CHARLESTON - The governor's newly appointed West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has little actual representation from the Mid-Ohio Valley, but organizers said the area is being considered with many local officials who will eventually have input in issues drawn up by the committee.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced this week the members of the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways includes a number of state senators, delegates and state cabinet officials as well as representatives from municipal, county, manufacturing, labor and other organizations.
The group is tasked with studying the condition and needs of the state's transportation system and developing a long-term strategic plan of action. The plan will include funding options for the maintenance, construction and expansion of the state's roadway system.
"I've called together some of the brightest minds in transportation, construction, labor and business to address the needs of our aging highway system," Tomblin said. "I look forward to working with the Blue Ribbon Commission, discussing their findings and reviewing their proposed legislation, so that we can together address the future of our transportation system."
The commission will hold its first meeting Friday at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol, Governor's Cabinet and Conference Room, Suite 10.
The members of the commission are state Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne; Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam; state Delegate Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette; Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln; and Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha; West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox; West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette; West Virginia Association of Counties Commissioner Rick Handley of Mason County; West Virginia Municipal League represented by Mayor Richard Callaway of St. Albans; County Commissioners' Association of West Virginia represented by Commissioner Mike Taylor of Randolph County; Joseph T. Deneault of West Virginians for Better Transportation; Robert O. Orders Jr. of the Contractors Association of West Virginia; Brenda Nichols Harper of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce; Jan Vinyard of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council; Karen Price of West Virginia Manufacturers Association; Kenny Perdue of the West Virginia AFL-CIO; Gary Tillis of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation; Gary Facemyer of the American Council of Engineering Companies of West Virginia; Fred C. Burns Jr. of the West Virginia Trucking Association; Carol Fulks of the West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association; Professor Tom Witt; Professor Andrew Nichols; and the citizen members David Satterfield of Morgantown representing the First Congressional District; Mark Baldwin of Martinsburg representing the Second Congressional District; and Wally Thornhill of Chapmanville representing the Third Congressional District.
Of those on the commission, only Burdette is from the Parkersburg/Wood County area.
However, Tomblin spokesperson Amy Shuler Goodwin is quick to point out that Burdette has always kept the interests of the Mid-Ohio Valley close and made sure the area is considered when plans are discussed and plans are being worked out that would impact it.
''Make no mistake, (the Mid-Ohio Valley) is represented,'' she said.
Satterfield from around the Morgantown area is the citizen representative representing the Mid-Ohio Valley as part of the First District.
The job of the commission is not to come up with individual road projects for various areas throughout the state, but to come up with funding mechanisms to be able to fund highway projects in the future, said Howard Mullens, deputy secretary for the West Virginia Department of Highways.
The cost of construction has increased over the past several years and funding mechanisms to provide money for these projects are no longer adequate to cover them.
''There are all kinds of projects needed throughout the state,'' Mullens said. ''If the funding is not in place to pay for them, they are not going to meet the needs of the constituents in those areas.''
The problem is happening across the U.S. and West Virginia is being proactive in trying to come up with a solution through discussion and planning, Mullens said.
Through the process, mayors, county commissions and other officials will have input on different measures brought up,'' he said adding state senators and delegates will have input on the legislative level.
''Everything will have local input of some kind,'' Mullens said. ''Anything the commission comes up with has to go through the process.''