The Pathetic Comedy Of The WV Department of Transportation “One Voice” Mantra

PITTING LOCAL OFFICIALS AND LOCAL GROUPS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER TO TRY TO EVADE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WV DOT SCREW-UPS

We hear it time and time again, the West Virginia Division of Highways and the West Virginia Department of Transportation castigating local officials and local groups for not speaking with “one voice” regarding traffic and transportation problems and solutions. And we hear of threats from the WV DOT about withholding funds and fixes until locals speak with “one voice.” There is no “one voice” in local areas, nor should there be. There are many voices that need to be heard, reflecting many needs that should be attended to.

The heavy truck traffic in downtown Morgantown – damaging, polluting, deafening – is obscene and has been for decades. The WV DOT has been fine with it. No need for action. It’s as if Truck Routes are an alien concept to the WV DOT. It’s as if they don’t care a whit about the conditions of life made miserable and unhealthy and frightening and all around obnoxious by the heavy streams of heavy trucks through the Morgantown core.

There are not only too many industrial trucks in downtown Morgantown there are too many cars. Once the heavy truck traffic is removed and lessened, the campus-side parts of Spruce Street and High Street – at the very least – should be converted to parking and turned into pedestrian malls. A little creative roadwork would be required, but it’s quite logistically possible, and badly needed for both the urban core of Morgantown and the grown residential needs of WVU.

The WV DOT needs to be pushed in these directions, as the Morgantown city council is currently pushing politically and appears set to continue pushing through the courts. Even if the city loses in the courts, it wins, because this urgent issue will have received an unprecedented amount of proper and badly needed attention. People and agencies and organizations are moving on this issue finally because the Morgantown City Council is taking a good, and reasonable, and urgent stand on this pressing issue. Would be welcome to see the Council do so more often on other pressing issues, some larger, some smaller.

The DOT gambit of vocally pretending that local agencies and groups need to speak with one voice or else suffer the consequences is both disingenuous and disgusting, an attempt to divert responsibility from itself.

A similar case is the WV DOT screw-up and delay with relieving traffic congestion between Morgantown and I-68 – that is, on and around the Mileground. Speak with one voice or we won’t do anything (with these pathetic and dangerous state roads), scolds the DOH out of one side of its mouth, and then out of the other: But don’t push for anything we’re not willing to get behind or you might as well not speak at all because they are Our state roads after all. Speak the way we want you to speak or shut up. In effect, this is the message from the WV DOT. The Morgantown City Council has apparently heard and understood that message and appears set to take action now in the only way it can.

“No, no! there are better ways to proceed!” cry the county and the WV DOT.

Oh, really? They had their chance to prove it. They waited far too long. They proved something else entirely.

The WV DOT sure screwed up the Route 7 intersection with Greenbag Road in Sabraton – longtime standing – and has shown little or no sign – longtime standing – that it has any more competence or interest in providing for truck routes around Morgantown. It has to be forced into action, one way or another. Pressure has to be piled up. The Morgantown City Council apparently has recognized this. The Courts would be wise and beneficial to back up the Council. The Monongalia County Commission would do well to reassess and play a far more constructive role in this effort also. The state legislature has a role or two to play as well.

Also, why should truck traffic anywhere in the area be allowed to exceed the current truck weight limits set on the interstates? How badly beat up do we want the local roads to be? Where do we think so many of the horrible potholes come from? The legislature should take a hard look at truck weight limits on non-interstate roads.

The public is pushing for a better Morgantown, a better Monongalia County, a better West Virginia. Can the officials and the responsible agencies catch up?

Public agencies that want constructive change need to push for it. Public agencies content to gather crumbs tossed from above will continue to starve. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Won The Auction For The 5 Acre Former Armory Site In Morgantown?

