Find Affordable Plan For Southern W.Va.
West Virginia’s southern coalfields need help. No question about that. But the state simply may not be able to afford Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s pet project to provide it.
Tomblin recognizes the southern counties need an enormous jump start for their economies to recover from President Barack Obama’s war on coal. Evidence of the White House’s candor in pledging to help areas hurt by that campaign came earlier this year when Tomblin’s plea for help with his project was rejected.
Tomblin has suggested redeveloping the Hobet surface mine in Boone County for use as a business development park. A key to it will be construction of a 2.6-mile access road. The Division of Highways is accepting bids for the work.
But estimates are the contract — which will not accomplish all the road work needed — may cost $100 million. That is money the state simply does not have. And if that much money could be found, the severe flooding of late June could consume it easily for essential recovery projects.
Without federal help, state officials may have to take another look at Tomblin’s idea — and find a less costly alternative. Before any contracts are awarded for the project, the governor and key legislators should sit down to discuss it. Among agenda items for that meeting should be how Tomblin intends to fund his program and whether the state has other, more pressing needs for that much money.