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Commission deals with legal issue and funding requests

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

At its February 2 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission discussed a letter received from former Prosecutor Eugene Simmons’ lawyers with regard to Simmons’ lawsuit against the County Commission. The letter stated that the law firm is seeking $48,800 in legal fees Simmons incurred defending himself from a complaint filed against him with the State Bar Lawyer’s Disciplinary Board by then Commission Attorney Bob Martin.

That board eventually dismissed Martin’s allegations against Simmons.

The commission is fighting the lawsuit that would force the taxpayers to foot the bill for Simmons’ legal fees, since they contend they did not authorize Martin to file the complaint, and he did so as a private citizen.

Simmons’ lawyers contend there is legal precedent for the county to pay those bills.

The matter is now before the court.

Turning to agenda items:

Kathryn Gillispie and Connie Moore, representing Art in Green Bank, asked for a $5,000 contribution to help them meet expenses as they provide a physical location for approximately 35 artists to sell their products, as well as an online venue for those sales. Gillispie said she has made many personal financial sacrifices to provide artists with those platforms, and wants equal financial support from the commission to that received by the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op and the Pocahontas County Art Council. The commissioners said that those groups receive an allotment from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, while Art in Green Bank is requesting a contribution directly from taxpayer money in the commission’s budget. When asked by Commissioner Jesse Groseclose why the three art groups in the county don’t consolidate their efforts, Gillispie indicated there are personality conflicts among them.

Moore explained that Art in Green Bank supports art education in the schools and that is what the money will be used for. Despite their concerns that the three arts organizations are not working together, the commission granted the $5,000 contribution.

Tony Byrd and John Sparks of the Northern Pocahontas County Community Assistance asked for and received a $5,000 contribution. The monies will be put toward expanding the Green Bank Senior Center, which needs more room to serve meals to seniors and veterans.

George Murphy, of Snowshoe, informed the commission that he has hired Lisa Cutlip as District Manager of the Snowshoe Resort Community District.

The commission agreed to provide the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) with a letter verifying that the CVB is the recipient of annual Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue. CVB Executive Director Cara Rose explained that the letter is required by Pendleton Community Bank to renew the CVB’s line of credit. Rose also said Hotel Occupancy Tax Receipts were down by 14% as of November, but they are hopeful that deficit will shrink as the winter season continues.

Commissioners discussed the former Howes Tannery Office Building in Frank. Commission President Walt Helmick said that he has now received two estimates from construction companies to repair and restore that county-owned building, and both are very expensive.

Commissioner John Rebinski suggested that the commission possibly put out a request for bids (RFP) for that work and see if there is any group or organization in the northern part of the county willing to put that building to productive use if it is restored, and then be willing to maintain it.

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