Commission happy with bypass funding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

At their Friday meeting, the Lawrence County Commissioners were quite happy with the news of $31.4 million in funds to do the second phase of the Chesapeake Bypass project.

Commissioner DeAnna Holliday called it a “great day in Lawrence County.”

“As we all know, building strong infrastructure is critical to where we are moving in the future,” she said. “This is something we have worked very hard on for decades. A lot of people in Lawrence County said ‘You know, I don’t think I will live to see that happen.’ And so we are glad to say that in 2025, the next phase of construction will happen on the Chesapeake Bypass.”

Email newsletter signup

“There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she continued, adding that they have had a team testifying before the TRAC committee on behalf of the need for the project.

The first phase, which was 4.7-mile-long two-lane limited access highway from State Route 775 in Proctorville to State Route 7 near Fairland East Elementary School and a connection between East Huntington Bridge and State Route 775 in Proctorville, was completed in 2006.

The second phase is finishing the western half of the bypass and includes building a new five-mile-long two-lane roadway from State Route 527 interchange to State Route 775. There will be earthwork construction, drainage work as well as building retaining walls and 10 bridges.

Commissioner Colton Copley said it was good to see money coming the county’s way “but it has been 20 years of people who have been pushing and trying to get this.”

“This is going to be great for the Tri-State, but it is going to be especially great for Lawrence County.”

Holliday pointed out that the upcoming construction was the second phase of the project and there are two more phases before the outer belt system is complete. 

She said that she hopes this encourages West Virginia to work on the Merritt Creeks connector which she called a vital part of the overall project.

Commissioner Mike Finley pointed out that the first part will be cutting through the hillsides and joked to Copley that he wouldn’t be able to drive on it next week.

“You could if they cut it good enough,” Copley said.

“Well, you do have four-wheel drive,” Finley said.

In the audience participation segment, Chris Perry, an Ironton City Councilman, was at the meeting as in his capacity at the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Shelter, thanked the commissioners for their generosity.

“It is a tough agency to keep funded as federal and state funding dwindles and dwindles,” he said. “We have been very fortunate the commissioners have helped us as much as you have. So, thank you for that.”

Copley said they appreciate the domestic violence shelter and what they do for the people in our county who need that service. We are glad to be in a position where we can help support that through the years.” 

Lori Morris, the exec from Lawrence County EMS, reminded the commissioners that about a year ago, the commissioners voted to have the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to do the collection for past due accounts.

“That is now all set up and will begin in April,” she said. “It has finally started and it took a while, but it has started.” 

Debbie Fisher, the administrator of the Lawrence County Health Department gave an update on the COVID-19 situation in the county.

“We had 22 cases last week, which is pretty low,” she said. “We are considered “low community level,’ which means we are not putting a strain on the health care system which is really, really good. We are still considered high transmissibility just because of the number of cases we have had over the last two weeks.”

She said the vaccination rate is way down but she added they have seen a number of people who have not been vaccinated to come in and get their first vaccination. 

“So that is good,” Fisher said. 

She went on to say that the neighboring counties also have low community levels, so the burden on the local hospitals is really low.

“I’m glad to hear our COVID number are down,” Copley said, and said they are seeing the same at his hospital. “We have been able to go back to not wearing our masks in rooms and that is the first we’ve done that since COVID started.

After the agenda items were done, the commissioners went into executive session with officeholders.