By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the Pendleton County Economic and Community Development Authority held wide ranging discussions at their quarterly meeting.
Jenny Totten, from Future Generations University, presented an update on plans to bring AmeriCorps workers to the region. She explained that AmeriCorps workers could at the same time assist community and economic development efforts while also earning a masters at Future Generations.
Workers would help to staff the economic and community development authority and the Seneca Rocks Development Center. Totten said, “the whole goal is to develop capacity at community organizations.”
She added that “We’re trying to branch out a little” from their current focus on maple production and that the workers can “help us make deeper connections in the community.”
Typically, AmeriCorps workers are recent graduates from a four-year college looking to build their resumes with real world experience related to their fields. The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area project in Elkins relied on AmeriCorps support for their efforts, for example.
Workers who commit for two years can also earn a masters in community economic development from Future Generations University.
Laura Brown, director of the PCEDCA, responded to the presentation, asking that “I’d like the EDA to support Future Generations in these programs.”
Results from a fire inspection performed last week at the Pendleton Business Center is expected to help guide efforts to repair and maintain the structure going forward. The study will add to information already collected about what it will take to fix the structure, as well as help to determine future uses.
Grant funding provides the most helpful route to funding repairs, but Brown noted “we need data to apply for any grants here.” She also said that “we can actually remedy some of the situation ourselves if it’s not too bad.”
Carl Hevener, board member and county commissioner, described the damage caused by roof leaks and poorly designed drainage. He explained that “only a third of the amount of water can flow out of the pipe.” The remainder causes structural damage and other problems.
The board passed a motion to solicit bids for repairing the roof at the PBC.
Brown also described initial efforts by both Pendleton and Grant counties to attract remote workers to live in the region, bolstered by a $12,000 state grant to those willing to relocate to West Virginia.
She explained that state economic development officials urged local communities to work on “quality of life” aspects that make the area attractive. Brown added, “you don’t have to sell people on remote work.”
The program would use Ascend West Virginia as a model for development. That state program emphasizes both the grant and also the allure of cost-free outdoor recreation.
While broadband access remains a significant barrier, Brown said “25 percent of the county will be wired based on grants received last year. Thank the county commission for that.”
Board members also discussed the fate of an unusable forklift after not receiving any bids for its sale, leading one member to ask “how do you get rid of a forklift?” A dead battery’s replacement cost outstripping the worth of the vehicle convinced the board of the need to get rid of it.
Hevener also referenced its advanced age, saying “That thing was on Noah’s Ark, wasn’t it?”
Efforts by the board to obtain bids for snow removal also produced no results.
Brown ended the meeting with good news about the county’s chances of receiving a federal wastewater grant, saying she was “super excited” about the prospects.