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City backs program to combat blight

July 24, 2018

HUNTINGTON - The city of Huntington is working to revitalize its West End one block at a time as part of the Cities of Service City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block competition.

During a Huntington City Council meeting Monday night, council members approved a resolution to approve and support the city’s participation in the competition.

As part of that effort, the city will work on developing and implementing a strategy for eliminating property blight in the West End of Huntington through home repairs, lot transformations and community clean-ups.

Last week, Huntington was announced as one of 10 finalists in the competition, which means the city will be able to hire two AmeriCorps VISTA members for two years to aid in the city’s goal.

Huntington’s City Planning Director Bre Shell said the city is currently accepting applications for those two positions that will begin on Sept. 4.

Huntington also will receive $25,000 to be used for mini-grants and resources to support citizen groups’ and local nonprofits’ efforts to prevent or eliminate property blight.

“We do hope that this will be something that we can learn so much from, to be able to pilot in West Huntington and apply in other neighborhoods in the future,” Shell said.

Shell said the first step will be to conduct a community meeting in order hear from the residents about problems they would like to address.

The purpose of the Love Your Block program is to enable local governments to engage communities in neighborhood revitalization efforts benefiting low-income communities.

This year’s Love Your Block competition was specifically targeted to legacy cities - older, industrial cities that have faced substantial population loss. The winning cities were selected based on potential for impact and clarity of vision for their proposals.

Since 2009, Cities of Service has helped dozens of cities implement Love Your Block. More than 10,000 volunteers have been engaged to remove more than 480,000 pounds of trash, clean up nearly 600 lots and create more than 180 art displays, in addition to numerous other community projects.

In other business, council members approved two contracts for the Huntington Police Department to purchase five new police cruisers as well as outfit them with cameras.

The five new 2018 Ford Utility Police Interceptor vehicles will cost a total of $160,000 and will be purchased from Stephens Auto Center in Danville, West Virginia.

The purchase and installation of the Watchguard Camera System into the vehicles will cost $26,725.

At the last council meeting, members also approve the purchase of emergency equipment, including prisoner transport cages, emergency lights, rifle mounts, computer mounts, graphics and more for the new vehicles.

Funds to improve the police department’s vehicle fleet were announced in February during the mayor’s State of the City address with corresponding allocations made to the department’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget, which runs July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019.

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