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October 14, 2014

Huntington named Certified Arts Community

Mayor Steve Williams announced Tuesday, Oct. 14, that the City of Huntington has been named as a Certified Arts Community by the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

In receiving the designation, Huntington joins a select few communities across the state that have been recognized for capitalizing on the impact that the arts have on economic development, education, civic involvement and quality of life.

“The WVCA recognizes the importance of cooperation between arts and humanities groups, business leaders and jurisdictional agencies,” Renee Margocee, director of arts for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, wrote in her letter notifying Huntington officials of the designation. “Your efforts to encourage a full and vibrant artistic community in Huntington were clearly evident in your very strong application.”

Williams said Huntington has always been a flourishing arts community as evidenced by its long-established arts institutions and their cultural offerings which Tri-State residents continue to support. The next decade will see unprecedented growth in the arts with additions such as Marshall University’s Visual Arts Center and Cabell County Schools’ expeditionary learning school.

Being recognized as a Certified Arts Community adds to ongoing local efforts to unify resources and promotes more collaboration, Williams said. He cited the recent establishment of the Mayor’s Council for the Arts as a prime example of these efforts.

“The arts have sustained us all in days of peril and have enabled us to soar to unexpected heights during days of jubilance,” Williams said. “The fact that our city is now a certified Arts Community validates the artistic endeavors of all our citizens. The Mayor’s Council for the Arts will seek to advocate and celebrate our artistic passions in such a fashion that will enable our entire community to mutually prosper.”

Margaret Mary Layne, executive director of the Huntington Museum of Art, said the decision to apply for the designation led to the formation of the Huntington Arts Summit. The Summit was the first initiative that brought together various arts organizations as a cohesive group, she said.

“While Huntington has long been an arts community, there is a flourishing creativity that has occurred here in the past several years that has enhanced the long-standing contributions of the Marshall Artists Series, the Huntington Symphony Orchestra and the Huntington Museum of Art,” Layne said.  “Creativity is the buzz word for the future in every aspect of our lives.  Huntington has creativity in spades.”

Tyson Compton, executive director of the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the application process brought to light the full scope of arts resources that Huntington has to offer. The CVB will use this designation as another tool in promoting the arts and culture scene to visitors, he said.

“One of the next steps that I see is to have an ‘Experience the Arts’ page on the CVB website that will highlight each venue, performance and exhibit that will serve to entice visitors and reinforce locally that the arts are a vibrant part of our mix,” Compton said. “I’m very excited about where this will lead us next.”

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March 10, 2014

City’s budgetary performance cited as reasons for credit-rating upgrade

HUNTINGTON – City officials learned Monday, March 10, that the long-term credit rating for two series of revenue bonds have been raised to an “A” from a “BBB+” because of a stable financial outlook.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised the rating two notches on the Huntington Municipal Development Authority’s series 2010A and series 2010B bonds. The improved rating strengthens the City of Huntington’s borrowing power moving forward and provides reassurances to the city’s bond holders that their investments are safe, Mayor Steve Williams said.

“This is a validation of the fiscal policies that the administration and City Council have implemented in recent years,” Williams said. “Most importantly, it’s a validation of this City Council’s relationship with this administration. As we complete our deliberations of the 2014-2015 fiscal budget, we look forward to strengthening the fiscal condition of the city even further.”

The series 2010A bonds totaled $3.65 million and are a refinancing package for a previous bond issue related to the Jean Dean Public Safety Building and the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. The series 2010B economic recovery bonds totaled $5.5 million and are for facility improvements at the arena.

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February 25, 2014

Tony Hawk Foundation awards city $5,000 grant for skate park

HUNTINGTON – One of the most well-known organizations in the skating industry has awarded the City of Huntington funding for a skate park.

City officials were notified Tuesday that the Tony Hawk Foundation has approved a $5,000 grant application that was submitted in December. The grant, which requires a local funding match, will go toward Phase II of construction of the skate park at Harris Riverfront Park.

The skate park will be built in three phases on the western end of Harris Riverfront Park and provide features for skaters of all skill levels. It was designed by Team Pain, a company specializing in the construction of skate parks, and AECOM of Roanoke, Va.

The city has raised $117,000 through state and federal grants to construct Phase I of the skate park. Construction is expected to begin late spring or early summer.

Mayor Steve Williams said the Tony Hawk Foundation grant will raise the profile of the skate park because it encourages a funding match from the community.

“A project of this nature needs full support from our skating community and from the general public,” Williams said. “Encouraging a community match cultivates buy-in and ownership of the skate park.”
Foundation for Tri-State Community is accepting contributions that will go toward the community match for the grant. Checks should be made out to “FTSC, Inc.” with “Huntington Skate Park” written in the memo line and mailed to P.O. Box 2096, Ashland, KY 41105-2096.

