By Stephen Smoot
Several months ago, Paula Waggy wrote a letter on behalf of the Pendleton County Library asking for help.
Last Friday, State Senator Bill Hamilton stopped by the Franklin main branch to hand over a check.
Waggy requested help last February in obtaining funds to offset the loss of Census money. Last fall Senator Hamilton responded, saying that he could steer local economic development funds to help with specific needs.
Library officials requested help in purchasing a new circulation desk for the main branch. As Rebecca McConnell, the director, explained, the library still uses the original desk purchased in 1987. Since that time, the technology has changed drastically, requiring new designs to accommodate equipment and wiring.
The library is “one of the most valuable resources we have in these counties and its free. Anyone can come in and use it,” Hamilton said to explain the value of them to the local community. McConnell also described the efforts of the library to remain available during COVID for its patrons, saying “we pulled books for anyone and everyone.” During the worst of the pandemic, the library would even leave paper bags of books outside for patrons to pick up.
Hamilton explained that Local Economic Development Assistance, or LEDA, funds operated similarly to the old Budget Digest. Each senator and delegate has a set amount that he or she can use to support specific projects and needs. He said “what we are allotted is not much and delegates get less.” Each chamber of the State Legislature has a set amount divided among all members. Since the Senate has 34 and the House of Delegates 100 members, the latter house will receive less per individual.
LEDA funds support one time capital expenditures that will enhance the area economy. Legislators, however, do not have final say over projects. They must get approval at the committee level, then by the House Speaker or Senate President, then receive final approval from the Governor. Governor Jim Justice additionally sent a personal letter to Waggy to thank her for her request and work in the community.
“I am glad that the president of the Senate came up with this idea,” Hamilton added. It operates similarly to the old Budget Digest, but on a much smaller scale and with less complexity. Earl Ray Tomblin credited former Governor Arch Moore with the original idea, but said while senate president in 2014 that “it’s become a very cumbersome process.”
Because each senator receives a limited amount, Hamilton has joined with fellow 11th District Senator Robert Karnes to support projects together. “Our money will go further if we go in half on projects,” he said. Hamilton also suggested that delegates could join with senators to stretch the money even more. He shared that the senators were trying to find money for the 42 fire departments in their district, acknowledging that “most of these are volunteer. Only a few are paid.”