Linwood Sidewalk & ARP Funding Discussed and Bidding Firms Interviewed
On October 19th, the Pocahontas County Commission held a special meeting, which began at 10:00 am. The commissioners began by speaking with Hanna Carter, the Project Manager for the Community Development Block Grant which will fund the installation of both an HVAC system and a roof at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. Carter went over a number of technical contraction-al documents required to be submitted in conjunction with this grant.
Next, they discussed the Linwood Alive Sidewalk Project with Morgan Haymond. Haymond said they are still working on securing easements along the proposed route of the new sidewalk, and expect to be able to give the commission an update on these in November or December. The state has reduced the funds they will commit to the project by $160,000, which Commission President Walt Helmick suggests might be made up by reducing the length of the sidewalk since it appears that one property owner of a 5-acre tract at one end of the proposed project may be unwilling to grant an easement. Haymond said they have asked the Department of Highways (DOH) for a new budget in an attempt to recoup those lost funds. Helmick also suggested the cost of the project might also be reduced by using blacktop rather than concrete for the sidewalk. Haymond said the DOH is not “comfortable” with using blacktop.
The Commissioners also discussed what they might fund with the 1.5 million dollars the American Rescue Plan (ARP) has provided to the county. Laura Young from the Family Resource Network (FRN) asked the commission for $200,000 to reimburse them for what they lost due to COVID when the WV Department of Rehabilitation (WVDOR), because of COVID, stopped providing the FRN with fees for service for the FRN to contact persons with disabilities in the county and determine their needs and problems on behalf of the WVDOR. Young explained the FRN depended on that money to provide the increased demands cause by COVID on their food pantry, utility bill assistance and other services to low-income people in the county. Commissioner John Rebinski questioned whether using ARP funds would be appropriate for this without the FRN seeking other ways to get these funds first. Young said that they had no other way to get these funds, and those funds would go right back into the community. Helmick contacted Andrew Robinson of Senator Joe Manchin’s Charleston Office to get an explanation of what the ARP money can be used for. Robinson said they can be used for projects involving:
- Supporting Public Health with programs such as vaccine clinics or procuring PPE
- Making up for economic loss caused by the pandemic.
- Repaying lost public sector revenue.
- Premium pay required by the pandemic for public safety or need.
- Infrastructure needed because of pandemic such as water, sewer, or Broadband.
Helmick invited Young to ask Robinson about her need for the $200,000, and Robinson said that need would fit into the ARP funding. Rebinski asked if the state had additional COVID funds and Robinson said the state has an additional 1.3 billion dollars of COVID relief funding but has not yet determined how that will be spent.
After speaking with Robinson, Rebinski told Young that she should seek her funds from the state’s 1.3-billion-dollar fund rather than from the county’s 1.5 million dollars. Young said she is asking her local county commission for funds that will go back into the local community and has no way to ask the state for those funds.
For the remainder of the afternoon, the commissioners interviewed and heard presentations from three architectural firms bidding for Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s HVAC and Roof project; and from three engineering firms bidding to be the engineers for the Water Sewer project for the property near the hospital.