Published On: Wed, Jan 8th, 2014

Elected officials describe goals for 2014

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In interviews this week, Sheriff David Jonese, County Clerk Missy Bennett, Assessor Tom Lane and Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith articulated their goals for the coming year. Next week’s edition will include more interviews.

 Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith

Mayor Smith has four major goals for the coming year: renovation of the town water plant; completion of a combined sewage overflow (CSO) project; repair of water system leaks; and redevelopment with emphasis on the burnt-out area on Main Street.

Renovation of the water plant is expected to cost between $1.2 and $1.5 million and funding has yet to be obtained. The CSO project is part a DEP-mandated effort to remove stormwater from municipal sewage systems across the state by 2025. Contractor Kanawha Stone completed Phase I of the project in January 2010, paid for with $1.4 million in stimulus funds.

Town crews recently located and repaired a major water leak at the intersection of Third Avenue and Main Street, but an estimated 50-percent of town water still is lost to leakage, increasing the cost to ratepayers. Smith wants to reduce water loss to below 30 percent by the end of 2014. The state average for water loss is 25 to 35 percent.

 Sheriff David Jonese

Sheriff David Jonese said training of his deputies and improved investigations are his primary goals for 2014. The sheriff said those goals go hand-in-hand.

“The two main goals we want to incorporate into this year’s plan is to improve our training, both individual and collective, as a department,” he said. “The other thing would be to improve the effectiveness of our investigations, as far as investigating the actual case, and in closing them up in a more timely fashion, faster than we have. Those are my two goals.”

Officers will receive training to improve their investigative skills.

“We will be sending officers to interview and interrogation training and to investigative training, just to improve different skills that they’ve already learned – taken to another level,” said Jonese. “So we become more effective as an organization.”

Jonese said Chief Deputy David Walton had attended homicide investigation training in Vienna, Virginia, and will continue with that training.

Weapons training will be limited by funding.

“As far as weapons training, that becomes more of a challenge because it is very difficult to procure ammunition for training,” the sheriff said. “If you do manage to get the ammunition, it is extremely expensive. If we were trying to do any increase in weapons training, our training budget’s going to be impacted about 30 to 40 percent, just for the ammunition we require. We can do the basic weapons training, just basic qualification, that’s all we can do. We can’t do any more than that because we can’t afford it.”

 Assessor Tom Lane

County Assessor Tom Lane said continuity of established procedures and a well-functioning office were his major goals.

“I want the office to continue to run smoothly and try to treat everybody in the community fair, and be as honest and upright with them as possible,” he said. “We have an excellent staff and I feel that we’re always trying to get better and do our jobs more efficiently.”

Lane will continue his office’s policy of personal visits to assess personal property.

“For personal property, most counties have gone to mail-outs,” he said. “I’ve continued to go door-to-door because I feel that, if you meet with someone and you talk to them face-to-face, you understand what’s going on better.”

Lane is implementing a change in the schedule for real estate appraisals.

“When we started off in the first part of 2013, we were understaffed,” he said. “We had to do the door-to-door re-appraisals for the entire county. We’ve kind of re-phased that to where we’re breaking it into a three-year period. We will visit all places within the county in a three-year period.”

The former policy was to visit 100-percent of properties in the county every third year.

 County Clerk Missy Bennett

In a written statement, County Clerk Missy Bennett described her four major goals for the coming year – an efficient and uneventful election process; successful implementation of two new software systems; deputy clerk duty instructions and location of more storage space.

In November, voters will elect two county commissioners, state senators and delegates, a circuit court judge and other officials.

“In order to have a successful election process, long hours and dedication are required of all parties involved, from candidates to election workers,” Bennett wrote.

In July, Bennett’s office began using new budgetary/accounting software, used for the budget, accounts payable and payroll for all county offices.

“At the completion of the year end, it is my goal that this software will have provided a complete and accurate accounting process,” Bennett wrote.

Also in July, the clerk’s office started using document imaging software, which enables scanning of documents, as they are received, and scanning and preservation of documents, such as deeds, in electronic format.

“The goal is to place terminals in all the record rooms to allow public access to the records electronically,” Bennett wrote. “The completion of the goal to scan older books will probably take several years; however, I would like to have at least one public terminal that will allow access to scanned documents by the end of 2014.”

Bennett directed her deputies to prepare written instructions for their job duties, so that other deputies can perform those duties, when necessary – and she wants that process to work smoothly this year. She also wants to acquire more storage space for her office this year.

“Storage is a problem for most courthouse offices,” Bennett wrote. “A joint effort by all county officials will be required for this goal to be met.”

Next week’s edition will include the goals of the county commissioners and prosecuting attorney for the coming year. In January 2015, The Pocahontas Times will follow up to see what progress was made in accomplishing each official’s goals.

About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com