As its first order of business on December 17, the Pocahontas County Commission selected the winner of the county seal contest. The winning seal was submitted by Larry C. Taylor, of Dunmore, and painted by Charles Swiger in 1990.
Charles Bree Swiger was born in Clarksburg in 1955 and died at the age of 48 in 2004 in Lakeville, Ohio. In 1990, Swiger was incarcerated in the Pocahontas County Jail. Taylor was employed as the County Process Server during Swiger’s incarceration and became friends with the inmate. Taylor provided paint and other supplies for Swiger, a talented artist, to continue his hobby.
As a service to the county, Swiger painted a variety of police emblems in the lobby of the jail building. The jail closed, but those emblems still decorate the Sheriff’s administrative offices. At Taylor’s urging, the artist painted an unofficial county seal on framed canvas. Swiger also painted bricks for local residents, with pictures of Green Bank High School, Marlinton High School, Minnehaha Lodge and, possibly, other county landmarks.
According to Swiger’s obituary in the May 6, 2004, edition of The Daily Record of Wayne and Holmes Counties, Ohio, “He was a freelance artist and his work is on display at the Christopher David Art Gallery in Millersburg. He was an avid hunter and sportsman, loved spending time in the woods and loved nature itself, along with his beloved family.”
Swiger’s love of nature is reflected in the new county seal, which the commissioners unanimously selected. In the center of the seal, a black bear stands atop a rock outcropping, overlooking a lake and forest-covered mountains. The text “Home of the Mountaineer” and “Birthplace of Rivers” adorns the seal at top and bottom, respectively.
Taylor declined a $500 prize for winning the contest.
“I didn’t do this for the money,” he told the commission. “I did this to fulfill a dream I had almost 24 years ago. I don’t want the money. You keep the money. You can divide it among the other entries equally or, if you can find this guy’s family, send it to them. Or, if you want to use it to get your seal made, you can use it for that.”
The seal will be incorporated into the county letterhead, stamps and, presumably, displayed at county facilities.
The commission proceeded to other agenda items and considered a road naming ordinance, drafted by Emergency Services Director Shawn Dunbrack. The director explained that, under the proposed ordinance, all residents on roads with 10 or fewer households must agree on a new road name or name change. On roads with more than 10 households, eighty-percent of the residents must agree to a new road name or name change. If the required number of residents cannot agree, the director will have the authority to select a name at random. The proposed ordinance discourages the use of proper nouns in road names. The commission agreed to place the ordinance on its next meeting agenda for first reading.
Also, on Dunbrack’s request, the commission approved changing Lisa Friel from part-time to full-time dispatcher in the 911 Center, and approved hiring Katherine Carper as a part-time dispatcher. The commission also approved Dunbrack’s request to apply for a $10,000 grant for digital radio equipment.
The commission received two non-conforming bids for vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff had requested bids for a Nissan Titan truck for the home confinement officer, and a Chevrolet Tahoe truck for law enforcement. The commission received bids for a Dodge Ram truck for home confinement, and a Chevrolet Tahoe for law enforcement, but the Tahoe had 700 miles above the specified 25,000 miles maximum. The commission rejected both non-conforming bids and authorized the Sheriff to purchase the Tahoe from Mitchell Chevrolet, at a cost of $33,300.
During discussion of the bids, Commissioner Jamie Walker made clear that he disapproves of specifying the make of a vehicle in an advertisement for bids.
The commission considered accepting ownership of the Pocahontas Woods building on Third Avenue in Marlinton, and declined. Commissioner William Beard said he was reluctant to take on a new financial burden to the county, and that county residents had expressed that sentiment to him. Walker concurred with Beard.
“I agree with Mr. Beard 100-percent,” said Walker. “We have other county buildings that are empty and the Pocahontas Woods building would be better used for a private business.”
Commissioner David Fleming reported that a significant amount of federal money will be received under the Safe and Secure Rural Schools legislation for the coming year. The county will receive a total of $576,645, fifteen-percent of which must be allocated to Title I or Title II programs. The commission allocated the 15-percent, $86,497, to the West Virginia Resources Advisory Council, a multi-county committee that recommends projects on federal lands.
As in previous years, the commission will give eighty-percent of the remainder, or $392,118, to the Board of Education. The remaining 20-percent, or $98,030, will be given to the local Division of Highways.
In other business, the county commission:
– approved a $6,700 expenditure to upgrade office space, which will be leased to the West Virginia Division of Forestry, in the former Hanover shoe factory building.
– approved a letter of support for county seniors programs;
– took no action on a Corridor H resolution;
– approved a $2,363 budget revision for the Sheriff’s Department.
– agreed to advertise for roof repairs on the former Hanover shoe factory building.
The next regular Pocahontas County Commission meeting is scheduled for January 6 at 8:30 a.m.
Note: Anyone with knowledge of any of Charles Swiger’s other artwork is requested to contact Geoff Hamill at The Pocahontas Times.