By CRAIG HOWELL
WEIRTON — Several local infrastructure improvement projects will benefit from the Congressional spending bill adopted in recent days.
The $1.5 trillion package, which includes $13.6 billion in relief to Ukraine, was approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday, with the Senate passing it Thursday night.
According to information released by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., utility and transportation projects will receive funding in Hancock and Brooke counties, many aimed at expanding services and economic development.
“Many of the West Virginia priorities that I fought for, including water and wastewater upgrades, healthcare and education investments, transportation projects and economic development opportunities are included in this omnibus legislation,” said Manchin. “This legislation also includes $13.6 billion in direct aid for the Ukrainian people as they fight against Putin’s unprovoked invasion. I look forward to seeing President Biden sign this legislation into law and will continue working to get our fiscal house in order while supporting West Virginian and American priorities.”
The largest of the Congressionally Directed Spending packages will be $22,470,000, awarded through the Region 11 Planning and Development Council for use by the City of Weirton in its planned water treatment plant expansion project.
Weirton Utilities Director Butch Mastrantoni has explained the allocation had been the main funding plan for the project, which has an estimated cost of $26,850,000.
“That is our Plan A,” Mastrantoni said during a work session with Weirton Council Feb. 22.
Council approved the first reading of a water rate increase for the project Monday, with a public hearing and second reading set for April 11. If finalized, the rate increase would go into effect Aug. 31.
Mastrantoni explained Thursday the rate increases were proposed at levels to provide funding in the event the federal funds would not come through, and loans would have to be used.
According to Capito, the City of Follansbee will receive $10,269,000 for its wastewater system improvement project.
Follansbee officials have noted the project will include upgrades to the wastewater treatment system and pump stations near the city’s fire station and south end and the separation of combined sewer and stormwater lines. The first phase is expected to begin in August or September.
“I am thrilled to see this money heading directly to West Virginia,” Capito said. “I respect this new process, and worked with the Appropriations Committee to ensure transparency and accountability in my requests on behalf of West Virginians. This funding is heading to schools, universities, hospitals, and towns to improve broadband, spur economic development, expand infrastructure–especially water and wastewater infrastructure–and keep our communities safe. Although the appropriations process has taken longer than usual this year, we finally crossed the finish line with today’s passage. Now that the omnibus package has passed, I look forward to the president signing this into law and seeing firsthand the benefits these funds will have in West Virginians’ day-to-day lives.”
The Village of Beech Bottom has been awarded $1,957,000 for use in a water infrastructure expansion project in the Beech Bottom Industrial Park, providing businesses there with residential water service.
The industrial park was developed by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle at the former Wheeling Corrugating plant and currently is home to several operations, including Jupiter Aluminum and Southwestern Energy.
Brooke County Commissioner A.J. Thomas previously noted the importance of such investments when it comes to attracting new businesses and residents to the area.
“When you talk about development, you’ve got to have the infrastructure to back it up,” Thomas said.
The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission will receive $3 million, according to Manchin, to assist with the construction of an industrial access road through the Frontier Crossings development in Weirton. Capito announced $1 million to be awarded to the City of Weirton for the project.
In addition, the Port of West Virginia, through the Brooke County Commission, will receive $4 million to put toward an improvement project for a railroad bridge in the north end of Follansbee.
Officials with Empire Diversified, which owns and operates the Port of West Virginia, have noted the bridge is vital to opening up the property to Ohio and other areas of the country.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)