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After Numerous Delays, Aquaponics Project Set to Begin

A contractor has been selected for the aquaponics project at Kermit and the first of two phases to complete the project is scheduled to begin a little later this month.

The initial stages of work come after more than two years of delays.

The $3.6 million project, first announced just prior to Christmas in 2016, is being funded by the 2016 Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program and the DEP.

This latest news was presented to the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors by Executive Director Leasha Johnson during last week’s regular MCRA meeting.

Johnson said the project was advertised for bid in late Dec., 2018 and early Jan. of this year and that a pre-bid meeting was held at Kermit on Jan. 10, at which eight prospective contractors attended.

“After the pre-conference and prior to the bid opening we had issued four addendums to the advertisements, just based upon very good requests and inquiries from the contractors who were proposing to bid,” she said. “The bids were then opened here on Jan. 30 and we received three eligible bids.”

Johnson said the low bid was submitted by Persinger & Associates of Charleston—a contracting business owned by former Williamson resident Courtney Persinger—for $1.728 million.

“This bid was the only one of the three that came in within our project budget and was the last one that was opened, so we were very anxious about it,” she said. “We notified Persinger that they were the low bidder and after that our engineering consultant (Thrasher Engineering) tabulated and certified the bid and then sent all the information to the DEP, which is our funding agency through AML.”

Although the MCRA is still waiting on the official notice from the DEP to proceed with the most significant stages of the work, Johnson said Persinger & Associates can still go ahead and begin clearing the property, as well as back-gate the four abandoned mine portals that are within the scope of the project itself.

“(The DEP) has advised Persinger that there is an AVS (automated vendor system) that they have to qualify through, so Persinger has submitted that application and are awaiting approval of that,” Johnson explained. “The new NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit approval period has increased from 15 days to 30 days, so we’ve gone ahead and submitted that permit and while we’re waiting for approval we have been meeting with Persinger and the Core Appalachia people and they’ve coordinated their construction activities.”

Johnson said Core Appalachia, a natural gas company, is preparing to relocate a gas line currently on the property and that the relocation of the line will be within the tract of property owned by the MCRA so no easements will have to be obtained from other property owners in the immediate area of the project.

“So Persinger can begin working on the back gates, too, they just can’t move any earth until we get the NPDES permit,” she said.

Johnson said preliminary work will likely begin by the middle of this month, with actual site preparation and greenhouse construction beginning by the end of the month or by early April.

“So we’re excited about that…it’s been a long time coming but of all the AML Pilot projects that have been awarded in the last three years ours is only the second one to get to the construction phase,” she said.

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