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Residents Suggest Changes At Brock Ridge Road

By Staff | Dec 7, 2011

The Wetzel County Commission was met with back-to-back appointments from various visitors during their meeting held Tuesday morning. The commission heard more concerns surrounding the oil and gas industry and road safety, as well as updates from local organizations.

Rose Baker, Ed Wade Jr., Bonnie Hall, Ronnie Wood, and Angie Wood addressed road safety concerns to the commission regarding repeated accidents at the intersection of Brock Ridge Road and state Route 7. Specifically, Baker shared with the commission a recent incident that occurred Dec. 2 around 5 p.m. wherein a truck coming down Brock Ridge Road lost control and crossed state Route 7, then jack-knifed against the guard rail.

The Wetzel County Action Group investigated the incident, resolving the driver lost control of his vehicle. However, they stated the initial report the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office received was that the truck was just disabled. The group went on to say a similar accident occurred just a month ago wherein a runaway truck went through the guard rail from Brock Ridge, which is an 18 percent grade hill.

According to the action group, the accident from Friday night makes at least eight that they have documented in the past year, noting there have been several more undocumented occurrences.

Those present stated that most importantly, they just wanted to see precautions made before someone is seriously injured or killed by the apparent reckless driving by operators of the large trucks and trailers. “The last thing we want is a fatality,” Wade added.

Baker went on to say that several truck drivers have traveled Brock Ridge in the past with no accidents at all and that these incidents didn’t start happening until the oil and gas industry came to the area.

Wade then said he presumed the reason for the accidents was from inexperience and sheer disregard for safety from the operators. “There’s a lot of poor judgement,” said Wade. “Sometimes you can’t correct stupid,” he added as he explained to commissioners that traveling down the ridge should be fine so long as drivers use the correct gearing. “They are in a hurry and inexperienced,” he concluded.

Baker then expressed her frustrations, saying it was nearly impossible to get the sheriff to respond to calls. “These incidents need reported,” she reiterated, adding she didn’t even know if the drivers or companies were being cited following the accidents that are reported. “I hate to see anyone lose their jobs,” Baker said, referring to citations, “But if you wanna be a truck driver, learn to drive properly or go work at McDonald’s.”

The group then shared many suggestions to help make drivers more careful when traveling the ridge. While there are already warning signs posted at the top of the hill, the group feels truck drivers either aren’t paying attention to the signs or simply think they don’t need to gear down. With that in mind, the group suggested installing flashing caution lights at the top of the hill or establishing escort vehicles for all trucks. Other ideas included creating a check point at the top of the hill for drivers to ensure breaks are working properly or placing flaggers at the intersection. Another option was putting a warning sign around the east-side curve on state Route 7 to warn all drivers to slow down in the case of an accident blocking the highway. Wade also thought having impact barriers installed at the foot of the hill would better absorb any impact created from a truck barreling down the hill, whether it be from driver error, vehicle malfunction, or road condition. Wade also suggested the Public Service Commission perform Level 1 inspections at the top of the hill, however the group has learned it is up to only a sheriff or the state police to request inspections by the PSC.

The commission agreed this was a serious issue and steps needed to be taken to help prevent future incidents. Notably, it was learned requests have been made to the Division of Highways to install flashing warning signs, however the DOH has repeatedly rejected the requests. “Who can put a price on a life?” Wade asked in response. The commission assured those present they would speak to appropriate channels including the gas companies, DOH, sheriff, state police, and PSC.

Relatedly, Wetzel County Sheriff James Hoskins also appeared before the commission Tuesday morning to address obtaining a newer vehicle for the department. During his appointment the commission asked Hoskins about the Dec. 2 incident and if there was any investigation being conducted by the department or the PSC and if anyone had been cited for the accident. The sheriff said he would need to check the accident log. Regarding citations, he said they’ve given out several in past similar trucking accidents, noting fines are handled by the magistrate.

The commission also asked if he knew about the DOH objecting to placing flashing signs on the highway, to which the sheriff said he didn’t know anything about it. However, Hoskins commented, “I don’t know whether they’d (truck drivers) pay attention to the lights anyhow.”

In other matters, Peggy Loub of Community Resources, Inc., (CRI) met with the commission regarding the Community Needs Assessment, a survey that is conducted every three years to help determine future programming based on the biggest needs in the 11 counties they serve in the state-those being Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wetzel, Wirt, and Wood counties.