WHAT DEVELOPMENT DO THE AUCTION WINNERS INTEND TO PUT THERE NEXT TO EASTWOOD ELEMENTARY AND THE ROUNDABOUT? – THE PUBLIC NEEDS TO KNOW WELL BEFORE ANY CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL IS GIVEN FOR THE SALE

Strangely, nearly a week after the winning bid on the former Armory site on the Mileground in Morgantown, no media outlet appears to have reported who specifically won the auction or what will be done with this crucial site next to Eastwood Elementary and a major commuter corridor and roundabout intersection. So let it be reported here first (PDF): a FOIA request shows that the highest bid went to a West Virginia trio of two doctors and one housing contractor: Dr. Muhammad Salman and Dr. Abdulmalek Sabbagh of Bridgeport, and Daryoush Hooshyar of Morgantown. Dr. Salman is a psychiatrist, Dr. Sabbagh is a cardiologist, and Daryoush Hooshyar is a housing contractor. What do the doctors and contractor plan to do right beside Eastwood Elementary and the major roundabout intersection? What were the second and third highest bids? What price, what persons, and what intentions, and would they be more beneficial to immediate concerns of the school and traffic than the highest bidders’ intentions, whatever they may be?

The public remains absolutely in the dark and totally vulnerable as to what the 5 acres immediately adjacent to the elementary school and roundabout will become. The city ordinance to be read in a few days would seem to allow these buyers to install most anything they like, a gambling joint, gas station, mega housing complex, whatever, or to simply change their minds and immediately turn around and sell the property to…any unknown enterprise potentially threatening to the school and commuter corridor and intersection. Why shouldn’t these men or their representative appear before council and testify to their intended use of the property? Furthermore, they should be pressed for actual site and management development specifics, especially in light of the adjacent school, also roundabout. Finally, shouldn’t the ordinance be amended as far as possible to specify or mandate the particular use of the property as far into the future as possible, or at least include some specific “good faith” language, as much as possible? Lacking some significant semblance of the above, the approval of the sale should be held up indefinitely. To do otherwise would be to put negligently at risk not only the school but also the commuter corridor and major intersection. The public needs to know what they might be in for before the city council would approve its sale of the former armory site. To best serve the public, the development intentions behind the top three bids should all be considered.
*
The information included below is found in the armory site auction FOIA PDF.

amory site auction 3 winning bidders
A copy of the Ordinance that is on the May 6, 2014 agenda for the City Council meeting:

a copy of Ordinance on the May 6, 2014 agenda for the City Council meeting   The following people registered as bidders at the auction: Read the rest of this entry »

Meth Is A Go In West Virginia!

WEST VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE GIVES BIG BOOST TO METH PRODUCTION

It’s a great day to be a mountaineer meth producer wherever in-state you may be! Big props to Big Pharmaceutical for pushing so hard to keep meth meds readily available in West Virginia!

Worth re-posting in toto:

The Retrograde Politics of West Virginia

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Democrats in the West Virginia legislature this week moved to the right of former Mississippi Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. They moved to the right of conservative talk show host Hoppy Kercheval. And they moved to the right of the state police.

The Democrats moved this week, at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, to deep six SB6, legislation that would have required a prescription for pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient for shake and bake meth labs.

Under a barrage of statewide radio ads from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, the Democratic controlled House Judiciary Committee earlier this week decided to reject SB6, which passed the Republican controlled Senate earlier this year by an overwhelming 25 to 9 vote.

During the more than three hour debate, not one Democrat spoke to condemn the pharmaceutical industry’s attack on SB6.

Instead, the committee passed substitute legislation proposed by the Republican Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, that would lower the amount of pseudoephedrine any individual could purchase in a year, from 48 grams to 24 grams. Similar legislation was passed in Kentucky but has done little to curb the meth lab problem in that neighboring state.

Mississippi and Oregon, on the other hand, have passed laws similar to SB6 and those states have successfully crippled the meth lab problems there. Read the rest of this entry »

Monongalia County Commission Proposes to Cannibalize The Schools

NEW LAW REQUIRED: THE SCHOOL CANNIBALIZATION ACT

Brilliant. The roads are in bad shape, so Monongalia County Commissioner Bill Bartolo proposes robbing the schools to pay for the roads. Morgantown City Council Member Mike Fike thinks this is a wonderful idea!

Thankfully Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin and City Council Member Bill Kawecki have some reservations and put forth decent alternatives.

