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Lawmakers focus on federal dollars to demolish property damaged by flooding

West Virginia officials are looking closely at whether the state can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for demolishing properties damaged by flooding.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding discussed the issue during an interim meeting on Sunday afternoon. A subcommittee has been exploring the possibility.

Lawmakers recommended that the Department of Environmental Protection oversee the program.

Stephen Baldwin

“It seems to me that DEP is the right fit,” said Senator Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier. “They have demolition programs ongoing right now and could administer this program alongside theirs doing very similar work.”

Baldwin said the next step would be to assess what amount would help cover homes and structures that were flooded since 2016 that the state hasn’t had funding to pursue demolition.

Scott Mandirola

Scott Mandirola, a deputy secretary at DEP, said the agency has already begun some work on demolition projects using money previously allocated by the Legislature.

Some of those communities include places like Clendenin, Bluefield and Princeton, Logan, Montgomery, Nitro, Oak Hill, Parkersburg, Parsons, Princeton, Salem, Smithers, St. Albans, Thomas, Wellsburg and Weston.

Mandirola said more communities may benefit during future rounds.

“These communities were chosen for a number of reasons, one being that they are shovel ready,” Mandirola said. “They are communities that have the infrastructure in place in order to get this money out the door within 12 to 18 months.”

Mandirola said the work that has been done already could help lay the groundwork for use of federal dollars to demolish flooded structures.

He said a questionnaire to communities around the state will help identify projects. “From that we can figure out roughly how much it should cost per structure, whether it be commercial or residential,” Mandirola said.

Chandler Swope

Senator Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, said communities that need help with such projects are being encouraged to build on money already available from the state to extend their reach through available federal dollars.

“We hope within the next six months to have a very significant amount of work completed that we can take pictures and show people the viability of the project and hopefully continue to get funding,” Swope said.

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