Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 11, 2013

A worthy application

Public water vital to Elgood community

— — It is no secret that the once robust pool of grant and loan funding available on both the state and federal level continues to shrink. And at the same time the number of worthwhile projects vying for a share of the ever-shrinking pool of grant and loan dollars continues to increase.

You can blame the current situation on a number of factors, including the sequester, the ban on federal earmarks, our nation’s alarming debt crisis and ongoing belt-tightening efforts by lawmakers. But simply put, there just isn’t enough money currently available to fund critical projects across the nation and the region.

And the list of projects in our region that demand immediate attention and support is extensive. This list includes the King Coal Highway, the Coalfields Expressway, the emergency flood-control project for Stafford Drive in Princeton, and the project formerly known as the Colonial Intermodal Center in Bluefield, among many others. Now we can add the Mercer/Summers Phase IV-B Elgood Water Project to this ever-growing list.

The Mercer County Commission, working in conjunction with the Region One Planning and Development Council, is in the process of submitting a third Small Cities Block Grant application for the project. Two prior Small Cities Block Grant applications for the water system were denied.

But the project is of vital importance. Not only is it a continuation of the critical Mercer/Summers Regional Water Project — a decade-old partnership that has served as a vital infrastructure lifeline for our region — but the latest phase of the project also is the best chance officials have at getting safe public drinking water to about 155 families living in the Elgood community.

Jeff Johnson, community development director for the planning commission, said the only current water source families living in the Elgood area have is from wells and cisterns. So the community is facing problems with not only water quantity, but also quality. It is critical that families in the Elgood community have access to safe and clean drinking water.

The project will cost $5.1 million. The county is seeking $1.5 million in Small Cities Block Grant funding for the project. The commission also is requesting a $1 million grant, and a $2.3 million loan from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council for the project, and is seeking $220,000 in funding from West Virginia American Water Company. The Oakvale Road Public Service District would allocate another $50,000 for the project. However, without the $1.5 million in Small Cities Block Grant funds the regional system will not be able to move forward.

Commission president Mike Vinciguerra says he is willing to do anything he can in cooperation with Region One to help the project, including traveling to Charleston and meeting with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. We are glad to hear that Vinciguerra, along with commissioner Gene Buckner, is willing to fight for this critical project.

All of the fiscal year 2012/2013 HUD Small Cities Block Grant applications are due this month. The funding awards will be announced this fall — provided there is a federal budget in place at that time.

It is our hope that the Mercer/Summers Phase IV-B Elgood Water Project will receive full and fair funding consideration. It is a vital project that is more than worthy of federal funding assistance.

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