August 13, 2014

Manchin witnesses damage | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MATOAKA — Charred skeletons of buildings smoldered and a burn odor was in the air Tuesday as two of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation saw a fire-damaged town firsthand.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va., visited the town of Matoaka to see damage left by a fierce Aug. 8 fire and to speak with local officials about what can be done to recover from the blaze. The fire destroyed four Barger Street buildings and seriously damaged a fifth.

Seeing what can be done to make the damaged property eligible for federal grants is one of the priorities Manchin discussed during his visit.

“The bottom line is they’ve got to get all property owners– I know the mayor is one of the large property owners–  to decide what they are going to do,” Manchin said after visiting Barger Street.

Property owners need to decide whether the sites could be deeded back to the town or to the Economic Development Authority of Mercer County, Manchin said. Getting grants for private property is more difficult than getting them for public property. Plans also call for seeing if the Main Street West Virginia program could help. A representative of the governor’s office visited Matoaka on Tuesday. Manchin said he would also be coordinating with Rahall’s office.

Clearing the debris is another priority, Manchin added. He hoped to see the clean up done within 30 to 60 days.

“The worst thing is to allow these buildings that have burned out to stay in that shape,” he said. “They need to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. That shows that the people care, and are willing to fight and work, and are not giving up.”

Mayor Todd Colonna said people are being encouraged to take bricks away from the fire scene. Two men were waiting to fill a pick up truck during the tour Tuesday. Allowing a demolition company to have the scrap metal from the buildings could be a way to help finance the effort to tear down the remains left by the fire.

By:  Greg Jordan
Source: W.Va. lawmakers experience fire ravaged Matoaka firsthand