ROMNEY — A grant application to fund the Purgitsville water project and a conservation easement to protect a large tract of farmland from development were approved by the Hampshire County Commission at their meeting Tuesday.

Angie Curl, a project specialist for the Region 8 Planning and Development Authority, presented the Community Development Block Grant application. She said the estimated cost to pipe water from Hardy County into the Purgitsville area will cost over $3.9 million.

Curl said the study of groundwater in Purgitsville found excessive amounts of lead and arsenic in one area, iron in another and methane in a 3rd, also mentioning the high incidence of cancer in the area. She thanked the Mill Creek Ruritan Club for helping with the survey of the area.

A solution for Purgitsville’s water problems has been in the works since Don Judy, pastor of Purgitsville’s White Pine Church of the Brethren, appeared before the county commission to ask for help in the fall of 2018. At the time Judy referred to 15-year-old plans to extend the Hardy County water system into the Purgitsville area, plans on which no action had been taken.

If the grant application is successful, Hampshire County will pay Hardy County for water pumped through the system to local residents.

Curl said that when completed, the project will serve 125 customers.

The commission is also expected to sign off on a Community Development Block Grant application for funds to demolish the old hospital building, after a final hearing to be held at 9 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 28).

Though icy weather prevented Farmland Protection Board Director Allison Jewel from attending the meeting, she forwarded the Farmland Protection Board’s request for a conservation easement on 176 acres of farmland along Route 127 in Bloomery, which received the commissioners’ approval.

Commission President Brian Eglinger noted the importance of granting such conservation easements, which prevent development of the land, in preserving the rural character of the county.

In other business, Hampshire County Emergency Services Agency Operations Director Terry Puffinburger presented his year-end report on the county ambulance service, noting that the county service continues to work cooperatively with local volunteer rescue squads.

Commissioner David Cannon asked for assurance that the county ambulance crews are still allowing the rescue squads to handle the transport of patients to hospitals, except where the situation is life-threatening and this would mean delaying transport.

Puffinburger said this continued to be the case, so long as rescue squad ambulances are not far out when county ambulances arrive first on the scene.

Eglinger reported that the county broadband initiative is continuing to expand coverage through Kirby toward Bald Hill.

The commission received a belated summary of work on state Department of Highways projects in Hampshire County. The report normally would have been presented last year at meetings in Burlington and Petersburg, which were cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

The appointment of Mary Hamblin to fill a vacancy on the county library board was approved by the commissioners, at the request of Hampshire County Public Library Director Megan Shanholtz.

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