ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Commissioners Ginny Favede, Chuck Probst and Matt Coffland believe many of the county's roads and bridges need fixing, but they disagree on how to pay for the repairs.
With Favede and Probst outvoting Coffland 2-1, commissioners rejected a proposal to raise annual vehicle tag registration fees by $10 to help fund road repairs, as County Engineer Fred Bennett had requested. Belmont County has 280 bridges and 308 miles of county highways and township roads to maintain.
"I just cannot support this," said Favede, commission president. "The state should be offering us more help."
Photo by Casey Junkins
Belmont County Commissioner Chuck Probst speaks at Wednesday’s meeting.
Bennett said each registration would have cost an additional 83 cents monthly, or about 3 cents per day. The current annual fee for passenger vehicles ranges from $39.50 to $49.50, depending on the taxing district where the vehicle is registered.
Probst said it is difficult to ask county residents to pay more in the current economic climate.
"I don't have people calling me in support of this," he said. "All the calls I am getting are from people who are against it."
Both Favede and Probst said the burgeoning oil and natural gas industry - which has companies such as Gulfport Energy, Antero Resources, Rice Energy and others pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the county - could boost Belmont County's coffers enough to allow them to provide Bennett more money for road repairs.
"Right now, we are negotiating a lease for some of our ground" for oil and gas drilling, Probst said, noting this could help provide income to the county for years to come.
Favede also pointed out some of the oil and gas drillers have agreed to pave the roads they are using, which she said will help the county's road problems. However, Coffland said he favored raising the annual fee because the county's roads are in poor shape.
"I don't want to be known as the guy who wants to raise taxes. I just know our roads need repaired," Coffland said.
All commissioners agreed that more money is needed for road repair, noting they will do as much as they can to lobby state and federal officials to acquire funding for such action.
Commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the county courthouse on Main Street in St. Clairsville.