A grassroots effort by residents in the Wees Historic District and the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission has raised $192,000 in grant and private funds for the city of Elkins to use toward streetscape improvements in the Wees Historic District.
Selected for a $160,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the project attracted an additional $40,000 in matching funds from businesses, residents, the Randolph County Commission and a community participation grant committed by Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, in addition to the city of Elkins. It is the result of a more than three-year effort to fund a pilot project for streetscape enhancements in the city, and one of 27 West Virginia projects awarded a total of $4,802,314 in 2011 TE grant funds by the governor.
The West Virginia Transportation Enhancement grant program is a federal aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, which provides annual funding through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation, to West Virginia communities for non-traditional transportation projects such as improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists through the construction of sidewalks and trails, preserving viewsheds for our highways, preserving historic resources and stimulating tourism development.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Members of the Elkins Historic Landmark Commission and residents of the Wees Historic District present a check for $192,000 to the city of Elkins Thursday at Elkins City Hall. The funds will be used toward streetscape improvements in the Wees Historic District. Pictured front row are Karen McGraw, Wees Historic District resident; Mike Taylor, Randolph County Commission president; Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Elkins councilwoman; Duke Talbott, Elkins mayor; Ellen Spears, Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission president; Bob Jacobus, Community Development Specialist, Region VII; Grace Sundelin, Wees Historic District resident; back, Karen McGraw, Wees Historic District resident; Logan Smith, Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission treasurer; Carol Schuler, Wees Historic District resident; and Phyllis Baxter, Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission secretary.
In remarks during the grant awards ceremony last fall, Tomblin praised the Elkins Wees District project for its proposed use of energy saving LED street lights. The award was received at the State Capitol by Elkins City Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission Vice President Dr. David Turner and resident Carol Schuler. Since then, Mayor Duke Talbott, City Operations Manager Bob Pingley and residents have met with State DOH officials to begin project implementation.
The project is a direct result of the Wees Neighborhood Plan, which was drafted by residents and approved by Elkins City Council in 2008. A stated goal was the replacement of current cobra head lighting with pedestrian scaled, period-style lighting.
In 2009, volunteers began working with Region VII to apply for TE funding. As part of that process, they were able to enlist professional engineering services to select a pilot project site and assess costs for use in the application.
The final application identified High Street as the recommended pilot site due to its high visibility within the community: its use as a gateway to the historic district and location of the historically important Randolph County Courthouse and former jail; its mix of residential, business and public properties; and its potential for securing matching funds. The total estimated project cost was $200,000, which left a required 20 percent match of $40,000 volunteers needed to raise.
Matching funds were committed by several sources of support, including Senator Clark Barnes, the city of Elkins, the Randolph County Commission, J.F. Allen Company, Busch, Zurbuch, Thompson, PLLC, June Myles, and residents Dick and Karen McGraw, B.J. and Mac McKenzie, Roy and Margaret Stalnaker, Grace Sundelin, and Tom and Carol Schuler.
Many other individuals have volunteered their time toward the project, including Jennifer Giovannitti, Danny Satterfield, SueEllen Gross and Kate Somers, as well as the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission. EHLC members include Ellen Spears, president; Dr. David Turner, vice president; Phyllis Baxter, secretary; Logan Smith, treasurer; and Joanna McKay.
In commenting on the grant to Elkins, 4th Ward City Council Member Nanci Bross-Fregonara said,"This project shows the value that preserving and enhancing historic areas can add to our city. They not only recognize our heritage, they also can attract significant investments and qualify for infrastructure funding we could not otherwise bring into Elkins. It's a wonderful affirmation of how people in Elkins can and will work together to enrich our quality of life. This is very encouraging for what neighborhoods can do."
The project will take up to two years to complete and will include period-style LED lighting, ADA accessible curbing and sidewalks, the removal of current cobra style lights, trenching, utility expenses and street repairs.
Volunteers say this is the first phase of what they hope will be a continued effort to enhance streetscapes throughout the Wees Neighborhood Historic District.