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Commission begins towing ordinance revision

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

At the April 6 Pocahontas County Commission meeting, commissioner John Rebinski asked that the commission begin the process of amending the County Towing Ordinance. In particular, Rebinski wants Fire or EMS personnel at the scene of a traffic accident to be allowed to contact 911 to request a tow by the company that is next on the rotation.

The current ordinance only allows a Law Enforcement Officer to make that request once they arrive on the scene. Rebinski said that restriction can cause delays in getting a road cleared and reopened to traffic since law enforcement’s arrival is often delayed because they are responding to a call elsewhere.

Under the proposed change, Fire and EMS would only be allowed to call for a tow truck if the owner has not requested that a specific company be called. This restriction eliminates the possibility of Fire or EMS personnel steering the motorist to chose a tow company that the first responder favors.

Rebinski provided a letter from Sheriff Jeff Barlow which supports this change, and told his fellow commissioners that he has also received approval of this proposal from Fire and EMS and from five of the six representatives on the commission’s towing committee.

The commission passed a motion to begin the process to change the ordinance.

The commission received notification that the U.S. Forest Service is buying an additional 361 acres near Durbin to add to the Monongahela National Forest, and the commissioners voiced their support.

Charles Sheets informed the commission that the Tourism Council will sponsor County Clean-up the first three Saturdays in May.
The purpose of this is to remove trash from the sides of roads in order to beautify the county.

Sheets would like for individuals, schools and organizations to volunteer to help in this effort.

Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Cara Rose also spoke in support of this project, and said the CVB, through the West Virginia, Make It Shine Program, sponsor a similar program beginning Earth Day, April 22, through the end of National Tourism Day on May 8.

She said the program will pay charitable organizations $100 per mile to register and pickup trash from the roadsides in the county. She said the goal is to clean up 100 miles of roads.

Interested organizations can contact her at the CVB at 304-799-4636.

Rose also suggested that law enforcement officers write more littering citations.

Those violations can cause points to be assessed against the vehicle operator’s driver’s license if the trash is thrown from a vehicle, and can result in a fine of up to $1000.       

On another topic, Rose requested that the commission write a letter in support of the Snowshoe Highlands Area Recreation Collaborative’s application for an Appalachian Regional Com- mission Technical Assistance Grant. This grant would provide for an implementation plan to develop a strategic plan for recreation projects in the county, including developing a plan to upgrade the International Mountain Biking Association’s Ride Center from Silver to Gold by 2025. If accomplished, it would be the first Gold Ride Center on the East Coast, according to Rose. The commission agreed to write a letter.

Rose also briefed the commission on the new state law about AirBNBs. She said under this law, which becomes effective on June 7, the Hotel Occupancy Tax will be collected by third party rental companies such as AirBNB the same as sales tax is collected. Those companies would then directly remit the tax to the county.

Rose also noted that Pocahontas County generates more Hotel Occupancy Tax than any other West Virginia county.

She said, so far this fiscal year (which began on July 1, 2020), there has been a 13 percent increase in Hotel Occupancy Tax collections compared to the same time in the last fiscal year. She also noted that there was a 22 percent increase in tax collected in the month of January 2021 over January 2020.

Rose also said that Sage Tanguay, who works at Allegheny Mountain Radio, has been selected as the artist for the commission’s Bicentennial Trout.

The commission agreed to allow Pocahontas County Board of Education to retain $10,000 previously given as a local match for a USDA Distant Learning Grant. That grant was not approved, so the monies will be used as a local match for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant for computer devices for grades one through seven. The board has already purchased devices for grades eight through 12.

Marlinton Flood Plain Coordinator Zachary Graham explained that the basements of the 911 Center, the jail and courthouse are currently listed on the Army Corp of Engineers flood map as being in the flood plain. He said those maps are “fluid.”

Commission President Walt Helmick said he wanted to invite representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers to come to a commission meeting to explain about those maps, since some areas not designated as being in the flood plain on the maps are prone to flooding while other areas designated as in the flood plain do not flood.

Helmick also talked about the possibility of the commission buying back an approximately 2.9-acre lot near the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital from Seneca Health Services. This will be discussed further at the next meeting.

The commission approved a request from Helmick and Solid Waste Authority office administrator Mary Clendenen to authorize spending $250 for a permit application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for the county to establish a demolition disposal site at the East Fork Industrial Park. This will be used to dispose of building materials from demolished buildings.

Correction: At the March 16 commission meeting, it was said that a tenant was found for the second floor of the former Tannery Office Building in Frank. The tenant was identified as the Pocahontas County PSD, but the PSD advises that it has not made a decision in regard to office space.

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