2016 Year in Review



The WV Division of Highways offers $750,000 in grant funding for the completion of the Meadow River Trail. Greenbrier Countian Casey Cantrell is charged with murder in Jackson County after allegedly supplying heroin to a Ripley man who died after ingesting the drug. Cold weather doesn’t stop marchers from celebrating Martin Luther King day in Lewisburg for the annual march from the Greenbrier County Courthouse to the Lewisburg United Methodist Church. Lewisburg City Council postpones a second reading of an ordinance that will give equal rights protections to gays, lesbians and transgendered people in order to review the laws; City Hall has said opponents of the ordinance have threatened to sue the city. Winter Storm Jonas blankets the city in snow.


Lewisburg City Council unanimously votes in favor of Ordinance 254, which extends equal rights protections to the LGBT community. Local candidates file for election including Matt Detch for U.S. House of Representatives; George “Boogie” Ambler, Stephen Baldwin Jr. and Ray Canterbury for House of Delegates; Britt Ludwig, Robert E. Richardson, Steve Hunter and Jeffrey S. Rodgers for judge; Louvonne Arbuckle for circuit clerk; and Mary C. Humphreys, Katie Ickes and Bob Toothman for board of education. The state legislature cuts the Greenbrier Health Department’s budget by 25 percent, and administrators approach the Greenbrier County Commission, informing members of the “substantial hit” to the budget. Employees of the VA Clinic that was housed in Maxwelton file a lawsuit against the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation and other businesses alleging that the GVEDC, their landlord, exposed them to unhealthy chemicals. Greenbrier East engineering students create a prosthetic hand for an eight-year-old boy. Arden Williams is named a “devout and true Aldersonian” by town council for her volunteer efforts to find homes for stray dogs and cats. A grand jury finds Jeffrey Lewis, a CPA, guilty of embezzling money from a trust he oversaw. Lewis is found not guilty of financial exploitation of an elderly person.


Smooth Ambler Spirits’ Old Scout 10-Year single barrel bourbon is named the world’s best bourbon by the World Whiskies Award competition. Greenbrier East graduate Troy Clemons is named the WVU Mountaineer for the 2016-17 school year. Ronceverte votes to raise water rates. Trillium’s spring concert, “Chally’s Follies,” sells out three nights in a row as people gather to watch longtime performer Chally Erb be honored and perform. Greenbrier East student Casielle Donahue is selected to paint an artful design on the piano that is housed near City Hall in downtown Lewisburg. Former West Virginian Ivan Cales is found guilty of murdering his roommate in Taos, NM.


New River Community and Technical College announces that a budget shortfall will result in employee furloughs, layoffs and suspension of fringe benefits. Barbara Sweetwood is honored for 50 years of service to the Ronceverte Woman’s Club. The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board approves Lewisburg for Home Rule status. The White Sulphur Springs City Council votes down a motion to explore the purchase of a building at the Rt. 219/92 intersection to house city hall, the police station and the maintenance department. Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Jeff Kessler and Booth Goodwin hold a debate at Greenbrier Valley Theatre. Their other primary election opponent, Lewisburg resident and Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice, does not attend. Notorious Renick resident Ronald McMillion pleads guilty in federal court to drug trafficking charges. McMillion is known regionally as a character on the reality TV show “Appalachian Outlaws” and as being the last person to see missing woman Dee Ann Keene alive. “Blue Ridge Country” magazine names Lewisburg the “Happiest Town.”


A patient at the Crosswinds Center drug detox clinic in Maxwelton left the facility, crossed airport property and broke in to a home on Benedict Lane; Ronceverte’s wastewater plant reports delays related to frequency of rain this spring; Children’s Memorial Flag in memory of children lost to abuse raised in front of courthouse; Blue Ridge Country magazine readers voted Lewisburg “Happiest Mountain Town” and CVB honored Mayor John Manchester and wife Connie for guest column in the magazine and cover image respectively; Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump win in presidential primary; Greenbrier County elects first woman judge; L.Z. Rainelle plans 12 annual veterans’ reunion; Executive Director Al Whitaker reports 911 system upgrade is complete; WV Ethics Commission decides mayor can also be employed as city administrator; final audit released of airport finances and lists several issues; 84 Lumber company designates purple parking place for veterans injured in combat; local CPA, Jeffrey E. Lewis sentenced to one to ten years in prison for embezzlement of funds from Dawkins trust; Hinton man, Ivan Cales sentenced to life in prison for murder in New Mexico; Rainelle Cemetery appeals to community for funding and volunteers; excavation permit at old quarry site behind China Palace restaurant approved by City Council; public comment period opens for air service bids at Greenbrier Valley Airport; Brunch Bill approved for November ballot; Alderson displays lion flags all over town in remembrance of “French,” a pet African lion who once roamed the town’s streets in the 19th century; Rainelle Elementary School and Eastern Greenbrier Middle School report weapons in school and a bomb threat.


