MORGANTOWN — Eyesore. Embarrassing.
Those are just two of the words used by local officials to describe the state of the state-maintained roads in Monongalia County.
It was among the major topics of discussion when Morgantown leadership sat down for an informal discussion with members of the Monongalia County Commission earlier this week.
Waist-high weeds line major thoroughfares, grow unchecked at interstate exits and sprout up through medians. Signs and sight lines are obscured by overgrowth.
“I’m not sure what we all have done to deserve this. That’s the word I want to use,” Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said. “There is clearly something wrong.”
Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said the city has asked the DOH for a face-to-face meeting and presented more than 30 pictures of areas it would like to see addressed.
“You look around, I don’t know if our-state maintained roadways are matching up with the rest of the state,” she said.
Star City Recorder Steve Blinco raised the issue months ago in his capacity as a member of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board.
“This is every year,” Blinco said back in June. “What can we do?”
In addition to Morgantown, Bloom said he has also submitted requests pointing out uncut grass, high weeds and other routine maintenance issues on behalf of the county and Star City.
He went on to say the county would be in support of sitting down with the DOH, but not just District 4 officials.
“I think our District 4 does what it can, but it needs help. That’s why if we have that meeting, I want people from the state here. That’s the key,” Bloom said. “I want to support District 4 saying, ‘Look, they need help. Whether it’s people, staff, funding.’ I think we’re at a point now that it’s been going on way too long.”
In April, District 4 officials told The Dominion Post the six-county district was 75 people short and faced a 16-person deficit just in Monongalia County.
Muzzarelli said the city approached the state in July about taking over maintenance of 11 smaller DOH roads or connectors within the city but has never gotten a response.
The city has also floated the idea of a pilot program through which it could take on maintenance projects and be reimbursed by the state. City leadership noted similar relationships exist between states and municipalities all across the country.
As things currently stand, Muzzarelli said the city often ends up throwing up its hands in frustration and just fixing the problem, be it potholes, weeds or otherwise.
“It is frustrating,” Bloom said. “We shouldn’t always be doing this. These are minor things, but they give an impression of the city and the county that we don’t care.”
Commissioner Sean Sikora agreed. He raised the issue the following day during the commission’s regular meeting.
He said high weeds and neglected maintenance are an eyesore that reflect poorly on the county and local municipalities and leave a negative impression on visitors.
“You’re a parent wanting to bring your kid to this school, and you come to the entrance to the city and you’re like, ‘Geez, they don’t even cut their weeds or remove their cinders from past winters,” he said. “It takes a lot of cinders to get to a pile and then have a forest growing out of it.”
According to City Manager Kim Haws it’s no coincidence that some parts of the state get better coverage than others. He said these issues also need to be a priority of the local delegation in Charleston.
“We’ve all been around the state. You mentioned Greenbrier. I hate to say it, but politics play a big role with DOH and those areas that seem to get the most attention around the state have the most active state-level politicians,” he said.