Congressman David McKinley, R – W.Va., and Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki covered a number of topics during a brief Wednesday afternoon meeting in Morgantown City Council chambers.
Kawecki was the only representative of local government to attend the session, which was scheduled as an opportunity for the Congressman to sit down with Monongalia County’s mayors.
While the conversation ranged across a variety of issues, it was the familiar topics of opioid addiction and traffic congestion that came to the fore.
Kawecki asked for McKinley’s assistance in addressing a federal loophole that mandates sober living facilities be viewed as single-family homes, meaning there are no regulations setting occupancy limits or accounting for safety features like fire suppression.
While Kawecki said his initial skepticism of sober living facilities is gone after witnessing the work being done by a number of facilities located within the city, he fears the lax regulations could put clients at risk by opening the door for entrepreneurs more interested in making money than helping people in need.
He said something similar happened in California, initially souring public opinion on what can be an effective treatment tool.
“We just want to make it’s done correctly, not only for the people who need these facilities, but for the community too,” Kawecki said.
McKinley promised to follow up on the request, noting Congress previously addressed similar concerns regarding facilities for veterans.
“We passed that. It’s now a law. They have to comply with building codes, meaning things like fire suppression systems,” McKinley said. “Let us look into that.”
Kawecki also asked if anything can be done to address weight restrictions on interstate bridges. Because heavy trucks cannot cross the weight-restricted spans, they’re forced off the interstate and onto smaller state routes — including those running through Morgantown.
McKinley said he’s asked that question of both Obama and Trump administration transportation officials and the answer is rarely the same.
“What do we need to do? Do we need to replace the bridge? Is it using carbon filament and reinforcing our bridges in another way? We’re developing that carbon filament right here at WVU. Can we use it?” McKinley said, noting his background as a structural engineer. “I know how I would do it, but I don’t have the testing detail that they have.”
McKinley went on to say that his office is available to assist the city in locating and securing funding through federal grants. The key, he said, is keeping communication lines open.
“We can help,” McKinley said. “We know the money is going to be spent. It’s going to go out to somebody. We want to come to West Virginia.”