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Grant money freed up for Panhandle projects

March 17, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After a string of delays caused by lawsuits and other problems with the state's Economic Development Grant Committee, grant money is finally available, state officials said Tuesday.

Another hindrance, however, will cause construction on a new terminal at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport to be delayed for about a month.

New building codes implemented for this part of the country require that public buildings be adequately prepared for possible seismic activity, said Rick Wachtel, chairman of the Airport Authority.

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As a result, plans for the terminal had to be modified and bids for the work that were going to be sought April 1 will now not be solicited until the end of April or early May, he said.

Wachtel, though, was optimistic.

"It's not a setback at all, really," he said. With good weather, construction on the terminal is expected to take about 10 months.

Airport officials were awarded $1.2 million from the grant committee.

The airport was one of 50 projects from around the state to be awarded funding. Two other local projects that received grants were the Jefferson County Board of Education, $6 million to help build a second high school; and the Martinsburg Roundhouse Authority, $2.75 million to build a pedestrian bridge, allowing better access to the three-building Roundhouse complex.

At the airport, the money will be used to build a larger, more up-to-date terminal. It is expected to house a museum, a restaurant, offices, a conference room that can be used by the public, a baggage area, ticketing area and lobby.

The grant money will be sent to airport officials after they send in progress reports on the project, Wachtel said.

The airport is off Airport Road, southeast of Martinsburg.

In Jefferson County, the $6 million grant is one of several funding sources needed to help build a second high school, Board of Education President Lori Stilley has said. Board members also are counting on voters to approve a bond in May, $19 million awarded from the School Building Authority and impact fees, which are being collected.

The school, to be built on 57 acres donated by the developers of the 3,800-home Huntfield development, will include a science and technology center that will offer training to students and adults in the community, Stilley said.

In order for Jefferson County Schools to receive the $6 million which was awarded to the school system from the committee, the school system must be successful in convincing county voters to approve a proposed $19 million bond issue in the May primary election, Jefferson County Board of Education member Doris Cline said Tuesday night.

At the Roundhouse, grant money will be used to build a pedestrian bridge connecting 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.

"Giving us access to the property right from the train station is absolutely essential," said Bill Hayes, executive director of the Roundhouse Authority.

Grant money also will be used for work needed inside of the buildings, Hayes said Tuesday night. As with the airport, Hayes said the grant money will be dispersed in stages as the work proceeds. The state is not going to send a $2.75 million check and Roundhouse officials could not spend it all at once even if they did, he said.

Bids for the pedestrian bridge will be sought after Hayes receives an official notice to proceed, he said. Construction is expected to take 14 months.

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