Busy commission agenda, wide range of topics

Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

Twenty-nine citizens were in attendance at the Pocahontas County Commission’s January 16 meeting.

In the hear caller/public input portion of the evening, Doug Bernier asked if the commission had received a response to its letter to Dominion regarding Dominion’s website stating erroneously that Pocahontas County Commission is in favor of the current route proposed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 

Commission Counsel Bob Martin said that the commission had not received a reply, and that he had sent another letter to Dominion that day, January 16, again requesting that Dominion take down the endorsement from its website.

Commission president Bill Beard informed those assembled that Dominion representatives are scheduled to be at the February 6 commission meeting.

Pocahontas County Water Coordinator Shenda Smith gave a detailed update of her activities and those of the Water Task Force.

An educational program about water resources, “Project Wet,” sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will soon be introduced into the schools as two Pocahontas County teachers have been certified to teach it.

A presentation about stream monitoring protocol, “Save Our Streams’” was made during a fifth grade field day and a Boy Scout meeting.

Smith participated in a VA/WV water quality control training program held in conjunction with Trout Unlimited.

She organized community outreach efforts for various festivals and activities in the surrounding area during 2017.

Smith took part in FEMA floodplain training and pipeline monitoring training in the Monongahela Forest.

In an effort to familiarize herself with citizens’ concerns and issues related to the construction of the ACP, Smith attended all ACP public comment meetings.

Commissioner David McLaughlin asked Smith if she had conducted any water testing yet. 

Smith said that she has done two tests so far. 

Jason Bauserman, Chairman of the Historic Landmarks Commission, came before the commissioners with that organization’s annual report for 2017.

Landmarks Commission members Ruth Taylor, Dennis Driscoll and Bob Sheets were also on hand.

The commission had a busy and productive 2017, researching historical sites, buildings and documents and providing funding for worthwhile historical projects.

The HLC owns the deeds for the Pocahontas County Opera House and the McGlaughlin Log Cabin, and they are responsible for the physical upkeep and insurance on those buildings. 

Bauserman said they expect to have a tenant for the McGlaughlin Cabin in the near future.

In 2017, the HLC provided funding to:

– repair the Huntersville Jail building 

– the Upper Pocahontas Community Cooperative for eleven tourism signs for Durbin

– clean up the cemetery at Frank

The HLC conducted educational presentations to fifth graders and assisted with roof repair on a cabin at Watoga State Park.

Bauserman mentioned that the HLC will be doing some research on the history of an old barn in Huntersville, currently owned by Martin.

He stated that the HLC is concerned about the deteriorating condition of the old Tannery office building.

He asked if the commissioners would like him to personally assess the damage to the roof of the building and report back to them. 

They advised caution, as the roof is in such bad shape, but that they would appreciate having his assessment.

Sheets discussed the 2017 Memorial Day archeological dig at Fort Warwick, for which HLC had provided $5,000. 

The dig yielded significant information about the fort – finally locating its perimeter- 100’ x 140’- roughly half the size of a football field. 

Parks and Recreation Director Lauren Bennett and board member Roger Trusler were present to update the commission on that department’s activities.

Bennett reported that the new sign for East Cass Park was up, and that she was pleased to see that more residents seem to be using the park now that the sign has been erected.

Parks and Rec is working on upgrading and improving structures and facilities in Stillwell Park and has completed a new walking trail in Widney Park and will be installing fitness equipment there shortly.

Bennett also reported that 2017 was a busy year for the Wellness Center, which opened four and a half years ago. 

She said that use of the facility continues to increase, and that it is nice to see so many residents taking advantage of the fitness center and growing healthier in the process.

Commissioners thanked Bennett for her work, but denied her request to change the time when hotel/motel funds are distributed to Parks and Rec.

Several members of the board of directors of the Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitors Centers were present as director Cree Lahti gave her 2017 report to the commission.

She pointed to the fact that the libraries have strengthened their partnerships with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, incorporating “West Virginia Welcome” training by the CVB for all library employees.

Pocahontas Libraries are now listed in the Pocahontas County Visitors Guide.

“Our new name reflects our position as a resource for and commitment to both residents and visitors,” Lahti said. “We recorded 48,000 visits to our libraries in 2017, and we recorded 2,000 wifi users last year.”

