Laura Dean Bennett
The Pocahontas County Commission met for its regular bi-monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 18.
There being no exoneration orders with which to deal and no corrections or discussion about the previous meeting’s minutes, the commissioners turned to the Puplic Input/Hear Callers portion of the meeting where Margaret Worth, of Marlinton, addressed the commissioners with her concerns about the true cost of the energy produced and used in West Virginia and in Pocahontas County.
Commissioners thanked Worth for sharing her concerns.
The first item of business on the agenda was the approval of the 2017-2018 levy rate.
Commission president Bill Beard announced that the commission had established that a levy rate of 14.19 would be necessary to balance the 2017-2018 budget.
There being no questions or discussion on the subject, Commissioner David McLaughlin made a motion that the levy rate be approved. The motion pass-ed unanimously.
Glenn Galloway, director of the Pocahontas County Day Report Center, presented his report for the month of March 2017.
Galloway said that there were 18 participants – three of whom were new to the program and one participant completed the program in March.
During March, there were no participants terminated from the program, one participant in rehab, 11 males, seven females, three unemployed and one participant found employment during the month.
The number of drug and alcohol screenings continues to climb as the Day Report Center continues its emphasis on this aspect of the program. In March, 76 drug screens were administered with eight positive results (three of which were on intake into the program). There were 57 alcohol screens performed with zero positive results.
Day Report clients performed 143 hours of community service, and put in 51 classroom hours in parenting, career building, crime victim awareness, cognitive behavioral intervention and “Thinking for a Change.”
Therapy and life skills (27 hours) and recreation hours (12) were also offered to participants.
Commissioners thanked Galloway for his hard work in supervising the Day Report Program.
Commission president Beard said that the report “is looking better and better every month.”
The commissioners next heard a request for help in securing a Small Cities Block Grant to defray the costs of an extension of the existing sewer line to the towns of Frank and Bartow.
John Tuggle, with the Region 4 Economic Development Group, and several other engineers associated with the proposed project were on hand to answer questions and explain the project and the grant process to commissioners and the public.
The project is a sewer line extension which is being planned to pipe wastewater to the Durbin Waste Water Treatment Facility.
It will require mandatory hookup for residents or businesses located within 300 feet of the line. There would be some 110 residents, seven businesses, a forest service facility and a few small industrial plots affected.
McLaughlin asked about the cost of the project and was told that it would come to 3.6 million dollars for construction and administration.
“One point five million dollars of that amount will hopefully come from a Small Cities Block Grant, with the remainder of the funds to be gathered together through other, smaller grants,” Tuggle said. “And all of the monies need to be in hand before we can move forward with construction.
“The hope is, that if all of the costs can’t be covered by grants, only a small amount will need to be financed through a loan. The public service districts in a county can apply for a block grant from the state. We should move quickly to apply for Small Cities Block Grant as the deadline for applications for this particular grant is coming up fast”
McLaughlin made a motion that the commission sponsor the Small Cities Block Grant application. The motion passed unanimously.
David Litsey was next to address the commission, saying he had come to the commission “to place on the public record, something which I believe is an emergency situation.”
Litsey began by reviewing the shortfall in the school system budget and the fact that the State Fire Marshal has placed Marlinton Elementary on notice that it must get its sprinkler system up to code or face closing.
He suggested that the commission put a $140,000 line item in next year’s budget to cover the projected expense of repairing the sprinkler system.
Litsey also questioned the wisdom of losing some taxable income through the Farmland Protection Program. He suggested that the county use some of the funds being held by the Farmland Protection Board to assist the county and the school system.
Dick Evans asked Commissioner Jesse Groseclose, who sits on the Farmland Protection Board, about the availability of the $500,000 to $600,000 – which is being held by the Farmland Protection Board.
Groseclose stated that there are currently 2,157.09 acres being held under Farmland Protection or agricultural easement in Pocahontas County. The money for the purchase of these types of properties is already spoken for and, in any event, these funds need to be available, as needed, to be spent for their original purpose.
“Even if some of that money could legally be loaned to the school board, it would need to be an extremely short-term loan,” Groseclose added.
Commissioners thanked Litsey for bringing his concerns to their attention.
The commission approved an amendment to its bylaws regarding entities and organizations who request and receive county funds, but are not audited.
From now on, any person or organization who receives $50,000 or more of county funds will have to file an annual certified CPA audit of those funds.
For funds totaling less than $50,000, the person or organization in receipt of those funds will be required to submit an annual sworn statement as to the disposition of those funds.
Counsel Bob Martin reported that now all three municipalities in the county are in agreement with the dog ordinance, allowing the sheriff to now have the authority to apply the ordinance in those three municipalities.
In other business the commission:
• Passed a motion to accept the votes of the three municipalities to extend the county dog ordinance and put the item on the next meeting’s agenda for final disposition.
• Signed the prepared resolution of support to be included as part of the package for the Court Security Grant Application
• Appointed Sheriff Jeff Barlow as Litter Control Officer for the county, as required by the Solid Waste Authority.
The next meeting of the county commission will be held at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 2.