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Hurricane mayor angry with bridge funding vote

HURRICANE, W.Va. — Mayor Scott Edwards says Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes “boldfaced lied” to him about supporting funding for a new bridge.

“It’s one of the most irritating things that’s ever happened to me, because I’m simply a handshake-type person,” Edwards said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The County Commission denied the funding last week. Commissioner Andy Skidmore had made a motion to put $25,000 toward Hurricane’s effort to relieve traffic coming off Teays Valley Road by replacing the current one-lane bridge leading into its City Park with a two-lane bridge with at least one pedestrian walkway.

Commissioner Joe Haynes vocally opposed the motion. Andes didn’t offer additional comments, and without a second, Skidmore’s motion died without a vote.

Edwards said Skidmore and Andes told him about their idea to provide funding, and because he thought the funding was assured, the city spent money on widening a road and adding parking at the park.

He said he would have been fine with the decision if Andes had explained himself in the meeting, adding the commissioner also didn’t explain his change of course when Edwards asked him about it later.

When contacted by the Gazette on Tuesday, Andes would not explain his decision. He said his main regret was not calling Edwards before the meeting, but said he did tell the mayor his reasons for changing his mind in a private meeting.

Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse has said the project’s estimated cost is about $325,000 to $350,000. He said the state Division of Highways has agreed to pay 80 percent, about $260,000; the city is planning to give $25,000; and Delegate Troy Andes, R-Putnam and Steve Andes’ son, has steered $20,000 in state funds toward the bridge. Edwards said Tuesday the city also has gotten a $10,000 commitment from a local bank and will find a way to make up for the denied funding.

The county’s money would have come from a fund fed by a tax increment finance district in the area.

Also Tuesday, the City Council approved several ordinance amendments and additions geared toward strengthening the investigative, penalty and cost-recovery powers of the City Council and municipal court to deal with situations like the current controversy over MCHM-contaminated wastewater mixed with sawdust that was dumped into a Hurricane landfill. Hurricane and the Putnam County Commission have launched a federal lawsuit to force the Disposal Service landfill and its owner, Waste Management, to remove the material.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater has said the material taken to the landfill was vacuumed from the Freedom Industries tank-farm site and the Elk River immediately after the Jan. 9 leak of the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM, which fouled the drinking water of about 300,000 West Virginians. The material originally was taken to a tank at Freedom’s Poca Blending site in Nitro, before being taken to the landfill. After the landfill stopped accepting the material, the rest from the tank was shipped out of state.

Tuesday’s ordinance changes generally prevent entities from discharging “any waters or wastes containing ‘Crude MCHM’ in any concentration in excess of the ‘Odor Detection Threshold’” into public sewers.

Reach Ryan Quinn at, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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