Government, News

Westover mayor seeks support for possible new interstate exit

WESTOVER — Westover Mayor David Johnson encouraged citizens of Westover and council members to attend an upcoming Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting to show support for a possible new exit coming out of the Industrial Park.
Johnson informed Westover council members about the meeting at the Westover city council meeting Monday.
The MPO meeting will be from 4-7 p.m. Thursday.
“This Thursday, we have an MPO meeting at the council chambers,” he said. “What they are going to discuss is the possibility of another way in and out of this Industrial Park out here.
“The first initial idea was to go on past, out to where the overpass goes over the interstate and make that a full-fledged exit.”
Second ward councilmember Leonard Smith said, “I thought that’s what they were going to do.”
Johnson said with studies on various possibilities, alternative routes and ways of doing things are necessary in case of problems arising, but the exit would be a good thing for Westover and its residents.
“The first option that we discussed was coming out where the Master Graphics Road is,” he said. “Just before you get to the overpass, there’s a road that turns down to your left. They want to come out of the Industrial Park and come out about where that road comes out because that Industrial Park comes clear out almost to the interstate, with the exception of a few properties between the two. They would have the off and on ramp there.
“The significance of this is that we would be able to get about 90 percent of this big truck traffic out of Westover because about 90 percent of it will be able to get off and on at that exit, and we’d never see them on Dupont Road or on our streets, making the turns down there by the bank. You’d still have some local traffic, but you wouldn’t have the traffic like the big garbage trucks, especially the sand trucks from the oil and gas industry. They could all use that exit, and they’d be right on the interstate.”
Johnson said another benefit would be for the residents that live near the Industrial Park.
“That coupled with the fact that everyone who lives out that way will not have to come all the way down by the school, all the way out Dupont Road, all the way down to the interstate,” he said. “They can get on the interstate right there and switch on and off. It will be very successful.”
Johnson said funding would be the main issue to work through.
“The exit at Star City is going to be completely redone in the next year and a half or so, and that money, that’s going to be funded by TIFF money. They already have the money for that” he said. “The problem with this new exit, or whatever alternative route we decide on, there’s no funding for it yet.
“I do know this much, the MPO is going to put in whatever we decide on, they are going to put in for a—they have to change their long-term control plan and get that approved by the federal government. It’s going to be a process.”
After the meeting, Johnson issued a statement requesting residents to attend.
“The meeting on Thursday is very important,” he said, “and I’d like to reach out to a lot of people that live on River Road and in that area, and everybody in Westover because we are being impacted by the trucks here in Westover. Not only do the people of River Road have to come through Westover and deal with that truck traffic as well, so they can just jump on the interstate.
“I think the important thing is to have a good showing and have people here to voice their opinions to the MPO, and the people at the MPO will listen. They’re open-minded. Several of us think this interchange is the best option we have to look at.”
In other business:

  • Chief Richard Panico said the department had answered 496 calls over the last two weeks, and city court had brought in $4,921. There were 38 traffic stops.
  • Panico said special recognition should go to Officer Travis Layton. His activity report referenced the number of tickets they wrote or arrests they made. Panico said out of the city court money these two weeks, he generated $3,986 on his own.
    “I don’t do a comparison, but I do note when an officer comes out with productivity like that to be noticed,” he said.
  • Panico said the department continued to investigate the two robberies at the Gateway BFS, and they were “putting the pieces together.”
  • Panico said the department continued to crack down on the nuisance ordinance, and they were working with landlords to evict people who had numerous offenses, including drugs and other offenses.
  • City code enforcement official Jason Stinespring was not in attendance.
  • City clerk Sandra Weis said the 2017 audit had come back favorable. She said she had given council members a rough estimate of the cost of the paving list for this year, and she said they would be having a pre-bid mandatory meeting for bidding paving companies at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26.
  • Mayor David Johnson said the contingency in the budget for the Holland Wall was now $34,415 as opposed to $50,000 because he had paid the contractors half up front. Construction on the wall had been delayed due to rain, but should begin soon.
  • Council member at large Edie Viola said she knew of a property on West Park that needed the grass cut, and Johnson said he would inform Stinespring to take a look.
  • In old business, council members voted to pass the conditional use ordinance, allowing citizens to come to the city code enforcement officer instead of the planning commission to be directed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. First ward councilmember Janice Goodwin abstained from the vote.
  • In new business, council members voted to accept Double Decker Construction’s bid of $19,476 for a new city garage roof. Johnson said they would put the new metal roof over the old roof.
  • Second ward councilmember Leonard Smith asked Johnson about the rental property off-street parking requirements for George Raddish and his sister Debbie Benson and her husband Rusty. Smith said he went to look at the property Saturday, and he felt the issue needed to be discussed to clarify expectations.
    Johnson said, “I’ve assured both of them we will work with them to see what we can get done,” but he said there are codes in place for a reason that must be upheld.
    “We have to be across the board on how we do this and support our ordinances,” he said. “But, at the same time, it doesn’t matter who it is, and we can come up with a good solution, and they can have the off-street parking, then we are happy with that. It’s not something we aren’t paying attention to.”