MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — At the beginning of August, Gov. Jim Justice and Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston stood amid a host of shiny yellow dump trucks, plows and Gradalls to announce a massive equipment purchase to spread among the 10 Division of Highways districts for road maintenance.
“This is amazing,” Wriston said that day. “This has never happened before with highways to have this much equipment for our guys to get out there and get these roads fixed with.”
Justice was equally thrilled. “I have never seen a place that had this much brand new equipment, and this is only a fraction of it. There’s all kinds of more coming and more coming and more coming.”
More has been coming. The Dominion Post followed up with the DOH to get a look at the numbers and the dollars behind the purchase.
“The press event was just the start of sweeping enhancements to our statewide fleet of maintenance equipment,” DOH said in a series of email exchanges and phone conversations. “With the leadership and extra funding spearheaded by Gov. Justice, DOH officials are continuing to make purchases for new equipment on a regular basis.”
At that time of the announcement, the number of equipment pieces purchased was 279. As of this week, the total was 341, covering the period January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. “But we anticipate it continuing to grow.”
To date, the total cost is $45,118,708.84. “Although we also anticipate that figure to grow as well.”
DOH explained that the money comes from the Department of Transportation’s regular equipment budget – with the exception of $4 million the Legislature allotted to equipment purchases as part of a $54 million supplemental appropriation (shuffling of unused money to DOT line items).
Of that $54 million, $50 million went to road maintenance and $4 million to equipment.
The types of equipment purchased cover 25 categories. Among them, 71 crew cab pickup trucks, 60 single axle dump trucks with plows and spreaders, 60 tandem axle dump trucks with plows and spreaders, 20 Gradall XL4100 excavators (list price $428,920 apiece, according to Gradall) plus 10 lower-cost Discovery Gradalls ($259,000-$285,000 apiece).
The list also includes 20 mowers, 11 RO Stinger-brand cranes, eight pavers, eight rollers two arrow boards and two message boards.
Justice touted his roads maintenance initiative the day of his announcement. “You’ve never had a business guy who looks at things with a vision and doesn’t want anything, who looks at things with a vision, and says, ‘This is what we can do, now let’s get at it.’ We don’t need to mess around with it until the cows come home and study it. Let’s get at it.”