Government, Preston County

DOH updates Preston on road work

KINGWOOD — Preston commissioners and representatives of the State Division of Highways (DOH) agreed Monday that the status of Preston County roads is improving, but there’s still work to be done.

District 4 Engineer Darby Clayton, Preston County DOH Supervisor Blain Bowmar and new Preston and Taylor Counties Maintenance Assistant Charles Crouse were at the commission meeting Monday morning.

Commission President Dave Price said that the county has seen, “a lot of improvements,” and volunteered to do whatever can be done to help. Crouse said two tractors used for mowing are broken down, but by today one of those will be back in service.

This fall, he said, “you’ll see a lot more mowing.” And when possible mowing will be done this winter.

Price asked again about canopy cutting. Bowmar said very few contractors are available for that type work. A company from Weston did canopy cutting on W.Va. 24 in Preston, Clayton said.

Companies must complete paperwork and be approved by the state.

Contractors are being used for patching and ditching too, he said.

“As part of the tools they’ve given us, we have a purchase order patching and a purchase order ditching contract,” Clayton said. “That’s bringing in contractors to help us.”

District 4 put the first of these contracts out, starting last week in Monongalia County, he said. And three ditching contracts and about 10 patching contracts are being put out in Preston County, he said.

“There’s qualified contractors out there that can do it, it just depends how busy they are,” Clayton said.

An example of purchase order paving is W.Va. 92 from Newburg to U.S. 50, which Commissioner Don Smith noted he has traveled recently.

Among projects under way now are paving on Brandonville Pike, Tunnelton Street in Kingwood, through Terra Alta and W.Va. 26 from Bruceton to the state line. Price asked if new equipment is needed? The DOH filled its employee quota for Preston, he noted.

But Clayton said hiring is only the first step. Next is training, getting the drivers CDLs and keeping those hired.

“If we can retain 50 percent of the workers we hired, we’re doing good,” the engineer said. “Some of them don’t want to work. Some of them realize it’s a little tougher than they thought it would be. It’s not just leaning on a shovel.”

Crouse said Preston’s equipment is aging but two new trucks are coming, bought with money from Volkswagen Corporation obtained through its emissions settlement. Skid steers and other equipment have been rented. Preston is also adding a second mechanic.

“Once we get that we’ll probably have the most mechanics in one county in the state.” That’s because of the many substations and the county’s layout, Crouse said.

Crouse said he also plans to have equipment cleaned weekly, which will look better and help identify problems earlier.

“I think this has been a really good year and it’s not over yet,” Price said. “I see all the work that’s been done. Then I start worrying about next year and hope that this kind of trend continues.”

“I see the trend continuing, sir,” Clayton said. “I don’t see us backing down.”

And it won’t be business as usual, Clayton said. He’s found instances when DOH patched in the rain or otherwise didn’t do things properly. It opened his eyes, he said, that training is still needed to change the mind set of some workers.

Commissioner Samantha Stone said it’s, “the new normal.” Problems aren’t just in District 4, she noted. “I’m excited for what is coming and commend each of you for stepping up and remaining in the positions, because that’s a beating to endure from the public, from elected officials, from your bosses … Thumbs up,” Stone said.

Tell us if we’re wrong or right, Clayton said.

Not everyone is pleased with the work, apparently. Clayton said a woman got out of her car to complain to a flagger on Brandonville Pike about the five-minute delay for paving.