Two Projects Will Seek SCBG Funds
Two public works projects in Wetzel County are among those in West Virginia vying for Small Cities Block Grants this year.
Public Service District #1 is applying for a project that would extend water to the Richwood Run, State Road Run, 8 Mile Ridge, and Chiselfinger Ridge areas while the town of Pine Grove is seeking money to improve the existing sewer system, plant, and service in some problem areas.
Scott Hicks of Belomar Regional Council explained March 10 at a public meeting held during a county commission meeting that, statewide, $16 million is available for these grants, the same as last year. After some administrative costs are removed, that leaves $15 million for the projects deemed worthy. Also, he said there might be $3-4 million more available thanks to the federal stimulus package-enough to fund two or three additional projects.
While there is an April 20 application deadline for the SCBG grant, the projects must first be submitted to the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council by March 20. Hicks said both projects can meet those deadlines. “It’s going to be pushing us, but I think we’ll make it,” he noted.
The WVIJDC serves as a sort of first analysis of projects seeking financial support. They do not deem any project eligible for funding unless their rates are at least 1.5 percent of the median income of the service area. Hicks said Belomar serves Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties in West Virginia and in his region there are not too many utilities that have rates up to that level. Most of them are in Wetzel County. PSD #1 and Pine Grove, do meet that rate requirement.
The PSD project to be submitted includes the Richwood Run area to serve 16 customers at a cost of $26,676 per household, the State Road Run area to serve six customers at a cost of $20,000 per household, the Eight Mile Ridge area to serve 45 customers at a cost of $31,900 per household, and the Chiselfinger Ridge area to serve 26 customers at a cost of $35,500 per household. The proposed extension to New Martinsville Ridge (also known as Whiteman Hill) was cut from the project as it would serve 36 customers at a cost of $42,000 per household-a cost prohibitive amount.
“We’ve had to cut it back,” said Forrest Tennant, chairman of the PSD board. The deleted project was particularly expensive because it would require its own pump station and tank.
According to a PSD engineering report, the total project, including New Martinsville Ridge, would cost about $4.5 million. Without the deleted project and with some additional expenses estimated for inflation, the revised total cost is $3.5 million.
SCBG only gives a maximum of $1.5 million for water/sewer grants. So that means the PSD must look elsewhere for funding. Other possible sources are the Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection-Abandoned Mine Land, West Virginia Water Development Authority, and Drinking Water Treatment Revolving Loan Fund.
A governmental body can only submit one water/sewer project per year. Originally commissioners said it was Grandview/Doolin PSD’s turn to submit an application. However, they were not prepared to apply at this time and willingly yielded to PSD #1 “They were the only ones that are ready,” said Commissioner Bob Gorby.
A public meeting for SCBG funding was also held March 11 at 6 p.m. in the Pine Grove council chambers. Hicks gave a similar explanation of the grant program, requirements, and limits.
Pine Grove is seeking $1.235 million for sewer system improvements. That amount reflects the maximum of $1.5 million less $265,000 the city already has for a design grant from a previous SCBG award for a sewer extension the town decided against installing. They also have leftover $721,000 from an Environmental Protection Agency State and Tribal Grant (STAG) and $60,000 from the previous SCBG. The total current project is $2.17 million.
Bill Brake, engineer with Swiss Valley Associates, explained that the project has three phases. The first is for basic engineer to create a master plan. There is an interim project to keep equipment running and design an upgrade to the watewater plant. The final phase is to convert the collection system from vacuum to gravity. “That’s our long term goal,” said Mayor Dave Barr.
He stressed that this project, if funded, will be at no cost to the citizens. Also, the only people who are affected by it are current system customers.
Both grant applications require two public meetings. The next meeting on the PSD #1 application will be April 7 at 10 a.m. in the commission chambers. The next meeting in Pine Grove is April 13 at 6:30 p.m.
The only citizen at either of the first meetings was Linda Stackpole who attended the county’s public meeting. Since SCBG are designated for water/sewer as well as general community development, she asked if any grant money could be used for the Brooklyn area of New Martinsville. She expressed a concern for the condition of the houses in this area and wanted to know if any of this grant money could be use for those types of improvements.
Hicks explained that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is focusing this grant money on water and sewage. “The focus was just put completely on water and sewer,” said Hicks.
Housing and Urban Development prohibits the state from banning housing applications for the SCBG, but their chances are not good. “It would be considered,” said Hicks, “but I’m just saying it has been made clear to us that the priority is water and sewer.”
He suggested a HUD grant could be possible for the Brooklyn area, but HUD has a three tier priority system and Wetzel County would probably be in the last tier of this system. He explained to Stackpole that a letter could be submitted, but a rejection letter would probably be the end result.