The Pocahontas County Commission signed the property lease agreement the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR.) at its April 4 meeting.
The county will now manage about 20 acres of the Handley Wildlife Management Area, to include the camping area, picnic area, restrooms, lake access and water system. The DNR is leasing the site to the county for $1 a year for an initial period of five years, and includes a mutual right to be renewed after that.
Following ratification of the lease agreement, the commission hinted about some ideas they have to improve the area for residents and tourists to enjoy. Commission President Walt Helmick said one question he had for the DNR was what their plans were for the old lodge building. Helmick said that building is not part of the leased area, however if it is the intention of the state to tear down the old lodge, he would want them to add that building’s site to the county leases, so that they could build a pavilion where the lodge was, and use the building’s existing fireplace in the pavilion.
Helmick said the West Virginia Department of Highways is assessing the site to see if they can replace the stone on the entrance road and on the circle leading to the campsites. He also said the first year of the lease would be a construction phase in an attempt to improve the site for the use and enjoyment of the public, and the county would put stone on the individual RV campsites. In the past, the commission has also talked about putting in new picnic tables, fire rings and playground equipment. The commission is waiting to hear back from the Parks and Recreation Board as to whether they can handle managing the site.
Cara Rose, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the commission that the Housing Task Force is moving forward to find solutions to the county’s housing shortage.
She said they are focusing on work-force housing, since a lack there-of hampers businesses from moving new workers into the county. Rose also said the “Build West Virginia Act” will be bringing $150 million to districts in the state, and the task force is trying to get Pocahontas County to be a designated district under that act.
During a discussion, Helmick and Sheriff Jeff Barlow laid out a preliminary plan to satisfy the West Virginia Supreme Court’s concerns about the lack of security at the courthouse. It would involve closing all courthouse outside doors into the building except for the basement level handicap entrance, where they will install a security checkpoint complete with metal detectors and armed security personnel.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton told them that at the Marlinton Town Meeting this week, about 17 citizens showed up complaining about the prevalence of drug crime and the lack of law enforcement action. Felton said they will be meeting with the Sheriff and State Police to discuss this. The same thing happened at a commission meeting last summer.
Emergency Management Director Mike O’Brien told the commissioners that the Green Bank Observatory has issued RFPs to modernize their “Quiet Zone.” This promises to help both emergency radio service and cell service in the area.
In other actions:
• The commissioners signed off on the new Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) bylaws.
• Commissioner John Rebinski provided some details about the proposed new 911 Center/EMS Building. It will be a conventional metal building, “L” shaped, and will sit on a two acre lot near the hospital. He said the title search has been done and they are about to do a site survey, and advertise the job of clearing trees and brush off the site.
• The commission also ratified an agreement between the Cass Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company and the new county ambulance service for the county service to borrow a fully equipped ambulance from the Cass VFD. Rebinski recused himself from voting on this agreement, which was drawn-up by the County Prosecutor. Rebinski did say the new county EMS service is scheduled for a state inspection later this month. He also said they have hired two part-time paramedics, Karen Hill and Elizabeth Jeffires, who will receive $18 per hour with no benefits, to be fill-in personnel.
• The commission approved purchasing a new Mitel telephone system upgrade at a cost of $36,000. This will replace the outdated Frontier service which is no longer supported.
By purchasing the actual monthly telephone service also from STI, they will reduce their monthly Frontier telephone service charge from $700 a month to $299 a month.