POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Commission hosted a public meeting on Wednesday regarding the condition of the roads in the county and the road repairs that are needed.
The commissioners in attendance were Sam Nibert and Tracy Doolittle along with City Administrator John Gerlach, West Virginia Department of Highways District (WV DOH) Engineer Travis Knighton, and Mason County Highways Supervisor Ernie Watterson.
President of the Commission Rick Handley left a statement explaining he had a planned vacation scheduled prior to the scheduling of this meeting, but he hopes more meetings such as this can continue being held. Along with his statement, he sent a list of roads in the county he already knew of which residents were concerned.
To begin, Knighton explained District 1 is made up of five counties including Mason, Putnam, Boone, Clay, and Kanawha, and in regards to road repair he and his fellow WV DOH workers follow a core plan and the work is spread out throughout these counties. The goal of the plan is for each road within the counties to be mowed once a year, patched once a year, and then 1/3 of the roads in the county be ditched each year. However, the plan has fallen behind. Difficulties such as weather as well as lack of crew and equipment contribute to this. The state has one contractor and one crew working on the roads within District 1 and these workers continue to work each day to complete the core plan. It was announced safety is the main concern for those at WV DOH for all of the residents in their district and to help meet the goals of their core plan they are working on hiring more workers and acquiring more equipment.
Delegate Jim Butler commented the state has put close to $200 million additional dollars into the roads, but there is a lot of catch up work being done. Maintenance of roads was not kept up for decades and now work is being done to try and repair all of that damage, Butler said.
The Mason County residents had several complaints including issues with: the slips and potholes throughout the county roads; the issue with ditches being too shallow and narrow to be able to appropriately get water off the roads wherein causing continuous damage to the roads; uncompleted or very little to no work being done from WV DOH workers; heavy loaded vehicles traveling on roadways unsuitable for those type of vehicles; mowing and brushing not being done frequently enough; paving not being done frequently enough; the lack of warning signs on damaged roads as well as lack of speed limit signs; not receiving calls back when reaching out to the state.
The residents inquired who is accountable for these issues with the roadways and sought to know the priorities of those in charge.
K.D. Hess, resident who lives on Gunhill Road, explained the last time his road was paved was in 1985 and when the condition became so bad, he had to do patchwork on the road himself.
“Years ago they would come along and ditch a road, they would take care of problem before the problem occurred, now everything has to go through Charleston. What do you people know about our roads, nothing, unless you come down here and drive on them everyday, you haul 70 children to school everyday, you know nothing about my road. Why can’t the people be like the state of Ohio, every county in the state of Ohio do their own roads, they know what needs to be done and do it. We are in a district with five other counties, all of that money doesn’t come to Mason County…,” said Hess. “It’s time that we get people who know what’s going on with the state road they’re on and make the people do their jobs and listen to us when we say our road needs fixed…finish the job that you start before you go somewhere else.”
Larry Jones commented one of the major problems of the county roads he witnesses are the ditches of the roads being insufficient wherein making it to where water cannot drain off the road.
“Without those deep ditches you’re going to have water on the road, you’re going to have continuous damage to the pavement, and that’s why every year you have to go back and patch, so it seems to me if you would fix the core problem of water on the road, it would take care of a lot problems down the road,” said Jones.
Roadways mentioned many times included Route 2, Crab Creek Road, Route 62 in West Columbia heading to Mason, Route 62 heading to Leon, Route 62 towards Hartford and New Haven, and Sandhill Road as well as roadways off of it. Some of the other roadways included Route 3, Hannan Trace Road, Pine Grove, Leon Baden, Gunhill Road, Millstone Road, Number 9 Road off Sandhill Road, Waterloo Road, Sassafrass, Buck Casto Road, Brighton, Bethel Road, Rebel Ridge Road, County Road 7 – Lieving Road, Golfcourse Road, Sliding Hill Creek Road, Redman Ridge Road, Winding Lane, and Thomas Ridge Road.
Watterson commented Sandhill Road is scheduled on the core plan with a completion date of Aug. 28, but a resident who lives near that road shared that they felt the date will not be met. Watterson also commented the slips along Route 62 have been submitted to the engineer.
Jon Blaine inquired if the county can do anything to help with the road repairs since the state is so behind and backed up with the repairs.
Senator Eric Tarr explained a recently vetoed bill by Governor Jim Justice, Senate Bill 522, addressed more county level involvement. Tarr said, with this bill, the county commissioners would have been able to have input on the prioritization of the care of the county roads; funds would have been given to each county and the county could help delegate where the funding would be needed. The bill passed in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, but Justice vetoed the bill claiming the bill had too much legislative encroachment on the executive branch, according to Tarr.
“We tried hard to get it passed…,” said Tarr. “Accountability rests in the governor’s office.”
Doolittle inquired from Knighton what the next step will be and what are those in the county going to see happen. Knighton responded he will be sharing and discussing the information he learned at the meeting with Watterson and others from WV DOH and will keep continued and constant communication with the county. However, he explained working on these requests will take time, everything cannot be fixed at once.
Erin (Perkins) Johnson is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.