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Commission agrees to provide flood relief for Hometown

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD -- Relief is in sight for flood-prone Hometown between Poca and Eleanor in Putnam County.

The Putnam County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a contractor bid to dredge the town's ditches. The commission's action gives the county manager permission to move the project forward into construction.

In July 2010, the county spent $12,000 to have the Army Corps of Engineers evaluate the town's habitual flooding. The corps came back with two options: clear Hometown's ditches at an estimated cost of $40,000 to $60,000 or channel the water away at an estimated cost of $500,000.

The county immediately focused on the cheaper option and began to search for an agency that could do the work or a funding source to pay for it.

With a combination of grant funding from the state and a $25,000 commitment from the county, commissioners voted in January to pay for engineering work on the project that would yield a more precise cost estimate and get the project ready for contractors to bid.

Today, more than two years after the Corps' report, the county opened two contractor bids. The low bid came from Raynes at $33,526 for the bulk of the work plus $15,152 for optional add-ons.

County Manager Brian Donat reported that the county has just under $39,000 available. The commissioners directed Donat to pay for as many of the add-ons as possible with the funds available.

In other business, commissioners voted two-to-one to move ahead with four water-line extension projects at a total estimated cost of $2.35 million.

The county would borrow the money through a low-interest rate loan through the West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs and Development Council, a state agency that acts as a clearinghouse for water and wastewater projects.

Commissioners set aside about $50,000 to go toward repayment of such a debt in this fiscal year's budget. Even so, there was disagreement about borrowing the money.

"Right now, I don't think it's fiscally responsible to go out and borrow $2 million," commissioner Steve Andes said.

Andes said the county is already in debt $13 million for various other projects, including the recently-approved new animal shelter, and should focus on paying down that debt instead of adding to it.

Commission President Gary Tillis countered saying that the time to borrow is when interest rates are low and that the county had specifically set aside funds to pay down new water project loans.

Commissioner Joe Haynes voted with Tillis to go ahead with the projects if at least 80 percent of the residents who would be served by the water line extensions agree to come on board as water customers.

Donat said that although West Virginia American water hasn't specifically committed to funding any water projects, he thinks if they present the utility with specific projects and cost estimates, they will kick in some funding.

The commissioners also voted to set Trick-or-Treat for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.

The Putnam County Commission meets at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the county courthouse in Winfield. The next meeting is Sept. 25. All meetings are open to the public.


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