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Mayor supports new welcome center

Apr. 14, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- City Council will determine whether it wants to cast its support to a proposal to construct a welcome center at the Ceredo/Kenova exit of Interstate 64 during its next regular meeting.

The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 800 5th Ave.

The resolution would support a request to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for the construction of a Park and Ride commuter lot in the northeastern quadrant of Exit 1 of I-64 in Kenova, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said during a city council work session Thursday at City Hall.

He said the need for such an endeavor was presented to him during a meeting with Kenova Mayor Ric Griffith, Wayne County Commissioner Bob Pasley and Michelle Craig, executive director of the KYOVA Metropolitan Planning Commission.

He noted that other entry points to the state in Bluefield, Lewisburg and Morgantown have welcome centers in which travelers can stop, rest and maybe find more information about the state, which is not the case in the Tri-State.

"All we have is a highly dated substandard rest stop on the eight mile marker for those heading east," Williams said. "We need to have something to greet people that is appropriate and of the same quality as other areas of the state as soon as you come into the state of West Virginia at Exit 1."

Williams also said he also recently changed his school of thought on Huntington's relationship to I-64, which he said brings 10 million cars past the city each year.

"It's the thought of many that the city fathers messed up with the design of the interstate pushed the interstate outside of the city," Williams said. "I've come to the conclusion as of late that it's not the design of the interstate, it's the lack of leadership. I have to put myself in there because I'm not new to this game."

Ten million cars pass by Huntington via the interstate each year, Williams said, and 14th Street West is less than one-quarter mile away from it.

"That says to me that it's not that the interstate was going by us. It's that we haven't provided the proper leadership or planning to ensure cars were coming off there."

Councilman Gary Bunn mentioned that he was part of the city's planning commission during the construction of the interstate in the 1960s.

He said the current configuration of the interstate was the third rendering of the intestate's path through Huntington.

The first plan had the interstate following U.S. 60 to the Ohio River, where it would have passed over St. Mary's Medical Center and the then-International Nickel Plant, which now is Special Metals, Bunn said.

When the first plan did not garner support, a second plan aligned the interstate over 8th Avenue, which met a roadblock when it compromised Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

Bunn said he was in support of the resolution.

Williams said Kenova City Council as well as the county commissions in Cabell and Wayne counties are considering similar resolutions.

In other business, the council will consider purchasing 110 heads-up displays for the breathing apparatuses for Huntington Fire Department firefighters.

The displays are part of the firefighters' face pieces, and the current displays in use by the department are outdated, said Fire Chief Carl Eastham.

Eastham said each apparatus will cost $175.

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