Counties talk Turnpike toll funds - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Counties talk Turnpike toll funds

Posted: Updated:
  • Local NewsMore>>

  • West Virginia University Children's Hospital Breaks Ground on New Expansion

    West Virginia University Children's Hospital Breaks Ground on New Expansion

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-09-16 04:00:32 GMT
    Monday marked the new beginning for the West Virginia University Children's Hospital. The hospital is expanding its walls to meet the growing needs of the community.
    Monday marked the new beginning for the West Virginia University Children's Hospital. The hospital is expanding its walls to meet the growing needs of the community.
  • Marion County Residents Gather To Meet The Candidates

    Marion County Residents Gather To Meet The Candidates

    Monday, September 15 2014 11:45 PM EDT2014-09-16 03:45:34 GMT
    Meet The Candidate ForumMeet The Candidate Forum
    Marion County residents were able to meet the candidates Monday night and get to hear from Fairmont City Council.
    Marion County residents were able to meet the candidates Monday night and get to hear from Fairmont City Council.
  • WVU Students Honor Slain Journalists With Vigil

    WVU Students Honor Slain Journalists With Vigil

    Monday, September 15 2014 11:40 PM EDT2014-09-16 03:40:26 GMT
    The militant group ISIS has beheaded four Western hostages, two from the United States and two from Britain. Monday night, WVU's Muslim Association held a vigil for one of the murdered American journalist.
    The militant group ISIS has beheaded four Western hostages, two from the United States and two from Britain. Monday night, WVU's Muslim Association held a vigil for one of the murdered American journalist.
CHARLESTON, WV -

Four southern West Virginia counties could do a lot with $1 million.

Mercer County Commission President Mike Vinciguerra told lawmakers that kind of money would go a long way toward getting water and sewage for everyone in his county.

Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, proposed a way to disburse a portion of West Virginia Turnpike toll funds to the four counties it's in, but that idea didn't go far in the legislative session last year.

It was pushed to a resolution for lawmakers to study in the interim, between sessions, and was discussed in a July 23 meeting, where Chafin said he'd already paid a few hundred dollars this year in Turnpike tolls.

He called the tolls a "real problem," and an "economic deterrent," saying his suggestion of deferring $1 million for each of the four counties "wouldn't hurt the books much at all."

Jennifer Sayre, Kanawha County manager for the Kanawha County Commission, said the county would like Turnpike funds for emergency service needs since 28 of the Turnpike's 88 miles are in Kanawha County.

Sayre said Kanawha County Metro 911 had dispatched 192 accidents along the Turnpike in the past 12 months, so the money could go toward equipment and resources for those emergency responders.

Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender told lawmakers his commission supports the proposal that would allocate a portion of Turnpike revenue to the four counties. He said the commission fully supports Tamarack, but when it opened in 1995, any Turnpike funds that had been allocated for economic development in the counties "virtually ceased."

"While the tolls have risen, participation in economic development has disappeared," Wender said. "Our southern counties have increasing financial challenges with declining coal severance revenues, increasing regional jail costs, removal of dilapidated structures, rampant substance abuse and overall increases in local government, all of which further challenge local efforts to diversify the local economy."

Judy Radford of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority spoke on behalf of Raleigh County. She told lawmakers business parks have been developed in the area, but there are infrastructure needs along with a timing issue.

"If we could get funds we could apply to those projects, we would be more ready for projects when they come."

Radford also told lawmakers the Summit Bechtel Reserve is bringing community leaders to their backyard.

"We want to send a message to people that we're trying to attract industry," she said. "If our community is dirty or looks dirty, it sends a negative message."

Greg Barr, general manager of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, provided a lot of Turnpike history during the meeting. He said when he started working for the authority in its accounting department in 1989, old bonds created in the 1950s were still outstanding.

"I applaud all of you for doing some proactive and creative thinking about what the formula should be when the bonds are paid off in 2019," Barr said.

He said through the years he's seen $83 million in Turnpike funds spent on Corridor L in Raleigh and Fayette County and other money go toward better roads in Mercer County and the new Chelyan Bridge in Kanawha County.

Barr explained that bond covenants and the agreement with the Federal Highways Administration tightly restrict how toll revenues can be spent – on debt service, operation and maintenance of the Turnpike.

"I say all this because there are creative minds in this room," Barr said. "Perhaps sitting the right people down at the table, there's a way around some of the covenants and trust indenture.

"May of 2019 is only six years away, and we've been at this 24 years."