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Jefferson Co. appoints task force to corral grants

October 29, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

There's money tucked away in federal and state bureaucracy, including federal stimulus money, and the Jefferson County commissioners want to get some of it.

On Thursday morning, they appointed several county employees to serve on a special grant-writing task force that will try to bring some of that government money to Jefferson County.

The commissioners have their eyes on about $500,000 in grants they hope to corral. Included is as much as $20,000 to pump nitrogen into the tires of all public vehicles that run on county roads. The nitrogen is supposed to increase gas mileage and tire wear.

The makeup of the task force could change as special expertise is needed, Commissioners President Dale Manuel said. For the moment, it includes Kirk E. Davis Sr., capital projects manager; Laura Kuhn, administrative assistant in the county commissioners office; Sandra Slusher McDonald, acting county administrator; and Bill Polk, director of maintenance for the county.

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One example is an $80,000 grant to pay toward the $308,000 cost of repairing the heating and air conditioning systems in the county courthouse.

The county also spent about $140,000 renovating the main upstairs courtroom, the judges' chambers and offices of court clerk, secretary and court reporter. That work included repainting the courtroom and offices, tightening security, new lighting and sound systems, and curtains for the large courtroom windows.

According to Davis, the county is seeking a $120,000 grant to purchase land at Faraway Farms, the site of a proposed development on Trough Road. It is the subject of an effort by neighbors to stop the development and convert the land into a Civil War battlefield. The county commissioners earlier set aside $100,000 toward the purchase of the land if it becomes available, Davis said.

The developer, following a West Virginia Supreme Court decision, was given approval to move ahead with his project once county permits are in order, Davis said.

Manuel said the county is looking to secure money from four different grant programs.

"Our goal is to keep looking," Davis said.

One of the four is an energy grant for $207,000. If successful, the county will partner with the City of Charles Town to pay for an energy assessment of the city's public buildings at a cost of $30,000, Davis said.

Some of the grant would pay for a similar assessment of county-owned buildings, he said.

In addition, up to $20,000 would go to Polk's department for the nitrogen/tire project.

If there's enough grant money, Polk wants to buy two generators. They are needed to pump the gas into the tires and cost upwards of $10,000 each, Polk said.

"Bigger cities are already doing this," he said of the technology. Multiple studies have shown that savings of 3 percent to 6 percent in vehicle fuel and 25 percent in improved tire wear can be realized, Polk said.

Nitrogen is made from oxygen and costs nothing, he said. It gets into tires through a simple process of deflating and inflating a tire a required a number of times.

Polk visualizes pumping nitrogen into the tires of all 80 county-owned vehicles, including its fleet of police cruisers. The program could be expanded to vehicles of the county's seven fire departments, the public vehicles owned by the county's five municipalities and the school board's bus fleet if it isn't already being done, Polk said.

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