MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Some Monongalia County state delegates believe DOH District 4 was shortchanged nearly $15 million across the last two years.
Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, believes the Division of Highways likely shorted the six-county District 4 by failing to follow the agency’s current funding formula for road maintenance.
When determining how to dole out money, the DOH has a funding formula that exists as a guideline for the state. They are not required to follow that formula, which Hansen and fellow Del. John Williams, D-Monongalia, hoped would change in 2019.
“When I ran those numbers for the last couple years, I found that Monongalia County and the district that we sit within is being short-changed by a lot of money,” Hansen told MetroNews affiliate WAJR.
Hansen and Williams claimed they sought iinformation, variables, and the formula from the DOH so they could “run some numbers.”
“The formula is one really important piece of the puzzle to make sure that the counties that need the road maintenance work can get it done,” Hansen said.
Williams and Hansen championed a bill that would have updated the formula and codified it — requiring the DOH to follow the formula. Gov. Jim Justice vetoed that bill earlier this year.
The two delegates suggested an updated formula would more fairly award growing regions like theirs to better maintain roads in heavy use.
“If the DOH is not going to use the formula, which apparently they haven’t for the last 15 or so years, then we need to require them to do so,” Hansen said. “The Mon County delegates co-sponsored the bill that passed the Legislature that would do just that, but the Governor vetoed that bill.”
By Hansen’s calculation, DOH District 4 should have received $37.4 million in fiscal year 2017 and $38.3 million in fiscal year 2018. Instead, the DOH awarded the district $30.1 million in 2017 and $30.7 million in 2018.
“Mon County and North Central West Virginia grew a lot over the last 10 or 15 years in terms of population, in terms of our industry, and use of our roads,” Hansen said.
The Morgantown area was listed as one of the fastest areas growing in the state, according to a recent study by 24/7 Wall Street. Populaton growth and job growth increased from 2010 to 2018, unemployment is lower than the state level, and median household income is nearly 14 percent greater than the state median household income.
“And that was at time when many counties shrunk,” Hansen said. “And, according to the formula, we have greater road maintenance needs because our roads are being used and torn up more than roads in other parts of the state.”
Hansen and Williams are part of the North Central West Virginia Legislative Roads Caucus, which exists for delegates and senators from the six DOH Distirct 4 counties.