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Area mayors bring their infrastructure needs and questions to David McKinley during roundtable

BRIDGEPORT — Area mayors brought their infrastructure wishes, concerns and questions to Rep. David McKinley during a Tuesday roundtable at the Bridgeport Conference Center.

Municipalities will have the opportunity to tap into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act money for local projects and McKinley said he wanted to hear from them on the topic.

McKinley was joined at the front table by state Auditor J.B. McCuskey, who served in the House of Delegates before election to his current post. McCuskey said he’s pleased local governments will have a say in how the money is targeted and spent.

“We’re going to have an opportunity to actually do this properly,” he said. “Either do this now or God help us all.”

Infrastructure money coming to West Virginia includes about $3 billion to repair roads and highways, $500 million for bridges, nearly $200 million for Corridor H, $40 million for airports, $300 million for public transportation, $600 million to expand broadband access, $475 million for water and wastewater upgrades, $100 million to $200 million to cap orphaned oil and gas wells and at least $700 million for abandoned mine land reclamation.

The various mayors ticked off their local needs. Masontown’s James Cottrell and Weirton’s Bubba Miler mentioned roads; Parkersburg’s Tom Joyce mentioned bridges and street paving; Fairmont’s Tom Mainella mentioned water and sewer pipes and rails-to-trails linkages (Fairmont and Clarksburg are the last two links to connect Pittsburgh to Parkersburg, he said).

Granville Mayor Patricia Lewis said her town applied for American Rescue Plan Act money for two sewer projects for lines not replaced in the 1980s when the new sewer system was installed, and they’re getting engineering estimates for those.

But another need, she said, is County Route 100, Granville’s Main Street, which needs not just repaving but a full re-do — re-milled and then repaved. “It’s so bad it’s embarrassing.”

New Martinsville’s Sandy Hurt said her city has a long-term problem with intermingled sanitary and storm sewer lines, which causes sanitary sewers to back up into homes during heavy rains. It will cost $45 million to $50 million over time, and the Department of Environmental Protection says they have to fix it but will not provide money for it.

“I’m not sure how we can make that situation any better,” she said.

McKinley said the town of Benwood has the same problem. It has just 500 people and the price is projected at $12 million. That’s what this federal money is for.

Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner said his city along with Weston and Elkins welcome the Corridor H money and the connections that will bring. In a subtle criticism of his own 2nd District Congressman, he thanked McKinley for voting for the Act (Alex Mooney voted against it).

Talk shifted to the current record inflation, with McKinley and the mayors noting that the federal money won’t go as far as hoped, with construction costs escalating. McKinley tossed out some numbers: PVC sewer pipe up 220% in the last three years; 3/4-inch copper tubing up 122% in the same span; fire hydrants up 131%.

McCuskey and others noted the challenges the limited staffs of small towns will face in applying for the money. McCuseky said he’s trying to move toward a centralized contract for cities to use for bidding, and said so many cities will be pursuing similar jobs, that being able to pool their buying power will save them money.

McKinley said that many of the small cities could never afford to put up matching funds, so he worked to make sure matching funds were not required to obtain Act money.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp