Commission deals with full and varied agenda

Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

Snowshoe Resort COO Frank DeBerry, a member of the Snowshoe Resort Area District committee, presented the RAD Petition for review at the Pocahontas County Commission meeting Tuesday. The petition was signed by 40 resident property owners, which would be included in the proposed RAD. 

Commission counsel Bob Martin stated that, according to West Virginia state statute, the commission “now has 60 days from the date of today’s meeting” to determine if the petition meets the statute’s requirement for its being “complete.” This is the first step in the process of having the county commission approve the proposed RAD. Once the commission determines that the petition is complete, a public meeting will be announced for further discussion of the proposed RAD.

Mike Carpenter, representing the West Ridge Home Owners Association stated that his organization, which had previously opposed the RAD, is now in favor of it.

Commissioners remarked that there now seems much more general approval for the RAD and thanked DeBerry for bringing the petition.

Correspondence received by the commission included information about the May 10 review of the West Virginia Community Corrections grant application. The meeting will be held in Charleston, and Day Report Director Glenn Galloway and Commissioner Jesse Groseclose will attend.

The commission received a letter from Hillsboro resident Dick Evans, stating that he disagreed with David Litsey’s presentation at the last commission meeting regarding funding for the county school system.

Final contracts were received for the former shoe factory sprinkler system upgrade.

A 10-minute time slot was set aside for public comment regarding the Small Cities Block Grant application to help finance the extension of wastewater service to Frank and Bartow. Amanda Smarr, representing Region 4 Planning and Development Council and Dave Dragan and David Gandee of the PSD board were present to answer questions from the public or the commissioners. 

Commissioner David McLaughlin asked how the sewer line extension project had originally come into being and was told that it started 10 years ago as a result of a threatened fine by the DEP to ensure more sewer service in the county. 

Groseclose asked if all affected residents were in agreement with the extension and was told that thus far, there have been no complaints. McLaughlin added that he had heard that Interstate Lumber is very much looking forward to the completion of the sewer line extension. 

Next on the agenda was the discussion and ratification of the termination of the lease agreement between the county and the Human Resource Development Foundation, Inc. pursuant to untoward activities by some Human Resource Development employees. 

Sheriff Jeff Barlow reported that the offending employees are gone and commissioners authorized Galloway to change the locks on all interior and exterior doors at the Day Report Center. 

After waiting the prescribed 10 minutes for additional public input and there being none, Smarr circulated a sign-up sheet to include with the Small Cities Block Grant application which will be submitted by June 30.

Martin advised commissioners that the Pocahontas County High School baseball program needs a lease agreement to continue use of county property for their occasional indoor practices. That also brought to his attention that the existing agreement between the county and the Board of Education regarding the use of county property (the former shoe factory) by the archery team is out of date. That agreement was originally written in November 2014 and expired in 2015. 

Commissioners approved Martin’s recommendation that he be allowed to write new lease agreements for the PCHS baseball team and the Pocahontas County archery team to be presented to the Board of Education for approval and then returned to the commission for its approval, subject to review by the county’s insurance carrier for liability issues.

An amendment to the Pocahontas County Dog Ordinance, which takes into account that now all three municipalities – Durbin, Marlinton and Hillsboro – have voted to approve the ordinance to apply within their town limits, was unanimously approved by the commissioners. 

“This will be the first reading of the amended ordinance,” Commission President Beard said. “And there will be two more readings of the ordinance before its final ratification.”

The amended dog ordinance is available on the county’s website. 

Commissioners approved budget revisions to address these shortfalls in these current budgets:  

• the shortfall of funds for the Regional Jail Authority ($50,000)

• county law enforcement ($1,000)

• Family Law Master ($800)

• One Room University ($500)

In his report to the commission, Martin discussed two issues, the first being the fact that members of the county fire board need to be elected to their positions, according to West Virginia code. At present, the fire board is out of compliance as it is not an elected body. Martin will begin working with the organization at its next meeting to bring them into compliance.

Martin presented a report from Emergency Management and 911 Director Michael O’Brien which gave a detailed breakdown of each call for response from a towing company and how it was handled in the new rotational system. The report reveals that the system seems to be fair and working well. 

Several organizations came before the commission to request funds. Before any speakers were recognized, Beard read a copy of the amended bylaws stipulating financial reports or audits of each entity receiving county funds. 

Trish McNaull, representing the Pocahontas County Humane Society, gave a brief description of the work the organization performs for the welfare of the animals of the county and the sources of the organization’s funds. She asked commissioners to consider giving the Humane Society $1,000 to augment this year’s fundraising efforts. 

Peggy Stull, of Youth Health Services, listed the many ways that YHS assists children and young people in the county who have mental and emotional health challenges, some of which are, in fact, most dire, including substance abuse issues with meth, ecstasy and heroin. She asked for funds to provide a nine-week program of equine therapy, conducted by Lynette Otto, for at-risk youngsters. Linda Simmons, Jean Srodes and McLaughlin all spoke in favor of this as being a very beneficial and worthy program. 

Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce, represented by Ben Wilfong, Linda Simmons and Terry White, asked commissioners to consider giving their organization funds to help them update their website to make it more responsive to the needs of both local businesses and visitors to our county. 

Becky Campbell, program director of the Family Resource Network, spoke about the shortfall in funds being experienced by the FRN, as approximately half of their state grant funding has recently been cut. Among its many programs, the FRN serves between 150 and 200 families each month at its food pantry. Campbell said that the FRN would be stepping up fundraising activities, but asked for $5,000 from the county commission to augment this year’s food pantry budget.

Beard addressed all who had come to request funding.

“Well, we have a dilemma,” he said. “We have more requests for funds than we have money left in our budget – which is $4,326.43. It might be better, if those of you who can make it until our meeting in August, when the next fiscal year begins, could bring your requests back then.”

McNaull withdrew her request for the Humane Society, and said that she understood some others had more pressing needs and that the Humane Society would come back with their request in August.

Wilfong said the CVB would table its request until August.

McLaughlin moved that the commission equally divide the amount left in the county budget between YHS and the FRN, awarding $2,163 to each organization. The motion passed unanimously.

Bob Sheets, property owner of the Fort Warwick archaeological site in Green Bank, addressed the commission during the Public Input/Hear Callers portion of the meeting.

Thanks to support received from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Cal Price Series and the Durbin Lions Club, an Open House will be held at Fort Warwick May 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. An Honor Guard ceremony in memory of the Revolutionary War dead buried at Warwick cemetery will be held at 11 a.m.

“The Open House will feature hands-on archaeology, artifact exhibits from the excavation, site tours, historical lectures and a visit by the West Virginia Humanities Council personnel,” Sheets said. “We are proud that, by the time of the Open House, we will have already had more than 200 local students come through the site.”

Sheets encouraged the commissioners to attend the event.

The commission will meet again Tuesday, May 16, at 5:30 p.m.

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