BLUEFIELD — Governor Jim Justice announced Tuesday a $250,000 funding award to Mercer County to assist in public water and sewage service.
Justice said the funding award will aid in the effort of supplying public water and sewer to the Mercer County Airport as well as homes and businesses in the area.
“The airport to me is always the heart of the community, it starts with the airport,” Justice said.
According to the certificate provided by Justice to the airport, the funding award is from, “West Virginia’s ARC area development funds,” with the transfer of the funds approved by Justice.
The $250,000 was to first be approved by the Mercer County Commission, according to the certificate from Justice. The project cannot move forward until the airport is notified that, “additional funding has been approved by the commission,” according to the certificate.
Justice said in 2016 the Bluewell Public Service District received a federal loan to aid in the providing of public water to the airport.
With the $3.5 million loan, the project still required an additional $250,000 after officials faced issues such as additional rock excavations, Justice said. And even with contributions from the USDA and the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, “You’re still short money,” Justice said.
“The airport is the pulse in my opinion,” Justice said, “This ensures a better facility and just the viability of the pulse.”
Along with providing water and sewage to the airport, 75 new customers which will include 10 businesses are also going to be serviced by the project, according to Justice.
On the topic of why this project hasn’t been done by now, Justice said, “We’ve been beat down and expected to accept things that are unacceptable. I mean for God-sakes-a-living it’s 2019 should we not have water to our people or sewage?”
As for how this will affect the business economy in the area, Justice said, “If you don’t have public water and you don’t have sewage, you may have businesses that can hang on and are already established but how are you going to attract a new one?”
“Now you’ve got surpluses,” Justice said, “That’s why this is happening now.”
In a press release Tuesday by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the grant-awarding was described as being, “Provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).” In the release, the amount awarded to the Bluewell Public Service District totals at $250,000.
According to the release, the $250,000 is part of a $568,000 grant from the USDA. The remainder of the money other than the $250,000 for Bluewell will be used for the Midland Public Service District.
“Updating and investing in West Virginia’s water infrastructure is critical, especially in the rural area of our state where access to clean drinking water is difficult for residents,” Manchin said in the release, “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight for investments in West Virginia’s infrastructure to ensure that West Virginians have acess to basic resources like clean drinking water.”
“These grants will not only expand potable water service for West Virginia homes but also support local businesses and the Mercer County Airport,” Capito said in the release, “Investing in water infrastructure is the right thing to do for public health and a smart thing to do for economic growth.”
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