ROMNEY — Complaints about cars on the Springfield Grade being forced off the road or crushed against guardrails by tractor trailers were aired at the Hampshire County Commission during Tuesday’s meeting.
The commission also discussed the need for repairs to steps to the parking lot across from Taggart Hall and accepted the county Historic Landmarks Commission’s recommendation to drop membership in the Civil War Trails program.
“I hear complaints every day” about truck traffic on the Springfield Grade, reported county emergency management director Brian “Tad” Malcolm. He described several recent accidents, including one where an SUV was crushed against a guardrail and one where the side of a car was ripped open by a truck that just kept on going until halted by the Springfield fire company.
He said he drives the road daily himself and has had trucks force him into the ditch. He finds it “unbelievable” that the state Department of Highways could not post a “not suitable for trucks” sign on the road the way it has on Cold Stream Road
Malcolm believes all the accidents involved carriers from outside Hampshire County, and probably from outside the state, perhaps depending on GPS for driving directions. The worst part of the road is in the Shadow Knolls Estates area, he said, about 5 miles east of the center of Springfield.
The complaint was brought before the commission by resident Robert Stinnette, who had written the commission a few weeks ago, complaining about blind turns where trailer trucks veer into the oncoming lane, crossing the double yellow line.
Stinnette said he had contacted District 5 DOH engineer Lee Thorne but received what he considered to be a “cursory” answer. He pointed out there are other areas in District 5 where portions of roads lying beyond businesses requiring truck service have been closed to truck traffic.
Commission President Bob Hott pointed out that the county had no authority, though he felt Stinnette had a legitimate complaint and suggested getting a group of local residents to push for action, noting this had been effective with Frontier’s outage in Springfield.
Malcolm reported that DOH county supervisor Chris Corbin said Monday that he was looking at the possibility of widening the road on curves.
Romney Mayor Beverly Keadle and county maintenance director Kenny McBride discussed replacing steps from the parking lot across Gravel Lane from Taggart Hall. The parking lot has been leased by the county since 2008, Hott said, and the lease makes the county responsible for maintenance.
Hott said he hadn’t realized how bad the steps had gotten. Keadle said the city had a policy of tearing up old sidewalks and carting them away if a citizen wants to install a new sidewalk, and would apply it in this case if the county wanted this done.
Hott asked if the crew installing new sidewalks along Main Street could be asked to take a look at the project. Mayor Keadle said she thought they would be agreeable to this, and will be returning to work in 3 weeks, as soon as they get the pipe they need to finish their current job.
County Historic Landmarks Director Mike Ketterman presented the recommendation that the county drop its annual membership in the Civil War Trails program. The membership fee is $1,800 a year.
Ketterman said that all the program has done in the past year is to clean some informational signs covered in plexiglass, and to include Hampshire County in its maps (“of poor quality at best”) and give the county a single paragraph in promotional materials.
The commissioners felt the county could do more itself with the $1,800 to advertise the county’s historic sites, and was assured by Ketterman that he could find have the signs kept clean without what Commissioner Brian Eglinger described as “paying $1,800 for Windex.”
In other business, Eglinger asked the commission to approve hiring Morgan County attorney Richard Gay to pursue court action on delinquent ambulance fees, noting Gay has been handling similar cases effectively. Hott said he was “extremely pleased” with how Gay had conducted himself in other cases.
Eglinger said about 10 percent of the fees remain unpaid, and thanked the 90 percent of citizens who had paid up. He described the county’s 90-percent compliance rate as one of the better records across the state.
Hampshire County Emergency Services Agency director of operations Terry Puffinburger gave a monthly report, telling the commission that there had been 204 calls for ambulance service in January, leading to 44 transports to hospitals by county ambulances, and 44 assists to local rescue squads.
At the request of South Branch Valley Day Report Center Director Cary Ours, the commission agreed to renew for 2021 a 3-county agreement to support the center. The center serves Grant, Hampshire and Hardy counties, working to rehabilitate drug offenders referred to it by the courts.
Ours asked how much the county planned to contribute to the center next year, and was told to expect Hampshire County to continue to give what it normally gives, a little under $18,000.