Marla Bell named Greenbrier County Teacher of the Year; State Fair offers new pricing; Troy Clemons of Maxwelton selected as new WVU Mountaineer; Dr. Leslie Winters pleads no contest in 2014 patient death; work begins to restore exterior of historic 1896 depot in Alderson; Kelly Huff new Principal at Greenbrier East; Ronceverte continues streetscape phases three and four – more landscaping, lampposts and planters, benches and trees; Native Americans gather in opposition to proposed pipeline and bless the corn at Blue Roamin’ Farm in Union; River Race team competes in 30th Annual Great Greenbrier River Race to raise ALS awareness; Ronceverte receives streetscape planning grant; Greenbrier Valley Airport endorses new airline Via Air to provide service to the area; Mountain Media purchases assets of Montgomery publishing comprising six community newspapers in Southwest Virginia; new pavilion is constructed on the fairgrounds near the tunnel beneath Rt. 219; White Sulphur Springs City Council discusses increased cost of new municipal swimming pool and will continue to seek grant funding; Thomas Edgar marker commemorating the surveyor who laid out the city of Lewisburg in 1782 is rededicated in Ronceverte – marks the spot of Edgar’s first home in 1793 when the area was known as Saint Lawrence Ford; water rate hearing held in Ronceverte to gather comments on future water rate hike; Mayor of Lewisburg says no fireworks within municipal limits allowed; Greenbrier PSD No. 1 announces sewer line extension to serve residents of Echols Acres and Houfnagle Road; tornado touches down near Richwood; torrential rains cause flooding throughout the state killing 23 – with 16 of those in Greenbrier County; West Virginians and people from all across the country come together to help those in need in Alderson, Caldwell, Lewisburg, Rainelle, Rupert and White Sulphur Springs.


The Greenbrier Classic and Alderson 4th of July Celebration are both cancelled due to flood damage; disaster assistance, food and shelter offered county-wide to flood survivors; Ronceverte Museum reopens after cleanup; WVSOM employees and students lend help in flood cleanup; Big Draft Road closed for bridge repair; names of flood victims released – In Greenbrier County: Denver Barker, Lisa Blankenship, Raymond Clark Jr., Melissa Deichert, Nellie Hinkle, Natayshia Nicely, Hershel Nicely, Charles Omechenski, Delmas Parsons, Marquerite Parsons, Mykala Phillips, Gary Schumaker, Belinda Scott, Dakota Stone, Ed Thompson and Eleanor Faye VanBuren; Lewisburg adopts brunch bill within city limits; Oak Street Block Party benefit returns for second year; Greenbrier River Trail group meets to discuss flood damage and repairs; New Orleans Saints staff and team help rebuild park in White Sulphur Springs; budget shortfalls force state lawmakers to consider decision to have WVSOM go from a public college to a private, nonprofit school; County Commission delays approving request for tourism dollars by Convention & Visitors Bureau to see county through 2017.


FEMA continues efforts to reach residents impacted by flood and ensure everyone is informed and has access to FEMA assistance; 15-foot deep sinkhole opens up in alley behind Lewisburg City Hall; County Commission offers CVB five-year loan of $450,000 for tourism recovery market plan; Donna Campbell Nickell joins race for county commission seat filing as an Independent; Iaeger man, Brandon Lockhart, is killed in I-64 wreak when the bed of his dump truck becomes lodged under an overpass; the body of the last remaining victim of the June 23 flood, Mykala Phillips, is located in Caldwell; Hope Village land transfer approved in White Sulphur Springs and home building can begin to replace houses lost in the flood; Greenbrier County Airport receives grant for site upgrades; CVB accepts County Commission offer of loan to be repaid in five equal amounts beginning Jan. 1, 2018; the 92nd State Fair of West Virginia opens in Fairlea; Lewisburg Fire Chief Wayne Pennington announces his retirement after 36 years; Rainelle break ground on 50 new homes to replace houses lost in flood; local bloodhound Lady Bird, recognized for finding Mykala Phillips’ body, is invited with her handler Dave Weik to attend funeral; SPC 4 Everette R. Johnson Memorial Bridge is dedicated near Greenville.


Newly completed WVSOM Student Center opens with ribbon cutting ceremony; most Alderson businesses reopen after flood; Greenbrier River Trail Association announces funds being raised to repair River Trail; Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation promises financial accountability with flood recovery funds; old L&R train depot moved from Echols Lane to new location on corner of Feamster Road and Clay Street; Friends of the Old Stone Cemetery report a historic headstone is missing; Gov. Tomblin presents State Development Grant to assist with roof replacement of McElhenny Lodge on Church Street; County Commission approves White Sulphur Springs annexation of land for Hope Village; State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police presented WSS Police Chief John Pauley with check for $3,900 for flood recovery; WSS resident, Chris White presents WSS City Council with plan to help rebuild Memorial Park; Ronceverte deemed eligible for grants and FEMA reimbursements; Lewisburg approves Caldwell flood water system repairs; Greenbrier PSD No. 1 petitions for power of Eminent Domain to acquire right-of-ways for new sewer line extensions; Poetry Out Loud state champion Neely Seams, performs at National Book Festival in DC; DARE to Cruz Car Show comes to downtown Lewisburg and is deemed “best ever”; Mountain Messenger announces change in format beginning Oct. 1.


