By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the Region VI Planning and Economic Development Council held its full meeting at their office in White Hall. Once the meeting started, Orville Wright, chairman, gave the opening prayer, saying “Father . . . we hope that all we say and do will be pleasing to you.”
He then addressed the group, adding that “we certainly do appreciate each and every one of you being here.”
Nine different regional planning and economic development councils coordinate efforts involving local governments. Six counties compose Region VI, Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor Counties. It also represents 39 different municipalities within those counties.
Sheena Hunt, executive director, provided her report. She reported that Region VI staff attended the West Virginia Association of Regional Councils and the West Virginia Brownfields Conference. She also shared that the organization’s consultant, Downfield Strategies, was assisting them in developing the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS.
According to the United States Economic Development Administration, CEDS “contributes to effective economic development in America’s communities and regions through a place-based, regionally driven economic development planning process.” It adds that “The CEDS provides a vehicle for individuals, organizations, local governments, institutes of learning, and private industry to engage in a meaningful conversation and debate about what capacity building efforts would best serve economic development in the region.”
As the Downstream Strategies consultant, Matt Pennington, wrote, the “Region VI Planning and Development Council is required by the United States Economic Development Administration to complete an annual report for the 2022-2026 . . .CEDS.” He added that Downstream strategies completed a draft copy of data updates for the plan.
The council also discussed progress on the hazard mitigation plan. With the last plan coming in 2018, the council must provide an update. Although progress has run behind, that occurred because the state planning position was vacant for eight to nine months.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, hazard mitigation planning identifies natural hazards and works to find ways to mitigate their impact. Plans help to “work mitigation into other planning processes.” The process identifies the planning team and resources, assesses risks, develops a mitigation strategy, and adopts the plan.
Hunt explained that “it’s kind of like a wish list. Add anything that you want to include in a future plan.” She shared the importance of each local government entity participating from the very beginning of the process, saying “FEMA may leave you off if you are not in at the start.” She informed members about a survey to complete. Adding “take a look at these. Get these back to us.”
Rob Bolyard then shared information on the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Dilapidated Properties Program. He discussed working with John King, who directs the program at the state level.
The program operates under the umbrella of the Rehabilitation Environment Action Plan, which dates back to A. James Manchin. According to the WV DEP, the program “is working to subgrant a total of thirty million dollars to municipalities and counties across the state. Once the grant is awarded, DLAP funds can pay invoices for activities such as title work, asbestos testing, asbestos abatement, demolition, and solid waste disposal.”
Bolyard let those in attendance know that he could set officials up with the survey to complete.