CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state senator who represents communities still recovering from devastating floods two years ago is calling for a more open approach to long-term recovery.
Sen. Glenn Jeffries, a Democrat whose district includes northern Kanawha and Putnam counties, is calling for monthly public hearings about West Virginia’s long-term recovery effort.
Jeffries wrote a letter to Gov. Jim Justice emphasizing steps to rebuild trust.
“I believe that our problem is that West Virginians have lost confidence in state government to effectively manage the RISE WV program,” Jeffries wrote.
Jeffries is among 10 members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding, which is tasked with examining to 2016 floods and making recommendations to cope better with future flood events.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead have asked the committee to look into issues with long-term recovery.
Jeffries suggested that long-term flood relief efforts should work hand-in-hand with the legislative flood committee.
“In order to rebuild trust, I believe that officially updating the public by reports to the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding would be helpful and appropriate,” Jeffries wrote.
Complaints have become increasingly public during the past couple of weeks about the pace at which RISE has administered millions of dollars in long-term flood relief from the federal government.
Within that broader issue, have been questions about why the Governor’s Office halted a contract with a consultant tasked with managing the federal dollars.
West Virginia RISE in the Department of Commerce in the Justice administration is the state agency designated to manage Community Development Block Grants for disaster relief authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Many generous individuals, businesses and organizations have worked tirelessly for nearly two years to help flood victims recover,” Jeffries wrote. “We have to rebuild trust with them also. Trust thrives only in transparency.”
Justice concluded a Monday news conference about long-term flood relief by asking the public for a month to demonstrate a turnaround.
Jeffries suggests in his letter that a first public hearing before the joint legislative committee occur July 9. “I strongly believe the public hearings should conclude monthly for the foreseeable future,” Jeffries wrote.
Governor Justice began his Monday news conference by saying he takes personal offense from anyone who doubts his commitment to flood recovery. Justice, before he was governor, took an active role in immediate flood relief in Greenbrier County.
“I’ve done my job,” Justice said at the news conference. “I’ve saved you money, I’ve rekindled the situation. I have absolutely now uncovered things we’re going to fix. I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. And I’ll promise you this: No living human could have done more or cared more about the flood victims than me. And you’re treading on really tough turf with me when you tread negatively about me and flood victims.”
Jeffries began his letter by acknowledging Justice’s personal efforts.
“Know that I do not question your actions and believe that everyone understands your dedication to the flood victims,” Jeffries wrote. “Please accept my sincere thanks for your personal generosity and tireless work.”