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.
■ 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.