DOH breaks down details of District 4 funding county-by-county

CLARKSBURG — The State Division of Highways explained the formula it uses to divvy up money between counties, during a series of meetings with county commissioners and state delegates last week.

State Engineer Aaron Gillispie  gave an overview of the 20-year-old formula at meetings with District 4 county and state officials. District 4 includes Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor counties.

West Virginia has the sixth largest transportation system in the United States, Gillispie said. “I can tell you it is not the sixth best-funded.”

District 4’s budget for fiscal year 2017-‘18 is $30,736,873. Of that, $23,368,192 is divided among the six counties.

Included in the district figure is an  allotment for slides for the whole district. This year that allotment is $1.4 million. Slide repairs are contracted out. And the list on which slides are repaired changes, based on what happens.

Across District 4, there are 124 slides, including 13 in Preston County and 30 in Mon County.

Gillispie showed those in attendance a photo of a flooded crane and roads. It was a recent photo from the eastern panhandle, he said.

“What I’m showing you is that things change on the slide list,” Gillispie said. “We’ve got more than we’ll ever get to.”

Bridge inspections and repairs are also handled by the district, “and the worst ones get the money,” Gillispie said, though DOH officials wish all could be addressed.

Four factors are considered in allocating county funding for routine maintenance, Gillispie explained: Materials cost, heavy truck traffic, regular vehicular traffic and climate (snow removal and ice control).

Some factors are weighted more heavily than others in the formula. For example, heavy truck traffic counts twice as much as regular vehicular traffic.

“These are the kind of factors that we look at statewide,” Gillispie said.

Routine maintenance is ditching, mowing, patching, and snow and ice removal.

Monongalia County’s total operating budget for this fiscal year is $4,353,619. Preston’s is $5,695,367.

The district contains 4,761.44 miles. Of those, 534.44 are paved primaries, that is, state and federal routes. Another 1,614.26 are secondary routes, 846.02 are tarred and chipped, 1,389.84 are gravel roads, and 376.88 are primitive or unimproved.

Mon County has 900.02 miles, excluding interstates/expressways, and Preston has 1,303.72, excluding Interstate 68.

The district includes 117.78 miles of interstate/expressway roads. It has 1,052 bridges and 1,782 structures of less than 20 feet. The latter are drainage structures smaller than bridges (the horizontal waterway is less then 20 feet) but are greater than 60 feet in diameter.

The district has a quota of 489 workers. But that includes those at the district sign shop, bridge department, district comptroller’s office, district administration and other offices.

For the six counties in the district, 249 workers are allocated, and 213 of those positions are filled. By far the largest category for county workers is those with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs), District 4 Engineer Don Williams said.

“The biggest part of our budget is our labor,” Williams said, more than 50 percent.

It’s also the hardest to fill. The DOH starts Equipment Operator 2 workers at $11.77 per hour — less than some fast food restaurants in the Morgantown area — Williams said.

In response to a question from Del. Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, State Transportation Secretary Thomas Smith said state workers will get a $2,165 raise approved by the recent legislature, beginning July 1.

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