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Preston Commission says bad roads holding back economic development

KINGWOOD — Preston commissioners said roads are holding back economic development in the county.

It’s the latest in a years-long discussion commissioners have had on road conditions. At the end Tuesday County Administrator Kathy Mace got approval to set up a meeting with the State Division of Highways (DOH).

Commissioner Samantha Stone said State Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch contacted the commission after it sent a letter to Charleston, asking for help replacing the up to 1,500 jobs that will be lost when Mylan closes its Morgantown plant.

Many of those workers live in Preston County, commissioners said.

“According to [Gaunch] they have been working on this for some time,” Stone said. “This was not a shock. This was something that they knew was coming down the pike eventually.”

Gaunch said some other pharmaceutical companies are interested in the site and potentially in employing some of the workers, Stone said.

The commissioner said many industries have closed in Preston over the last 20 years and she asked Gaunch to speak to the governor and Department of Transportation Secretary Byrd White to look at plans she said were “put away” years ago to create a road “corridor” in Preston.

“We really can’t hold our economic development authority’s feet to the fire too much,” Stone said. “Whenever [Preston EDA Director Robbie Baylor] finds a company and is trying to bring them here, their No. 1 complaint is the accessibility, the roads, the infrastructure.”

This sort of project has to come from Charleston, Stone said. She also mentioned tourism.

Road access has held the county back as long as he can remember, Commissioner Dave Price said.
“I think we need to focus on one thing,” he said.

Commission President Don Smith noted that Prodigi is applying for grants to expand high-speed internet in Preston.

Mace said the commission would like to know what’s on the roads work schedule before the legislative session, so commissioners can talk to state representatives.

Commissioners also:

  • approved hiring Michael C. Marley, effective Jan. 12, as a deputy sheriff, at a starting salary of $32,000 per year. He filled a vacancy.
  • approved a temporary reclassification of the duties of tax office employee Dorie Braniff. In addition to her regular duties, Braniff will be available temporarily to help with cleaning in addition to her regular duties. She will be paid $14.05 per hour regular time, $21.05 per hour overtime.