BUCKHANNON – The Region VII Planning and Development Council has been involved with $46 million worth of projects in Upshur County since the summer of 2021.
Shane Whitehair, executive director of the Region VII Planning and Development Council, attended the Oct. 13 Upshur County Commission meeting to keep the commissioners informed about the work his organization has been working on in the last year.
“I’m trying to go out and see everybody, to update them on our activities and the things that we’re doing in our office for your communities, as well to provide an update of what we’ve done over the last year,” Whitehair said. “We have seven full-time staff. We can’t do anything and everything, but we try to keep our hands involved in a lot of activities, especially from the community and economic development side and helping all the local governments and ancillary agencies within our seven counties.”
Region VII added a grant writer to their staff last year, who has been working on finding funding for local government entities.
“She’s been intimately involved with the City of Buckhannon and the event coming up in July,” Whitehair said, referencing the World Association of Marching Show Bands competition. “She’s done multiple applications for them, trying to access additional funds from federal programs and state programs. She also obviously helps with a lot of the projects that we deal with on a regular basis — water, sewer, broadband, things of that nature.”
In the past year, Region VII’s revenue increases to more than $800,000.
“Our revenues generally from the last 10 years are around half a million to $700,000, but this past year, we went over $800,000 — almost $850,000,” Whitehair said. “Project administration is the biggest revenue generator for our agency. What that means is, for all the projects that we help get funded, we manage those projects for a fee, and what that does is allows us to have the ability to hire more staff. Then we can help more on the front end of the projects, where we don’t necessarily get a lot of funding to cover all of our expenses.”
Region VII also receives about $35,000 a year from the State of West Virginia.
“I think there are opportunities there to increase that percentage; that number has been the same since around 2005,” Whitehair said. “If you look at the investments that our local governments make in our agency, and other federal agencies, that is extremely low, so we’re working on that try to increase that number.”
Whitehair also explained how local assessment dues work.
“Those are statutorily required,” Whitehair said. “My council is responsible for setting a rate that our member governments pay based on population. The most recent decennial population data is what it’s based on, and our council periodically reviews that. Right now it’s $1 per person, so right now Upshur County contributes $27,000 roughly to our agency.”
Whitehair said they are currently managing $33 million worth of projects in Upshur County.
“If you look at our involvement with projects in Upshur County alone, since July 1, 2021, we have been involved with developing over $46 million worth of projects, and we’re currently managing over $33 million worth of projects,” Whitehair said. “If you take those two numbers into consideration, for every dollar you invest in Region VII, you’re getting $2,900 back by receiving federal and state funds for any projects that come to fruition in this county.”