Commission approves courthouse upgrades

The Pocahontas County Commission and Commission Assistant Sue Helton inspect the second floor of the courthouse on Tuesday morning. Helton took the lead in advocating for major upgrades on the floor, including new carpeting and painting. The total cost of the upgrades exceeds $33,000. Pictured left to right: Helton and Commissioners David Mclaughlin, William Beard and Jamie Walker.
The Pocahontas County Commission and Commission Assistant Sue Helton inspect the second floor of the courthouse on Tuesday morning. Helton took the lead in advocating for major upgrades on the floor, including new carpeting and painting. The total cost of the upgrades exceeds $33,000. Pictured left to right: Helton and Commissioners David Mclaughlin, William Beard and Jamie Walker.

The Pocahontas County Courthouse is a stately structure that adds dignity to the Town of Marlinton. The Victorian Romanesque stone building was built in 1894, three years after the county seat moved from Huntersville. It has remained unspoiled from ugly additions or renovations.

The exterior of the courthouse is in fine condition, but areas of the interior are suffering age. Worn carpet in the second floor is so frayed, Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons told the County Commission he’s worried somebody might trip and fall. The paint in the courtroom and hallways is faded, smudged and smeared.

For the first time since the 1970s, the second floor is getting a makeover. On Tuesday morning, the Pocahontas County Commission approved new carpeting for the entire floor and painting in the courtroom.

County Commission Assistant Sue Helton took the lead recently in recommending the carpeting project to the Commission. The Commission advertised for bids and opened the single bid during Tuesday’s meeting. S.J. Neathawk Lumber, of Lewisburg, offered to replace the carpeting at a cost of $20,126, including a labor charge of $12,440.

“I feel very strongly we need to move forward with this, because just being up there and looking at the carpet a minute ago, it’s pretty bad,” said Commissioner William Beard. “If somebody catches their toe on it, we’ll have big trouble, so I feel we need to move forward.”

Commissioner David McLaughlin moved to approve the bid and the Commission voted 3-0 in approval. The work will be paid for from the Commission’s courthouse “bricks and mortar” maintenance fund.

The Commission moved on to consider hiring a contractor to repaint the courtroom.

Circuit Clerk Connie Carr told the Commission that the courtroom had not been painted since the 1970s. Carr spoke in favor of the project.

“Courthouses across West Virginia are usually the most elaborate and beautiful buildings in the county,” she said. “If you look at the courthouse monument book, there’s some beautiful courthouses. That’s what the counties are all about is keeping their courthouses up. It makes the community proud.”

Carr said Courthouse Maintenance Manager Mike Cain had obtained a quote from Billy Dunz to paint the courtroom for $9,337. Carr said there is enough money in the Circuit Clerk capital outlay budget to pay for the project and showed a proposed color scheme to the commissioners: light green wainscoting with summer summer white walls and a white ceiling.

“Chief Judge Rowe has looked at it and he’s very much onboard with it,” said Carr.

The Commission voted 3-0 to approve a $9,337 contract with Dunz for the repainting. The Commission previously approved a $4,000 contract with Dunz for painting of the second floor hallways. That project will be paid for from a maintenance account controlled by Cain.

The total expenditure on the recent second floor upgrades exceeds $33,000. None of the work was advertised for bids because the individual contracts are less than $15,000, the threshold for mandatory advertisement.

Pocahontas County Emergency Management Services Director Shawn Dunbrack answered questions about the county 911 mapping and addressing project. Commissioners expressed concern recently because of additional invoices submitted by project contractor Doug McKenzie.

“What else are we going to be looking at?” asked Commissioner Jamie Walker. “When we first hired Mr. McKenzie to do this, for $47,000 or $48,000, I was under the impression we were getting a complete project. Then it was PO boxes that was another $40,000. Then it was people who lived here and didn’t have a phone number that was another 20-some-thousand dollars. It’s just continuously on and on and on. So,what else are we going to be adding. If we got a package deal, why wasn’t it a complete package that we got?”

“I don’t know,” responded Dunbrack. “There have been things that have been added. The fire hydrants was a big expense this year that wasn’t really a requirement, but I felt that it was necessary for insurance purposes. All these fire departments, they need to know how many fire hydrants they’ve got and know where they are. I’ve got insurance companies calling every week asking me how far it is from this address to the nearest fire hydrant. So, that was kind of a necessary thing. This year, we should be done with most of the incidental things. Anything now is just adding houses and roads, that I can do in-house.”

Dunbrack told the Commission that McKenzie’s services would be needed for certain software upgrades. Walker recommended that the Commission find a backup software technician in the event that McKenzie became unavailable.

“I think it would be a good move to look for backup resources, because if we’re pinned down to one person, that’s not good,” said Walker.

In other business, the County Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with North Central Community Corrections (NCCC) for the continuing operation of the Pocahontas County Community Corrections program. Under the agreement, Pocahontas County partners with Randolph County for Community Corrections and Randolph County is the fiscal agent for the program. The program is currently seeking Pocahontas County residents in certain fields to serve as Community Corrections board members. For more information, call 304-799-4209.

NCCC Director Erin Golden said NCCC does not micromanage Pocahontas County’s program.

“[Pocahontas County Day Report Center Director Tammie Alderman] and I kind of go on the same guidelines,” she said. “But I want her to run a program that’s best for Pocahontas County. So, she does things that Randolph County doesn’t necessarily do. I try to get her to do what’s best for this county.”

The next County Commission meeting is scheduled for March 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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