FERC issues pipeline environmental impact statement for proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project; Lewisburg donates surplus street sweeper to Ronceverte; Via Air takes flight out of Greenbrier Valley Airport with service to Charlotte, NC continuing on to St. Augustine, FL; candidate forums scheduled for Oct. 5, Oct. 12 and Oct. 18 to meet House of Delegates, Greenbrier County Commission and WV Senate candidates; Mountain Messenger website streams gubernatorial debate; Republican candidate Bill Cole and Democrat candidate Jim Justice spar over economy at gubernatorial debate; new wastewater treatment plant in Ronceverte takes shape despite being two months behind schedule – Dunn Engineering consultant reports heavy metal in water not a health risk; Ronceverte files a new water tariff to fall in line with PSC’s recommendation of a two-step rate increase; annual T.O.O.T. event comes to downtown Lewisburg; Lewisburg wins America In Bloom award second year in a row; Ronceverte announces campaign to replace Christmas decorations destroyed in June flood; White Sulphur Springs citizens honored for bravery and assistance the night of June 23 flood; candidates for Greenbrier County Commission face off in debate; County Commission hears concerns of citizens on Pond View Land about PSD #1 plans to dig new sewer lines; Lewisburg Foundation hosts William Cammack Campbell American eagle statue dedication at intersection of Washington Street and Courtney Drive; (22) Tragedy follows completion of Rebuilding Rainelle’s first home when new owner Russ Gilkerson dies two days later; early voting begins for general election; judge orders BB&T to return $93,500 in seized funds to the trust of one of its customers; United Way of Greenbrier Valley hosts Empty Bowls fundraiser; (29) GEHS Band Boosters ask County Commission for funds for new uniforms and are turned down after the request is denied by the City of Lewisburg; Greenbrier River Watershed Association named “Watershed of the Year”; Covington man, Richard Lodge, was killed in a vehicle wreck near Harts Run; Facebook post leads to drug seizure in Rainelle; Charlotte Pritt enters the governor’s race representing the Mountain Party; crowds turn out for trick-or treat along Court and Church Streets – event comes off without a hitch.


A geophysical survey is conducted by Terracon Consultants in Stratton Alley behind City Hall to investigate the possibility of sinkholes; Lewisburg woman Kelly Douglas dies in a car wreck on I-64; Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton in presidential election, Jim Justice wins governor’s seat, and Mike McClung maintains his seat on Greenbrier County Commission; Race Matters Summit held in Lewisburg Nov. 11; concern in Ronceverte over upcoming water rate hikes leads to petition filed with PSC by group of senior citizens on fixed incomes; new veterans’ memorial unveiled in White Sulphur Springs; City Council approves funds to upgrade Dorie Miller Park in Lewisburg; WV Supreme Court upholds circuit court decision refusing pipeline company’s request to enter onto private property without permission saying it violates a basic right of landowners; Lewisburg Solar Co-op forms to help residents desiring to go solar; 12 families in Rainelle and White Sulphur Springs receive keys to their newly constructed homes; 60-acre fire breaks out in Monongahela National Forest and burns for a week before it can be contained; County Commission hears update on regional jail bill and savings to county realized.


Alderson inmate who escaped last November is sentenced to an additional year; local Army Reserve’s 811th Ordnance Company honored for flood rescue assistance; Jim Justice team achieves his 1,000th basketball win; Christmas parades are held in Alderson, Lewisburg, Ronceverte and White Sulphur Springs; Stephen Baldwin is sworn into WV House of Delegates; nation recognizes 75th anniversary of attack at Pearl Harbor; The Greenbrier “Dream Tree for Kids” distributes $1 million in toys to local and national charities; Lewisburg police officers are honored at awards banquet in Beckley – Cpl. J.D. Hughes, Ace. Ptlm. S.T. Rodoussakis, Ptlm. R. L. Crone and Ptlm. J.T. Williams II – and the Lewisburg Police Department receives the Outstanding Department Award; Ronceverte waste water plant receives complaint of ineffective operations, but engineering consultants say no sewage is being spilled into river and the odor the complaint sites comes from manure applied to area farm fields; Old Stone Cemetery announces the return an old tombstone that was stolen this summer; Sen. Manchin announces additional $87 million in WV flood assistance as part of huD Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief Program – bringing total to $104 million; Lewisburg City Council funds 10 new uniforms for the GEHS Spartan Marching Band.


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