Brooke County approves Route 2 authority money

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission will provide a boost to the West Virginia Route 2 and Interstate 68 Authority after the volunteer board was cut from the state budget.

The commission agreed to provide $1,500 of $3,000 requested by the board, which was formed to promote the expansion of Route 2 to four lanes and the extension of Route 68 from Morgantown to the Ohio Valley and prioritize sections of the highways in accomplishing those goals.

Earlier this year Duane Heck of Follansbee, one of two Brooke County representatives on the board, advised funding for it and other similar boards were being eliminated by the West Virginia Legislature to address the state’s multi-million-dollar deficit.

Since then the board has sought and secured commitments of funding from the commissioners of at least five of the 10 counties through which the highways run.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said the move is seen as a temporary fix while the commission and others urge state legislators to restore the group’s funding.

Andreozzi said he’s normally reluctant to grant out-of-county requests but it’s important to preserve the group.

Commission President Tim Ennis agreed, saying, “We’ve seen the fruits of that group’s efforts with the widening of state Route 2 by the Market Street Bridge and the area near the (Pike Island Locks and) dam.”

Ennis, who was one of several legislators who introduced the bill establishing the group, said the county has been fortunate to have several dedicated representatives on the board.

Currently Heck and Jim Stock of Wellsburg represent Brooke County in the group.

In recent years, the board hired Charles Clements, a former legislator, to serve as its director. Under his direction, the group has used Facebook, roadside signs and other means to encourage the highways’ development.

Last month members visited West Virginia’s representatives in Congress to encourage federal funding for such projects.

But their efforts haven’t been supported by all, with some Follansbee officials expressing concern about the impact widening Route 2 would have on the city.

In other business:

¯ The commission learned of efforts to extend a system of recreational trails through Brooke County to Pennsylvania.

Doug Wayt, co-chairman of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail expansion committee, advised, through e-mail, that a grant through the West Virginia Division of Highways will be used to design a bicycle path along Route 2 from 30th Street in Wellsburg to Cross Creek Road near Brooke High School.

Ruby Greathouse, a leader of the trail association, said the course of the path hasn’t been determined. But she said incorporating the pedestrian crossing at 27th Street is being considered as a safer alternative to having trail users cross at the intersection of Route 2 and Cross Creek Road.

Anthony “Yaggy” Tacozza, who heads a committee exploring the extension of a trail in Follansbee, said various routes are being considered for that city as well as Weirton, which offers the Panhandle Trail leading from the city’s east end through Colliers to Pennsylvania.

Tacozza said only 7 miles of trail in Brooke and Hancock counties are needed to form a link between the Wheeling Heritage Trail and a network of trails leading ultimately to Washington, D.C.

¯ Paul “Bud” Billiard, a member of the county’s park and recreation commission, said crews with Alex Paris Contracting of Atlasburg, Pa. have poured the base for the the new 3,000 square foot pool at Brooke Hills Park and are expected to soon to establish sidewalks around it.

The pool will have a shallow entry point, making it handicap-accessible, with an overall depth between 3.5 feet and 7 feet. Heated and lighted, it will be built near the site of the former pool.

The old pool suffered from leaks when one of its walls crumbled last year, forcing it to be closed before the summer season ended.

Billiard said he represented the county at a recent state park and recreation conference held near Stonewall Resort. There he shared news of upcoming new attractions at the park, including cabins, disc and foot golf courses and a paintball arena and learned about “bringing the park to people,” through public relations.

¯ Ennis noted the recent death of Wayne Heffner, a World War II veteran, former Weirton Steel employee and member of Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church. Heffner died on Monday at the age of 70.

¯ The commission made plans to meet at 9 a.m. Monday to canvass ballots from Tuesday’s general election. The commissioners praised County Clerk Sylvia Benzo and her staff for their work during the election.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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