the United States.

Martin, a West Virginia native, said the grant application for the project was unique, and the proposal was one that quickly caught the eye of all board members because of the work that had already been done on the property.

“This is the first all-inclusive splash pad application that we had ever received at the foundation, and it’s been around for seven years,” said Martin. “What really caught our eye is that this was building on an already existing inclusive playground and was adding this new element of water as well.”

In addition to the water features, the splash pad offers an educational opportunity for parkgoers with signage detailing “The Journey of Water,” which highlights the various aspects of the water cycle.

“So much has changed in the past seven months, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the heart of Huntington,” Williams said. “We are a city of inclusion, and once again, one of the crown jewels of Huntington — the Park District — leads the way in creating this all-inclusive playground and splash pad that all individuals regardless of ability or age will be able to utilize.”

A groundbreaking for the splash pad was held Feb. 28, and construction began March 2. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and limitations, the splash pad was unable to open as planned during the summer. A community grand opening celebration is planned for the spring of 2021.

W.Va. treasurer candidates tout experience versus change

CHARLESTON — From the candidates’ perspective, the race for state treasurer comes down to experience versus the need for change.

Treasurer John Perdue, a Democrat completing his 24th year in office, is seeking a seventh term. He said he believes voters trust his experience in operating what he calls the state’s bank — a bank that manages more than $16 billion of assets.

Republican challenger Riley Moore, a former one-term delegate from Harpers Ferry, argues that having any person stay in office for an extended period of time leads to stagnation and lack of innovation.

“It puts the individual who holds the office more in a reactive mode rather than a proactive mode,” said Moore, whose campaign calls for term limits for state elected officials.

Moore said that’s particularly important for administrative offices such as treasurer or auditor, offices that generally don’t deal with controversial issues or have day-to-day involvement in voters’ lives.

“Once you’ve consolidated power over a long period of time in some of these offices, it’s hard to unseat them,” said Moore, a sales director for Textron Inc.

Perdue dismissed the idea, comparing it to someone changing banks every four years for no apparent reason.

“Do you ever decide to change banks after a certain period of time?” Perdue asked, noting that most people keep their money in the same bank for years, so long as they’re satisfied with the service.

“This is the bank of state government, and I think most people have confidence in this bank and what we’ve accomplished,” Perdue said of the Treasurer’s Office.

He added, “I have the opportunity to be term-limited every four years, just like when my opponent was a delegate. He got term-limited after his first term there.”

Moore, elected to the House of Delegates in 2016, lost his 2018 re-election bid to Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson.

If elected treasurer, Moore said he wants to modernize the office, including upgrading the website to make it easier for residents to track transactions.

“Can we do it more efficiently, more effectively and with less money?” Moore said of his approach to running the Treasurer’s Office.

Perdue said the office has kept up with advances in technology over the years.

“Technology has totally changed the banking industry since I’ve been here,” he said. “We used to write 5 million checks a year. Now, we hardly write any checks.”

Perdue said he has introduced an innovation in each of his terms, including the SMART529 College Savings Plan; reinvigoration of unclaimed property services; and the Retirement Plus program, a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan for public employees that has grown in assets from $40 million to $300 million.

Moore said he would introduce a new savings plan, dubbed the Jump Start Savings Plan, geared to vocational and trade schools.

In addition to covering tuition, Moore envisions the plan could be used for purchases of tools and equipment, and for licensing and certification costs.

“It would put us in a spotlight as a leader trying to benefit the blue-collar, middle-class worker,” he said.

Perdue countered SMART529 savings can be used to cover costs of attending vocational or technical schools, and questioned the viability of using savings plan funds to buy tools and equipment, saying at the very least, it would require legislative action.

On the campaign trail, Moore has pointed out that, unlike his opponent, he was a delegate for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

In response, Perdue said, “My record speaks for itself in terms of experience and knowledge of banking. I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and it has nothing to do with the qualifications to be the treasurer of the state.”

Moore conceded that taking on a six-term incumbent is challenging.

