MPO votes to create seat for Morgantown Area Partnership

MORGANTOWN — For the first time in its 20-year history, the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board voted Thursday to alter its membership. 

In a unanimous vote, the policy board approved an amendment to its bylaws adding the president of the Morgantown Area Partnership, or their appointee, as the body’s 14 member. 

The Partnership’s representative — presumably current President and CEO Russ Rogerson — will initially serve a two-year term as non-voting member. 

This will represent the only non-voting member of the body and the fourth unelected member. 

“I think the idea is that this is a process that has some steps, and this is one step, a trial period. Then we can decide to keep it the same or change it,” Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin said. 

Michael Kelly, representing the Monongalia County Board of Education, explained the purpose of the move when he floated the idea back in November. 

“It all boils down to going to Charleston with one voice,” he said. “They’re so active in all the same things we are, and I think sometimes it winds up where they’re going one direction and we’re going another direction.” 

The Morgantown Area Partnership is a public/private entity formed in 2019.  

The Monongalia County Development Authority, Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, Morgantown Area Economic Partnership, Main Street Morgantown and the Campus Neighborhoods Revitalization Corp. (formerly Sunnyside Up) all fall under its umbrella. 

The organization is governed by a 34-member board made up of individuals from education, government, private sector and businesses, both large and small. 

MPO Executive Director Bill Austin said The Partnership’s transportation committee already serves as the MPO’s policy advisory committee. 

Along with the new addition, the policy board is made up of all three county commissioners (Jeff Arnett, Tom Bloom, Sean Sikora), three representatives from Morgantown City Council (Selin, Bill Kawecki, Joe Abu-Ghannam), and one representative each from Westover (Bob Lucci), Star City (Steve Blinco), Granville (Patty Lewis), Blacksville (Joe Statler), the Monongalia County Board of Education (Kelly), Mountain Line (Maria Smith), WVU (Ron Justice) and the West Virginia Division of Highways (Brian Carr). 

The board serves as the governing body for the MPO, the regional agency responsible for administering the comprehensive transportation planning process in Monongalia County.

In other news from Thursday’s meeting, the policy board set its leadership for 2024.  

Joe Statler was named chair with Maria Smith named vice-chair and Patty Lewis reappointed as the body’s treasurer.