MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Officials from five counties are hoping they can create a new caucus to represent them in Charleston — one focused specifically on the roads in the Division of Highway’s Fourth District.
“It’s a District Four issue,” said Preston County Commissioner Craig Jennings Wednesday on WAJR’s Morgantown AM. “For a district that has four Class I counties — counties that pay the highest tax base in the state — we’re sitting there going, ‘Look, we pay our taxes. We’re an economic driver for the state right now, this district.’”
“And we’re getting treated like we’re left behind.”
Jennings has spearheaded the initiative following Preston County’s Commission declaring a state of emergency last month due to the road conditions.
“None of our main thoroughfares in Preston County — that’s Route 50, 92, 26, 7, 72, there’s probably a couple of others in there — you couldn’t drive the speed limit from one end to the other,” Jennings said.
This prompted an invitation that was quickly accepted by officials in Monongalia, Marion, and Taylor counties to meet Wednesday night. Jennings said he wasn’t sure if anyone from Harrison County would be in attendance.
“We’ve got to do something,” Jennings said. “It’s not just Preston County. It’s all of us. We’re not catching up. We’re falling behind.”
Employment — usually defined by understaffed crews — has been a constant concern for local officials when it comes to the local DOH office, Jennings said.
“And, in our district, we don’t think they have enough workers for the DOH to begin with, but they can’t fill the positions because they don’t pay enough.”
“If you’re a CDL truck driver, you know they’re paying $12 or $13 an hour. Any other trucking company out there is paying another five, six, or ten bucks on the hour. They’ll never be able to fill those positions. They’ll never be able to get caught up.”
Elected officials and candidates for higher offices have been invited to Wednesday night’s meeting with the intent that the concerns will be brought to the Capitol.
“We’ve got to let contractors come in and get these back into a shape that we can drive the speed limit from one side to the other in all of our counties,” Jennings said.
Jennings said when District Four ends, drivers can immediately notice a difference.
“If you drive out of Preston County on Route 92, I can blindfold you and you can tell me when we hit the county line. It is unbelievable — the difference at the county line.”
“We’re just asking to get back up to ‘okay,’ Jennings added. “We’re not trying to get to best roads in the state. We’re just trying to get caught up with everybody else.”