Does it really need to be explained? Yes, the school system’s budget is growing due to some increased prosperity in the county, but that doesn’t mean the schools have extra money. After all, school enrollment is also growing, which is costly. On top of that, the school system has always been badly underfunded. The school budget should be growing even more than it is. Capping the school budget would be criminal. Even failing to seek to grow the school budget beyond its current growth is disgraceful. The schools need more money. So do the roads. Robbing Peter to pay Paul should not even be on the table.

Again – is explanation necesssary? If so, something is really wrong with the Monongalia County Commission. But that’s no surprise.

The road problem remains however. The state road infrastructure and road maintenance are massively underfunded. The state and its roads and waters and lands have been gutted and poisoned and broken down by the rich coal and resource extraction and chemical industries. Their ruining of the roads is the least of the damage. These industries do not remotely pay the amount of taxes needed and owed. It is well known, and widely known what needs to be done: tax these damaging industries more. Otherwise, to try to patch things over, everyone else is left to tinker around the edges, or worse: cannibalize.

You get the Third World roads that you poorly build and neglect. And then you get desperate cannibalistic ideas: wild proposals to rob Peter of his lifeblood to pay Paul a pittance compared to his needs.

It’s time to resoundingly flush the crap idea that is the County Commission’s School Cannibalization Act down the toilet. And that’s putting it politely.

The City of Morgantown continues to be remiss in not expanding its boundaries to grow not only with but ahead of urban development, thereby collecting badly needed B&O taxes and extending badly needed regulations and services. The smaller the boundaries of Morgantown, the more Third World it will remain.

Until the city doubles or triples or quadruples its area, it is going to continue to get hammered – by nature and by “development” chaos – as will the county.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Skyview Elementary Evacuated, One to the Hospital

SUNCREST PRIMARY / NORTH ELEMENTARY PARENTS BEWARE

Fire departments, police departments, the Department of Environmental Protection, and other agencies are currently checking and testing the grounds of Skyview Elementary trying to figure out what made people dizzy and nauseous this morning, sending one teacher to the hospital and forcing the evacuation and closure of the school for the day at least. Currently suspected are pollutants – gases, toxins? – coming in the from the outside. From where would such pollutants originate? From incompetent school siting decisions.

[Update: Problem found inside the school. This time. WAJR reports:  “faulty heat exchanger…”

Monongalia County Schools is in the process of siting another new elementary school. The parents of Suncrest Primary and North Elementary students would be well advised to oversee and direct the process themselves. Otherwise they might end up with another lousy school siting like Skyview Elementary, University High School, Eastwood Elementary, and Mylan Park Elementary. The Mon Schools administration and school board has proven to be neither trustworthy nor competent in matters of school siting, at the least, as we have documented here in great detail.

The Skyview Elementary siting uphill from an ever-growing industrial park is an ongoing travesty, as we have regular occasion to note. See our archives for much additional information. For example:

Skyview Elementary To Be Hit By Gas Well Air Pollution?

May 25, 2011

ANOTHER NEGLIGENT MON SCHOOLS ELEMENTARY SITE

Remember what we wrote about the asinine location of Skyview Elementary in 2010?:

Opened in 2006, Skyview (consolidated) Elementary sits far from residential areas and uphill from Morgantown Industrial Park. Think about that for a moment. What a brilliant location for the lungs of young children! Now, with an impending new road and upgraded water and sewer lines, the Industrial Park is set to expand.

First, such school siting is flat wrong in more ways than one as we have documented in detail at this site. Schools and schoolchildren benefit from being located in neighborhoods. And vice versa.

Second, in 2009, Skyview Elementary had to be closed in the midst of the school day (along with next-door Westwood Middle) due to Industrial Park “smoke [that] got into the schools’ ventilation systems and filled the buildings with smoke.”

During such an incident the previous year apparently, the students were not evacuated and “had to deal with it.” One wonders (and the School District should test for) what difficult-to-detect toxins on a more regular basis pass into the school ventilation systems there above the soon to expand Industrial Park.

Well now it only gets worse with the gas wells in place in the industrial park. Bring on the additional air pollution, which is extremely hazardous for young children – Daily Mail:

Duane Nichols, spokesman for the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, said the two well sites are too close to the Skyview Elementary and Westwood Middle schools, just off River Road, as well as to the area’s water supply and the other facilities in the Morgantown Industrial Park.

