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Lincoln County Commission President Josh Stowers discusses making plans for the upcoming COVID-19 relief funds during the April 1 meeting.

HAMLIN — During its first in-person meeting in over a year, the Lincoln County Commission began discussing possible projects for its share of funds from the recently passed federal stimulus package.

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in early March, in which West Virginia will get around $1.25 billion and municipal governments will receive $677 million through the measure.

Commission President Josh Stowers said at this point they are just awaiting the funds, and that the first half is supposed to come within the next 60 days with the remained expected within the next year.

“We still don’t have any concrete guidance about the expenditures, or the allowable expenditures for the COVID relief funds,” Stowers said. “We were directed to set up a separate, for accounting purposes, directed to set up a separate checking account, which has been done.”

Stowers said he has heard reporter that the funds can be used for infrastructure developments in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It looks to be somewhat restrictive in the sense that it has to be something that is related to the epidemic,” Stowers said. “But it also can be targeted towards infrastructure, water, sewer, broadband. Again, this is all hearsay. There was a town hall in Logan last week where someone from Senator Manchin’s office was there, I think someone from the Auditor’s Office was there, and it was reported that they said those things.”

Stowers said he feels it is important to be proactive in considering the best way to utilize these funds.

“I just think it’s important, because I’m sure you guys are getting calls and inundated with requests and people wanting money for this and that,” Stowers said. “I do think we can start at least a framework of what we can spend it on to start thinking about those things before we get instruction. But I think the framework is going to be around water, sewer, broadband and again anything COVID-19 related that may be forthcoming.”

Stowers also presented an email to the other commissioners that he received from Congresswoman Carol Miller’s office, where a staff member mentioned that earmarks will be making a return to federal legislation for the first time in a decade. Miller’s office requested a list of 10 community project funding requests from the Commission for consideration in the future. Part of the process to get these approved, according to the email received by Stowers, is community support and matching funds for some things.

Commissioner Maria “Phoebe” Harless discussed how expanding sewer in the county could help to entice more businesses to come to the area.

“I cannot tell you how many calls I have gotten from people from Alum Creek wanting sewer,” Harless said. “Businesses will not come on out because there’s no sewer.”

Stowers mentioned a recent news report that stated plans from the city of South Charleston to expand their sewer to the Lincoln County line.

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens recently announced plans to annex the city to the Lincoln County line, with the expectation to build a new fire station, police annex and community center off Sand Plant Road according to a March 25 story from WCHS.

“The city is going to bring sewer at least to that facility,” Stowers said. “So the project that was in the works years ago to bring it down the corridor with the help of South Charleston and Kanawha County…these are all things that we could potentially use these stimulus monies for.”

The Commission will discuss more detailed plans once the official guidance is in place for the funds.

During the meeting, the Commission also approved the following:

  • Bills as submitted for payment
  • Appointments, wills and settlements as submitted by County Clerk Direl Baker
  • Exoneration orders as submitted by Assessor Jereme Browning
  • Overtime request for 160 hours to complete scanning and indexing for the grant project, which will be reimbursed from the grant
  • State budget revision
  • Hiring Matthew Quintell as the COVID-19 screener effective April 1

The next meeting of the Lincoln County Commission will take place at 6 p.m. April 15.

Reporter Nancy Peyton can be reached at npeyton@hdmediallc.com or 304-824-5101.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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