Williamstown infrastructure to improve

WILLIAMSTOWN – Changes are in store for the city of Williamstown as officials continue to work on building the infrastructure with the help of the sales tax.

“The 1 percent sales tax has been a godsend for Williamstown,” said Mayor Jean Ford. “After having been a town with no money, this tax is our biggest accomplishment.”

The sales tax was passed by council in 2010 and brings in an average between $70,000 and $75,000 per quarter, Ford said. In the last eight quarters, the city has collected more than $500,000 from the tax.

The funds collected through this tax has allowed the city to purchase equipment it has needed for some time, the mayor said. The equipment purchased includes police cruisers, a new pickup truck for the maintenance crews as well large generators for the water and sewer departments and a smaller, portable generator to be taken to sites throughout the municipality.

“Before the tax, we lived on grants and are very fortunate to have received them,” she continued.

Williamstown was the first municipality in the state to implement a sales tax, according to city councilwoman Barbara Lewis.

“We are reaping some of the rewards,” she said.

The city is also gearing up for construction on West Virginia 14 near Interstate 77 where the state of West Virginia is planning to put in a roundabout.

Ford said work on the upcoming roundabout project is expected to help the traffic pattern to better flow where I-77, W.Va. 14 and W.Va. 31 converge.

“There is only one stop sign there and people don’t know what to do, so traffic gets congested and there are accidents pretty often,” Ford said. “We are working with the state and it won’t be done this year, but it is in the planning stages and I can’t wait for the changes to occur.”

In continuation with the city’s focus to create a healthy community through building the swimming pool and walking trails through parks, Williamstown officials are also working to create sidewalks throughout the streets.

The first phase of the work was to build sidewalks along Dodge Avenue for students going to and from Williamstown High School. This work was completed in 2012 as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program and this year they plan to build more throughout the city through other grant funds, said Lewis, who has been working on the city’s sidewalk projects.

In January 2012, the city received the $200,000 as part of a more than $7 million 2012 West Virginia Transportation Enhancement Grant Program, which is a federal-aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The program provides annual funding through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act to West Virginia communities for non-traditional transportation projects that include improving safety for pedestrians and bicycles through the construction of sidewalks and trails as well as the acquisition of scenic or historic sites and stimulating tourism development.

It is unknown exactly when or where the work will be done, Lewis said.

“The sidewalk projects are still pending,” she said.

City officials are also excited to keep Williamstown’s title as the longest-running Tree City USA in West Virginia this year, as the National Arbor Day Foundation approved their application.

Next month, Williamstown will celebrate 30 years as a Tree City USA, which Ford said is a title the city is very proud of.

“We work very hard to be a Tree City USA and we take pride in being a community known for our trees,” she said.

The four standards to qualify as a Tree City USA: an ordinance describing the care of trees on public property; a tree board dedicated to overseeing tree care: the city must spend at least $2 per capita on tree care for trees on public property; and scheduling an Arbor Day observance in the city each year.

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service. The foundation believes urban forests help clean the air, conserve soil and water, moderate temperature and bring nature into the daily lives of residents.