Loub asked the commissioners to complete the survey, as receiving a variety of responses from a broad group of people living, working, and representing CRI’s service area would make such future programming stronger and more effective for the individuals and families served. “We are especially interested in the opinions of our local government officials and state representatives,” Loub stated in her formal letter requesting the commission’s participation.

Loub explained the data collected helps the staff and board determine the greatest needs of the area and help in securing funding to continue existing programs such as Care for Clunkers as well as their utility assistance and dental programs. It also develop new programs to fit the needs of the community.

The commission happily agreed to fill out and return the survey. CRI will be collecting the anonymous assessments through the end of the year. To voice your opinion on what services you would like to see brought to Wetzel County, fill out the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y5RFXC7.

Loub also noted CRI is taking applications for the 2011 Esther Crumbley Christmas Food Basket giveaway. Applications will be taken at CRI in their office at the Riverview Plaza, 1212 North State Route 2, New Martinsville, through the end of this week from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m. Applicants must bring proof of income and be Wetzel County residents. The Esther Crumbley food distribution event is set for the morning of Dec. 23 at St. Vincent de Paul Church’s Klug Hall in New Martinsville.

Another upcoming program CRI hosts is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)/Tax Preparation service. Preparation will begin Jan. 18 for residents of the Wetzel/Tyler County area. There is no cost to income eligible residents. CRI provides free federal and state E-File tax preparation, helping clients obtain federal and state earned income tax credit as well as help obtaining federal child tax credit. Call 304-455-2701 for an appointment. To participate in this service bring all W-2 and 1099 forms, information for all deductions and credits, along with Social Security cards for all household members and proof of identification.

Lastly, Loub shared with the commission that by Jan. 1, 2012, CRI will be moved into their new location in Studio 3 of the Florentine Arts Center at 251 Main Street, New Martinsville. While CRI will no longer be housing their thrift store in the new office, Loub said they will have access to some clothing resources and/or funds to assist in obtaining necessary items. She stated the reason for dropping the thrift store was to better focus on managing cases and expanding programs for the individuals and families they serve.

Rosy Cozart of the Wetzel County Animal Shelter also met with the commission to submit her monthly report and present shelter updates. First, Cozart shared with them that she recently purchased a new 2012 Dodge Caravan to help in transporting animals to and from the vet. Notably, the shelter was able to get the van with generous donations from organizations including Chesapeake Energy, the New Martinsville Rotary Club, and the New Martinsville Lions Club, along with anonymous donors.

Relatedly, Cozart asked the commission about having a car port constructed to house the new van to protect it from damage caused by weather conditions or fallen trees. Following a brief conversation, Cozart said she’d compile some prices on such a structure and get back with the commission.

Cozart then shared the October and November reports for the shelter.

The October report for the shelter is as follows. Dogs: euthanized, zero; adopted, two; rescued, 21; returned to owner, zero; taken in, 32; in approval/foster, three; impounded, zero; and quarantined, zero. Cats: euthanized, zero; adopted, one; rescued, four; returned to owner, zero; taken in, five; in approval/foster, one; impounded, zero; and quarantined, zero.

The November report for the shelter is as follows. Dogs: euthanized, one; adopted, nine; rescued, 15; returned to owner, zero; taken in, 18; in approval/foster, four; impounded, zero; and quarantined, zero. Cats: euthanized, two; adopted, two; rescued, four; returned to owner, zero; taken in, one; in approval/foster, zero; impounded, zero; and quarantined, zero.

Finally, Cozart reminded the commission of the Wetzel County Animal Shelter Supporters, Inc. auction and all you can eat Souper Supper set for this Saturday at the Mollohan Center on the 4-H grounds. There is no admission cost for the auction at 6 p.m. which houses new items donated from businesses, local and beyond. Items are posted on CozartAuction.com.

The Shelter Supporters are preparing a wonderful array of home made soups including cream of broccoli, potato, vegetable soups, cheese soup, soup beans, vegetarian chili, and many more. The meal will include rolls, crackers, condiments, and homemade desserts and beverages all set up in buffet style so you can eat until you are full. The Souper Supper is at 5 p.m. and the tickets are $7. Tickets are on sale now at the local veterinarians’ offices and at the shelter. Attendees may also pay at the door.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the residents of the animal shelter.

Lastly, Eric Fecat of Belomar Regional Council met with the commission to get their signature on a drawdown as part of the design phase for Wetzel County Public District No 1’s project to extend water service to approximately 98 households in the county who utilize wells as their source of water. Fecat said the total amount of the design fee was roughly $24,000. The commission approved the drawdown and signed the appropriate paperwork.