CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A public forum will allow the North Central West Virginia Roads Caucus to address legislators next week about a bill that is beginning to draw statewide interest.
House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is hoping to bring together legislators from across DOH District 4 — which includes Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison, Taylor, and Doddridge counties.
Summers has her sights on two potential bills to address growing concerns over the slow rate at which core maintenance road work is accomplished, particularly in her district.
“One of those (bills) will involve the accountability and the funding of the DOH, so everyone will be able to see that online easily,” Summers said Thursday on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town” with Dave Wilson and Sarah Giosi.
The real interest, she said, focuses on a potential bill to allow DOH district offices to contract work considered part of the core maintenance plan.
“The second piece is allowing the Department of Highways to contract out work on the secondary and tertiary roads — things such as ditching, mowing, canopy removal, snow removal,” Summers said.
The core maintenance plan, usually supposed to be about 70 percent of a district office’s maintenance funding, is often difficult to fulfill on a yearly basis. A DOH audit, released this week, showed very few counties in District 4 or District 5 were able to meet that goal — citing private sector competition as a drain on their work force.
“I initially was going to propose that for District 4,” Summers said. “Many other legislators heard that and wanted it to be statewide because they thought it was such a good idea.”
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is no stranger to complaints over roads. County commissioners in Preston County and Monongalia County were some of the driving members behind the North Central West Virginia Caucus on Roads, which came to life last summer amid growing frustration over road conditions.
Preston County Commissioners even went as far as to declare road conditions a “state of emergency” at home.
“I hope this forum brings momentum and gets the message out,” Fleischauer said. “Because (roads) are so terrible. It’s really hard to say, ‘Come to West Virginia’ when you drive along the road and hit a crater.”
The longest serving Monongalia County delegate suspects District 4 — despite complaints over funding — isn’t the only one of the ten DOH district offices that is struggling with core maintenance.
“I don’t think other districts are that different,” Fleischauer said. “I know (Wetzel County Democrat) Dave Pethtel’s very, very worried. Most of his district is in another highway’s district.”
In the wake of the ongoing road bond work, Summers said it’s a good time to evaluate exactly how the DOH funding formula and allocation of dollars is working — saying that sparsely populated regions that weren’t receiving road bond money could at least benefit from the increased availability of traditional DOH dollars.
“My constituents were aware of that,” she said. “The hope was always less money would be drained from our district going to the big projects because they had to be done.”
The forum begins at 9 a.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom will attend, representing the NCWV Caucus on Roads.