Morgantown council proposes plan to prioritize federal relief money, approves next phase of airport work

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In the coming weeks, members of the Morgantown community will have opportunities to provide input to city leaders on how to spend federal government COVID relief funds.

The city has received $5.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act money and expects a second equal installment in the spring of 2022. Municipalities have until December 31, 2024 to obligate the funds and it must spent by December 31, 2026.

According to city manager Kim Haws, current government guidance says the money can be used to support public health expenditures, address the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus, replace lost public sector revenue, provide premium pay for essential workers and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Haws laid out a tentative plan for an online survey and public meetings to develop a plan to allocate the money.

“August 1 through August 21 there will be an online survey seeking preliminary project ideas from the public,” Haws told council members,” August 18 we’re considering having a public meeting that will seek some additional preliminary input.”

A second public meeting could be held September 1 to release a draft of preliminary projects and council members could approve a spending plan as early as September 21.

“It’s crucial to get the input of the community and we feel that strongly and I think that’s the intent of the funds also,” Haws said,” This ensures the city aligns the use of the funds with the priority of our residents.”

Haws believes the community input and partnerships with the Monongalia County commission or MUB could provide opportunities to leverage dollars and increase value of projects.

“I think it’s going to be a creative process, I’m excited about it and I think it’s going to work well,” Haws said,” I think we can do a pretty good job in that two month period.”

A bid from Select Excavating for Phase 2 of the Morgantown Municipal Airport runway extension project was approved contingent upon the city receiving FAA grant money. Michael Baker International reviewed the bid documents and recommended the Select Excavating bid of $2,374,080.

“The federal funds we’ll be receiving will be 100-percent, so we will not have a local match,” Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel said,” The federal government is going to cover the local match this year as they did last year under COVID.”

The FAA grant money is expected to arrive in September or October. Phase 1 construction, which is currently underway, is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Council members approved the purchase of new seating for the Metropolitan Theatre, additional seats for the Ruby Amphitheater and a new security video surveillance system for the Morgantown Municipal Airport using the Master Intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreement with Omnia Partners. Omnia Partners is a national contracting agency that provides nationally leveraged, competitive purchasing contracts.

Council members also approved the purchase of seating for both venues for a cost of $273,203, both items were fully funded in the Capital Budget for 2021-22.

The video surveillance system for the airport will cost $46,547.70, a savings of $25,647.22 through Omnia Partners. The system is cloud based and will increase the number of cameras from 24 to 26. The system also has the ability to allow first responders to receive real time information during an emergency.

“If I were to have an incident at the airport I could take a snapshot of that incident, create a link using my smartphone and send it to the responding officer and they could see exactly what’s happening,” Vrabel said,” Or to the fire department if it was a fire-related issue.”