“And this is just the first of more wells to come,” he said. “We’re all going to be in a state of emotional distress.”

Bartolo said he understands there’s concern for the public welfare and what sort of impact Marcellus shale drilling could have on water and air.

“It makes sense to me with that kind of impact looming over us that somebody puts the brakes on this and further investigates it,” he said.

And now “a fixed frac water recycling facility in the Morgantown Industrial Park” is moving in on Skyview Elementary. What’s next, a nuclear waste dump? That’s what happens when Mon Schools sites schools with great negligence: the unknowable and the uncontrollable. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Four

SCOTTS RUN PUBLIC SERVICE DISTRICT – A GOOD THING DESTROYED

Ben Conley’s Scotts Run article (see below) in the Dominion Post today reveals some of the wrongs of the Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) takeover by the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). What a stench the article helps lift the lid on. Surely Conley owes much of that article to the public justice efforts by Jill Ware and by the active concerned citizens of Scotts Run. Conley’s article shows that the Morgantown/Monongalia County “good ol’ boy” network sneaked around behind the public’s back and then unlawfully rammed through the SRPSD takeover by MUB, under the guard of the Monongalia County Sheriff.

It will take ongoing public pressure to see that the needed constructive result comes about, a reversal of the SRPSD takeover by MUB. Especially failing continued public pressure and exposure of the intransigence, more likely are a few hand-slapping admonishments of officials by officials. The SRPSD Board, and the County Commission, and MUB now appear ever more negligent and wrong, sneaking around out of public sight, and then backed by the County Sheriff’s office, shoving the Scotts Run takeover down the public’s throat. The Morgantown City Council looks similarly negligent and wrong in rubber stamping the highly dubious takeover, opposed by the public, an unlawful takeover.

As for the state Public Service Commission (PSC), the jury is still out. At least the PSC referred the MUB takeover of Scotts Run to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who reportedly has until December 19, 2013 to rule.

There certainly is enough evidence, law, and public need for the ALJ and PSC to reverse the takeover. And, who knows, the ALJ could properly or best rule to do so. It’s likely that the pressure from the SRPSD activists ensured that the PSC did refer the matter to the ALJ.

There is zero evidence that the SRPSD takeover by MUB is in the public’s interest. Hopefully the PSC is not tightly connected to the local good ol’ boy, buddy/buddy network and did not refer the case to a good ol’ boy “friendly” ALJ.

It’s far from cynicism to understand that such “good ol’ boy” or buddy/buddy political connections exist and are used to mutually back scratch. What else explains former County Commissioner Asel Kennedy’s stocking the SRPSD board with his think-alike buddies? It appears that Larry Taylor got it right in his letter to the Domion Post Editor: the SRPSD destruction was the revenge of Joe Tennant and others enabled by his network of buddies that apparently includes Asel Kennedy, whose political network obviously included Bill Bartolo and Eldon Callen on the County Commission.

Everybody is helping a buddy out. That there was a real need to destroy the SRPSD is absurd. But buddy/buddy political connections exist at the local level and at every other level, and across levels, not pervasively, but commonly. Meanwhile, 2 boards, 1 commission, and 1 council have all already approved the SRPSD/MUB takeover, with another commission making friendly noises, so the ALJ might almost have to be a stranger from a strange land to go against the tide of official approval, even if there is no buddy/buddy back scratching going on. How many strangers in a strange land exist in West Virginia officialdom?

That said, it would be good for the public to catch a break with the ALJ, to stay the hand, at least for a moment, of all the buddy/buddy back scratching and rubber stamping. That would be something. Though maybe not enough. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Three

HOW A FEW INDIVIDUALS CAN DESTROY A PUBLIC ENTITY

or

MONONGALIA COUNTY GOOD OL’ BOY NETWORK STRIKES AGAIN

or

HOW TO DESTROY A PUBLIC ENTITY IN FIVE EASY STEPS

About fifteen years ago, Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) was created by concerned residents of the Scotts Run watershed to provide municipal sewerage services to the people of Scotts Run, who had long resorted to costly and unreliable individual efforts. The nearby Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) had refused to extend its municipal services to the Scotts Run area, so the SRPSD was formed to provide services where MUB would not.

