At Tuesday’s meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission authorized Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan to expand its facility. Commissioners made it clear that their decision to allow PMH to submit the loan application does not commit the county to anything, but allows the USDA to study the application, the hospital’s financial ability to make loan payments, and to determine if a loan can be offered and if so, the appropriate amount of the loan that the hospital can repay.
The commission also discussed the proposed site for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Underground Safety Research Program at Mace.
Jeannie Bell, a resident of Mingo, who lives very close to the proposed underground facility presented some of the community’s concerns about the project. Bell pointed out some things that disturbed her after when she read the government’s Environmental Impact Statement:
• The danger that there will be both short-term and long-term negative effects on residents’ wells and springs
• The above ground fire suppression burns may release carcinogenic chemicals into the ground water
• Blasting at the site may change the course of underground water flows, causing wells and springs to dry up.
• The dangers of building in karst topography
• The dangers of having the facility located so close to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – about one and a half miles away.
• Increased truck traffic in the area both during construction and afterward during routine operations of the facility will hurt tourism, especially making if very difficult for tourists to drive to the Snowshoe Mountain Resort, and that this will be critically bad during simul- taneous pipeline construction.
• The lack of adequate study of the existing wells, springs and caves during the EIS preparation.
Randy Sharp, a former mine worker who has worked with underground blasting disputed some of the claims. He said that properly conducted blasting would not likely cause changes to the water table or cause dangers to the pipeline.
The commissioners said they would need more expert information before taking a stand one way or the other about the proposed site.
Kara Dense from the WV Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus presented a plaque to Cara Rose of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) which symbolizes their recent three-year CVB Accreditation.
In other business, the commission:
• approved the Community Corrections Program’s grant applications for both the 2020-2021 Community Corrections Grant and the West Virginia Justice Reinvestment Initiative Grant.
• appointed J. Michael Anderson as a county Fiduciary Commissioner.
• tabled action on a $25,000 local commitment toward the Mountain Transit Authority’s 2020-2021 grant match. The commissioners want to talk with Tim Thomas of the MTA before approving this.
• designated the County Commission as the lead agency on any development or redevelopment of water and sewer facilities located on Beard Heights. These facilities serve both PMH and Marlinton Middle School.
• accepted the resignation of Jason Scotchie as the PMH Representative to the Emergency Medical Services Authority, and appointed Ryan Sparks to that authority to fill the remaining portion of Scotchie’s term.
It was pointed out that Scotchie wishes to concentrate his efforts on his work as an EMS instructor.