2017-09-27 / Front Page

Early voting underway on state road bond issue

by Kate Shunney

Voters in Morgan County haven’t been showing up in huge numbers to have their say about a state amendment that would allow the sale of $1.6 billion in bonds to fund a long list of road projects in West Virginia.

As of Tuesday morning, just 102 local ballots had been cast in the nonpartisan special election. Morgan County has 13,165 registered voters.

The West Virginia Secretary of State said statewide voting on Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23 – the first two days of early voting – had brought in nearly 5,000 ballots.

Secretary Mac Warner said West Virginia has 1,222,967 citizens registered to vote.

Early voting for the October 7 special election runs through Wednesday, October 4. Early voting is available at the county courthouse in the County Clerk’s office during regular business hours. On Saturday, early voting is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Locally, the special election coincides with the annual Apple Butter Festival – the biggest public celebration in Berkeley Springs each year. Due to concerns about access to the polls, voting at six precincts was moved to a new location.

Voters in Precincts #4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 will cast ballots at Warm Springs Intermediate School instead of their normal polling place. Those voters would normally vote at Widmyer Elementary, the Community Service Center, Berkeley Springs High School, the courthouse and the School Board office in Berkeley Springs. The rest of the county’s polling places will remain the same.

Local reps support move

State Senators Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) and Charles Trump (R-Morgan) both support the road bond amendment. The two were among 20 senators to sign a letter in favor of the amendment, called the Roads to Prosperity Amendment.

“For not one penny of additional taxes, West Virginians can choose on October 7 to immediately have better roads and more jobs!” the letter said.

“These funds can be used to qualify West Virginia for matching federal dollars for highways and bridges. The Roads to Prosperity Amendment is part of comprehensive repair plan for West Virginia roads and infrastructure,” the letter said.

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers approved cost increases on vehicle registration, gas taxes and other DMV fees. They expect to collect $130 million each year from the fee hikes, and those funds would pay the debt on the road bonds, say lawmakers.

If the bond amendment doesn’t pass, those funds would go into the State Road Fund for projects.

“We certainly need road infrastructure improvements here in Morgan County and throughout West Virginia. The passage of Roads to Prosperity Amendment would be a mechanism for making some of that happen. Among the projects for which the bond proceeds may be used, there are a number of projects in Morgan County,” said Trump.

Two big-ticket items for Morgan County are on a 16- page list of projects that state officials say could be paid for by state bond sales.

One is a $40 million U.S. 522 bypass around Berkeley Springs and another is a $6 million connector road from U.S. 522 to Fairview Drive in the area of War Memorial Hospital.

Both projects have been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

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