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EPA awards $812K to clean up two Huntington brownfield sites

HUNTINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $3.3 million in funding Thursday to clean up eight brownfield sites in West Virginia, including two in Huntington.

According to the announcement, the city of Huntington will receive $350,000 to perform an environmental site assessment on the former ACF Industries site and Cornerstone Community Development Corp. will receive $462,590 to clean up the 13-story Prichard Building.

The grants were announced by EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio in a virtual roundtable that was streamed online because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The funding we are announcing today is particularly important to the many communities that are hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Servidio said. “Brownfield funding can be an important stimulus for economic development and community revitalization.”

Thursday’s roundtable also included Huntington Mayor Steve Williams; U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.; Casey Korbini, deputy director for Remediation Programs at West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection; Nikki Thomas, executive director of the Cornerstone Community Development Corp.; and members of the media.

In February, Williams and the Huntington Municipal Development Authority announced the $3.12 million purchase of the former ACF Industries complex along 3rd Avenue, a tract eyed for redeveloping in that area of the city. The 42-acre former rail car manufacturing facility includes property between 3rd Avenue and the Ohio River along 24th Street and a parking lot on the south side of 3rd Avenue.

Acquisition of the complex is central to the city’s plan to remake that area and surrounding properties into the Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone, or H-BIZ. The grant announced Thursday will help conduct an environmental site assessment and develop reuse and cleanup plans for the site, which has sat idle for the past 20 years.

Williams lauded the EPA and congressional leaders for taking steps to help revitalize Huntington and clean up the ACF site and the Prichard Building.

“We have two distinctly, historically unique properties that have an opportunity to be repurposed,” Williams said. “ACF Industries began its life when Huntington was founded in 1871.”

Late last year, Cornerstone Community Development Corp. purchased the Prichard Building, more recently known as Hope Tower, in the 600 block of 9th Street in Huntington.

The historic building at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and 9th Street originated as the 300-room Prichard Hotel. The Prichard ceased operation as a hotel in 1970, and it was converted into an apartment building with some businesses in the ground floor. The building has sat empty for the past couple of years, with reports of glass falling from its windows.

The city previously used EPA brownfield grant funding to assess the building, which is contaminated with inorganic contaminates and metals. Thursday’s announced grant will help clean up asbestos, mold, lead-based paints and outdated lighting fixtures containing harmful materials from inside the hotel.

Once it is cleaned, the building will be redeveloped to include commercial business space and a community center space and senior-assisted living spaces on the upper floors.

“Revitalizing hazardous work sites and repurposing them for new businesses is exactly the type of innovation that will help to create new jobs and grow our state’s economy,” Miller said. “I am pleased to see Administrator (Andrew) Wheeler and the entire EPA continue to prioritize our communities. Together we will make West Virginia a safer, healthier and economically stronger place to live, work and raise a family.”

The EPA also announced grants Thursday for the Braxton County Development Authority, the Brooke-Hancock Region XI Regional Planning and Development Council, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corp. and the West Virginia University Research Corp.

Community gathers for drive-in prayer service

HUNTINGTON — In past years, members of the community had been able to gather on the lawn outside the Cabell County Courthouse for a National Day of Prayer celebration.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced change upon the lives of many. For that reason, Cabell County National Day of Prayer coordinator T-Anne See said it was even more important to ensure the service was still held, even if it looked different than it previously had.

That’s why the service was moved from the courthouse lawn to the parking lot at Christ Temple Church in Huntington and took the form of a drive-in service instead of a more intimate gathering.

“I put a request in at the Cabell County Courthouse every year, and they did approve it for this year, but I felt better to move it to a different venue just for this year so we can (observe) space apart and people can feel comfortable coming and not just collecting on the courthouse lawn, which would be closer than most people might be comfortable with,” See said.

The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the U.S. Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” The president is required by law to sign a proclamation each year, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

The service began with a concert featuring several local singers including Flatwoods, Kentucky, native and Dove Award winner John Darin Rowsey. He performed two songs in the concert, which aimed to create an atmosphere of worship. Attendees were able to participate by honking car horns instead of clapping after each number.

“Even though we still have to think about social distancing and all the criteria we have to meet, it’s so good to just be able to congregate with people who are like-minded and want to pay tribute to the power of prayer,” said Rowsey.

“There is something freeing about being able to do this. Even if people are sitting in their cars, it’s a blessing.”

He added that uncertain times often lead people to “turn their hearts back to prayer” and that he personally had been led to participate in prayer more during the ongoing pandemic.

That line of thought is exactly why See saw fit to hold the annual service, no matter what it might have looked like.

“It just seemed like a good idea to keep moving forward. Even doing it in this way with people spaced out in their cars, it gives people the chance to come out and enjoy the worship music on a beautiful, sunny day,” See said.

“This is going to uplift people’s spirits, and we really need that right now. It was an opportunity I was not going to watch pass by.”

Pullman Square concert series, Dawg Dazzle postponed

HUNTINGTON — Two popular music events Huntington residents annually look forward to will be affected by COVID-19 safeguards; however, organizers hope to still offer them at some point this year.

Kindred Communications on Thursday announced updates regarding Dawg Dazzle and the Pullman Square Summer Concert Series after fielding inquiries from members of the public on plans for the events.

