By Lyra Bordelon
The Ronceverte City Council received updates on rent relief, water, Make It Shine, and much more during the Monday, April 12 meeting. Although Mayor David Smith was remote due to an injury, the council met in person in City Hall for the first time following the remote meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, contained benefits to local governments throughout West Virginia. This includes $690,000 coming to Ronceverte. City Administrator Pam Mentz explained the funds are currently expected, but not committed to any one project yet.
“Ronceverte did get a proposed amount that would be paid in two installments, we’re waiting to see what the funding guidelines are for the use of these funds. The administration and City Council will look very carefully, when we do find out, at what we can do and what is needed. We do not take this funding for granted, so what we do receive, we will use [diligently towards] the city’s best interest.”
The March relief bill is not the only assistance potentially bringing funds to the town – Councilmember Leah Sills provided an anticipated update for the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program. This program was created in the December 2020 relief bill passed by Congress, and would provide rent payments to landlords where tenants were not able to make rent after April 1, 2020.
“If you know anyone, tenant or landlord, that wasn’t able to pay rent because of COVID, they can make an application,” said Sills. “When I mentioned it last month, they were not yet accepting applications, they are now.”
The rental assistance program was created in order to help both renters and landlords, after the Center for Disease Control issued a moratorium on evictions based on inability to pay rent alone during the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium also did not require the inability to pay be related to COVID-19 income loss.
Those looking for more information can see previous coverage of the program in the Mountain Messenger, or view and apply directly online at https://www.wvhdf.com/programs/mountaineer-rental-assistance-program.
In other business:
– Ronceverte’s annual Make It Shine day is quickly approaching, set for May 1 at 8 a.m. Councilmember Kathy King said “it’s open to anybody that wants to come down in their old clothes, bring a leaf blower, meet at the depo lot to find out what area you want to go to. Friends of Ronceverte is coordinating this, … but it’s open for any group, any nonprofit, any club, anybody that wants to come and clean. Last year it was postponed because of COVID.”
– Due to engineering changes to one of the city’s water tanks during the ongoing water infrastructure project, approximately $19,000 is no longer needed for the tank’s concrete foundation. These funds will instead go to fixing more lines within the city.
– Mayoral Candidate Eric Mercer approached the council seeking “bring the fun and personal back to Ronceverte” by creating a car show and craft fair in town on May 29. Smith noted there would need to be a nonprofit sponsor and insurance regulations met before the project could move forward.
– A lease agreement with Country Roads was approved for several police vehicles, taking three 2015 vehicles out of service.
– Council approved a $1,200 funding request from Mountain Transit Authority.
– An audit of the city showed two findings, Mentz explained, with the budget not reflecting depreciation of equipment in the streets department and a higher than expected cost for streets due to a recent shift towards city workers mowing in the city, rather than contracting out the work.
– National Library Week was highlighted with a proclamation from Smith.
– Ronceverte has once again become one of the United States’ National Tree cities, with Smith noting this has been the case for approximately the past 15 years.