House committee focused on coalfields begins efforts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Legislature have formed a new select committee focused on presenting measures aimed at helping West Virginia’s coalfields.

The House of Delegates Select Committee on Coalfield Communities met for the first time on Monday. The formation stems from last June’s announcement from House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, regarding an informal workgroup focused on developing proposals for improving communities.

Delegate Mark Dean, R-Mingo (File photo)

Delegate Mark Dean, R-Mingo — the committee’s chairman — said on Wednesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” that lawmakers have held multiple public hearings to gauge constituents’ concerns about the region.

“There were six different areas, and we heard the same thing in most of these [meetings],” he said. “Address basic infrastructure, diversify the economies, expand recreation and tourism, support efforts to access the outside resources, expand educational opportunities, and help our vulnerable populations.”

Dean said legislators also heard multiple suggestions regarding legislation addressing each goal.

“One of the biggest things we are going to tackle is being able to access the federal funds,” he said. “Local entities have to put up a 10% match, and some of our smaller municipalities and counties don’t have the money for that.”

The committee is considering establishing a program for municipal governments to secure money for projects. Dean noted funding would be available through grants and remaining coronavirus relief dollars.

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