THOMAS - U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), along with Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) announced that West Virginia will receive a total of $1 million in funding, from the Environmental Protection Agency through its Brownfields Assessment Grant program, to be split between five communities in the state.
Each of the five communities will receive $200,000 and include the city of Thomas, the Wayne County Economic Development Authority, the city of Morgantown, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority.
The Brownfields program's assessment and clean-up of unused or underused property, such as industrial and commercial properties, is meant to give communities and businesses a chance to boost economic stability and create job opportunities.
As part of the Thomas Riverfront Park Development Plan, New Historic Thomas worked closely with the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, along with other stakeholder, for over three years, leading up to the completion of the grant application in January 2014.
New Historic Thomas AmeriCorps member, Emily Wilson-Hauger, who spearheaded the grant along with other New Historic Thomas board members and Lucas Elser from the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, said that the group is grateful and excited to have been selected for the grant.
"The City of Thomas and New Historic Thomas are grateful and excited to receive the Brownfields grant this year.
"It is an extremely competitive grant, speaking to the needs across the country to assess and clean-up contaminated and hazardous Brownfields sites," Wilson-Hauger said.
"The dedicated planning and work over the past three or so years, as well as the collaboration from diverse stakeholders throughout the city and county that went into making this grant application a success, is truly inspiring."
Wilson-Hauger went on to say that she believes the grant will benefit Thomas by allowing them to continue to take steps in cleaning up the area.
"Assessing the Brownfields in Thomas in the next step in the larger Thomas Riverfront Park Development Plan that New Historic Thomas has been trying to work with the city and residents on to make a reality," Wilson-Hauger said. "This grant will only help to continue making Thomas and Tucker County an even better and safer place to live, recreate and visit."
New Historic Thomas will continue its work with the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center and the District III EPA office, in Philadelphia, to conduct assessments on the riverfront property and other identified downtown properties, as well as preparing outreach and cleanup plans.
Thomas Mayor Matt Quattro said that he was happy to receive the money and that it will be very helpful in redevelopment plans.
"The City of Thomas is thrilled to receive the Brownfields grant after such an inspiring collaborative effort, and this money will go a long way to continue our community's redevelopment plans," Quattro said.
Manchin said that it is common sense to put money into projects that will assist in putting hard working West Virginian's back to work.
"It is simply common sense to invest in projects that will put hardworking West Virginians back to work while also revitalizing our communities that need upgrades and improvements," Manchin said. "This program will provide the necessary resources to revive sites that have been abandoned or contaminated and use them to create new opportunities for West Virginia communities and businesses. It's a win-win for all involved."
Rockefeller said that the project is important because it is an investment towards safer neighborhood for residents and building for the future.
"Restoring and cleaning up Brownfields is an important part of building up our state for the future," Rockefeller said.
"This grant funding is an investment toward making our neighborhoods safer for residents, and it will help us restore land in such a way that it will become an asset, rather than a liability for our communities.
"Ultimately, this funding will help promote industrial and commercial redevelopment, while also creating jobs and stimulating local economies."
Nationwide, 171 communities in 44 states are receiving 264 EPA Brownfields grants, giving communities and businesses a chance to reuse properties that have been lying idle and turning them into useful assets. These Brownfields investments boost local economies and create new opportunities for economic development.
Since 1995, the EPA's Brownfield's program's investments have leveraged more than $21 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. These investments have resulted in approximately 93,000 jobs nationwide.