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Legislators Propose Demolition Program For Flooded Properties
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A subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding is proposing that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) develop a program that demolishes properties affected by recent flooding and properties that weren’t eligible for the RISE program.
“Some of which weren’t eligible, because they may have been flooded prior to the 2016 flood, and some of which they just didn’t get to because they ran out of money,” DEP Deputy Secretary for External Affairs, Scott Mandirola, said.
At a July interim meeting state Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, said this would allow smaller communities to allocate American Rescue Plan funds to the DEP to use their existing administrative resources for flood demolition.
“They have demolition programs ongoing right now, and could administer this program alongside theirs, doing very similar work,” he said.
In 2022, Senate Bill 722 gave the DEP $10 million for the Reclamation of Abandoned and Dilapidated Property Program. This program works with county commissions, municipal governments, and land banks to assist in demolition of abandoned properties.
In August, the DEP plans to launch their current program to assist the county governments of Logan County, McDowell County, and Mercer County; alongside the local governments of Nitro, Oak Hill, Mannington, Parkersburg, Parsons, Princeton, Salem, Smithers, St. Albans, Thomas, Wellsburg, and Weston.
McDowell County suffered flooding in early July, with roads and bridges getting washed away. In response, Gov. Jim Justice announced a state of emergency for the county.
“We have not seen a tremendous response from the state at all, and we have a tremendous amount of flooding that took place,” Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell, said during the interim session, indicating that he was frustrated by the state’s response and called for legislative action.
The DEP and the subcommittee are researching local demolition programs and flooded properties for a cost estimation to give to the state legislature.
During the 2023 West Virginia Legislative session, lawmakers considered two bills to lower the state’s smoking rates. Both bills were sent to Health and Human Resources Committees and neither moved any further.