CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A large majority of those attending the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways' public meeting in Logan Tuesday showed strong support for raising taxes and fees, and maintaining and expanding toll roads, in order to fund construction and maintenance of state highways.
Not coincidentally, about three-fourths of the 61 participants were representatives or employees of contractors or paving companies.
Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said Wednesday that their attendance was the result of a call to action to have his group's members, employees, subcontractors and suppliers attend the commission's meetings statewide.
He said that was prompted by the commission's first public meeting last week in Martinsburg -- where the audience was strongly opposed to any new taxes or fees for state roads.
"In Martinsburg, there was a concerted effort to get people there who were anti-everything," Clowser said. "The question became, where is the industry? Where are the people who support our highway program?"
While the Contractors Association turnout accounted for a large majority of the attendance in Logan, Clowser said he believes more members of the general public will turn out for commission meetings in larger cities.
He also questioned whether it skewed results of a live, electronic survey at Tuesday's meeting, which included 65 percent support for increasing the state sales tax to fund roads, and 96 percent support for keeping tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.
"I'm hearing so many people today saying, we've got to do something about our roads," he said.
Amy Shuler Goodwin, spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said Wednesday the administration is not concerned about groups packing the public meetings.
"The contractors are obviously an important part of this group, but there are many folks involved in these meetings with various ideas and recommendations," she said.