By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va.— West Virginia received $7 million in grant awards to fund community and infrastructure projects across the state, with more than $1 million going to projects in Raleigh, Fayette, Wyoming and Greenbrier counties.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the awards at a ceremony in Charleston on Tuesday, where officials from several different counties packed the governor’s reception room.
The funding awarded Tuesday is provided by the Federal Highway Administration. The West Virginia Division of Highways administers the programs.
“It’s going to improve small towns and counties all across West Virginia,” Tomblin said in a press conference after awarding the grants to those in attendance.
“We’ve been able to hand out about $7 million in grants today for various walking trails, sidewalks, general improvement for our towns across the state. If we fix our towns up, we give people a reason to get out and be more active physically and our roads, trails and sidewalks just make our communities a better place to live.”
The funding is divided into two grants.
There were 14 grants awarded for recreational trail grants, totaling $1,158,538. There also were 40 transportation alternative grants, totaling $5,917,737.
In Raleigh County, the Citizens Conservation Corps Inc received $120,000 in federal funds for its Burning Rock Trails Project.
Burning Rock Adventure Park, located in Sophia, offers 100 miles of off-road trails for ATV enthusiasts. The Citizens Conservation Corp is the conduit for trail maintenance, building and development efforts.
In Greenbrier County, the Anthony Boat Launch received a $28,000 recreational trail grant. The town of Rupert received $99,084 in transportation grants for its Phase III sidewalk improvements.
Babcock State Park in Fayette County received $37,700 in federal funds for trail maintenance equipment. The park also received a transportation grant totaling $150,000 for its Sewell-Trail restoration project.
Also in Fayette County, the City of Oak Hill received two transportation alternative grants totaling $252,000 for lighting and security along Main Street and Central Avenue Connector Trail.
The Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreational Authority also received a recreational trail grant totaling $80,000 for the Rockhouse and Pinnacle Creek Trail maintenance for Logan, Mingo and Wyoming counties.
Also in Wyoming County, the city of Mullens received $250,000 for its Transportation Alternative Program and Recreational Trails Fund Program.
“These transportational alternative grants will help existing trails such as the Hatfield-McCoy and Burning Rock to provide maintenance on their existing trails and provide money for sidewalks in communities, spending for streetscapes and wellness trails,” Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said Tuesday.
“It’s a way for us to give a nontraditional type of highway funds into the community to diversify peoples’ use of our trail system, sidewalks, things that are non-motorized, non-highway, and non-bridge type of projects.”
Mattox said for every project that is awarded a grant, there were seven that applied. Mattox said his staff goes through and looks at the projects based on their merits and the ability of the local communities to come up with their share of the money.
Local communities have to come up with a 20 percent match. However, for economically distressed counties, it is a 100 percent grant, he said.
Mattox said it used to be 20 percent for everyone; however, this was changed because of the economic conditions in the state.
“A lot of people cannot come up with that 20 percent match,” he said. “They have great projects but there’s no way the locals could match the money that was given.”
There are eight counties in West Virginia that the Appalachian Regional Commission deemed distressed for the 2017 fiscal year: Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Lincoln, McDowell, Mingo, Roane and Webster counties. All of these counties plus Wirt County were listed as distressed counties for the 2016 fiscal year, too.
The commission measures economic distress based on three economic indicators: a three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rates, the commission’s website states.
“A lot of communities were hit with the economic downturn and then had the flooding conditions this year on top of that,” Mattox said. “There is a lot of need out there.”
Mattox said federal funding is able to give residents in the community a sense of pride for their hometowns.
“If you travel the state of West Virginia and look at the streetscapes and various sidewalk projects and for schools, having safe routes, it’s money that is very well spent, in my opinion,” Mattox said. “It’s investments, in my opinion, for the communities and it’s really what these communities need.”
See more of the Register-Herald
More on Tomblin’s grant announcement at the Charleston Gazette-Mail