Community, Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston gathers to discuss ARPA fund spending

KINGWOOD — One would expect a meeting between the government and community members at 2 p.m. on a sunny Friday to be lightly attended — mostly by those whose job it is to be there.

Instead, seating ran out as more than 50 Prestonians gathered at the Kingwood Election Center to voice their opinions on how the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent. The assembly was called by the Preston County Commission so it could review all requests for the funding and get its constituents’ input.

“As you all can imagine, we’ve had a lot more requests than we have had funding come in. And so for that very reason, it is important that we take on the opinion of the people that we represent, and the people of this county. So we just certainly, again, are just very thankful that you have come out today,” Commission President Samantha Stone said.

On the agenda were over a dozen entities including towns, Public Service Districts, and nonprofit organizations which have previously made requests. Many organizations had people who updated commissioners on the status of their requests and people speaking in support of the various projects.

According to an information packet provided by the county, there are $3,634,807 in direct requests. Those are just the ones the public got to hear about. There are about $50 or $60 million worth of requests once you add in infrastructure projects which weren’t discussed, Commission Dave Price said.

Numerous water system improvement projects are seeking ARPA funding, including the Denver Water Association which asked for $500,000 toward a $1.3 million upgrade.

It would be the first upgrade since the water tank was installed in 1970, Denver resident Linda Miller said. There have been leaks and repairs but no upgrades. The tank was donated by her first husband’s grandfather and is in her backyard.

“Money has been given to other towns for water tanks and other issues and we’ve never gotten anything from the county commission. A lot of the things that the county gives, and I don’t want to offend anybody here, but it seems to be, look at the map. Route 7 goes right through the middle of Preston County. Southern end don’t get a lot. We don’t have big businesses. We have farmers, we have retired people. And we’re just asking for some funding for us. I’m just speaking from the heart.”

Kingwood Waterworks, PSD #4, Newburg, and Reedsville also have water project needs.

Kim Stemple, owner of Metheny’s Farmers Market, reiterated a request for three years of funding for SNAP Stretch which doubles benefits when used at a farmer’s market at a total cost of just under $400,000.

The program encourages SNAP EBT recipients to purchase nutritious food and it captures federal food assistance dollars directly into the state’s economy. For every dollar spent at a local business, such as a farmers market, 60-70 cents stays in the local economy compared to 10-20 at a big box store.

“Preston County had 9,941 participating households. 65% of the families with children and 35% of them seniors do the math and that means 45% of all SNAP EBT dollars being spent at farmer’s markets is done right here in Preston County.”

Charleston has already funded SNAP Stretch through ARPA, Stemple said.

“Food insecurities are real and there are families and seniors who face them every day here in Preston County,” Stemple said. “SNAP Stretch helps alleviate those while also strengthening our local agricultural economy. My hope is that you seriously consider funding the request to the SNAP Stretch program for the low income families, the seniors and the farmers and small business owners in Preston County.”

The Preston County Youth Center, Arthurdale Heritage, Friends of the Cheat, RDVIC, and Preston County Parks and Recreation also have requests for ARPA funds to be used on maintenance, upgrades, or new projects.

TWEET @DominionPostWV