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Billy J. Chaffin II: Infrastructure and education, are crucial for creating new jobs

Oct. 08, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.

In order to create jobs we must begin to repair and rebuild our state's infrastructure.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 39 percent of West Virginia's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

There are 245 high hazard dams in West Virginia. A high hazard dam is defined as a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage. Thirty of West Virginia's 360 dams are in need of rehabilitation to meet applicable state dam safety standards. Eight percent of high hazard dams in West Virginia have no emergency action plan (EAP). An EAP is a predetermined plan of action to be taken including roles, responsibilities and procedures for surveillance, notification and evacuation to reduce the potential for loss of life and property damage in an area affected by a failure or mis-operation of a dam.

West Virginia's drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $862 million over the next 20 years.

Thirty-seven percent of West Virginia's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Vehicle travel on West Virginia's highways increased 33 percent from 1990 to 2007.

And West Virginia has $2.52 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.

We must begin to address these problems, along with beginning new construction. New four-lane highway construction, airport upgrades and new utility improvements, i.e. extending water and natural gas lines into all areas of the state.

Our education system needs to be upgraded as well. A comprehensive audit of our state's education system was conducted. According to the report, it was derived from several different examinations. First, all state-level education governance entities -- including the West Virginia Board of Education, the School Building Authority, and the Center for Professional Development -- were examined. Second, three separate and distinct county school systems were examined (Harrison, Taylor, and Wyoming Counties), and the auditors also reviewed one Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) with a particularly diverse constituency of West Virginia counties (RESA 7).

The report described 56 findings and recommendations spread over six state-level function areas: administration, facilities, human resources, transportation, ancillary services, including health services, professional development, purchasing and back-office staffing, and regional coordination.

The individual reviews identified approximately $5 million per year in savings and efficiencies in just these four local jurisdictions, at a cost of $475,000, or a return of investment of 10 to 1, with five-year savings of over $18 million. If carried out statewide, in all districts and RESAs, proportionate savings would come to roughly $70 million per year, at a total cost of about $6 million.

The report said that if West Virginia implemented all these recommendations and apply the review process to all districts and RESAs statewide, the annual savings could total approximately $90 million. The report said those savings can be used to recruit more science and math teachers.

Also at the college level I would like to see more mathematical and engineering programs. I also believe there should be more continuing adult education programs in place at our community and technical centers and colleges, programs including, but not limited, to machinists, pipefitters, electricians and carpenters.

Simply put, we must make our state attractive to more jobs in the manufacturing, technical and service industries, while keeping the good jobs we have in the extraction industries. Through the improvement of our infrastructure, and our education of a highly skilled workforce, we can both bring jobs and keep the jobs we have.

My opponent's party believes in cutting everything instead of working to find solutions to our challenges. My opinion it that it takes work, and determination, a team effort. That is why I'm seeking office.

Billy J. Chaffin II, a resident of Barboursville, is the Democratic candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates from the 18th District, which includes a portion of Cabell County.

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