When the Scotts Run Board (appointed by the Monongalia County Commission) would extend a new sewer or water line to a particular area of Scotts Run, all the residences near the line were required to hook up to it, presumably for economic and health reasons. Some individuals, a minority, opposed hooking up – presumably because they could afford individualized services, such as cesspools, that they preferred. For the majority of residents, and for the area in general, the municipal line was both preferred and needed. However, some residents remained opposed to these community building efforts of the Scotts Run PSD.

How To Destroy A Public Entity In Five Easy Steps

  1. During the past year or so, shortly before his retirement from the Monongalia County Commission, Asel Kennedy (who lives near the Scotts Run area) led the effort of stacking the governing board of the SRPSD with individuals who opposed the PSD.
  2. The Monongalia County Commission filled three of the five SRPSD board seats with individuals opposed to the operation and continued existence of the SRPSD: Joe Tennant, John Morris, Virgil Coulter. The remaining two SRPSD board seats were left unfilled by the county commission.
  3. The new SRPSD board moved swiftly to dissolve the SRPSD by the spring of 2013, in terminating the SRPSD employees and requesting that MUB “take over” the SRPSD.
  4. MUB officials, under protection of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s department, physically took over the office and garage and infrastructure of SRPSD.
  5. The collaborating Monongalia County Commission and the rubber-stamping Morgantown City Council voted to approve the MUB “take over” of the SRPSD, pending the expected state Public Service Commission (PSC) approval. The PSC had been quietly contacted by local officials months prior to the local “take over.”

The good ol’ boy network strikes again. See related details of the Scotts Run PSD takeover below in the very informative and insightful letters to the Dominion Post editor by Larry Taylor and Jill Ware: “Protest against closure, acquisition of area PSD” and “No compelling reason to merge PSD with MUB”.

On June 30, 2013, the Dominion Post published a very revealing and very petty and ludicrous letter by SRPSD board member Joe Tennant who – in responding to Jill Ware’s June 22 letter to the editor – notes that he and the other two SRPSD board members did not sell the SRPSD. He is correct. However, the reality is much worse than a sale of the SRPSD. Joe Tennant and the rest of the SRPSD board simply gave away the millions of dollars worth of SRPSD assets, along with the entire SRPSD customer base, to MUB. And they got nothing in return for the residents of Scotts Run. They just gave away a public entity that had millions of dollars more assets than liabilities. And not only did they get nothing for the Scotts Run residents by requesting the MUB “take over,” they gave up the best opportunity for many additional residents of Scotts Run to be hooked up to municipal sewer, since PSDs are eligible for grants and funding for which city utilities like MUB do not qualify. Thus, in noting that the SRPSD was not sold, board member Tennant makes plain something much worse: that the SRPSD was given away for nothing.

Ludicrously, Tennant implies that there are secret facts known only to the SRPSD board and to the County Commission that justify the dissolving of the SRPSD and its “take over” by MUB. The good ol’ boys know more and better, you see, they know secret things not known to the public. Trust us, blindly, you can trust us, they would have the public believe. What a joke. These are public issues. These are public entities. Such public actions could and should only be made for public reasons, in public venues, with a lot of public involvement. Tennant’s swiping at Jill Ware continues petty and spiteful to its pathetic end, and is included below for public amusement.

Meanwhile, the petty, spiteful, and vindictive maneuvering against Jill Ware continues in another form. The petite mother of three has been arrested for supposedly poking SRPSD board member Virgil Coulter at an SRPSD meeting in Morgantown City Council chambers.

The scandal that is the SRPSD dissolution and take over stinks high and wide. The stench is most concentrated with the SRPSD board and the Monongalia County Commission. However the Morgantown City Council and the Morgantown Utility Board both smell bad in this as well, going so readily along and allowing the take over. Meanwhile, we in the public don’t come off so well ourselves, having been utterly asleep, allowing the good ol’ boy network to operate at will, to the public’s detriment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.