In other improvements, a commercial kitchen has been installed in the Durbin Library.

Lahti thanked the commission for their continued support of the libraries’ mission.

Commissioners then took up the matter of how hotel/motel tax money would be distributed in the new fiscal year, deciding that the distributions would remain exactly the same as last year.

Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau will, as per the statute, receive one-half of all H/M tax collected. 
Other county entities will receive these specified amounts:

•Pocahontas Memorial Hospital – $75,000

•Emergency Medical Services – $75,000

•Pocahontas County Fire Board – $50,000

•Pocahontas County Bricks & Mortar – $25,000

One hundred percent of the remaining 50 percent (after the four above payments) will be allocated in the following percentages: 

•Preserving Pocahontas – three percent

•Pocahontas County Artisans’ Co-op – three percent

•Pocahontas County Arts Council – four percent

•Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission – five percent

•Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals – 20 percent 

•Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation – 33 percent 

•Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitor Information – 32 percent

Beth Little came before the commission requesting that commissioners look into the problem of there being no emergency system in place to notify county residents when there is a telephone outage in the area.

Little reported that during a recent Frontier phone outage in the southern end of the county, which lasted two and a half days, customers, the local radio station and the county 911 dispatcher were all told by Frontier Communications that there was no outage in the county. No further information was forthcoming for 30 hours.

911 Center director Mike O’Brien concurred that there is no other number, besides the Frontier Communications customer service 800 number, available even to emergency services, to ascertain that there is an outage, where the outage is or how long it might last.

Martin was tasked by the commissioners to work with O’Brien to come up with a solution for better communication between emergency services and Frontier Communications.

Daniel Arbogast gave the December 2017 report for the Day Report Center on a newly designed form.

The report showed, among other statistics, that there were 21 participants at the start of the month, with one new participant being added, one completing the program and five being terminated from it.

Arbogast was granted permission to begin delivering the monthly Day Report statistics in written form to the commission.

Laura Young, director of the Family Resource Network assists in securing funding for the Day Report program.

She reported to commissioners that her Day Report grant application for $40,000 was complete and ready for their approval. Commissioners approved the grant application for submission.

Young also asked commissioners to approve her starting the grant application process for the Peer Recovery Support Services grant.

This grant, if secured, would yield between $50,000 and $100,000 for salaries, including for a peer recovery counselor and a case manager position at the Day Report Center. 

The commissioners approved her request and thanked Young for her efforts on behalf of the county and the Day Report Center.

Commissioner Jesse Groseclose stated that the Day Report program costs county taxpayers about 1/8 of the dollars needed to keep convicted drug offenders in jail.

The question of how to best spend the $5,000 which former AmeriCorps Emma Eisenberg recently donated to the county was decided.

Opera House manager, Brynn Kusic and other members of the Opera House board came before the commission with a presentation about their plans for a 50-to-60 student drama camp/ workshop to be held this summer.

The workshop will be held in conjunction with the Missoula Children’s Theater. The Opera House board hopes it will be the start of a year-long, permanent children’s drama workshop program. 

Students who cannot afford the fee for the camp would receive scholarships from the Opera House.

After her presentation, Kusic, asked for a portion of the Eisenberg gift to defray expenses of the workshop.

Commissioners decided that Eisenberg would approve of this use of her donation and voted to give the entire $5,000 to the Opera House board for use in providing this drama camp/ workshop to the students of Pocahontas County.

The commission approved using the $3,851 remaining from the Court Security grant to augment security at the family court offices.

Herby Barlow was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Pocahontas County 911 Advisory Board. The term will expire June 30, 2020.

Commissioners approved placing an ad in The Pocahontas Times every January to inform county residents as to which properties are subject to the 6 percent Hotel/ Motel tax.

Martin reported to the commission that he will be sitting in on the RAD [Snowshoe Resort Community District] bylaw committee and working with Frank DeBerry and the committee to organize Snowshoe RAD bylaws. The RAD board election will take place February 24. Martin and Beard will attend.

Martin will conduct Sexual Harassment Training for county employees January 22 and January 30.

The training date for the Sheriff’s Department and Town of Marlinton employees is set for February 6.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held Tuesday, February 6, at 8:30 a.m.

Laura Dean Bennett may be contacted at ldb@pocahontastimes.com

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