U.S. bailout spending challenges and successes shared by city leaders

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – At West Virginia Municipal League meetings, officials were able to share the challenges and successes of US bailout spending.

The U.S. bailout was signed into law in March 2021 and sent $4 billion to West Virginia over the next two years. Of this amount, cities and counties shared more than $2 billion.

Chris Tatum

West Virginia Municipal League President and Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said the disbursement of the first tranche of relief funds demonstrates the law serves its intended purpose.

“Bailout funding has been extremely important in keeping cities together, but also in moving these projects forward that might not otherwise have been possible,” Tatum said.

Barboursville received approximately $1.4 million and used part of it to complete a major sewer project. The 12-acre lagoon system is redirected to the Pea Ridge utility. Once completed, the area will be reallocated to economic development.

Wheeling received a total of $28.5 million, roughly equivalent to a full annual budget. Mayor Glenn Elliott said the challenge was to prioritize requests from community organizations, needs from municipal services and infrastructure projects. Elliot explained that a third of the first tranche has been allocated.

“The bill clarifies that water and sewer infrastructure projects are eligible, and we have a lot of needs in that regard, like most cities in the state,” Elliott said. “So we’re looking at the situation broadly, we’ve probably allocated a third of our money so far, but we really have a lot left to discuss.”

Glenn Elliott, Mayor of Wheeling

Elliott said the timely influx of cash provided opportunities to make improvements and upgrades much faster outside of the normal budget process. City leaders evaluate applications and projects to maximize the value of every relief dollar.

“Our goal is to multiply that money so that we’re making investments that will come back for years to come, not just fixing things that will have a one-time impact,” Elliott said. “So that’s what we’re trying to focus on, but it’s harder to do than you might think.”

Parkersburg received approximately $22.4 million, and Mayor Tom Joyce was able to quickly launch a long-needed public service project and invest a substantial portion of the first installment.

Mayor Tom Joyce

“We had a water project that was designed and ready to go, so we invested the first tranche of $11 million, of which about $8 million went to water and sewer infrastructure.”

Joyce said the money provides opportunities to address quality of life issues that will benefit neighborhoods for many years to come. City leaders actively accept public comments on projects.

“We are currently working on public comments to do some exciting things in the next round,” Joyce said. “Hopefully we will soon announce a major rehabilitation of our great baseball field at Parkersburg City Park – Bennett Stump Field.”

The West Virginia Municipal League’s annual meeting ended Friday in Morgantown.

Melissa C. Keyes