Flood damaged library reopens despite no answer from RISE West Virginia
CLENDENIN, W.Va. (WCHS, WVAH) —
The Eyewitness News iTeam uncovers yet another case involving lack of answers from RISE West Virginia, the flood recovery program under the state's Commerce Department.
Nearly two years after the library in the Kanawha County town of Clendenin was destroyed in the 2016 flood, it is back open in a new location.
Kanawha County officials said representatives with the state-run RISE West Virginia flood relief recovery program talked about helping restore the old middle school where that library opened for business Wednesday, but county officials told Eyewitness News it was all talk and no action.
Tammy Parker is with the Clendenin library.
"When they went in after the flood, they found books and DVDs stuck in the ceiling tiles,” Parker said. “So, we lost everything."
Nearly two years after the town and a wide area of West Virginia were impacted by killer floods, Clendenin saw its library reopen at a temporary location in the old middle school.
"Everybody in Clendenin and our surrounding area has computers in their home,” said Midge Forwood, a library supporter. “And the children, after school, the library is full. It means everything,” Forwood said.
The Kanawha County Commission provided much of the funds, approximately $50,000, and labor for dealing with the flood damage cleanup in Clendenin. The county library system is picking up the rent.
Officials said they tried to get RISE, the state Commerce Department-run program for flood recovery, to help with some of the damage in the old middle school, but they said it never got beyond the talking stage.
Volunteer groups in West Virginia say they have spent about $26 million in labor and donations helping people with flood recovery.
Over the same time period, RISE has spent about a million dollars. That leave's about $150 million in RISE-controlled federal dollars unused.
"I just hope that the state get their act together,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said. “It's past time. The people of this area deserve better than what they've gotten."
State lawmakers are questioning the slowness of state response and trying to pinpoint exactly why it is taking so long to help flood victims.
The library is planning a ceremonial re-opening June 22, but it was back in business as of noon Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced the RISE West Virginia program has resumed operations.