CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In keeping with the spirit of giving this holiday season, thought I'd take a closer look at gifts legislators have given to their communities, via the taxpayer-funded Community Participation Partnership Grants.
CPPs have been around for decades, but legislators turned to the funding mechanism as a way to direct money to hometown projects (and generate campaign-friendly giant check award photos) following the 2006 demise of the infamous legislative Budget Digest.
While only a fraction of the amounts entailed in Budget Digests (which topped out in 1998, with $39.12 million in spending directives), CPP grants also require approval of the governor's office, and legislators complained that for the first couple of years after elimination of the Budget Digest, then-Gov. Joe Manchin was miserly in signing off on grant requests.
From Sept. 1, 2012 to the present, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has approved a total of 775 CPP grants totaling $3,652,339.
Generally, CPP grants run in the few thousand-dollar range, with the smallest single grants of $500, although legislators from the same district frequently request multiple small grants for individual organizations or projects, inflating that $500 minimum.
The largest single CPP grant approved is $60,000 for the Hardy County Commission, to be used for courthouse and community center improvements, and for the Wardensville Town Park. The grant was requested by then-Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, but was not approved until Aug. 2 -- more than six months after Helmick left the Senate to become agriculture commissioner.
The next largest is $50,000 for Beckley Little League field improvements, requested by Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh. That was followed by $40,000 grants or the Pleasants County Commission for pool repairs and property improvements, requested by Sens. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and David Nohe, R-Wood; and for the Berkeley County Commission for various building upgrades, requested by Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley.
Berkeley County also picked up a $38,000 grant to help convert a former grocery store into a planned Public Safety Building, requested by Delegates Larry Kump, John Overington, and former Delegate Walter Duke, all R-Berkeley.
That's followed by $33,500 grant for the city of Martinsburg for updates and repairs to athletic field and concession stand, requested by Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.
Many programs and organizations received multiple grants during the period, topped by the Preston County Commission for its "Trout for Cheat" trout stocking campaign in the Cheat River.