Since 13 News first told you about the issues with the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad Trail, the State Emergency Management Office has reached out to the Clay County Business Development Authority.
Mitch DeBoard told 13 News the office said the extension for the project has been sent to FEMA and approved. However, the change order was never sent to FEMA and cannot be located in the Emergency Management office.
DeBoard said he hopes the project can start moving forward.
It’s been almost two years since deadly 2016 floods destroyed the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad trail. But the Clay County Business Development Authority is still struggling to get funding sorted out to repair the area.
The rail line once hauled coal, but now carries kids and tourists to see Clay County. Only 6 of the 18-mile stretch is open because of the serious damage after the 2016 floods.
“The #5 bridge completely destroyed, center pier, superstructure, completely gone, decking for the trail, everything was just gone,” Mitch DeBoard explained to 13 News.
DeBoard is the president of the Clay County Business Development Authority. He said volunteers have helped clear some debris from the rail line, but he needs paperwork approval from FEMA to clear the remaining mileage.
Deboard said FEMA inspectors first estimated it would cost about $630,000 to fix the damage, but that did not include the cost of shipping materials and equipment up the rail line.
“They didn’t allow any way to get the material or the work to be done, there’s no access,” DeBoard added.
So he hired GAI Consulting last summer to get a better idea of how much repairs would cost.
“All the repairs, access, and everything to be done, based on GAI, which is a licensed engineering company, is $3,938,452. That’s a big difference,” DeBoard explained.
He submitted a change order and extension request to the State Emergency Management Office, hoping to get more money from FEMA. But he got no response, until just a few weeks ago.
“Yeah May 10th, is the first response, this year May 10th, is the only response that I had received from Greg Myers at all,” DeBoard said while reviewing emails sent from WVDMAPS.
DeBoard said the email seemed to indicate the extensions and change order request were never sent to FEMA, so he replied, but again got no response.
“2 years into the project right now and there’s nothing we can do without some type of answer whether yes or no. Greg Myers and Jimmy Gianato need fired, it’s just that simple,” DeBoard said.
Lawmakers on the Legislative Flood Committee said they’re looking into this case in Clay, among others, asking tough questions about why projects have dragged on with no resolution.
We reached out to West Virginia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato and his disaster recovery coordinator Greg Myers, about this project in Clay County. Our calls have not been returned.