KINGWOOD, W.Va. — So far the ditch blitz by the State Division of Highways (DOH) has cleaned 117.99 shoulder miles of roadside ditches, District 4 Engineer Darby Clayton said Monday.

That’s nearly 59 “center line miles,” he told the Preston County Commission, since there are ditches on both sides of a road.

Clayton said some people complained about crews removing sod above the roadway. “We’ve got to cut that off so we’ve got proper drainage,” he said. People complained their lawns are being damaged, but crews are only working within the DOH right of way.

Another complaint was about mowing being done alongside the road because, the complainers said, it isn’t green yet. That makes no sense, Commissioner Don Smith said, because the brush needs cut.

Commission President Dave Price asked if the canopy will be cut back, something he has argued for throughout the past year. Clayton said “not nearly as much as we’d like,” will be done. It is one of the concerns listed for all roads that was submitted to the governor, he said.

Commissioner Samantha Stone asked people to have “faith and respect” for the DOH workers.

Clayton said some pot hole filling is being done on secondary roads as well. Work was set to finish Monday on the road to Mountain Creek Cabins. The owner of the business has shared letters with commissioners, showing people are declining to stay there because of the bad roads.

Three paving jobs bid out last year, including W.Va. 26 north of Bruceton, will be done this year, Clayton said.

Also at the meeting, Beverly Elder, District 4 Citizens Concerns Coordinator, explained the Safety With Action Today (SWAT) program put in place statewide last year by Gov. Jim Justice.

Complaints are submitted to the program by phone or through the DOH website.

“The program is designed to get answers to citizens in a timely manner referencing road conditions, whether it be winter, summer, spring or fall, whatever conditions are and whatever they need to discuss,” Elder said.

Once the SWAT form is completed, it downloads into a database for SWAT operators in Charleston. They send out the forms to whichever district office oversees the road noted in the complaint.

“Here at the district, I take care of maintaining our database for all six counties and seeing that all of these concerns or complaints are funneled to the right people to get answers and responses back,” Elder explained.

She personally handles complaints from five of the counties — Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Taylor and Preston. An assistant handles Monongalia County.

The state wants districts to respond to the complainant within seven business days.

“Sometimes, depending on how many departments that I have to coordinate with to get the answer, that may take a little longer,” she said.

When that happens she files a form and notifies the citizen that the investigation will take longer than seven business days. She also keeps a spread sheet on what is due and when and provides the information to Charleston.

“Once we get everything lined up and closed out, I do get a report from Charleston … they tell me everything and the turnaround to make sure we are meeting that seven-day period,” Elder said.

“This is a good program I believe that [the governor] started, and I think it can only get better,” she concluded.

Submit road concerns to the DOH Safety With Action Today (SWAT) program by completing the form at https://dotforms.wv.gov/cra/ or send an email to wv.roads@wv.gov or call 304-842-1557.

Story by Kathy Plum, Dominion Post