A Fourth of July staple, 93.7 the Dawg’s Dawg Dazzle 2020, originally scheduled for July 3 at Huntington’s Harris Riverfront Park, is being tentatively rescheduled for Sept. 4, the start of Labor Day weekend, with entertainment details to be determined.

The Pullman Square Summer Concert Series, originally scheduled to begin May 28, is being postponed until further notice.

Reeves Kirtner, vice president associate general manager of Kindred Communications, said he hopes the events will happen this summer.

“We know Dawg Dazzle and the Pullman Square Summer Concert Series are two great outdoor summertime events that a lot of people look forward to,” Kirtner said. “We still hope to do it. If we can host the events this summer or early fall under the governor’s orders and in a safe manner, we will.”

Beginning in 2004, Dawg Dazzle began with local and regional entertainment to now hosting some of country music’s biggest hitmakers including Brothers Osborne, Lee Brice and Jon Pardi, capped off with fireworks celebrating Independence Day, with an average attendance of more than 15,000 people the past seven years.

Kindred Communications, a locally owned and operated company that consists of six radio stations and nine signals, distributes more than 50,000 free tickets to Dawg Dazzle to give everyone who wants to attend an opportunity to enjoy the event.

The Pullman Square Summer Concert Series normally takes place every Thursday evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day and has hosted local and regional entertainers such as Tyler Childers, Ona and Red Wanting Blue.

On Wednesday, the city of Charleston canceled its annual Live on the Levee summer concert series. The popular free concerts at Haddad Riverfront Park, which typically bring in thousands of residents each Friday night, would have kicked off at the end of May, but Mayor Amy Goodwin said canceling the series is sad but necessary.

“There’s no mass testing for the virus,” she said. “There’s no plan for mass testing — and there’s no treatment and no cure.”

Canceling a popular attraction to the city was tough, she said, but she added that it wasn’t as tough as having to take a loved one off a ventilator or having to go through burying them without friends to lean on.

Goodwin said health experts had been very clear with the city: Having a weekly event, with potentially thousands of people pressed close together, was a terrible idea right now.

“It’s just not safe,” the mayor said.

Ohio, Kentucky announce next phase of reopening

HUNTINGTON — The next phase of reopening has been announced in Ohio and Kentucky.

On Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the next phase of the “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan — designed to protect the health of employees, customers and their families while supporting community efforts to control the spread of the novel coronavirus and responsibly get Ohio back to work — relates to restaurants, bars and personal care services.

Outdoor dining at restaurants and bars in the state will be permitted beginning May 15, while dine-in service will resume May 21. Personal care services including hair salons, barbershops, spas, nail salons and tanning facilities may also reopen May 15.

DeWine stressed the importance of continuing to exercise safe health habits as different sectors of the economy begin to reopen.

“Reopening Ohio is a risk, but it’s also a risk if you don’t move forward,” DeWine said in a news release. “We’re on a dangerous road that has never been traveled before in Ohio, and the danger is that we relax and stop taking precautions.

“All of us collectively control this. I ask you to take calculated risks and make good judgments. Continue social distancing, washing your hands and wearing face coverings. If you aren’t concerned with what happens to you, do it for others.”

A detailed list of guidelines and best practices for restaurant and bar owners as well as for personal care service providers can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday, there were 22,131 total cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, with 1,271 deaths related to the virus.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear also released a timeline for reopening more of the state’s industries. The tentative dates for reopening are:

  • May 22: Restaurants, with limited 33% capacity and outdoor seating.
  • June 1: Movie theaters and fitness centers.
  • June 11: Public and private campgrounds.
  • June 15: Child care, with reduced capacity; and potentially low-touch and outdoor youth sports.

There were 6,128 cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky as of 5 p.m. Thursday, 208 of which were newly confirmed. Eleven new deaths related to the virus were reported, including an 87-year-old woman from Grayson, raising the state’s total to 294.

At least 2,177 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

In West Virginia, 21 new cases of COVID-19 were reported as of 5 p.m. Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of positive cases to 1,297.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) said there have been 57,995 laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 56,698 negative. There have been 51 deaths in the state related to the virus.

Confirmed cases by county are: Barbour (six), Berkeley (177), Boone (six), Braxton (two), Brooke (three), Cabell (48), Clay (one), Fayette (27), Gilmer (four), Grant (three), Greenbrier (eight), Hampshire (eight), Hancock (11), Hardy (12), Harrison (34), Jackson (136), Jefferson (85), Kanawha (175), Lewis (four), Lincoln (three), Logan (13), Marion (46), Marshall (20), Mason (13), McDowell (six), Mercer (11), Mineral (20), Mingo (two), Monongalia (111), Monroe (six), Morgan (17), Nicholas (eight), Ohio (34), Pendleton (five), Pleasants (two), Pocahontas (two), Preston (14), Putnam (27), Raleigh (nine), Randolph (five), Ritchie (one), Roane (eight), Summers (one), Taylor (eight), Tucker (four), Tyler (three), Upshur (five), Wayne (93), Wetzel (four), Wirt (three), Wood (42) and Wyoming (one).

DHHR has a dashboard at www.coronavirus.wv.gov that contains West Virginia-specific data as well as outbreak information for nursing homes in the state.

More than 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, bringing the nation’s total number of cases to 1,219,066, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 73,297 deaths related to the virus.

The Associated Press reports that for most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.