The Pocahontas County Commission held two emergency meetings in addition to its regular meeting since March 17.
In its March 17 emergency meeting, the commission wrestled with whether to close or limit access to the courthouse due to the growing threat of the coronavirus. Based upon discussions with various elected officials in the county and with the Pocahontas County Department of Health, the commission decided that there was no need to alter the courthouse operations at that time, but left open the possibility for revisiting this decision if the virus became more of a threat to the county in the future.
At its regular meeting held on the same day, the commission took several actions:
They approved the county’s annual budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
They voted to commit to providing $25,000 to the Mountain Transit Authority to help meet their local grant match to continue running public transportation in the county for 2020 and 2021. The commissioners had held off doing this at their previous regular meeting because they understood that ridership on the MTA buses was very poor, and they wanted to learn more before making a decision. At this meeting, however, Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton informed the commission that he has learned that ridership has been increasing, leading to the approval of the funding.
The commission also approved the election officials for the May 12 Primary Elections as recommended by the County Clerk’s Office.
In addition, the commission expressed frustration over comments they have become aware of from some folks at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. Those comments indicated that the commission was not on board with supporting PMH’s desire to obtain a loan to expand the hospital.
Commission President David McLaughlin stated that the comments were incorrect, and that the commission is 100 percent on board with supporting what is best for the hospital.
Commissioner Walt Hel-mick added that he does not understand why PMH would question the commission’s actions, suspecting that the hospital must feel that if the commission is not 100 percent on board with what the hospital wants to do, the commission is against them, and that is not true. He added “our actions were conservative, but necessary.”
On March 23, the commission held another emergency meeting to revisit the decision to either close or limit access to the courthouse because of the still growing threat of the coronavirus.
At that meeting, the commissioners decided to keep the courthouse functioning, however to limit public access to the building until at least April 6.
The courthouse was immediately locked after this meeting.
According to a press release by the County Clerk’s Office, the offices of the courthouse will continue to operate by phone, email and mail. Also, a drop box will be placed at the front door of the courthouse. Court filings, document recordings, payments, correspondence, and etc. for county offices can be placed in the secure locked box.
A list of courthouse offices telephone numbers can be found on page 2 of this edition of The Pocahontas Times.
The commission also gave Family Resources Network an emergency grant of $10,000 for their Disaster Relief program in order for them to meet the increased need for food in the community due to the virus emergency.
The West Virginia Supreme Court issued an order that mandates that all but time sensitive or emergency court business be postponed until at least April 11, and extended all court filing deadlines. That ruling allows the courts to remain open, but with limits.