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Manchin pledges $40 million to bypass

January 21, 2006|By TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. -

Morgan County Commissioner Bob Ford announced Friday that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin "agreed to and committed $40 (million) to $45 million immediately" to begin construction on the U.S. 522 bypass.

Construction on the first phase of the bypass would begin about 2 1/2 miles north of U.S. Silica Co. and end at W.Va. 9, east of Berkeley Springs, according to a press release. The first phase will cover four miles, according to the release.

This commitment will help clear the way for further talks with U.S. Silica regarding the site acquisition for a new hospital, according to the release.

In return for the commitment to the bypass, Manchin would require Morgan County to enter into talks with WVU Hospitals-East and come to some form of management agreement, "bringing Morgan County into the WVU Eastern Medical Group," the press release continued.

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Ford, who met with Manchin in Charleston on Jan. 16, said the proposal will not go forward if an agreement with War Memorial Hospital is not reached.

Valley Health Care in Winchester, Va., manages War Memorial Hospital at this time, Ford said.

WVU Hospitals-East is a network of hospitals linking the Eastern Panhandle. Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., and City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., are part of WVU Hospitals-East, which is an extension of West Virginia University and Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., according to the release.

"I could not understand if anyone looked at this proposal and found they could not go along with it because of what it could mean to Morgan County and the rest of the Eastern Panhandle when it comes to being associated with WVU Hospital," Ford said.

"Once the first segment of the bypass is completed, this will make it much easier to acquire the additional funds of about another $45 million to complete the remainder of the bypass, from W.Va. 9 to U.S. 522 South, approximately another four miles," according to the press release. The funding most likely would come from the next federal highway bill, the release continued.

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