“I know I’m climbing an uphill battle to win this race, but I’m in it because I care about this state,” he said.

After 46 years in state government, including 14 years at the Department of Agriculture and eight years as a senior aide to Gov. Gaston Caperton, Perdue was noncommittal about whether this is his last campaign.

“It’s all about, can you continue to contribute and continue to do what needs to be done to run a bank?” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right people in the right positions to manage the different programs in this office.”

Huntington nursing home combats COVID-19 outbreak

HUNTINGTON — Huntington Health and Rehabilitation Center is dealing with its first outbreak of COVID-19.

According to the state COVID-19 dashboard, as of Wednesday, the center had 22 patients and 16 staff members positive for the virus.

St. Mary’s Medical Center’s long-term care unit is also still dealing with an outbreak, with two patients and eight staff members positive.

Elsewhere in the region, Putnam Center reports only one positive staff member after a breakout last week.

Kanawha County is still dealing with the largest outbreaks in the state in eight of the county’s 11 nursing homes. Cedar Ridge Center has the largest outbreak, with 76 patients and 40 staff positive. Five people have died as a result of the outbreak at Ceder Ridge.

All other regional nursing homes in West Virginia are without outbreaks, including Trinity Healthcare of Logan, which dealt with one of the state’s largest outbreaks in a nursing home this summer.

There are 35 nursing homes with outbreaks across the state.

In the Tri-State, Heartland of Riverview in South Point, Ohio, has one resident and one staff member positive for the virus, according to the Ohio dashboard.

Boyd Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ashland has 31 active resident cases and nine active staff cases, with one new positive staff member identified this week. Woodland Oaks Health Care, also in Ashland, has one active resident case and two active staff cases.

There were 264 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported statewide in West Virginia on Thursday, for a total of 19,082, and two new deaths — a 94-year-old woman from Kanawha County and a 65-year-old man from Cabell County — for a total of 393.

Total cases per county are: Barbour (155), Berkeley (1,315), Boone (280), Braxton (30), Brooke (142), Cabell (1,092), Calhoun (32), Clay (50), Doddridge (59), Fayette (697), Gilmer (60), Grant (177), Greenbrier (146), Hampshire (118), Hancock (188), Hardy (100), Harrison (588), Jackson (336), Jefferson (495), Kanawha (3,196), Lewis (62), Lincoln (203), Logan (701), Marion (337), Marshall (231), Mason (155), McDowell (100), Mercer (494), Mineral (196), Mingo (478), Monongalia (2,190), Monroe (175), Morgan (89), Nicholas (160), Ohio (433), Pendleton (63), Pleasants (21), Pocahontas (62), Preston (172), Putnam (739), Raleigh (629), Randolph (360), Ritchie (23), Roane (82), Summers (67), Taylor (157), Tucker (50), Tyler (24), Upshur (203), Wayne (465), Webster (15), Wetzel (71), Wirt (23), Wood (444) and Wyoming (152).

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department reported 375 active cases Thursday.

In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department reported 18 new positive cases of COVID-19, with patients between the ages of 18 months and 87 years old, including four children. There are 138 active cases in the county.

The county remained on red health alert status. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reported 65% of all Ohioans are living in a red county. He said health officials report much spread is coming from social gatherings where people are not wearing masks.

Statewide, 2,178 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 175,843, and five new deaths, for a total of 5,038.

In Kentucky, the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported seven new positive cases of COVID-19: a 6-year-old boy, a 76-year-old woman, a 27-year-old woman, an 81-year-old woman, a 79-year-old man, a 31-year-old woman and a 40-year-old woman, all isolating at home. There are 132 active cases in the county.

Statewide, 1,260 new positive cases were reported, for a total of 84,195, and 20 new deaths, for a total of 1,296. The deaths reported Thursday included two women, ages 74 and 96, from Greenup County.

Nearly 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the U.S. on Thursday, for a total of 7,894,768, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 216,025 deaths related to the virus.