Times Staff Report
June 13, 2013
CHICAGO — Rebuilding West Liberty, an initiative aimed at reconstructing a small rural town nearly destroyed last year by horrific tornadoes, attended today the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America annual meeting. Tim Conley, the Morgan County Judge/Executive, told members of the CGI America Residential Energy Efficiency Working Group that affordable and energy efficient housing is a key to helping break the cycle of poverty. “Even before the devastating tornado fifteen months ago, many of our citizens could not afford to pay their utility bills. With this project we can demonstrate to all of rural America the extraordinary economic value of sustainability and energy efficiency,” Conley said.
On March 2, 2012, the town of West Liberty, Kentucky suffered a massive tragedy. An EF3 tornado ripped through this community of about 3,400 residents, killing seven, devastating nearly 400 homes, businesses and government structures, and destroying much of the downtown area. While the disaster was an unprecedented crisis for the tiny community, it also represented an extraordinary opportunity: to rebuild itself with a 21st century, lower-cost, sustainable infrastructure, and develop a path to create job-producing business opportunities, increasing the tax base and attract new residents to West Liberty. The community’s residents and leaders chose this bolder path. After a year of extensive discussions among key stakeholders and outside experts, the community completed a thorough visioning process to rebuild West Liberty in a thoughtful and sustainable manner, giving careful consideration to the need to preserve the region’s Appalachian heritage and resources.
In January 2013, the town issued a strategic report: Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky, outlining thirteen locally-inspired strategies that would make West Liberty not only a model for disaster-ravaged communities, but also for all of rural America. (Click here for a PDF-version of the full report.)
Judge Conley today provided insight on one of Rebuilding West Liberty’s most urgent stakeholder-inspired strategies and most critical needs: rebuilding roughly half of the 300 residential homes that were lost to the storm. The three year project includes a $27 million investment of equity, grants, debt and operating grants to complete the project in West Liberty, and Next Step® Network will scale innovations piloted for other disaster response efforts and affordable housing projects for factory-built homes across the nation. The partners on the “Commitment to Action” include Frontier Housing, Picture1.jpgNext Step® Network, NeighborWorks® America, The Ford Foundation, Grassroots Financing LLC, Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise, LLC, the Regional Technology and Innovation Center, Inc., the Morehead State University Innovation & Commercialization Center and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research.
Individuals looking to join the coalition supporting Rebuilding West Liberty can sign up at http://therecoveringpolitician.com/westliberty.