Commission hears update on pipeline construction

Tim Walker

Denise Campbell, the Community Liaison for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline [ACP] addressed the Pocahontas County Commission at Tuesday’s meeting. Campbell said she wanted to respond with facts to numerous rumors in the community, some of which falsely claim that the pipeline company has given up and is pulling out because of recent court decisions.

Campbell confirmed that while there is currently a temporary stop work order for the entire pipeline imposed by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court, which covers all work except for ground stabilization, Dominion hopes to have that removed in an upcoming court hearing. That new court hearing has been delayed because of the government shutdown, and will, hopefully, be held in late spring. The construction yard near Frost, called the 3A Yard, which is responsible for the construction in the eastern part of Pocahontas County and parts of Highland County in Virginia, had very little stabilization work to be done in it, so the vast majority of that yard’s workers have been laid off. By contrast, the 2A Yard in Elkwater, Randolph County, had more stabilization work to be done, so it still employs about 200 workers to do that. The Frost Yard work had been scheduled to be done in 2018, but Campbell says that will be delayed probably until September to go into 2020. She said the other construction areas, including the 4A spread for the area near Snowshoe will also have to be pushed back. Campbell said an entirely new construction timetable will have to be set. She said the ACP is optimistic the stop work order will be lifted this spring and the project will go forward. She also thanked the residents of Pocahontas County for being very welcoming to pipeline workers.

John Leyzorek addressed the commission and expressed his concerns with the proposed new Rules of Procedure that the commission was scheduled to vote on at this meeting. Leyzorek said the proposed rule changes seemed designed to stifle public participation and public debate. One example of this was that the rules would appear to limit discussion on agenda items to just the elected commissioners except during the Hear Callers portion of the meeting. He said the rules also eliminated any discussion about any motion to limit or close further discussion on an agenda item. He was also upset that the rules would prevent any discussion on Motions of Objection, again shutting the public out of participation in the governmental process. Lezorek was particularly concerned that the new rules emphasized that it was a criminal offense to disrupt a meeting, which could possibly discourage people from exercising their First Amendment guaranteed right to protest. Commission President David McLaughlin said the rules were necessary to run an orderly meeting.

The commissioners tabled the proposed new rules until the next meeting to allow time for more study. Commission Attorney Bob Martin clarified later that the rule to limit discussion on an agenda item to commissioners only, would only apply after a motion was made and seconded and the public could certainly have their say about an item before the motion was official.

Leyzorek said the he “didn’t want to see the tradition of give and take be squashed” by these new rules.

Larry Carr also addressed the commission about his concerns over the $150 penalty for people who paid their Waste Management fees late. He felt this was hurting poor people who already had problems affording their original bill. McLaughlin told Carr that the commission does not control the Solid Waste Authority Board other than appointing one member to it, and Carr needed to take his complaint to that board which will meet Thursday evening at 7 p.m.

In other business, the commission

• approved the hire of Shane Hunter Peacock as a full-time Sheriff’s Deputy beginning February 19. Sheriff Barlow said he is still two deputies short of full staffing.

• approved the hire of Brandon Kelley as full-time Deputy Emergency Management Director/911 Dispatcher beginning February 19.

• approved the hire of Erin Lore as full-time Deputy in the County Clerk’s office, beginning February 11.

• heard an update from George Murphy about the Snowshoe Resort Community District. He said they approved their bylaws in January, and have been collecting a two percent Resort Service Fee since August.

* approved $4,000 for the Humane Society of Pocahontas County for its spay and neuter program and other needs.

• approved $4,614.42 for the Bicentennial Commission, for AmeriCorps support, website development and marketing.

• approved construction of a secure storage area at the ARC building to store vehicles which are being held as evidence.

• agreed to pay $2,993 to settle three claims against the Sheriff’s Department that insurance would not cover.

* appointed Todd Wright to fill the unexpired term of George Murphy on the Fire Board.

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