Published On: Wed, Jun 4th, 2014

Marlinton Council hears water complaints

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Judd Worth, director of the Pocahontas Center, speaks to Marlinton Town Council Monday night about a proposed ordinance to ban feeding of wild animals in town limits.

Judd Worth, director of the Pocahontas Center, speaks to Marlinton Town Council Monday night about a proposed ordinance to ban feeding of wild animals in town limits.

Several town residents complained to Marlinton Town Council Monday night about recent problems with their water service.

Rick Malcomb, who lives in Lakeview Estates, reported numerous water service disruptions.

“Within a week, we ran out of water three times,” he said. “To me, that’s a lot. If it happens the first time, then somebody should be aware of it; somebody should be looking at it; somebody should be monitoring it.”

Several other residents complained about service outages, boil water notices and bad tasting water.

Mayor Joe Smith responded that a combination of problems had caused problems with the town’s water system during the past couple weeks.

“On May 18, we had a problem that was not the town’s fault,” he said. “ The power company – two fuses was blowed on the main line because of Asplundh’s tree trimming. Once we realized we did not have no power, and got Frosty McNabb up there to go look at it, and he walked it back, the problem was already all the way down to Tim Wade’s farm. Once they replaced them fuses, you had water back.”

Town water plant employee David Johnson said control panels at the water plant were damaged by a leaking battery about a week after the power outage, causing additional problems. Until the damaged control panels are repaired, water levels in tanks must be checked manually by town employees, who turn on pumps to fill tanks.

Malcomb said one tank was overflowing for hours on Memorial Day, when the water was not turned off.

“The tank on Sherrard Street was overflowing for hours,” he said. “For hours that tank overflowed – and we had no water. I saw it at 9:30 a.m. and it was still pumping out on the ground about 1 p.m. And here, we’re out of water.”

Other residents reported seeing water flowing down Route 39 all day on Memorial Day.

The mayor said the firm C.I. Thornburg is in the process of repairing the damaged control panels. In the meantime, he said, he would implement a council recommendation to create a log and have employees record tank water level checks in a logbook.

Regarding bad taste, Smith said a team from Rural Water Association was expected in town this week to work on water plant filters, which could alleviate the problem.

But the mayor said the problem is much larger than the control panels and filters.

“The water system is outdated and ready to collapse,” he said.

Last month, Council applied for a $1.5 million Small Cities Block Grant (SCBG) to make repairs to the aging water plant. Smith reported that an additional $2.8 million loan for the project had been approved by Region IV Jobs Development Council, contingent on receipt of the SCBG grant and availability of funds.

Councilmember Lousie Barnisky urged Council to contact elected officials.

“I think we, as a council, need to keep after our House of Delegates, our senators, all these people that go to Charleston, and let them know that we are in a bad state for water,” she said. “We should be asking them to help us to get our plant back in order. This is terrible that it’s gone hot and nobody’s done nothing about it.”

After hearing water complaints and discussing water issues for nearly 90 minutes, Council considered the second reading of an ordinance which would prohibit the feeding of wild animals. Council passed the first reading of the ordinance last month, in response to complaints about nuisance deer.

Smith read an amendment to the ordinance which he said addressed public concerns. The mayor proposed that the ordinance apply only to areas east of the Greenbrier River and north of Knapps Creek, thereby excluding Pocahontas Center from the regulated area. The amendment also made the ordinance apply only to mammals and specifically excluded birds.

Recorder Robin Mutscheller also read an exemption which she prepared to exclude Pocahontas Center, but said she would support Smith’s amendment, which accomplished the same purpose.

Before Council acted on the ordinance, Pocahontas Center Director Judd Worth and Department Director John Lamb pleaded with Council to exempt the nursing home, because residents there enjoy seeing and feeding deer.

Worth presented a letter to Council which read, in part:

“The Pocahontas Center has 68 residents that live here full-time. Most of these elderly citizens have limited mobility and therefore are unable to enjoy the beauty of our local area. As many of you know, our frail residents are able to watch our local deer population eat and play from the comfort of their beds. Deer frolic in our yard daily and the residents always look forward to watching this activity. Residents and family members feed these deer in an effort to bring great joy to their loved ones. It would be a grievous hardship to our residents if you were to pass this ordinace, as it stands.”

Councilmember Lotretta Malcomb said she opposed excluding the nursing home.

“The deer don’t know to stay at the nursing home, of course, so they do go everywhere,” she said. “And feeding animals is not good for them. Anybody will tell you – from DNR and all those – it isn’t even healthy for them. Then, it brings in other creatures and other animals, as well. We saw three bear the other day coming down Thomastown Road.”

Councilmember Norris Long said he opposes exemptions, in general.

“I did not like the idea of exemptions, per se, because then, somebody up the road might ask for an exemption for their place,” he said.

Long said he was willing to allow the exemption for the nursing home, as long as Council reserves the right to reconsider, if deer problems persist in the area.

Council voted 4-1 in favor of the ordinance, incorporating Smith’s amendment to exclude Pocahontas Center. Malcomb voted in opposition.

In other business, Smith reported that two streetlights for Main Street had been ordered, and Council tabled action on the West Virginia Retirement Plan.

About the Author

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