PARKERSBURG - A delegation representing Parkersburg and Wood County traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with federal representatives.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said the trip is made annually, sometimes twice a year, for local officials to touch base with West Virginia representatives at the federal level.
Newell, city Development Director Ann Conageski, Wood County Development Authority President Cam Huffman and Mark Lewis with the Greater Parkersburg Visitors and Convention Bureau spent Wednesday meeting with Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and David McKinley, R-W.Va.
"We do this at least once a year, take a delegation to talk with our representatives and just bring to their attention some different areas of concern," Newell said.
The delegation was unable to meet directly with Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., as the two were attending the funeral of U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey. Newell said the delegation did meet with representatives from both West Virginia senators' offices.
Newell said the group spoke on a variety of topics with the representatives.
"The topics varied with each one," he said. "One of the things we did talk about with each one was the proposed readiness center at West Virginia University at Parkersburg."
Newell said economic conditions as well as the recent federal sequester cuts have placed more of the financial burden on the local community to have the center built. That structure also would serve as a convention center, something the area has needed for years.
"We are the largest city in the state that doesn't have one, and there are several communities smaller than us that have one," he said.
Other topics included development of a Little Kanawha River property that was formerly occupied by the state highway department. Newell has said he would like to see the state develop the property into a mixed-use site or river port.
The delegation also spoke to representatives about the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, both of which have seen funding steadily decreased in recent years.
CDBG money is often used for building rehabilitation, economic development and code enforcement. HOME is a consortium program with neighboring cities that allows for first-time homebuyer programs and bringing existing structures up to code. The program only benefits low-income people or families that are still living within a structure and is done primarily for safety reasons.
Both programs have numerous restrictions on how the funding can be spent and how the money must be accounted.
The city's CDBG budget dropped from $848,862 in 2012 to $808,918.90 this year, a reduction of $39,943.10. Likewise the HOME budget dropped from $333,625 to $318,19375, a reduction of $15,431.25.
"They've gone down every year for years," Newell said.
Overall, Newell said representatives were very receptive to the concerns expressed by delegation members on all of the topics.
"They were very nice conversations," he said. "We felt it was all very well received."