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Officials OK funds for new Elk River bridge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to $1.5 million on construction of a new bridge across the Elk River.

The bridge, which would connect Coonskin Park to the Mink Shoals area, will preserve the West Virginia Air National Guard's 130th Airlift Wing base. The project, which is expected to cost $9.5 million to $12 million, was announced Aug. 19.

"I have never been more confident on a motion in the 12 and one-half years I've sat here than this one," said Commissioner Dave Hardy.

The contribution will be paid to the state over 10 years. The money will likely come from the Coal Severance Fund, Commission President Kent Carper said.

"We did this because it's the right thing to do," Carper said.

About 20 members of the Air National Guard attended the commissioners' meeting, including Major Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia's adjutant general, and retired Gen. Allen Tackett.

Without the bridge, the base would likely close. Coonskin Drive, a public road, runs through the middle of the base, connecting W.Va. 114 to Coonskin Park. However, that road created security concerns that jeopardized the base's future.

Building the bridge will allow Coonskin Drive to be closed to the public within the base, thereby keeping the base open while still allowing access to Coonskin Park.

Commissioner Hoppy Shores said the motion to fund the bridge "affected more people" than any motion he has made during his time as a commissioner.

Hoyer said the base supports 1,100 part time and more than 350 full time jobs in the region, and creates a local economic impact of $450 million annually.

Commissioners also:

Discussed $12 million in unpaid taxes due the county. The commissioners told Chief Tax Deputy Allen Bleigh to create a plan on how Bleigh and the sheriff's department plans to collect the delinquent revenue.

Currently, the largest outstanding tax bill is for $925,497.70 owed by Kentuckybased Martin Twist Energy for the 2012 tax year. That same company owes more than $3 million in property taxes since the 2008 tax year.

"That is just unacceptable," Carper said.

Established a task force looking into ways to control drug problems in Kanawha County, particularly pseudoephedrine sales. Pseudoephedrines, like Sudafed, are legal, over-the-counter drugs used in the production of methamphetamine.

The task force will be led by Kanawha-Charleston Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, County Engineer John Luoni and Dr. Dan Foster, who is also a state senator.

"We're busting an enormous amount of meth labs," Gupta said. "What we're not seeing is the human suffering."

Voted to give $15,000 each to the towns of East Bank and Cedar Grove to assist with the repayment of arrearages to Kanawha Public Service District.

Kanawha PSD under-billed the towns for the amount of sewage processed by the district from February 2011 until March 2012. The district then attempted to force the towns to repay the difference between the under-billed portion and the correct amount to be billed, which had amounted to tens of thousands of dollars for each town.

The towns filed a complaint with the state Public Service Commission, and came to an agreement with Kanawha PSD earlier this month to pay back 70 percent of the amount owed, instead of the full amount.

The money from the county commissioners will assist the towns in repaying the money to the district.

Allocated $250,000 of the county's coal severance money to the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority for two new ambulances. The ambulances will be used primarily in the Upper Kanawha Valley and will have stickers affixed stating coal severance funds were used in their purchase.

Approved spending $100,000 of coal severance fund money on the demolition of dilapidated buildings in unincorporated areas of the county covered in the coal severance area. Currently, of the 125 buildings on the county's demolition list, 63 are in the coal severance area.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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