Commission endorses road bond

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Bob Ashley, legislative director for Gov. Jim Justice, discusses the upcoming ‘Roads to Prosperity’ bond referendum with members of the Randolph County Commission Thursday.

ELKINS — Following a presentation by officials with Gov. Jim Justice’s office and the Division of Highways, the Randolph County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to endorse the upcoming “Roads to Prosperity” bond referendum.

If approved by state voters Oct. 7, the referendum would give the West Virginia Legislature authority to issue $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years, allowing for major bridge work, highway improvements and construction throughout the Mountain State.

Bob Ashley, legislative director for Justice, stressed the importance of voters understanding that voting for the election will not raise taxes. He explained that a tax increase already took place on July 1, with those funds going into an account to pay off the bond.

“The funding has already been raised. The taxes have already been done… There will be no new taxes,” Ashley said. “So, what has happened with those taxes since we started collecting on July 1? You have seen a lot of secondary roads being worked on. You are seeing things on the interstate. We are trying to get as much road work, particularly secondary road work, done across the state.

“What the ballot says is if you authorize this, the Legislature will come in and put money in the state road fund to pay for the bonds. What does that mean? It means the money that’s in the general fund that we’re already collecting for these taxes — $120 to $130 million, as I hear, and sometimes $140 million, different months they project different amounts,” he continued. “They will take that and put that over here in a special account that only pays for the bond so there will be no new tax raises.”

He said the reason for the bond is to get the money “up front” so the funds can be better utilized on roughly 500 projects throughout the state.

“We need to have the money up front so we can be ready to pay for it as it goes and the taxes will pay for it over the period of time to pay back the bond,” Ashley said. “When have you heard of a state getting 3 1/2-percent interest?

Usually it is higher so it’s really a big opportunity.”

He added the length of the bond would be 20 to 25 years.

Twenty-two of the 500 projects throughout the state are planned to take place in Randolph County, including the Corridor H project between Kerens and Tucker County. Ashley said the importance of these projects is to bring individuals into local communities and create growth.

“There are a lot of projects that need to help open up communities to grow. You know what Corridor H has meant to Elkins. I remember when it was fairly easy to get through Elkins,” he said. “You have traffic now. You have growth. I love the growth of what’s going on in Elkins… Roads bring opportunities for growth and your county certainly has had a great growth and a great opportunity. You are not being left out in this bond. This bond is so important for us.”

James Rossi, district engineer/manager for DOH District 8, explained that Randolph County money in the road bond won’t strictly go to Corridor H but also assist with other projects countywide. He said officials also plan to remove canopies over roadways to preserve pavement and avoid injuries or deaths from falling debris.

“All aspects of roads that we have, the whole spectrum and our bridges, it gives us an opportunity to expedite projects,” he said. “It basically lets us get more done.”

Prior to the Commission approving the resolution of support for the bond, Commissioner Mark Scott expressed his support for the measure.

“We’ve got the funding mechanism, as you’ve mentioned. The taxes have already been raised so, as a result, we can pay for this bond, we can repay it. It allows us to use and take and stretch the money a lot further then we could otherwise,” Scott said. “As a result, I’m in support of getting this done because we need our roads. I’ve always been proud, West Virginia has always had very nice roads compared to other states. That’s going down every year and so having the opportunity to get these road bonds re-issued and continue to improve our roads is going to be vital to our economic growth. I’m proud to support this resolution.”

Early voting for the road bond will begin today at 8 a.m. at the Wees Annex, located on the corner of Randolph Avenue and Gay Street in Elkins. Early voting will also be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of the next two Saturdays.

In other business:

• Commissioners unanimously approved the lease of the Emerson Phares Building, located at the Elkins-Randolph County Airport, for the 911/Office of Emergency Management Operations Center.

The lease is for $1 per month; however, the Commission will pay a $37,500 maintenance fee for snow removal and general upkeep of the property. The lease agreement is between the Commission and the Randolph County Airport Authority.

• The Commission unanimously approved a resolution for signage of a Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority Grant application. The grant, if received, would provide the Commission $100,000 to be used in phase one of two construction phases in fixing the roof of the Randolph County Courthouse. Phase one would require $194,000 to complete; however, the Commission already has the additional $94,000 allotted for the project.

• Commissioners unanimously approved a one-year HVAC maintenance agreement with Emcor Services for the Wees Annex. The agreement is in the amount of $10,094 and will be billed quarterly. Commissioners also unanimously approved emergency repairs to the Wees Annex HVAC system to repair a leaking coil. The emergency repairs will also be done by Emcor Service in the amount of $8,141.

• The Commission unanimously approved a maintenance agreement with Thyssenkrupp to conduct an elevator maintenance safety test at the James F. Cain Courthouse Annex. The cost is $762.

• Commissioners unanimously approved a funding request from the Dry Fork Recreation Center, in the amount of $2,000, for the Autumn on the Dryfork Festival, scheduled for Oct. 14.

• The Commission unanimously approved the hire of Tina Swick as circuit court coordinator for the Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. She will begin Oct. 2 at a rate of $31,000 per year with full benefits. She will be required to serve a 90-day probationary period.

• Commissioners unanimously approved Tristram Spitsnaugle to serve as an intern to the Victims Of Crime Act coordinator in the Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He will begin Monday.

• The Commission unanimously approved the hire of Brian M. Roy as a probationary deputy sheriff. He will begin Oct. 3 at a rate of $33,080 with full benefits. He will begin in the West Virginia State Police Academy in January. Roy will be the 12th deputy on the force, which is budgeted for 13.

• Commissioners unanimously approved the re-appointment of Linda Peterson and appointment of Sharon Moss, to fill the unexpired term of Patricia Peters, as members of the Russell Memorial Library in Mill Creek.

• The Commission unanimously approved the re-appointments of Nathaniel Bonnell, Charles H. Friddle III, Mark Haddix and Edward Phares to the Randolph County Development Authority. Their terms will run from July 1 through June 30, 2020. The Commission also unanimously approved the appointment of Patricia Collett to the Randolph County Park and Recreation Board.