KINGWOOD — Poor road maintenance may have contributed to an accident in which four Preston High students were injured, Preston County Commissioner Samantha Stone said Wednesday,
“What is very frustrating to me is that there were four children that were in an accident, and I’m not saying that that was the absolute cause — but there were witnesses — and they did hydroplane because the water does not run in ditches because ditches don’t exist any more,” Stone said. “So that needs corrected.”
Stone made her comments during a commission meeting Wednesday. The roads discussion arose between commissioners and Wendy Madden, field representative for Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va.
Four Preston High students were injured in a single-car accident driving home from school Feb. 6. Two remain hospitalized with severe injuries, according to Facebook posts on behalf of their families.
County Administrator Kathy Mace said water was coming onto W.Va. 26 where the accident occurred “from another place. Ditching was a problem.”
Preston deputies are investigating the accident and declined to comment on it at this time because the investigation is still open. Officers said the names will not be released because they are juveniles.
Mace and Commissioners Stone, Dave Price and Don Smith gave Madden an earful about roads.
“That road up to our high school looks like Afghanistan,” Mace said. “It’s embarrassing. We have all these other schools coming up there.”
Stone said she took two people on an 81-mile school bus ride. It took five hours, she said, because of road conditions, and one of the riders asked if they were going down an ATV path. It was a school bus route, Stone said.
Mace said a woman who recently moved to the area from Austin, Texas, and has lived around the world, said the roads here are “worse than Mexico.”
“It’s very sad that the citizens of Preston County have learned to navigate around and we have to drive in a lot of places on the opposite side of the road,” Stone said. “That is unfair. Our money is the same and is worth as much when you pay taxes as anywhere else you would go.”
During the meeting, she received a text from someone, bringing the condition of the road to Preston High to her attention again.
“It’s like Deliverance,” Mace said, comparing the roads to those in a movie.
Mace told Madden the county, then the North Central Roads Caucus and former DOH District 4 Engineer Donny Williams, suggested the DOH conduct a pilot project, using contractors to do some routine maintenance, but the initiative is stalled.
“They (legislators) seem to be able to find fiscal notes for charter schools and other things, and you can’t get kids to a charter school if you don’t have roads,” Mace said.
Price asked Madden to have the congressman call Gov. Jim Justice and ask for his support. It’s not a political matter, Mace said.
“Even if they’re talking about cutting the inventory tax and doing all that kind of stuff, if you can’t get into West Virginia — even your four-lanes are not in the best shape,” Mace said.
Madden said it appears the bigger problem than money is getting enough workers for the DOH. Mace said they proposed differential pay for DOH workers but were shot down.
Madden said last spring she drove McKinley to Rowlesburg and onto Showerbath Road. “I think we turned around,” from Showerbath, she said. Smith noted the latter was recently closed because of its condition.
“Well it’s going to be embarrassing when we have to close our primary roads,” Mace said.
Commissioners also noted Transportation Secretary Tom Smith’s refusal to come drive Preston County roads or join in a conference call.
“We want them to come and bring their personal car, and we’ll be happy to give them a tour,” Mace said. “It’s the state’s issue. They own the roads.”
At this point, Stone said, it would be better to mill up the main thoroughfares and run on that than to drive on the current pothole-ravaged pavement.