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Commission focuses on Cass

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

It was an early night for the April 19 Pocahontas County Commission meeting as the commission turned their attention to Cass.

East Cass Community Park has been a topic of conversation since last July, and in the past, concerns were brought before the commission regarding the care and maintenance of the park. East Cass Community Park has since come under the same guidelines used by Stillwell and Widney parks.

However, the park was never officially put under the operational control of Pocahontas County’s Parks and Recreation [PCPR] Authority.

At the commission’s direction, Commission Attorney Bob Martin spoke with Commission President Bill Beard regarding the transfer of the park’s operational control and has since looked into procedures and any potential impediments and issues that might surface when making the transfer of operational control from the commission to the Parks and Recreation Authority.

Martin spoke with West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management [DHSEM] Hazard Mitigation Project Officer Mark Wallace. From Wallace, Martin learned that a motion is all that is needed to complete the transfer.

According to Martin, Parks and Recreation is a legal entity created by the commission, and rather than existing separately, Parks and Recreation serves as an extension.

“You’re not transferring it to anybody,” Martin added. “You’re just only handling the operational maintenance of the park through another arm of the county commission. As such, simply a motion is sufficient.”

Another concern the commission faced was the building of other structures – such as public restrooms – on the park’s property.

Martin examined the documents and exhibits pertaining to the lease agreement and found a specific paragraph that stated: “no new structures or improvements shall be erected on the property other than a) a public facility that is open on all sides and functionally-related to the open space use, and b) a public restroom.”

Wallace is to send photos and specifications for the type of restroom that can be constructed.

“By motion, you can move to transfer operational control from the [East Cass Community Park] to Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation,” Martin said, “and if there’s consideration that you all want to pay to them for the maintenance of this park, you can certainly do that. Going forward, if the commission wants to look into building public restrooms out there, I will provide the documents from Mr. Wallace, and you can build the bathrooms out there.”

Commission President Bill Beard voiced his approval of the transfer.

“Parks and Recreation could run it a whole lot better than us,” he commented to Parks and Rec Director Lauren Bennett. “You’re in the business. You have a board, and you understand what you’re doing. I think we should let you take it and run with it.”

Commissioner Jamie Walker expressed a similar opinion.

“Those are my thoughts, also,” he said. “Let’s go ahead, proceed with a new deed, and basically turn it over to Parks and Recreation. The park won’t really be going anywhere, but they’ll [PCPR] have a deed with their name on it and have full control over it.”

The commission moved to transfer the East Cass Community Park property to Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation and authorized Beard to execute a deed of said property.

“I think it’s a very good move,” Commissioner David McLaughlin said of the motion. “That park has been sitting for years and hasn’t had the best maintenance. It’s actually gone downhill for the last few years. I think this is a very good move.”

Individual’s Right to Request Ambulance Services

Additionally, the commission heard from several Cass and Dunmore residents concerning an individual’s right to request their ambulance service.

Following a visit from the State Fire Marshal, boundary lines for Pocahontas County’s volunteer fire departments were rerouted according to several factors – including department records, response times and rosters. The reroute was accepted by Pocahontas County’s Fire Chiefs Association, and under the new lines, Cass now falls under the Bartow-Frost-Durbin VFD’s jurisdiction. However, several residents claim that Cass Rescue Squad is the closest squad available and are seeking the right for individuals to request which ambulance service they receive.

“When the ambulance authority for the county transferred the Dunmore area – which runs north of the Cass intersection, down to Frost and over Seneca State Forest, and over to BFD’s ambulance service – people started calling our members and asked that Cass Rescue still serve as their ambulance service,” John Rebinski explained.

Pocahontas County 911 Director Mike O’Brien was present and offered an explanation for the decision at hand.

“There have been three examples in West Virginia in the last five years where counties have been sued for not sending the closest, appropriate ambulance in an emergency situation,” O’Brien said. “That’s what we’re into here. I’ve presented those examples to the EMS Authority Board, and I’ve only heard from one person who didn’t agree with this decision.”

O’Brien went on to state that county citizens are still allowed to contact different departments and make their own arrangements for transportation. However, if a call comes through 911 with an emergency, the closest, available ambulance will be sent out.

“What you’re asking tonight is totally contrary to what the commission can do,” Martin added. “They cannot do that. Four out of the five of you [rescue squads] have already voted to follow those lines. The policy has to be to tone out the most rapid responder based upon what knowledge he [O’Brien] has as the commission’s expert and director. Somebody from Charleston drew those lines, and if those need to be looked at, let’s look at them. Call me, I’ll come help you.”

No action was taken regarding the issue.

In other news:

  • Speaking as a citizen of Pocahontas County, Martin took a moment to commend 911 Director Mike O’Brien. Several weeks ago, Maryland’s Allegheny County received a sizable grant that would allow for the renovation of its 911 Center. Shortly thereafter, Allegheny County’s director sent an email to 911 Centers across West Virginia wishing to donate equipment. O’Brien jumped at the opportunity, and thanks to his quick response, Pocahontas County 911 Center received six units – worth $120,000 – free of charge.

    “Mike O’Brien has brought us into the twenty-first century,” Martin remarked, “and it didn’t cost us a dime.”

  • The commission laid the levy and approved a levy rate of $14.15 for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.
  • The commission transferred the Swift-Water rescue boat to the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department.
  • The updated Pocahontas County Emergency Operations Plan was approved.

The next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, at 8:30 a.m.

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