ROMNEY — At the evening meeting held May 25, the County Commission received requests to give American Rescue Plan funds to local fire companies, to compensate them for last year’s fund-raising shortfalls; to the Central Hampshire Public Service District to develop a new water source in Augusta; and to the county broadband project to continue to expand coverage.

Requestors all referred to stated purposes of the ARP, with firefighters trying to make up for financial losses due to Covid-19, and the other requests emphasizing building infrastructure.

The commission could do no more than “add to the list” the requests received, said Commission President Brian Eglinger. The county has not yet received the promised funds, and no one is entirely sure what restrictions will be placed on them.

The request on behalf of the county’s volunteer fire companies was presented by Springfield Valley fireman Brian “Tad” Malcolm, who serves as the county emergency management director.

Malcolm reported 2 of the 8 fire companies had seen revenue drops of over $60,000 each last year, due to Covid-19 restrictions that shut down gun bashes and other profitable fundraising activities, and all but one of the others had lost substantial amounts.

Malcolm gave the commissioners a list of the losses each company incurred, measured by comparing this year’s receipts to what was raised in previous years. The losses added up to over $200,000, Commissioner Dave Cannon noted.

The request for help developing a secondary water source came from the Central Hampshire Public Service District, which asked for ARP funds to aid in the development of a secondary water source in the North River area.

The commissioners were told CHPSD considers this high priority given the dependence of the Romney water system on river water and the vulnerability of rivers, including to the South Branch, to contamination.

The commissioners were reminded of the 2014 Elk River Spill that left 300,000 people in the Charleston area without safe drinking water. It was also noted that studies already done by the county have found the $3 million to $4 million cost of drilling a well on county-owned property in Augusta the cheapest option.

The other 2 alternatives considered were a $7 million project piping water from sources serving the Capon Bridge Technology Park, or a $10 million water plant constructed on the North River.

County GIS and technology director Aaron Cox also made a request for ARP funds, hoping to use them to extend the county broadband project.

In other business, the commission approved a conservation easement for Bonnie View Farm, at the request of Farmland Protection Board Director Alison Jewell. The easement will protect 817 acres of land along U.S. 50 west of Romney from development.

Eglinger, who served as Farmland Protection Board director before being elected to the County Commission, praised the decision as helping preserve the rural character of the county.

The commissioners voted to renew 1-year contracts with Capon Bridge to provide the town with a floodplain administrator, and with the Winchester-based Middle Department Inspection Agency for inspections related to building permits.

After a brief executive session to discuss terms of the contract, the commission hired Matthew Hott to oversee construction of the new county ambulance station planned for Sunrise Summit and the completion of work at the county judicial center.

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