Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission has reached a new milestone in terms of helping to secure grant and loan funding to the coalfield communities of Southwest Virginia. After 45 years of operation, the commission has helped to bring in more than $465 million in federal, state and regional funding to the coalfield counties, according to a new report.
And in 2012 alone, the commission helped to prepare and/or approve grants totaling approximately $19 million for Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson and Russell counties. Those projects included a $3.5 wireless 4G upgrade for the coalfield counties; a $5.5 million regional water project upgrade for the Hurley community; a $131,358 upgrade to the Claypool Hill Water Treatment plant; a $77,171 upgrade to a regional water system in Tazewell County; and a $3.6 million sewer upgrade for the Drytown community in Tazewell County.
Founded in 1968, the commission works with local governments in Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson and Russell counties to complete a wide variety of economic and community development projects while also competing for an ever-shrinking pool of federal and state grant and loan dollars.
In addition to helping local water and sewer providers fund public water projects at affordable rates through grants and low-interest loans, the commission has recently begun working with local utility companies and the neighboring Lenowisco Planning District Commission on a project to bring high-speed broadband fiber optic and wireless 4G services to the region.
In other instances, the commission has helped to bring localities together to address problems such as solid waste management on a regional basis. For example, through the formation of the Cumberland Plateau Regional Waste Management Authority, the commission helped the authority’s member counties avoid having to develop new sanitary landfills as well as monitor in perpetuity their old landfills, the report said.
Among the current commission projects, the new 4G wireless network is critical to future economic development and growth in Tazewell County, according to newly elected commission chairman Seth White, who also serves on the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.
Roger Rife, a long-time commission member from Buchanan County, also correctly notes the important role the commission has played in helping to develop new water and sewer infrastructure for Buchanan County. By working together, Rife says officials have been able to provide public water at a reasonable rate to hundreds of homes and businesses in the region.
The commission and its members are to be applauded for all of their hard work over the past 45 years in helping to improve living conditions in the coalfield counties. By helping to invest nearly a half-billion dollars in federal and state funds into the region over the past four decades, infrastructure has been enhanced, quality of life has improved, and modern technology is now reaching areas that were previously under served.
That’s good news for all citizens, and business owners, in the coalfield counties.