BHJ looking at cuts in funding

WEIRTON – The Upper Ohio Valley is feeling the pinch from the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1 because of Congress’ inability to reach a deal on a budget.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Brooke-Hancock Planning Director John Brown asked Mary Jo Guidi, regional coordinator for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to relay their pleas for Congress to halt the sequestration, which already is wreaking havoc on some federal programs.

Brown said they get about $50,000 a year from the Appalachian Regional Commission and a similar amount from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“Sequestration is holding up a lot of this,” he said.

Sequestration forced about $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts, though Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on government debt are exempt from the mandatory cuts.

In other matters, a needs assessment is under way to determine what percentage of the Brooke and Hancock county population is unserved or underserved by broadband. Thrasher Engineering, working with Citynet, will do the grant-funded study to do the assessment and help the planning council develop a broadband strategic plan.

Marvin Six, assistant director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, said the equipment auction at the former corrugating plant in Beech Bottom took 12 hours and “went really well.”

The BDC teamed with Los Angeles-based Hackman Capital to purchase the plant from bankrupt RG Steel.

Hackman retained the rights to the equipment and is working with the BDC to market the property.

BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said Pietro Fiorentini, the Italian company that’s planning to build a $9 million plant in the Three Springs Drive business park, already is interviewing welders to work at their temporary operations center, which will be at the Beech Bottom property.

He also said Sheehan, the pipeline contractor, will have its operations base operational in April. A minimum of 100 people are going in and out of the site now, Ford said, and that number will ramp up as they approach full operations.

Officials with Sheehan have said as many as 600 people will be working from the Beech Bottom location, at least half of them local hires.

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