BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday voted 2-1 to give the Corridor H Authority $5,000 to hire a firm to lobby for faster completion of the highway.
Commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady was the dissenting vote, saying he believed the money would be better spent in Upshur County.
At the outset of the discussion, commission president Terry Cutright explained that at a Corridor H Authority meeting Monday, he learned the group had no money left in its budget.
“We had a Corridor H Authority meeting Monday, and they actually have no funding, because I think they had $4,000 left in the account,” Cutright said, “and they have a lobbyist with Bowles and Rice in Charleston that is working on lobbying for Corridor H completion. (Bowles and Rice’s) bill will be around $2,000 a month, so they were asking six or seven counties to come up with $5,000 to pay for the lobbyist and some advertising and insurance. I think they’re in a real critical time right now … We could get it out of the coal severance tax or something.”
Commissioner Sam Nolte asked if the other affected counties were committed to donating $5,000, and Cutright replied that Tucker and Randolph counties had already committed. Other members of the Corridor H Authority are in the process of checking with their respective commissions, Cutright said.
Nolte said, “If we have a little overage in coal severance, I’m OK with that.”
But Brady disagreed.
“I wouldn’t be OK with donating $5,000,” he said. “Everybody in Charleston knows Corridor H needs to be finished. The problem is they don’t have any money to finish it. That being said, if this bond passes — and I’m not saying the bond’s going to pass this fall — but to hire lobbyists to go down to Charleston and tell them that we need Corridor H finished is a waste of time because everybody down there — and you can check with anybody you want, you can call Bill Hamilton, you can call Dana Lynch — and everybody will say, yes, we need to finish it, but we don’t have the money because we have a $450 million (deficit). So I think taking money out of the Upshur County budget ... in my opinion, we can use the money better here in Upshur County to benefit the citizens, so I wouldn’t be for that.”
Brady said he understands the need to push for the completion of Corridor H.
“I understand what you’re trying to do, and I understand Corridor H needs to be completed, I just don’t think giving money to lobbyists is going to do any good at all,” Brady said. “I think taking $5,000 out of the county’s budget to give to the development authority so they can hire a lobbyist to go down there because you can’t find anybody that doesn’t want to get it finished.”
Cutright replied, “This thing has been on the table since back in the 1960s, and everybody in Charleston knew it needed to be built. The only time we’ve really gotten much action is with lobbyists and somebody down arguing our case.”
Nolte said he sided with Cutright.
“I agree with Terry,” Nolte said. “You have to have somebody pleading our case down there. If we’re quiet, the likelihood of us being pushed back is going to increase.”
Brady said he thought the commission taking a trip down to Charleston itself might be even more beneficial than sending lobbyists to the state capitol.
“You’re not going to change [the mind’s of] a certain number of people down in the southern part of the state, because they want highways built down there, and you’re always going to have that,” Brady said. “Throwing money at it with lobbyists, in my opinion, and I could be totally wrong, but I’m just not for taking money from Upshur County.”
Cutright replied, “All I know is, lobbyists get things done.”
Nolte said, “For $5,000, the investment is a small amount of money you’re making for the potential return.”
Brady asked, “Do you think having seven lobbyists walk in there carries more weight than us going down there?”
Cutright replied, “I do.”
Brady countered, “Well, I disagree. It’s going to be built whether we have a lobbyist or not.”
Nolte made a motion to donate $5,000 to the Corridor H Authority, which was seconded by Cutright and passed with Brady voting no.
Corridor H will stretch from Interstate 79 at Weston to Interstate 81 in Virginia, near the junction with Interstate 66. The vast majority of the road is complete, but three stretches of the highway remain unfinished, including Kerens to Parsons, Parsons to Davis and Wardensville to Virginia. The section from Kerens to Parsons is currently under development.
In other news, the commission:
p Approved and signed fiscal year 2018 Court Security Grant Contract Agreement, Resolution, Certifications and Assurances. The grant award is in the sum of $71,525 to be used for the purpose of enhancing the county’s court security.
p Reviewed and signed the Standard Form of Space License Agreement for the Temporary Use of Facilities. This lease agreement is for shared space occupied by the American Red Cross, located within the Office of Emergency Management at 181 Pallottine Dr. Upon approval, the lease agreement will expire on Nov. 30, 2019.
p Approved moving forward with increasing the excise tax on the privilege of transferring property, pursuant to 2017 Regular Session Senate Bill 433, W.Va. Code 11-22-2. Approval and signature of the order and approval of public notice setting the consideration of this matter for public hearing on Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. will be effective Oct. 1.
p Approved a request from John “Buck” Edwards to serve another term on the Buckhannon-Upshur Recreational Park Advisory Board. His current term expired on June 30, 2017 and upon approval, his new term would expire on June 19, 2019.
p Approved the resignation of Brandon C. Wolfe, E911 Communications Center telecommunicator, effective July 17.