CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Nearly two hundred people came out to the Harrison County Senior Center in Clarksburg on Friday for a town hall meeting with Gov. Jim Justice on the Roads to Prosperity Bond Referendum.
During the town hall, residents were able to pose questions and voice their concerns, which ranged from the oil and gas company’s impact on roads to the need for more jobs in the Mountain State, as well as the difficulties of hiring because of the state’s drug problems.
Some residents were concerned that passing the bond would mean more taxes in the future. However, Justice assured that would not be the case, as all of the funding needed for these projects is already in place.
“Every last dollar of this will go constitutionally to building and fixing our roads, and absolutely, absolutely hands down, we don’t need additional taxes on our people in any way shape, form or fashion,” he said. “Really we just need to pass this and move on and let it bring the opportunity to our state that I know it’s going to bring.”
Diana Bartley, a resident of the Wallace area of Harrison County, said she came to the meeting with a grave concern of the wording of the bond itself.
“I feel that the taxation that we have been given in the prior year should be sufficient, and there should be no additional taxation,” Bartley said. “According to the governor, with what he just said, he has verbally indictated that there would be no additional tax. I’m of the opinion that the people of West Virginia should take that to heart.”
Bartley said if legislators would go back on that word and add additional taxes in the future, that the people of West Virginia should not reelect them to office.
“That is the primary concern for me,” she said. “It is my intent, and I hope the intent of everybody in Harrison County, to hold the legislative body to account for that verbage that there will be no additional taxes and that the taxes that have already been put in place will be used to fund this bond.”
After hearing from residents, Justice said the jobs that the $1.6 billion of road projects will provide the resources needed to correct the issues that West Virginia faces.
“We’ve got to have revenue. We’ve got to have immediate jobs. Roads are the answer,” he said.
Charts from the Governor’s Office have Lewis County listed for $28 million of road projects, which Lewis County Commissioner Agnes Queen says would be cruical for Lewis County.
“We’re in a perfect location, and we know without additional population, our area won’t grow like it needs to with businesses and industry,” Queen said. “We need houses, we need homes, we need individuals to live here in order for us to grow on a business climate.”
Queen said while she hasn’t fully committed to voting “yes” on Oct. 7, she is leaning in that direction.
“I think I will vote yes simply because we do need roads, and we need the growth in our community,” she said. “He’s telling us that there’s no new taxes, and we’re already paying the tax. I want to make sure if that is the case that they follow the guidelines and that work goes where they’re already designated.”
With the special road bond election held on a Saturday, that will also be the day of West Virginia University’s football game against TCU, Justice is concerned that voter turnout will be affected.
“We’re absolutely concerned that the voter turnout will be very low, and I hate that because I do believe it’s the biggest election, period, that our state’s ever had,” he said. “Competing with WVU football is always really, really tough.”
However, Justice said they had to choose a Saturday to hold the election in order to have polling places.
“It’s not a day when we could close the schools, so we pretty much had to pick a Saturday,” he said.
Early voting runs through Oct. 4, and the official Election Day is Oct. 7.