Putnam Commission denies funding request

By By Anna Patrick
Staff writer
CHRIS DORST|Gazette file photo
Kids splash through water at the sprayground at Hurricane City Park in this 2013 file photo. The city of Hurricane is looking for funding to replace a bridge at the park.

Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse is looking for funding to replace the bridge at Hurricane City Park, after the Putnam County Commission did not approve a funding request that would have provided enough funds for the project.

During the Commission’s Tuesday meeting at the Putnam County Courthouse, Newhouse spoke to the Commission on behalf of the city’s formal request for $25,000 in funding.

“In essence we are short about $20,000 to $25,000,” he said.

Commissioner Andrew Skidmore suggested using tax increment financing funds for the project. He made a motion to authorize $25,000 in TIF funding for the project.

Tax-increment financing allows government entities to fund economic development projects, using the projected increase in property taxes that occurs because of the improvements to the district.

Commissioner Joe Haynes opposed Skidmore’s motion.

“I don’t believe that county taxpayer money ought to go to intended city projects of any kind,” he said.

Following Haynes’ dissension, Commission President Stephen Andes did not offer additional comments. Skidmore’s motion lacked a verbal second to proceed to a vote. Commission members’ lack of action on Skidmore’s motion meant a silent “deny” to Newhouse’s request.

Newhouse said he is already on the hunt for other donors. “I don’t have much of a choice.”

The city of Hurricane’s bridge project would replace a single-lane bridge at the entrance of the Hurricane City Park, adjacent to Route 34. Newhouse said the more than 30-year-old bridge creates a variety of safety hazards for vehicles trying to enter and exit the city park, because only one vehicle can use the bridge at a time.

“We have approached the [West Virginia Department of Transportation] several times over the last couple years about the traffic congestion and safety problem we have at the bridge at City Park … . The DOT recognized that this was a significant problem and advised us that they are willing to fund replacing the bridge at a 80 – 20 match,” Newhouse said.

According to the DOT’s building plans, the current bridge will be replaced with a wider two-lane bridge that contains a pedestrian walkway.

Although the project has yet to go to bid, Newhouse said both entities estimate it will cost $320,000-350,000, which would put the city’s match at $60,000-70,000.

Currently, the city of Hurricane has secured $45,000. Newhouse said he was hoping to get the remaining funds from the county as the project is likely to go to bid in September with the hopes that construction will start in November or December of 2014. If construction can begin before the end of 2014, Newhouse is hopeful that it will be finished before the 2015 Little League baseball season begins at the city park.

“I prefer we get as much [funding] as we can. I don’t like to go into any project without the funding guaranteed.”

In other news:

In a 2-1 vote, the Commission approved the issuance of increment pay to all full-time Putnam County employees that have been employed with the county for more than a year.

“Increment pay is based on your years of service and it is roughly $60 per year of service,” Brian Donat, Putnam County Manager, said.

Skidmore and Haynes voted for the motion and Andes opposed the vote.

Donat said Putnam County employees can receive a maximum of $960 in increment pay, which means that pay maxes out after 16 years of employment. He said it costs the county a little less than $60,000 to provide every county employee that meets the requirement with increment pay.

“Typically they try to do that every year. We’ve had some financial bumps this past year, so it was a little more of a decision this year. Usually it’s an automatic thing,” Donat said. “This helps to reward employees who have been here and encourage them to stay.”

The Commission interviewed three candidates for two positions on the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Board. After interviewing all candidates in a executive session, Commission members appointed Michel Moffatt, currently running as a Republican candidate in the 22nd District House of Delegates race, to one of the two vacant positions. Moffat’s membership on the board will begin in September and expires Aug. 31, 2017.

Reach Anna Patrick at Anna.patrick@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.

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