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Northern Panhandle leaders praise referendum passage


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — Northern Panhandle leaders are largely happy with the passage of the “Roads to Prosperity” bond referendum, and now they want to see it grow both jobs and development in West Virginia.

“I’m hopeful that with passage of the road bond we will see much needed improvements to our infrastructure while also spurring economic development in not just the Northern Panhandle, but our entire state,” said Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. “Voters have sent a message that they want to see better roads, but the government must not forget that we have a duty to make sure any jobs created go to West Virginians and that taxpayer money is spent wisely.”

Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, was only one of eight House members voting against putting the amendment before voters during the legislative session.

“There are some beneficial elements, of course,” he said following the vote Saturday night. “My feeling, though, was that the cost of interest payments on the new debt incurred outweighed these merits, as roughly 10 percent of the road fund would have to be dedicated towards servicing the interest over the next two decades.

Nearly all of the proposed projects the bonds will fund are already scheduled to be done without borrowing the money. They will just take a few more years to finish without the borrowing through the bonds.

“Going forward, I just hope the borrowed funds are spent wisely–because taxpayers will be footing the bill for the next 25 years,” McGeehan continued.

State Sen. Charlie Clements, R-Wetzel, also serves as executive director of the W.Va. 2/Interstate 68 Authority. Improvements to W.Va. 2 are among the projects to be funded through the road bond’s passage.

“I’m grateful it did pass,” he said. “It gets us moving forward, and hopefully out of economic slowdown we’re in. Hopefully we can create jobs and opportunities to move the state forward. It’s a good thing, and I’m thankful because it means so much to the valley with all this gas development.”

State Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said the bond’s passage was a great thing for Ohio County.

“We will see replacement work done on bridges on Interstate 70, and that’s a major project that needs to be done,” he said. “We now just have to work with the governor to make sure the money is spent wisely.”

The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce was among organizations voicing support for the referendum.

“I think this is a win for West Virginia,” said Andy McKenzie, a former state senator and Wheeling mayor who now serves as chairman of the chamber’s board of directors. “This is important, because the passage sends a message to the rest of the country that West Virginia is serious about infrastructure. Without infrastructure, America cannot grow as a country. In West Virginia, without the proper roads and bridges, companies are not coming to invest.

“This is also very important for Wheeling and Ohio County, as a tremendous amount of money will be spent on Interstate 70,” McKenzie continued.

See more from The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

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