Mercer County Commission ...

Mercer County Commissioners Gene Buckner, Bill Archer and Greg Puckett are pictured in this file photograph.

PRINCETON — Using American Rescue Plan money to help extend water and sewer service to people lacking both, expanding a non-motorized trail system, improving the county airport and expanding broadband access are among the Mercer County Commission’s goals for 2022.

The Mercer County Commission met Monday in a special meeting for the purpose of reorganization. Gene Buckner was unanimously reelected as the county commission’s president.

Buckner said earlier that the county commission wants to continue working in 2022 on getting public water and sewer services to areas that still do not have any. No decision had been made as of Monday about how the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money the county is receiving will be spent.

The county commission is waiting for guidance from the federal government about how ARP funds can be used, Buckner said. One hope is to use it on water and sewer infrastructure. Mercer County is slated to receive $11.4 million in ARC money. The county has received $5.7 million, and is scheduled to receive the remaining $5.7 million in 2024.

“That money’s going to come in handy,” he said.

Getting water and sewer services to people lacking them will be a primary goal.

“That’s going to be our main objective, and hopefully we’re going to be able to invest that money into things that will last the people of the county for a long time,” Buckner said.

Extending broadband to the Cumberland Road Industrial Park is another goal along with getting natural gas to the park as well, Buckner added. The County Commission has been working with the City of Bluefield to get natural gas lines under Interstate 77 or over East River Mountain Tunnel. Broadband and natural service would benefit both the county and the city.

Other commissioners also said they hoped to see more infrastructure development in 2022.

“We started off with wanting to get water and sewer infrastructure to as many unserved county residents as possible, and we’re already laying the groundwork to be able to accomplish some of those goals with the injection of the American Rescue Plan money,” Commissioner Bill Archer said.

Archer said he was also working personally on advancing the Southern West Virginia Non-motorized Trail System Which will connect Mercer County with neighboring counties including Summers and Raleigh. The system will include hiking trails, kayaking and equestrian trails.

“I think by the spring we should be able to have more trails in the Bluestone Trails open,” he stated, adding that the trails would extend from the Gardner area down to Brush Creek Falls.

“As an aside to this trail issue, I’ve personally come to a greater appreciation for working together inside the coalfield counties on other projects,” Archer said.

The county commission is also working to update the Mercer County Airport’s facilities. The airport’s terminal used to rely on well water, but now it has a new source.

“Although this may seem like a pretty small issue, we sold enough surplus equipment to be able to get public water into the terminal,” Archer said. “That’s a big deal for us. We really hope to use some of the funds from the sale of surplus gear to make improvements to the terminal and facilities there. Every day brings new challenges and we’re going to work through them as best as possible.”

Progress is also being made at the new Gardner Center, which is the former forestry product laboratory off Interstate 77, Exit 14 in Gardner. The center, now being managed by the county, has several tenants. Hiking trails at the center are open as well.

“In the last few days, we’ve gotten a donation of some old photos of the Bluestone Land and Lumber Company that we’ve displayed,” Archer said. “It’s exciting to see people coming to our trails and enjoying our facilities,and we look for that to grow in 2022.”

One of the county commission’s goals for 2022 is to collaborate more with local cities as well as neighboring counties in both southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, Commissioner Greg Puckett said.

The county will also work with the Region I Planning and Development Council to see what opportunities that agency could provide, Puckett said.

“We want to maximize those dollars,” he said of the American Rescue Plan funding, adding that the county is also looking at partnering with cities and working on collaborative projects.

“We can look at those projects and those are infrastructure projects,” Puckett said. “We want to make sure we serve all constituents of the county and not just a few.”

The county commission will be looking at improving the county’s parks and recreation assets and continue the focus on removing dilapidated structures, and use American Rescue Plan money for these projects, he said. Another project for 2022 calls for focusing on expanding broadband internet access in Mercer County.

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the new century and the last century,” he stated.

Mercer County will also be looking to work more on economic development projects with neighboring counties, the goal being to bring more jobs to southern West Virginia as well as Southwest Virginia, Puckett said.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Trending Video

Recommended for you