Brooke County lifesavers gain public honors

LIFE SAVERS — The Brooke County Commission and Sheriff Larry Palmer recognized eight residents for efforts that helped to save lives. With Palmer, far right, are Paul DiGiacinto of Follansbee and Kylie Greathouse, Tony Apeosos Jr. and Kiara Stevens, all lifeguards at Brooke Hills Park. Also recognized were Mark and Theresa Kowcheck, Marla Ferguson and Wendy Sole. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission had expected on Tuesday to learn more about the proposed state bond issue for road and bridge projects.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, they said Gov. Jim Justice will be fielding questions about the issue at 5 p.m. today at the Millsop Community Center. It’s one of many appearances the governor is scheduled to make to discuss the bond issue, which will be decided in an Oct. 7 special election.

The commissioners received a letter from the West Virginia Business and Industry Council endorsing the Roads to Prosperity Amendment to the state constitution, noting it would allow for the sale of up to $1.6 billion in in bonds over four years, beginning in 2018, for improvements to roads and bridges.

The group, which represents more than 60 trade organizations and businesses, said funds from the bonds may be used to match federal money available for transportation improvement projects, which could create up to 48,000 jobs.

The commissioners said they aren’t opposed to the bond issue, but want to be sure local roads and bridges will benefit from it. They plan to attend tonight’s meeting.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, County Commissioner Stacey Wise said she and the other commissioners are still gathering information about the issue.

“We knew we needed information, and that’s why we asked for someone to speak to us and invited the public. If we needed information, we knew they did, too,” she said.

Tim Ennis, the commission’s president, said he would like to know whether the bond money will be used to maintain and repair existing roads, which he said are in great need of attention.

The state Department of Transportation has released a list of more than 30 major projects to be funded by the bonds with dozens of others supported by money from the bonds and federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds to be repaid with federal transportation funds to be allocated to the state in the future.

Brooke County projects targeted for the funds include re-pavement of state Route 88 in Bethany, Eldersville and Harmon Creek roads, repairs to U.S. Route 22 and the Harmon Creek Bridge, measures to improve the ability of large trucks to turn at the intersection of state Routes 2 and 27 and various slide repairs.

Major projects for the Northern Panhandle include the proposed state Route 2 bypass through New Cumberland, estimated at $11 million; about $172.5 million in bridge repairs along Interstate 70 in Ohio County and the widening of state Route 2 to four lanes from Proctor to Kent in Wetzel County, estimated at $80 million.

Ennis said some supporters have argued the bond issue will mean no new taxes but that’s a bit misleading because the state legislature earlier this year raised the sales tax on vehicles and gasoline and fees charged by the state Division of Motor Vehicles to support the bond issue.

Brent Walker, communications director for the state Department of Transportation — who was called for comment — said ongoing maintenance and repairs to existing roads will continue to be a focus. He said revenue generated by the bonds will be in addition to about $1 million currently allocated to the department in the state’s general budget, about 70 percent of which is invested in maintenance.

Walker said the sale of bonds will help to accelerate projects not currently funded.

Also on Tuesday, the commission joined Brooke County Sheriff Larry Palmer in recognizing eight residents whose actions helped to save the lives of others.

They were:

• Mark and Theresa Kowcheck of Wellsburg, who applied first aid to a man who came to their door in July with an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to his arm. Palmer said he responded to the incident and found the man “blue, about to go into shock if he wasn’t already in shock.”

He said both the Kowchecks and the Brooke County Ambulance Service treated the man before he was transported to an area hospital.

• Paul DiGiacinto of Follansbee, who aided Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Lamantia in preventing a woman from jumping from the Market Street Bridge on July 27. A volunteer Follansbee firefighter for many years, DiGiacinto pulled the woman from a railing and onto the bridge’s walkway while Lamantia spoke to her.

• Tony Apesos Jr., Kylie Greathouse and Kiara Stevens, all lifeguards at Brooke Hills Park; and Marla Ferguson and Wendy Sole, two nurses, who aided a 4-year-old boy who nearly drowned in the park’s swimming pool in August.

(Scott can be contacted at