Butler County Times Gazette
Living Green in Greensburg
The Inspirational Recovery of West Liberty, Kentucky
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By Catherine Hart
June 19, 2013 12:01 a.m.



Former President Bill Clinton Visits with Morgan County, KY Judge Tim Conley

Readers may remember our story last year about the recovery plans undertaken by West Liberty, Kentucky after the community experienced a deadly tornado in March of 2012. Their leaders drew inspiration from Greensburg's re-identification as a model green community, and invited GreenTown's Daniel Wallach to town last August for two days of meetings with public officials and residents. After his visit, civic leaders have taken the ball and run with it, and their progress is nothing short of amazing.

In January, they issued a report, Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky, which lays out thirteen locally-inspired strategies that would make the town a a model not only for other disaster-ravaged communities, but also for all of rural America. Strategies include building the community back with eco-tourism in mind, celebrating its Appalachian history; affordable, energy efficient housing to replace homes destroyed in the tornado; a geothermal loop for the downtown area; green walking corridors and public spaces; compressed natural gas transportation and much more. They are actively seeking partners to aid in funding these visions via an online Rebuilding West Liberty initiative.

Representatives from West Liberty recently returned from Chicago, where they were invited to address the annual meeting of Clinton Global Initiative, June 13-14. Making the case for a sustainable recovery plan, Judge Tim Conley 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.

Judge Conley 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. To meet this dire need, Rebuilding West Liberty has committed to the construction and development of 150 affordable, highly energy-efficient factory-built and site-built homes. The three year project includes a $27 million investment of equity, grants, debt and operating grants to complete the project in West Liberty and scale innovations piloted for other disaster response efforts and affordable housing projects for factory-built homes across the nation.

The West Liberty folks are already paying it forward to other communities through their visionary work, even as they are knee-deep in the rebuilding process themselves. You are encouraged to read the press release issued by West Liberty about their presentation in Chicago. We'll keep you posted on their progress. Think about a visit to this beautiful little town with its giant aspirations.

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