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Capito visits Panhandle during alternative energy tour

August 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito on Friday helped celebrate completion of streetscape improvements in the Town of Bath that she helped bring to fruition with $200,000 in federal money.

"...I am proud to have earmarked the money in the bill that comes right directly to the Town of Bath and makes the improvement that you actually want to see, rather than leaving the decisions in Washington or in Philadelphia or wherever the regional offices are that make these decisions," the Republican congresswoman told a crowd gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the corner of Fairfax and Wilkes streets.

Capito's stop came during a district-wide alternative energy tour.

"I think (the money is) well-placed and it's only just a part, it's community involvement on the volunteer level and ... it's the state dollars and now we got (Gov. Joe Manchin) ponying up again, so we're really pleased about that and I think that's the way it's supposed to work," Capito said.

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The work included about 920 feet of paving in three blocks of Wilkes Street between Fairfax Street and W.Va. 9 East, and drainage, sidewalk and curb improvements, officials said.

Manchin last week announced the town's streetscape project was awarded $300,000 from the 2009 Transportation Enhancement grant program, a federally funded program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.

The latest award is for improvements along Mercer Street, which is parallel to Wilkes Street on the opposite side of U.S. 522, streetscape committee co-chair Larry Lower said.

He said some work still remains along Wilkes Street, which was part of the original route for U.S. 522 through town.

A wall still needs to be completed to further protect properties along Wilkes Street from stormwater flooding. The road's surface grew higher than the buildings alongside it after layers of pavement were covered over instead of being replaced, Lower said.

"People's basements were flooding," West Virginia Division of Highways engineer Jim Golden said.

The original street was paved with red brick and is about 3 feet below the current road surface, he said.

Golden said during construction he retrieved a small piece of the brick street .

Town of Bath Mayor Susan Webster said Friday the deteriorated condition of Wilkes Street has been a concern since she joined Town Council in 1993. At that time, the road was the town's responsibility to maintain, she said.

The state in 2000 agreed to take over maintenance of the road after Webster said she aggressively lobbied the Department of Transportation to "take it back" because the town had no money to fix it.

The total amount of improvements to the Wilkes Street area was about $400,000, according to Webster, who mentioned water and sewer line projects that were completed before the streetscape work was done.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Capito visited a home outside of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., that was built by Mountain View Solar & Wind. She also stopped by the Quad/Graphics plant near Martinsburg to learn about energy efficiency and conservation measures.

"I feel like I've put a lot of emphasis on a common sense energy plan and I've put a lot of emphasis on using coal as a part of that, but I wanted to see for myself the other things that are out there, too," Capito said.

"But you know what's great on an energy tour ... it gets everybody out, and then everybody tells you what they think about health care," Capito said smiling. "And this is a good way to kind of wrap that in. A lot of people are small-business owners. How do they provide (health care benefits)? What do they think? And so it's ended up to be a combo tour, but that's good."

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