Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 16, 2012

Inexplicable omission

Princeton denied state funds again

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The state of West Virginia’s decision to once again reject a vital grant funding request for the Stafford Drive flood control project is both disappointing and alarming.

This is the fifth time the city of Princeton’s request for a Small Cities Block Grant has been denied by the state of West Virginia. And the latest rejection comes after city officials hand-delivered a petition containing the names of more than 2,000 concerned city residents to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The city was once again seeking $500,000 in state grant funds to help resolve chronic flooding along a heavily traveled section of Stafford Drive, which is also part of state Route 19. The project is considered a priority due to the threat to public safety posed by chronic flooding along the heavily traveled thoroughfare.

We were shocked to learn last week that the city of Princeton wasn’t included in the latest round of Small Cities Block Grant awards. What will it take to get help from the state of West Virginia? Will someone have to be hurt, or washed away in flood waters, before the state will finally step in and provide emergency assistance? Unfortunately, it is starting to look like this may be the case. And that’s simply unacceptable.

In all, 17 Smalls Cities Block Grant awards were announced last week by Tomblin, including funding awards to Summers, Fayette and Wyoming counties, and two grant awards to Lincoln County totaling more than $1.2 million. Grants of $1 million were also awarded to Tucker and Hampshire counties. And Wetzel County received a $1.1 million award. Yet the city of Princeton’s request for $500,000 was rejected. Why?

High water on the street has been an issue for motorists, residents on Princeton and Lazenby avenues as well as for the Mercer County Senior Center on Trent Street for years. Officials with the senior center often have had to resort to putting sandbags at their doors during storms to prevent water from seeping into their lobby.

“It is a big disappointment, but in politics, it is what it is,” Princeton Mayor Patricia “Pat” Wilson said. “It is a huge disappointment that we did not get the funding for this project. We were willing to go to Charleston to meet the governor. He came here and we presented him with more than 2,000 signatures on a petition, and we were confident we were going to get funding from this.”

Wilson says some Division of Highways officials have recently come to study Stafford Drive. She is hopeful that Tomblin will direct state DOH crews to help correct the flooding issue now that the city’s fifth Small Cities Block Grant application has been denied.

We believe action — whether it is a Small Cities Block Grant or in-state assistance from DOH crews — is absolutely imperative. Allowing repeat flooding to occur along this heavily-traveled state thoroughfare is an invitation for disaster.

We can’t wait for someone to get hurt, or seriously injured, before this chronic flooding problem is corrected. The state must help the city of Princeton, and this assistance must come sooner rather than later.