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City officials have major plans for development grant

August 26, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Since no bank teller is likely to cash an oversized, baby blue $495,000 check, Patricia McMillan said she'll likely use the symbolic check, presented to the City of Martinsburg Friday morning by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, as "corporate art" in her office.

The money represented Martinsburg's share of the national Community Development Block Grant program. Plans are already in place to use the funding to replace a bridge and repair an inadequate sewer system that sometimes causes flooding.

McMillan, the city's community development director, said both projects are in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. At least 70 percent of the grant money, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, must be used to help such residents.

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"This is great news for the city of Martinsburg and the general area," Capito, R-W.Va., said.

Capito said the grant consists of taxpayer money that is being reinvested to make the community better and help it grow economically.

She lauded the hard work and long hours put in by city officials on the grant program and also complimented Martinsburg. "I'm not going to extol the virtues of living in Martinsburg because you know them better than I do," Capito said.

For Steven Nesmith, assistant secretary for HUD, the check presentation marked his first trip to West Virginia.

"This is a great city," he said. Usually during his morning stop for coffee he said he receives a monotone "good morning." Here, though, he said a man looked him in the eye, greeted him and truly seemed to care about his response.

Martinsburg should become one of the many cities across the nation that has benefited from the grant program, Nesmith said.

"They've worked wonders," he said. One of the best aspects of the grant program is that local officials, not those in Washington, decide how to use the money, he added.

Martinsburg already has a five-year plan in place, in addition to a one-year plan that incorporates the sewer and bridge projects.

For the sewer project, $33,000 will be spent on engineering expenses and $81,400 will be used to replace 407 linear feet of 24-inch pipe along East John Street, from Tuscarora Creek to South Water Street.

Another $242,600, including some money from next year's expected allotment, will be used to replace 927 feet of 30-inch pipe along South Water Street, from South Spring Street to the recycling center on East Burke Street.

Residents' sewer bills will not be increased as a result of the project.

The second project, replacing the East John Street bridge over the Tuscarora Creek, will require $125,000 - which also includes some funding expected next year.

Another plan for this year is doing a housing needs assessment, McMillan said.

Up to 20 percent of the grant can be used for administrative costs, with the city spending all of the allotment - $99,000 this year - for such purposes.

McMillan's salary, planning costs, required advertising expenses, environmental assessments and ensuring certain requirements are met are included in the administrative costs.

Future uses for the money include spending $105,000 on youth, park and recreational facilities; $75,000 on the Tuscarora Creek Linear Park project, $500,000 for street and sidewalk repairs; $100,000 for code enforcement efforts; $50,000 for water line improvements; $20,000 to improve the senior center; $55,000 to offer people who need emergency repairs; $100,000 for a business assistance program and $100,000 for a commercial/industrial new development program.

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