One week after the partial government shutdown ended, questions remain unanswered about when work can resume on repairing public apartments in a Clendenin building severely damaged during flooding in June of 2016.
Last August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the West Virginia National Guard a $5.7 million grant to repair and revamp Riverview 25045, the former Clendenin Middle School building. The National Guard, in return, asked the Kanawha County Commission to serve as manager of the project and administrator of the HUD grant.
Five years prior to the flood, the building had been remodeled to contain 18 low-income apartments and the Clendenin Health Center, a branch of the Cabin Creek Clinic. After a period of vacancy following the flood, a portion of the building was reoccupied by the health center. Last summer, following major repairs by the county commission, the Clendenin Public Library relocated its operation in the building.
Plans to restore apartments and add a new HVAC system to the building were finalized last fall. In November, Marshall University, at the request of the commission, conducted an environmental survey to update information used for an environmental impact statement completed in 2011 to allow rehabilitation work to begin on the former school building.
In early December, HUD officials declined to accept the MU survey, ruling that an all-new environmental study was needed. That study was scheduled to be completed on Jan. 7, two weeks after the partial government shutdown began. Since the shutdown, no one at HUD has been available to work with the commission to move the project forward.
Steve Neddo, Kanawha County’s planning director, told commissioners during a meeting on Thursday that he contacted HUD shortly after the shutdown ended in an effort to determine whether the new study was accepted and if the already funded work on the building can begin.
“So far, there’s been no response,” Neddo said.
Once HUD gives the project a final green light, the apartments could be rebuilt and ready to occupy within 60 days, Neddo said.
While waiting for HUD to get back up to speed following the shutdown, the project remains stalled, adding to the housing replacement backlog that has continued more than two years after floodwaters receded, Commission President Kent Carper observed.
“When our leaders resort to a shutdown to try to get their way, it has real consequences for people,” Carper said, adding that he planned to contact the state’s Congressional delegation to seek their aid getting the answers needed from HUD.
In other flood-related developments, the county commissioners were informed that their participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain management program has lowered annual flood insurance premiums for Kanawha County residents by about $75,000.
Kanawha is one of only five counties in West Virginia certified as participants in FEMA’s Community Rating System, qualifying the 1,607 county residents owning federal flood insurance policies for a five percent discount in annual premiums.
Also, the outfield of the new baseball field at county-owned Shawnee Sports Complex will be surfaced with 94,700 square feet of artificial turf starting in March, thanks in large part to a $600,000 grant from the Shawnee Foundation. An additional $259,000 from the county’s park development bond issue will complete the turf work.