Hospital connector road called top local priority
The Morgan County Commissioners discussed what steps to take to win funding for a connector road between U.S. 522 and the new War Memorial Hospital on Fairview Drive last Thursday, October 20.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said the connector road is a county priority for the Eastern Panhandle Transportation Authority, a board on which she serves.
Authority members recently met with State Senator John Unger, who suggested taking advantage of the West Virginia Community Enhancement Transportation Act which empowers county commissions to undertake and finance transportation infrastructure projects.
Unger suggested a possible joint public/private partnership between the county and the hospital, Hutchinson said.
“I am not saying pay for the whole road. I am talking about a public/private thing with the hospital where we put together a small pot of money that would then give us the leverage to go to the state and get us moved farther up on the list for federal funding,” Hutchinson explained.
“I support the road project. I don’t think I support taking county funds to help pay for it,” said Commissioner Stacy Dugan.
“We are not talking about a million dollars to get two. But if we can leverage something to show we are vested in this project, which is basically what they are looking for, by all means you have my support,” Commissioner Brad Close said.
Hutchinson said Grant Assistant Carol York is looking for guidance from the commissioners on whether to apply for a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation as another possible funding source.
The commissioners agreed to allow York to pursue the grant.
Right-of-way task force
Economic Development Director Bill Clark reported that the Morgan County Economic Development Authority has established a right-of-way task force of himself, Hutchinson and Attorney George McVey.
In addition to discussing the connector road right-of-way with Hospital President Neil McLaughlin, they have asked U.S. Silica for a right-of-way across their property, Clark said.
“We expect to hear a response from them and we are proceeding in that fashion,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to pay Milestone Construction $130,968 for work done on the courthouse.
The commission is still holding $131,000 until Milestone finishes completing the remaining items on the punch list.
Lin Dunham, chairman of the county’s Farmland Protection Board, gave an update on the group’s activities.
So far, the board has managed to put ten properties with more than 695 acres of farmland under farmland protection easements.
Most recently, about 100 acres of Scott Swaim’s farm were
Dunham said the board is currently working on another property with over 60 acres.
“This is a fun board to work on because it does so much good. We have had great support from the county commission from the start,” Dunham said.
The commissioners appointed Laura Glascock to the board. She replaces Kelly Smith who recently resigned.
Assorted county business
In the audience for the October 20 meeting was Ron Bittinger’s Civics and Government class from Berkeley Springs High School.
In other business that day, the commissioners:
—Reappointed A.C. Bohrer to the Civil Service Board.
—Reimbursed the sheriff’s training budget $567 for a safety conference.
—Approved a request from Captain Carmella Emerson of the 167th Airlift Wing to hang a plaque in the lobby with the names of 37 Morgan County armed service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.
—Approved a request for $6,003 from Alma Gorse and Debbie Weaver to complete the digital Geographic Information Services (G.I.S.) mapping of the county that began in 2008. The money will come from next year’s budget.
—Certified the county vote from the special gubernatorial election.
—Sent letters to area legislators to enlist their help in getting cell phone companies to use two towers in Paw Paw and provide service to that area.
—Approved a resolution to allow the county to be fiscal agent for a $30,436 Title V grant for the Morgan County Partnership and to fund the partnership until the money arrives.
—Agreed to hire Randy Stotler as the Community Service Officer on a part time, temporary basis.
—Were updated by Mary Hammond about the Local Emergency Planning Commission Board.
—Heard a request for funds from Paw Paw Councilman Dave Clark to help Paw Paw Parks & Recreation erect a new stage and repair damage to trails in the town park. Funding decisions were put off until the December 15 mid-term budget review.
The commissioners were also told that a nationwide Emergency Alert System test will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9.