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In January 2020, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority hosted a tour of the Blue Acre Appalachian Aquaponics facility, which is located inside the city limits of Kermit.

WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority provided a quarterly update during the Mingo County Commission June 2. Information provided included programs pertaining to broadband, solar energy and other plans for the county.

Executive Director Lisa Johnson said the Redevelopment Authority was recently approved for a project to add solar panels at Blue Acre Aquaponics, and that the installation should be complete by October.

“At the aquaponics facility, we have recently been approved for a $98,000 solar install there,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be adding some solar panels to the roof there that will eventually lower our electricity cost. As you all know the cost of operating a greenhouse, the most significant cost is in the utilities and the cooling and the heating of that facility.”

Johnson said Blue Acre Aquaponics is almost at full production now. The facility was funded by the WVDEP and US OSM Abandoned Mine Land Pilot program in 2020.

Johnson said the Redevelopment Authority also recently entered into an agreement to bring a solar farm to the area.

“I know this can be a touchy subject in what is called the heart of the coalfields,” Johnson said. “But the Redevelopment Authority recently entered into a lease agreement with a company to build a large solar farm on our non-strategic property over on the unfinished section of King Coal Highway. We have leased to this company 128 acres of our 150-acre tract there.”

In other projects, Johnson said Appalachian Power currently has an application in to the West Virginia Public Service Commission for a broadband pilot project for the area. If approved, it would allow AEP to build out their smart grid system to run extra strands of fiber. Those strands would then be leased to internet provider GigaBeam.

“As you all are probably aware, AEP has a current application right now with the Public Service Commission to allow an internet service provider by the name of GigaBeam to provide both fixed wireless and hardwired fiber to certain areas of Mingo County. It’s an innovative project that AEP has been proposing and undertaking for the last couple of years. It’s probably our best and most cost-effective way of getting broadband expansion into a lot of unserved and even underserved areas in Mingo County.”

Johnson said the projects would have to meet the FCC guidelines for what is considered unserved and underserved areas in the county.

Johnson also discussed plants for the airport, including a master plan for strategic properties prime for development as well as a sewer project. She also said they are working on a marketing plan to find what businesses would be most marketable for the area.

Johnson also mentioned that the authority had submitted congressional direct spending requests, also known as earmarks, to both Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito for consideration.

“You all are probably aware that congress has authorized these spending requests that are similar to what was once called earmarks,” Johnson said. “They are certain subcommittees and accounts that are being made available to designate as earmark appropriations. We weren’t eligible to apply for the sewage treatment plant for any of the participating subcommittees, but the airport authority was eligible to apply for funding to complete the access road — which we estimated at about $3.5 million — as well as funding to construct a terminal building.”

Johnson said they should know within a month whether the applications will be considered.

“We’re hopeful about them,” Johnson said. “I know that probably hundreds of thousands of applications will be submitted across the country, but we would be remiss to not have submitted those applications for funding for Mingo County specifically.”

Johnson said she will continue to update the commission on upcoming projects from the Redevelopment Authority.

The Mingo County Commission will meet again at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 15.

Reporter Nancy Peyton can be reached at npeyton@hdmediallc.com or 304-824-5101.

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