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W.Va. Communities Anxious to Ramp Up ‘Tear Down’ Projects

State demolition funds to clean up abandoned and decaying properties in Cairo ran out, even as the need remains high.
Kirk Siegler
/
NPR
Dilapidated structures are a state-wide blight.

Mercer County is one of 21 municipalities getting a total of more than $9 million in grant funding for unsound structure demolition.

Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) held an event last Friday in the Mercer county town of Matoaka to announce the 21 West Virginia communities receiving more than $9.2 million in grant funding to remove abandoned and dilapidated structures across the state.

Mercer County Commision president Gene Buckner said the $1.5 million they're receiving compliments the nearly $2 million total going to Mercer cities Bluefield and Princeton.

“We collaborated together and I think the WVDEP, the parent group that takes care of distributing the money for this project saw what we were doing,” Buckner said. “They liked what they saw and put forth an effort to get us involved.”

Buckner said there are 800 to 1,000 properties that need to be razed. He said the three entities, already with a project system in place and dozens being torn down, are working together to set priorities. He said the growing southern West Virginia tourism industry tops the to-do list.

“What we looked at is what is being seen when tourists come to the county. We try to get to the main corridors first,” Buckner said. “Our progress shows that we have the ability to make this project work for the whole state.”

Buckner said dilapidated structures are a state-wide blight.

“It's not only important to Mercer County, it's important to the state. Getting these buildings torn down and then moving along with the lot that they're sitting on and replacing that with grass,” Buckner said. “Sometimes it just makes a big difference when people come from out of state to look at the properties that we have available in our county.”

Buckner said the more all involved work to tear down the old and rebuild the new, the more prosperity the state will see.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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