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February 19, 2014

Huntington delegation to attend housing seminar at Harvard Law School

HUNTINGTON – A delegation of public officials and community leaders from Huntington has been selected to attend a prestigious housing seminar that equips civic leaders with the skills they need to tackle urban blight and spark revitalization.

The Community Progress Leadership Institute, a program of the Center for Community Progress, will be held March 18-21 at Harvard Law School. The Institute brings together delegations from multiple cities for intense leadership and technical training under the guidance of national experts. These delegations return home ready to make positive changes in their approaches to vacant, abandoned and problem properties.

Joining Huntington at the CPLI will be Wilmington, Del.; Springfield, Mass.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Jackson, Miss.; Oklahoma City, Detroit; and Milwaukee. The cities were chosen through an invitation-only, comprehensive application process. They were also selected because they were able to demonstrate strong leadership and a commitment to developing new solutions for blight.

“When these eight teams enter the CPLI classroom on the first day, their stories will illuminate how blight is impacting communities across the United States,” said Tamar Shapiro, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress. “And when they head back home, there will be a new chapter to write: how they’re part of a national movement to reclaim our communities, a movement that is forging new connections and sparking fresh ideas.”

Huntington created West Virginia’s first Land Bank Fast Track Authority in 2009 to take control of dilapidated, tax-delinquent properties and return them to productive use. It also used home rule legislation to ensure insurance proceeds are used to remove fire-burnt structures.

“Certainly, we’re proud our efforts are being recognized by a program of such national stature,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “But, more importantly, we’re looking forward to what we can learn from our colleagues in other cities that have been chosen. Since I was elected, I’ve been saying that Huntington must compete on a national stage. This is another example that we are beginning to see those fruits.”

Members of the delegation will include:

  • Cathy Burns, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
  • Bruce Decker, founder and owner of Collective Impact, a capacity-building consulting firm.
  • Brandon Dennison, a social entrepreneur with the Coalfield Development Corp., which focuses on sustainable deconstruction of abandoned buildings.
  • Larry Ellis, deputy director of the Huntington Housing Authority
  • Charles Holley, director of development and planning for the City of Huntington.
  • Phoebe Patton Randolph, an architect with Edward Tucker Architects and an active community organizer.
  • Christal Perry, project manager and chief administrator of the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority.

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January 28, 2014

Huntington selected to receive smart growth assistance

HUNTINGTON -- Smart Growth America announced Tuesday, Jan. 28, that the City of Huntington was selected as one of 18 communities nationwide to receive the organization’s 2014 free smart growth technical assistance program.

Huntington will receive a one-or-two-day training session with an expert from Smart Growth America on planning for economic and fiscal health. This technical assistance is made possible through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

The City of Huntington applied for this technical assistance to assist in developing a strategy using smart growth principles to implement Plan 2025, to reduce negative outcomes from a combined stormwater and sanitary system, and to encourage quality housing and business development.

“Smart Growth America is committed to providing the tools and training to help community leaders keep their cities and towns livable, sustainable and vital places,” said Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute. “We are excited about working with each of these communities to develop local solutions that support thriving places now and for generations to come.”

Smart Growth America received nearly 100 applications for technical assistance from 40 states. While all of the applications were worthy, the 18 communities selected to receive technical assistance exhibited the strongest interest in and need for smart growth tools and clearly demonstrated a commitment from local business, community and political leaders to implement local smart growth solutions.

Past technical assistance workshops focused on issues including transit-oriented development, Complete Streets, smart growth zoning, parking management, economic development and fiscal health and transportation performance measurement, among others. The other winning communities are: City of Emmett, ID; City of Green River, WY; City of Hot Springs, AR; City of Indianapolis, IN: City of Memphis, TN; City of Portsmouth, NH; City of Salisbury, MD; City of San Diego, CA; County of Kauai, HI; Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, IA; East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, FL; Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of Poplar, MT; Kenosha County, WI; Person County, NC; North Central Texas Council of Governments, TX; Pasco County, FL; and Town of Queensbury, NY.

About Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance

Smart Growth America offers twelve “ready-to-go” technical assistance tools that help communities build stronger local economies, protect the environment, preserve sense of place, and improve overall quality of life. The technical assistance is funded through a grant to Smart Growth America from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Sustainable Communities under their Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. The Building Blocks program funds quick, targeted assistance to communities that face common development problems. Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to more communities nationwide. From providing more sidewalks to ensuring more homes are built near public transportation or that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods. For additional information visit

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