Legislature acts on funds for Benedum Airport road
by Troy Graham
Money for a four-lane road that will connect Benedum
Airport to Interstate 79 and a tax break for aerospace industries, both
of which officials say could boost economic development at the airport
and an adjacent aerospace industrial park, moved forward in the Legislature
A resolution unveiled this week authorizing the
governor to sell road bonds includes $7 million to begin building a Bridgeport
bypass that will connect U.S. Route 50 near the airport to the interstate
at the FBI exit.
In addition, a tax break for expanding aerospace companies, sponsored
by Delegate Barbara Warner, passed out of the House Finance Committee Tuesday.
The bill is supported by House leadership and Senate Finance Chairman Oshel
Craigo, said Warner, D-Harrison. "It'll go through the Senate because Oshel
supports it," she said.
The House Finance Committee also increased the amount
of the tax breaks offered to aerospace companies. In the original bill,
Warner proposed a 10 percent break on property investments and a 50 percent
break on corporate net and business franchise taxes.
In the version of the bill that passed the committee,
an expanding aerospace company will receive a 15 percent tax break on property
investments and a 60 percent tax break on corporate net and business franchise
taxes, Warner said.
The bill will get a first reading in the House today, she said.
The tax breaks could have an effect on the region
after a runway extension project at Benedum is completed this fall. The
extension will create 140 acres of developable flat land.
Warner also said there should be "no problem" passing
the road bond resolution through the House and Senate.
The $7 million will enable the state to build a four-lane from U.S.
Route 50 to Saltwell Road, and begin extending the road to the interstate.
More money will be needed to build the four-lane to the interstate, Warner
Jim Skidmore, the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic
Aerospace Complex, said the road will make it easier to market the land
opened up by the runway extension.
"That makes all the property more accessible and
more visible," he said. "You can see what's happened on that little bit
of land we have, so you can imagine what the future holds."
Manchin readies for gubernatorial run
by Troy Graham
One of the founders of a self-described grassroots
committee encouraging former state Sen. Joe Manchin to run for governor
said he is '98 percent sure" that Manchin will once again seek the state's
"In my opinion, if I had to say whether he's going to run, I would
say it's 98 percent sure," said Mike Jones, Manchin's life-long friend.
Manchin himself said he is "extremely interested"
in running for governor, but won't make a formal decision until early this
summer. "I've always wanted to serve," he said.
Manchin joins the race, he could find himself
facing U.S. Rep. Bob Wise and old nemesis Charlotte Pritt. Manchin, a 10-year
veteran of the state Senate, and Pritt, the 1996 Democratic gubernatorial
candidate, battled for the Democratic nomination in the 1996 primary election.
Pritt triumphed after a bitter and expensive campaign.
Pritt is reportedly considering another run for
the governor's office, while Wise has formally filed an exploratory committee
to investigate his candidacy.
Although the Democratic primary is still 15 months
away, the Committee to Recruit Joe Manchin is already drumming up support.
Jones and Fairmont businessman Joe Carunchia formed the committee late
The group is registered with the Secretary of State's
office, but not as an exploratory committee for Manchin, Jones said. The
group has only raised "a few hundred dollars," mainly through $50 and $100
checks, he said.
If Manchin announces his candidacy, the group will
merge itself and its money with any committee set up to run the campaign,
The Committee to Recruit Joe Manchin has been taking
out ads in state newspapers asking people to declare their support for
Manchin by cutting out the ad and mailing it to the committee. The ad says
there are more than 100,000 Manchin supporters.
The group also held an organizing meeting at Flatwoods
this past weekend. More than 100 people attended, including former Manchin
opponents Steve Rhodes, a retired United Mine Workers of America organizer,
and Jim Kingsbury, a Corridor H advocate and activist, Jones said.
"Last time the campaign was professionally run out
of Washington. We're West Virginians. We know what people want," Jones
said. "They don't want to see it on television or hear it on the radio.
They actually want to meet the candidate."
That's why the grassroots committee was formed,
he said. The group is distributing surveys around the state, asking questions
such as "What do you believe should be the theme of a governor's campaign
in 2000?" and "What important events/meetings should Joe Manchin attend
in your area?"
Manchin said he did a poor job of communicating
his message in the last gubernatorial race. "I believe it was my fault
in failing to communicate," he said. "It somehow did not resonate."
The former Marion County Senator said he believes
Wise may stay in Congress with Democrats poised to take back the majority.
Wise could be a powerful force for the state because of his friendship
with Rep. Dick Gephardt, who would be in line to be Speaker of the House,
Manchin also said it would be important to maintain
a unified party. Gov. Underwood, a Republican, defeated Pritt in 1996 by
splitting the party and starting a successful "Democrats for Underwood"
Underwood spokesman Rod Blackstone said the governor
will stand on his record, despite the competition. "In order to suggest
that Gov. Underwood doesn't deserve re-election you have to suggest things
aren't going well in West Virginia," he said. ŅI think that would
be tough for any Democrat to state."
Medical waste facility report delayed
by Torie Knight
A state agency has delayed the release of a report
designed to answer Barbour County residents' questions about a proposed
medical waste facility until more information can be obtained from a Louisiana
"We have been going out of our way to find labs
that do the most up-to-date work in the area of medical waste," said state
Department of Health and Human Resources spokesman Mark Ferrell.
The report should answer questions about a medical
waste facility proposed by Virginia developer Doyle Payne. Payne proposed
building the first commercially operated Rotoclave-type infectious medical
waste facility in the nation at the Philippi Industrial Park.
Some residents in Barbour County have opposed building
the plant. Members of the Concerned Citizens of Barbour County want the
county to approve a referendum and allow citizens to vote yea or nay to
building the facility.
Joan Ohl, secretary of the state Department
of Health and Human Resources, will also use the report to make a decision
about whether to grant Payne a construction permit for the facility.
The report was expected to be issued this week but
has been delayed. Ferrell said the agency must examine a variety of regulations
and talk to a Louisiana lab about the process. Ferrell would not go into
detail about what information the division is seeking from the lab.
In the meantime, the citizens group appeared before
the Barbour County Commission Monday to ask for a referendum. The commission
has turned the matter over to the prosecuting attorney for an opinion.
Citizens say they didn't see a newspaper advertisement
for a 60-day comment period on Payne's pre-siting notice in the legal ad
section of the county's weekly newspaper.
"We did everything we could to try and talk the
commissioners into calling for a referendum," said Peggy Chesser-Sjoberg,
treasurer of the citizen group.
She said the issue will most likely end in court.
The citizens group has consulted Clarksburg environmental attorney Thomas
Michael sent a letter to the state saying he believes
the handling of Payne's application fails to comply with the minimum procedural
requirements contained in the Commercial Infectious Medical Waste Facility
Siting Approval Act.
Representatives from the citizens group will speak
to Harrison-ECO at 7:30 p.m. today at the Waldomore in Clarksburg. The
meeting is open to the public.