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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given a $200,000 grant to the Southern Coal Camp Authority of Delbarton to remove asbestos from the former Burch High School building. Submitted photo/Williamson Daily News

WILLIAMSON - Delbarton is one of 144 communities receiving a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up unsightly and hazardous properties.

The EPA gave $200,000 to the Southern Coal Camp Authority, which is headed by Delbarton Mayor John Preece, to clean asbestos from the old Burch High School, located on Eutaw Avenue.

Preece said he envisions the former school to be a revenue source for the city, which the city may lease once the building is clean. The school was built in 1921, but closed and consolidated in 2011 with the creation of Mingo Central High School.

The grant is from the EPA's Brownfield Program, which gives communities funding to "assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties."

The Southern Coal Camp Authority has been working to reshape Delbarton into a tourist destination for those seeking to learn how people lived 100 years ago in Mingo County.

Preece said he wants to create a replica coal camp from the 1920s near the former Burch Elementary School on Bulldog Drive. The camp would include cabins, tools and clothing typically worn by a coal miner living in that time period.

Communities formed around coal operations in Southern West Virginia and many families lived in coal camps, which were usually owned by the coal companies. Having the camp replica would bring people to Delbarton to learn about the past in the same way they flock to Matewan for Hatfield and McCoy history, he said.

In November, city council members agreed to move Delbarton City Hall, along with the Delbarton Police Department, to the former Burch Elementary School.

Preece said he wants the former Elementary School building to be remodeled into the town center.

This year, the EPA gave out more 221 grants to communities around the country, totaling $54.3 million, according to a news release.

Delbarton was the only community from Mingo County among the five chosen from West Virginia.

Selected communities picked for a county-wide cleanup are, Fairmont with $200,000; Fayette County with $200,000; Huntington with $800,000; and Weirton with $800,000. The Region 2 Planning and Development Council in Huntington received $600,000 for an "assessment coalition," which represents several communities seeking funding to eliminate hazardous sites.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-6497.

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