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Commission approves bond order, awaits word on "hero pay" funding

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Article by: Ben Conley, The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission approved a bond order authorizing the issuance of roughly $45 million in bonds for the ongoing WestRidge development.

The bonds will be issued in two series and are tied to the property taxes generated in University Town Centre Development District No. 4.

Series A, totaling $37,243,000, will be purchased directly in equal shares by First United Bank & Trust and MVB Bank primarily for the purpose of refunding and redeeming outstanding 2016 property tax bonds.

Series B, totaling  $6.5 million, will be purchased by developer WestRidge Inc. to pay the costs of design, acquisition and construction of additional development.

“We may be the only county that is continually growing economically and doing these bonds,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said. “Even though we’re in this pandemic, we’re still moving forward and development is moving forward.”

One of the anchor businesses coming to the development, Menards, is currently under construction. The pad for another anchor chain, Bass Pro Shops, is now visible.

“This will do the development for the roads and the infrastructure for not only those two, but ones we can’t even mention yet that should have been revealed this month,” Bloom said.

The property taxes and excise taxes — taxes on sold goods — are handled as separate districts.

The commission recently authorized the issuance of $27.7 million in excise tax bonds. That number was originally to be in excess of $70 million but was scaled back due to the impacts of COVID-19.

In other county news, the commission said it’s still awaiting guidance on how to proceed with the distribution of $100,000 provided to each county by the state.

The funding was described as “hero pay” by Gov. Jim Justice and is meant to offset extraordinary costs due to COVID-19.

According to the commission, it’s received a handful of requests, including inquiries from the city of Morgantown and the county’s volunteer fire departments.

West Virginia Auditor JB McKusky has warned the money cannot be used to pay salaries, according to Commission President Ed Hawkins.

“When [Justice] put out the nomenclature ‘hero pay,’ he basically put out something that the interpretation and usage would be illegal, according to the auditor. We would be in trouble,” Hawkins said. “We haven’t spent the money. We’re waiting. Other counties have spent the money. Whether they did it legally or illegally, we don’t know.”

The commission also:

  • Reported that of the 34 unsheltered individuals housed temporarily in Motel 6 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, all but three have been placed in housing.
  • Approved an amount not to exceed $94,000 for the Little Creek Public Service District for the relocation of a main water line impacted by a recent slide.
    Little Creek PSD is located in Marion County, but services 84 households in Monongalia County, primarily through the line in question.
  • Turned the lights on the courthouse square blue through the end of the week in honor of Police Week, May 10-16.
  • Reported that there will be a drive-up food giveaway from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Saturday at the county’s new extension building, in Mylan Park.

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