In a stroke of excellent good fortune, the Town of Marlinton was approved to receive as much as $1.5 million in Small Cities Block Grant (SCBG) money for upgrading the town’s water plant. Eight municipalities in Planning and Development Council Region 4, which includes Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Fayette and Webster counties, applied for SCBG money. Marlinton’s application was the only one from the region approved in this funding cycle.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin sent a letter to Mayor Joe Smith with the good news. The letter reads in part:
“Based upon the Town of Marlinton’s ability to proceed with this worthwhile project, I am committing $500,000 from the FY2014 Small Cities allocation. The remaining $1,000,000 necessary to complete the project will be evaluated and committed in a future year’s allocation based upon your ability to proceed and the availability of federal funds.”
Smith said the grant money is expected to reduce town water rate increases.
“At this point in time, there hasn’t been a decision made, but it looks like we may do away with the bond ordinance that we were going to pass this coming meeting on February 2, and utilize this $500,000 for the $420,000 that we were going to borrow.”
The town was planning to borrow about $400,000 to pay for engineering design work on the water plant project. A rate ordinance, needed for the loan, would raise town water rates by about eight percent. The final decision whether to scrap that loan is up to Town Council.
Smith said he was very pleased with the news of the grant money.
“I’m very, very pleased,” he said. “The project for upgrading and revitalizing our water plant is sorely needed. It’s really a plus for Marlinton. We thought we had a good project on the table.”
Several state and local officials, including Mayor Smith attended a ceremony in Charleston last Thursday, when Tomblin formally awarded the grant money. SCBG grants are federally-funded and administered by the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Engineers have told Council that the town must upgrade its failing water plant or face the prospect of having no functional water system. Council has moved forward with a project that is expected to cost $4.3 million dollars. If the project stays on-track and federal funds are available, the $500,000 already received and the expected additional $1million will reduce the Town’s portion of the project cost to $2.8 million, which will be obtained through low-interest loans. After Council finalizes a $2.8 million loan, water rates will need to be increased by as much as 50 percent.