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Landlord seeks funds from Preston Commission to assist with unpaid rent during pandemic

KINGWOOD – Preston County commissioners have received a request letter from James R. Chaplin asking for consideration when distributing stimulus fund assistance.  The letter spoke to some of the problems faced by landlords during the pandemic.

Chaplin is a general partner in Breeze View Townhouses and Breeze View II Townhouses and is the owner of Rich View Apartments and Krys View Apartments, all of which are in Preston County.

In his letter to the commission, Chaplin wrote, “Breeze View Townhouses, Breeze View II Townhouses, Rich View Apartments and Krys View Apartments have experienced a loss of revenue in 2020 and 2021 of $19,597 directly related to our inability to collect rents due directly to COVID-19 landlord restrictions.”

“Throughout this pandemic landlords have been restricted by law, by presidential order, and by order of the governor, as to what action could be taken when a tenant is not paying rent.  Essentially, all we could do is remind them that the rent is owed and advise them as to where they might get help from agencies designed for that purpose. Many of these tenants have moved, left no forwarding address, and left the landlord with no options to recover the losses.”

Chaplin’s request is but one of a number of requests received by the county.  Among other requests, the commission has also heard from two groups requesting funds to help eliminate water problems.

In April, PSD No. 1 Plant Manager Danny Layton asked commissioners to consider the PSD for $633,000 to upgrade the water treatment plant and roughly 3,500 feet of water line along W.Va. 7 between Reedsville and Masontown.

The 4-inch water line would be replaced with 6-inch water line and would provide more reliable pressures and fire flow availability to the customers in this area.

In his request, Layton said the request funds were inclusive of engineering and construction but exclusive of project administration, accounting and legal fees.

If approved, money for the project would come from the estimated $6.4 million dollars in stimulus funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 the county is set to receive.

In May, Monica Wolfe, who spoke for a group from Marques, said water problems have plagued that area since the 1990s. 

“We need water,” she said.  “This is a problem.  Some people don’t have water and have to haul it for both their use and to water their cattle.”

Wolfe said the group of concerned citizens is requesting $1 million from the commission to complete the water project.

“We want you to hire facilitator Randy Tichnell to work on our project, or the commission can start a new PSD so we can get something done,” she said.

Wolfe quoted State Code 16-13-A-2 as providing the authority for the commission to add a new PSD.

According to the National Conference of State Legislature website, the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act can be used to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and address its economic effects, including through aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries such as tourism and hospitality. It can also be used to provide premium pay to essential employees or grants to their employers. However, premium pay can’t exceed $13 per hour or $25,000 per worker. The funds can also be used to provide government services affected by a revenue reduction resulting from COVID-19, or to make investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

State and local governments cannot use the funds toward pensions or to offset revenue resulting from a tax cut enacted since March 3, 2021.  State and local governments could transfer funds to private nonprofit groups, public benefit corporations involved in passenger or cargo transportation, and special-purpose units of state or local governments.