Bloom: Lawsuit a possibility in light of road funding shortfall data

MORGANTOWN — Potential legal action over what appears to be a two-year funding shortfall of nearly $15 million for West Virginia Division of Highways District 4 will likely be up for discussion Thursday evening when the North Central Roads Caucus meets in Preston County.
Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said nearly four months of work from Monongalia County Delegates Evan Hansen and Jon Williams, both Democrats, show the six-county district did not receive the road funding it should have based on the state’s own formula.
The data backs claims made by Bloom and other representatives of the road caucus, which was formed to bring attention to the condition of area roads following Preston County’s decision to declare a state of emergency last April.
“I think there’s going to be some new interest for the potential of a possible lawsuit against the state, being shorted by $15 million …,” Bloom said. “Where before it was just hypothetical, now there’s actual data.”
Bloom went on to say the state’s funding decisions could have cost District 4 as much as $100 million in the 15 years the DOH has been using the formula — created to help dole out road maintenance money to the various districts.
The state is not required to follow its formula, which was one of the issues the lawmakers hoped to address through legislation updating and codifying the  way roads funds are distributed.
A bill that would have made those changes was vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice earlier this year.
In that bill, Hansen and Williams suggested an updated formula would more fairly award growing regions like DOH District 4.
Bloom said the state should make right any money withheld from the district.
“We need to evaluate how we work with the state to get this funding. This is money that should have come to us,” Bloom said. “This is going to be worked out.”
District 4 is made up of Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison, Taylor and Doddridge counties.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the commission is also hoping to work with the DOH to continue a pilot program through which the county and state work together to address specific projects.
The program first appeared last year when the commission put up $150,000 to leverage $800,000 from the state for work on the upper section of River Road.
This time around the county is hopeful the state can address Chaplin Hill Road, which runs past Mylan Park.
The park is increasingly becoming a local destination as amenities like the recently opened track complex and soon-to-open aquatic center come on line. Along with numerous other entities and sports and community facilities, the park also contains Mylan Park Elementary as well as the school district’s bus garage.
A new four-lane road that will run through the WestRidge development to Mylan Park is still two to three years away, Bloom said.
A letter to the West Virginia Department of Transportation supporting Chaplin Hill Road improvements was approved on Wednesday. The Monongalia County Board of Education and Mylan Park Foundation have approved similar letters in recent days.
In other county news, the commission:
— Heard from Whitey McDaniel representing the Mountaineer United Soccer Club, one of the organizations receiving excess levy funds through a five-year, $1 million parks/trails levy passed in 2016.
McDaniel said the group, which oversees and maintains 14 soccer fields, receives about $25,000 annually, which it’s used to fund field improvements and the purchase of equipment.
— Received notice that the state auditor’s office has signed off on a is $29,950 contract with Perry & Associates to conduct the county’s fiscal year 2018 audit.
The county will also have to pay the auditor’s office a processing fee of a processing fee of $2,396.
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