Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 12, 2013

Thinking regional

Strength and dollars in numbers

— — In this day and age of shrinking grant and loan dollars, finding the necessary funding to complete critical infrastructure improvement projects in the region is a great challenge.

And with the ban on federal earmarks in Washington continuing, the odds of getting a quarter or even a dime from the local lawmaker nowadays is slim to none. That’s why it is important to think bigger than one’s individual city, town or county.

While some area leaders may still be hesitant about the concept of regionalism, there are lessons that can be learned from neighboring Tazewell County. Area leaders on the Virginia have side have embarked upon, or advocated, a number of regional projects in recent years. Two of the latest are the seven-county Spearhead Trail Project and the $1.1 million Burnette Street Pump Station project. The latter will provide clean drinking water to families in need in Tazewell, Buchanan and Russell counties.

Tazewell County Public Service Authority Administrator Dahmon Ball says the upgrade to the Burnette Street Pump Station will improve water access to customers in the communities of Doran and Raven in Tazewell County as well as to the community of Swords Creek in Russell County and Shortt Gap in Buchanan County.

“It will increase the volume of water supplied to the Northwestern District of Tazewell County, including the communities of Doran and Raven as well as enterprises with Buchanan and Russell counties,” Ball said last week. “The upgrade will allow the station to pump up to 650 gallons of water per minute. This is truly a regional project as the PSA buys water from Richlands for this system.”

The majority of the funds being used to complete the project are coming from grant and low-interest loan funding. This includes a $671,514 grant from the Virginia Department of Health; a $77,171 grant from the Southwest Virginia Regional Water and Wastewater Fund; $36,829 in local funding from the Cumberland Plateau Planning Commission; and a $335,750 low-interest state loan.

The county was able to make a stronger case for grant and loan funding because the project was a regional, three-county system.

Construction on the regional project is expected to begin April 1. The PSA hopes to have the construction finished by the end of summer or early fall.

As we’ve seen over the years in Virginia, there are advantages to thinking regional. We can better sell a project in Bluefield, Princeton or Bluefield, Va., if we promote the region as a whole as opposed to the number of individual citizens living in a single city or town. And we are more likely to gain support — and critical grant and loan funding — if we partner with our neighbors on regional projects and systems.

We applaud the Tazewell County PSA, and the county’s Board of Supervisors, for securing $1.1 million in hard-to-find grant and loan dollars for this new regional system. And we strongly encourage other localities to think regional when it comes to future projects and ideas.


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