(08/17/2012)
A new blue ribbon panel is being formed to develop a long-term strategic plan for West Virginia's highway system.

The study will be directed toward the highway system's condition and needs, and identify funding options.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is establishing the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Highway Commission.

Commission members include state officials, members of statewide constituency groups, county and municipal representatives, legislators and citizens.

A report will be given to the governor before the 2013 regular legislative session begins.

The West Virginia Highway Department, according to insiders, was on a fast track of going out of the road repair business in 2007, including selling off much of the equipment in districts used for local jobs.

Most repairs and local projects would be outsourced, based on an assumption that private contractors could do it cheaper.

Opponents at the time said it was obvious that local highway workers could do many projects at much less cost.

Since then, the department has moved back to doing some highway improvements with its own crews, equipment and materials.

State Division of Highways employees are protesting of wage inequities in state government, related to a wage freeze imposed in 2006 has hurt employee morale and led to high turnover of state employees.

With the wage freeze, there are many employees with 10 to 12 years' seniority who make $10.80 an hour, which is little more than the starting hourly rate for the job classification.

See related stories SMOKE AND MIRRORS: HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT PRIVATIZING?

PROTEST OVER HIGHWAY SERVICES GOING PRIVATE

STATE PLAN CHANGING COUNTY HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE - Equipment Downsizing, Giant Auction

HIGHWAY WORKERS PROTESTING EQUIPMENT AUCTION


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