Roundhouse, BOE get grants

August 21, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

Judging from the inflection in his voice Wednesday night, Bill Hayes must have been one of the happiest people in the Eastern Panhandle. The same could be said for Lori Stilley.

The Economic Development Grant Committee awarded $2.75 million to the Roundhouse Authority, of which Hayes is executive director. And $6 million was awarded to the Jefferson County Board of Education to help build a second high school. Stilley is the board's president.

Although Roundhouse officials, joined by city of Martinsburg officials, asked the committee for $6.8 million, Hayes said he was pleased with the reduced award.


Grant committee members also awarded $1.2 million to help with construction of a new terminal at Eastern Regional Airport outside Martinsburg.

Committee members did not fund a request for more than $5.3 million that would have been used to buy 308 acres along W.Va. 9 on the line dividing Berkeley and Jefferson counties for construction of a business park.

During the first go-round of the grant committee, Roundhouse officials did not receive a cent.

"It's not what I had hoped for, but it's better than where we were before," Hayes said of the grant.

The grant money will be used to build a pedestrian bridge from the Caperton Train Station to the Roundhouse complex. Currently, people who want to visit the complex must drive a circuitous route through several of the city's back streets.

Hayes said he hopes funding also will allow for construction of at least one vehicular bridge, which probably will begin on Queen Street near the existing railroad underpass and end near the Roundhouse.

"Maybe we can (also) get some of the water and sewer stuff done," Hayes said.

Tourism officials hope the historic Roundhouse one day will attract more visitors to the area, thereby boosting the local economy.

"I think this is a big jump. Now we're really getting into a position where we're starting to move ahead," Hayes said. "Giving us access to the property right from the train station is absolutely essential."

Stilley said she was staffing the Board of Education's booth at the Jefferson County Fair when Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, relayed the good news.

Some argue that education is not economic development, but Stilley disagrees.

"It is probably one of the best economic development projects," she said. "Without a trained work force, you can't attract companies."

The new high school is to include a science and technology center that not only will offer training to students, but to adults in the community as well, Stilley said.

Stilley said she believes the grant money will help leverage additional funding from the School Building Authority. Voters also might take it into account when, in May, they are asked to support a bond call to help build the new school and renovate Jefferson High School, Stilley said.

Although a final figure has not been determined, less than $20 million will be sought via the bond, she said. The high school is expected to cost $30 million to $32 million to build.

Elsewhere in the state, major winning projects included:

  • A high technology business park outside Fairmont, W.Va., $14.75 million.

  • A new baseball stadium in Charleston, W.Va., $12 million.

  • Two Morgantown, W.Va., developments, a theater and marina for $13.9 million.

  • A $5 million parking garage; and the Pullman Square project in downtown Huntington, W.Va., $10.6 million.

To be funded by the sale of bonds paid off by $19 million in annual video lottery revenue, the grants are designed to fund projects that create or retain jobs, can attract other funding and serve the public interest.

Funding was not awarded to organizers hoping to open two separate motor speedways - one in Braxton County and one in Kanawha County.

A similar committee last year approved $215 million to 35 projects in 22 counties, but a lawsuit challenging the process undid the panel's work. The state Supreme Court ruling prompted special session legislation aimed at remedying its constitutional flaws.

Four projects accepted last year were rejected Wednesday: The Quincy racetrack, which last year received $7.7 million; $1.5 million to expand Lincoln High School, which members said could find funds elsewhere; $5 million for a West Virginia University research park; and $15 million for downtown Wheeling.

Kastick said before the meeting that current interest rates would support a bond sale providing $220 million in grants. Members couldn't make final cuts past $225.8 million. If the bond sale fails to reach that level, all projects will be cut by the same percentage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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