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Region VII Planning & Development Council executive director Shane Whitehair addresses commissioners at their Feb. 9 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Region VII asks Upshur County to step in and fund part of hazard mitigation plan the state has historically covered

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission has agreed to help cover a portion of the cost of a regional hazard mitigation plan.

Shane Whitehair, executive director of Region VII Planning and Development Council, attended the Feb. 9 Upshur County Commission meeting to request funds to renew their imminently expiring plan.

“We’re tasked with the responsibility of developing and writing a regional multi-hazard mitigation plan; it’s a thing we do every five years, and this is probably our third round. We’re getting direction from the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management to do this,” Whitehair said. “It is timely, and it is costly to develop this plan. It’s very complex, so we have a committee set up.”

The committee generates goals and looks at the risks and vulnerabilities of the region.

“We’re happy to look at all the disasters, and we’re all under the direction of FEMA to make sure all the regulations are followed and so forth, so fire departments for example, receive access to the hazard mitigation grant program for generators or things of that nature,” Whitehair said. “In order to be eligible for those programs as grants, you have to be part of a hazard mitigation plan.”

The plan expires every five years and Upshur County’s plan is close to its expiration date.

“It’s important that we stay on top of this to make sure it doesn’t expire and continues every five years to make sure our communities and organizations can access those programs,” Whitehair said. “What we have historically done is we actually submit applications to FEMA – and just to give you an idea, it’s a $115,000 plan – so we submit an application to FEMA requesting funds to pay for a consultant to help us out because it is so complex, and commonly, we don’t have the capacity to go and get all the resources available to do everything we have to do to make sure it’s in compliance.”

“FEMA will cover 75 percent and typically what has happened is the state of West Virginia covers a 25 percent nonfederal share match; we submitted the application in December of 2021, and we were approved in November of last year,” Whitehair said. “The state has taken a position to throw that nonfederal share back on the local communities, so the state’s not covering it, and that 25 percent of the $115,000 is roughly $28,000, so we must come up with that to match this planning grant.”

Whitehair’s goal is to get the project moving forward as fast as possible because the plan expires in July.

“My plan is to go back to the local communities – I’m not asking for a lot, but I am asking to be fair – and ask that every county commission and then a half a dozen or so local governments and local municipalities help with the match and our regional council is covering roughly $12,000,” Whitehair said. “I’m asking your county for $1,500 and I’m asking every county commission the same amount.”

Municipalities are being asked to contribute $1,000.

“We’re asking the municipalities for a little bit less because they are a little smaller, so right now I have four local governments that have approved it and I’m in the process of going to all the county commission meetings. You’re the first step by the way, so I’m here today asking for $1,500 to cover a portion of that match requirement.”

The commissioners unanimously agreed to fund the request.

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