RAINELLE, WV (WOAY) – The regional administrator for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development made his first visit to Rainelle and the surrounding areas on Tuesday.
Joe DeFelice was appointed by President Trump in 2017. Since then, he’s been on a mission to visit as many places as he can in his five-state region. He is currently on a tour of Southern West Virginia
“I’m traveling through Webster, through Pocahontas, through Greenbrier, through Nicholas, through Summers, really just to talk to the people on the ground and kind of rather than dictate down from Washington but frankly dictate up to Washington,” DeFelice said.
That’s why HUD sat down with the Meadow River Valley Association who has been working on helping the area get back on its feet after the 2016 floods.
Matt Ford, who heads up the association, presented their idea to re-purpose the old Rupert Elementary School that will include an early childhood learning center and land for the fire department with other ideas in the works.
“We’ve got a use now for about two thirds of the campus,” Ford said. “The former high school building, the largest building on the campus, we have some interest from Robert C. Byrd Clinic to take the first floor and we’re working on plans to put housing in the second and third floors.”
Those with HUD took a tour and also announced that they have added a position in Charleston to better serve those in West Virginia directly, hoping to cut out some of the red tape.
Despite the work that still needs to be done, DeFelice said he was impressed with the resiliency of the people and the way places like Rainelle and Rupert are on track for a comeback.
“Those types of things have sparked an interest in people that maybe didn’t have it before. They were going about it living day to day and now all of sudden they see the future and they see what the potential is for a town like this,” he said.
HUD plans to use this tour to take what they learn back to their regional office in Philadelphia.