KEYSER, W.Va. — In the upcoming state legislative session, Delegate Gary Howell plans to address the quality of education, increase of road funding to ensure safer roads, and will be pushing for tax reform and legal reform to improve the business climate of the state.
Howell, along with other legislators, will be using the Governor’s Office Education Audit, which was completed last year, to make changes to funding formulas to increase quality of education in the state.
“I believe more local control is important. It will allow educators and parents to work closer together to provide the best education possible for the students,” said Howell, who noted other recommendations of the audit will also be addressed.
Howell is making the completion of Corridor H and a four-lane upgrade to U.S. Route 220 as a top priority.
“An increase in the amount of bonds the state is permitted to issue for highway construction is being discussed,” said Howell. “I'm hoping recommendations of a WVU report from a number of years ago on highway construction will be part of the discussion.”
During a December meeting, the Mineral County Development Authority requested that legislators forgive the debt on the Fort Ashby Business and Technology Park and to promote it at the West Virginia Development Office.
“This issue exists in almost every industrial park in the state,” said Delegate Robert Schadler during the meeting. “It’s not just this one shell building. It’s going to take a broader effort. I know that Mineral County would love the state to forgive their loans. We are talking 800,000 bucks — that’s a lot of money — and if you multiply that by 40, now you are talking real dollars.”
Rick Linthicum, authority president, noted that the authority can’t defer the cost of the park and they would be willing to pay it back.
“The unintended consequences, in my opinion, was the building was built before we had somebody that needed it,” said Linthicum. “We need pressure on the (state) Development Office to know where Mineral County is, especially Fort Ashby. Most big corporations do not want to talk to the authority; they want to talk to the state Development Office.”
The park is under the control of the authority and not the state, said Howell. He believes that the recent appointment of new members to the authority will make a big difference.
“(County) Commissioner Jerry Whisner has already been in contact with me on ideas and requesting information on what resources are available from the state,” said Howell in an email. “I stand ready to assist in any way possible to help bring jobs to Mineral County and will continue to push pro-job growth legislation in Charleston.”
There are a total of 70 acres at the park and 63 are left, according to Mona Ridder, executive director of the authority.
The legislative session will open Wednesday but will recess until Feb. 13 in order to give the newly elected governor a chance to prepare his budget and get his staff in order, Howell said.
Howell has planned two Town Hall meetings. The first will be held Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Mineral County Courthouse. The second will be Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. at Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford. “These are being held to hear the ideas of the citizens that I represent, because some of the best ideas come from the people,” Howell said.
Contact Elaine Blaisdell at firstname.lastname@example.org.