2017-10-04 / Front Page

Special election this Saturday

A special statewide election this Saturday, October 7 will have West Virginia residents deciding if the state can sell up to $1.6 billion in road bonds to pay for statewide road improvements. An amendment to the state constitution is required to allow for the bond sale.

Early voting in the courthouse on the issue ends today, October 4.

Polls in Morgan County’s 13 precincts will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Voting is by paper ballot. Sample ballot is in this issue.

Due to concerns about Apple Butter Festival traffic and parking, county officials moved six polling places for Saturday’s special election.

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. Voters in precinct #25, who normally vote at the handicapped accessible cabin at Cacapon State Park, will vote at the park’s bathhouse instead. The rest of the county’s polling places will remain the same.

Bond sale outlined

Senate Joint Resolution 6, passed by state lawmakers in the 2017 regular session, sets out details of a possible road bond sales.

The amendment, which is in the text of the resolution, states that “The Legislature shall have the power to authorize the issuing and selling of state bonds not exceeding in the aggregate $1.6 billion dollars. The proceeds of said bonds are hereby authorized to be issued and sold over a four-year period,” the amendment says.

It specifies that $800 million in bonds can be authorized on July 1, 2018; $400 million on July 1, 2019; $200 million on July 1, 2020 and $200 million on July 1, 2021.

The proceeds of the bonds can be used for just two purposes: matching federal funds for highway and bridge construction in West Virginia or general highway and secondary road and bridge construction or upgrades in each county.

Higher DMV and gas fees, put in effect in July, will pay the debt on those bonds, say state lawmakers.

Governor Jim Justice, who called for the special election, has named the road bond effort “Road to Prosperity” and said it will allow the state to start overdue highway maintenance and upgrades in all parts of the state.

The governor, who was expected to campaign on behalf of the amendment in Berkeley Springs yesterday, has said improvements to the roads would boost economic opportunity around the state, and employ tens of thousands of people.

Division of Highways (DOH) officials released a list of projects that are authorized by the state and could be candidates for completion if the bond amendment passes.

Two of those in Morgan County include:

—Reconstruct U.S. 522 in the county as a four-lane highway around Berkeley Springs ($40,000,000).

This is the long-discussed bypass that was engineered to turn east of U.S. 522 near Winchester Grade Road, connect to Martinsburg Road and swing back to U.S. 522 north of Berkeley Springs. Highway officials haven’t publicly revisited specific plans for that controversial road in close to a decade.

—Construction of a twolane connector road between U.S. 522 and Fairview Drive in the area of War Memorial Hospital ($6,000,000).

Lawmakers haven’t specified how projects would be picked for construction if bond funding is approved.

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