Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


February 16, 2014

Stafford Drive flooding: SBA grant rejected — again

— — Yet another vital grant application to correct chronic flooding along Stafford Drive in Princeton has been rejected by the state. Unbelievable!

Perhaps it is true that the state line stops in Beckley. We have no other logical explanation as to why state officials, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, continue to turn a blind eye to this very real and very dangerous problem in Princeton. Voters in the city limits of Princeton — and those non-city residents who still face great danger every time they must navigate through flood waters along Stafford Drive — should be outraged.

By our count, this is now the sixth time that the city has been turned down for state Small Cities Block Grant funding. Adding further insult to injury is the fact that city officials had a meeting with Tomblin and gave him a tour of the flood-prone area just two years ago.

Princeton Mayor Patricia “Pat” Wilson said the city had sought $400,000 in SBA funds in the latest application. Prior applications rejected by the state were for $500,000. The grant funding is needed to match a $250,000 award received in 2013 from the Hugh I. Shott Foundation to help launch the flood-control project.

“We applied for what we thought it was going to take, but we were turned down once again,” Wilson said last week.

Wilson says she plans to meet with City Manager Elke Doom and Princeton Sanitary Board Administrator Dean Upton on Feb. 17 to discuss the city’s next move toward resolving the flooding issue. Part of the flooding problem is centered on Brush Creek, the stream running along Stafford Drive.

Wilson says the city initially thought the Natural Resource Conservation Service would conduct a study of Brush Creek. But city officials were told last week that such a study would not be completed by the NRCF. She says the city may now conduct a study to determine who is responsible for addressing the flooding problem — the city or the state. Although it is a main city thoroughfare, Stafford Drive is also part of state Route 19.

What is needed is help from the state — not another study. We also need an explanation from someone in Charleston as to why the city has now been rejected six times for SBA grant funding. A failure to provide a detailed explanation to the good folks who traverse Stafford Drive on a daily basis would be unacceptable at this point.

We believe action — whether it is a Small Cities Block Grant or in-state assistance from DOH crews — is absolutely imperative. It may still be winter at the moment, but spring flooding is just around the corner. Allowing repeat flooding to occur along this heavily-traveled state thoroughfare is an invitation for disaster.


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