At Tuesday’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Com- missioner John Rebinski and Sheriff Jeff Barlow discussed some of the issues that make it difficult for law enforcement to remove permanently abandoned vehicles from along public roads in the county.
Barlow explained that when officers come across or are called to respond to a vehicle that has been sitting derelict along a roadway, without tags or other owner identification, they have a difficult time getting a towing company to respond to remove the vehicle. He said the reason is, without an identified owner, the towing company never gets paid for the tow. In addition, if they take the towing call, they go to the back of the 911 Center’s rotational tow list, causing them to potentially lose a paying tow. Barlow thanked Johnny’s Garage for recently towing a vehicle for his department, but said that usually doesn’t happen with towing companies.
Rebinski said, in the future, the county needs to establish a fund of several thousand dollars to reimburse towing companies that do respond to these types of calls.
The commissioners approved, effective immediately, that abandoned vehicle tows will not count against the towing company’s place on the rotation list.
Rebinski also brought up the efforts to increase emergency communications in the county by updating and replacing communication towers. Mike O’Brien, the 911 Director, said the PSD is willing to let them place an antenna on their water tower in Bartow, and the Green Bank Observatory has indicated it has no objection to that. They are also looking at a new tower site on Droop Mountain and replacing the tower at Thomastown in Marlinton. O’Brien said there are only three emergency communication towers in Pocahontas County, despite it being the third largest county by landmass in the state. He said Nicholas County, which is smaller has seven towers.
In other matters, County Clerk Melissa Bennett informed the commission that her office and the Circuit Clerk’s office each received $10,000 from WV Arts, Culture and History for their approved Records Preservation grants.
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Cara Rose sent a message to the commission requesting that Waste Management consider placing green boxes at the bottom of Snowshoe Mountain. Commission President Walt Helmick said the commission would consider providing Waste Management with funding for doing that, if a suitable site if found.
BFD Volunteer Fire Department requested financial assistance to hire EMS personnel to help their emergency coverage. Rebinski said if the commission gives money to one department for this, it would set a precedent requiring them to fund personnel for every volunteer department in the county. He suggested the county consider placing a county unit there during daytime.
The commission and Region 4 held a public meeting on behalf of the Pocahontas County Public Service District regarding applying for a Community Development Block Grant for funding the Thornwood Waterline Extension Project. The grant can be for up to $2 million, but the project will cost up to $3.2 million. The commission said it will look at possibly making up the differ- ence with their American Rescue Plan COVID funds. Mark Smith of the PSD said if that doesn’t work, they can get a loan to make up the $1.2-million.
The commission discussed the possibility of providing funds to the Pocahontas County Historic Landmark Commission to be used to restore the original County Clerk’s Office in Huntersville.
Helmick said the commission must eventually decide to do that or let the building continue to deteriorate. He said this Bicentennial year would be a very appropriate time to do it.
Mike O’Brien informed the commission that his office had been offered a $12,500 Emergency Management Performance COVID-19 supplemental grant award. The commissioners approved acceptance of this award.
Tony Byrd, of the Northern Pocahontas County Community Assistance, Inc. asked for and received a contribution from the commission in the amount of $5,000.
Paul Hutchinson, a Beckley Attorney representing Farm the Sun, LLC, told the commission that he is seeking landowners in the county, who would lease flat, treeless farmland to be used as solar farms. He said his company would represent the landowners and negotiate on their behalf with major solar companies. He said he is looking for properties of at least 50 acres located within five miles of an electric substation. He said landowners could receive as much as $1,500 per acre per year for a 20-to-25-year lease. The commission took no action on this matter, but thought on this matter, but thought the idea was interesting.
The commission approved the Emergency Absentee Voting Policy. Melissa Bennett said this only authorizes her office to provide the opportunity to vote for residents at the nursing home or patients in the hospital, and this policy is routinely approved each election year.
During a discussion about the County Jail Building, Helmick said he wants to obtain an estimate of the cost for renovating the existing building for use as a Courthouse Annex. He wants to see if that would be more or less expensive then tearing the existing jail down and replacing it with a new courthouse annex building.
During a discussion about the Water Project on Beard Heights, Helmick also remarked that when considering this project, the commission must also recognize that the commission will eventually have to look at the possibility of outside ownership of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital by a medical group such as WVU.