W.Va. review raises concerns over grant use

January 07, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County officials are at odds with a state review that has raised questions about a $1.25 million grant being used to ready the Eastern Regional Airport Industrial Park for a new aircraft production plant.

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A West Virginia Development Office review of the project found it "seriously deficient" in complying with federal regulations.

The review expressed concerns with the "administrative capacity" to continue to oversee the project, Community Development Specialist Pamela K. King said in a Dec. 23, 1998, letter to the Berkeley County Commission.

Ken Green, executive director of the Planning and Development Council, told the County Commission on Thursday that there were inaccuracies in the state's report and attributed some of the findings to an "overzealous approach."

The County Commission received the Small Cities Block Grant to make airport improvements for the new TLM plant that will employ 400 people for the production of single-engine, four-passenger airplanes. The plant is under construction.


King said the review found no indication of wrongdoing but said she had concerns because of federal guidelines on grant compliance.

The purpose of the letter was to see if Berkeley County needed help administering the project, she said.

The project, which is almost complete, includes the extension of an airport taxiway, a parking apron for planes and security fences.

King would not comment on specific points of the review pending further discussion with county officials.

While the county is responsible for the grant, the county contracted administration of the grant to the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council.

Green and the project's administrator, Carol Cole Reilly, gave the County Commissioners a letter addressing each of the state's findings. The letter acknowledged 16 findings but contested 19 others.

The state findings ranged from an alleged lack of written procedures to charges of files that "were not complete, accurate or orderly."

Reilly called the disorganized file charge "grossly unfair" and showed the County Commissioners two green filing boxes that she said held all the files.

Assured by Green that there were no indications of fraudulent activity or misuse of funds, the County Commissioners supported Green and Reilly while criticizing the tone of the state letter.

Newly elected County Commissioner John Wright said the problem might be with the number of government guidelines.

"It's like a test," said Wright. "When you have that much wrong there's something wrong with the tester."

King's letter warns the commissioners that failure to respond in a timely matter could prevent the Development Office from processing future requests for payments on the project.

County Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said it was his understanding the county could be liable for the full $1.25 million and said he hopes the state will be satisfied with the county's response to the monitoring report.

While Burkhart suggested the county send the state a "strongly worded" response, he added he does not want to anger anyone or risk future state and federal projects.

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