Commission solves shelter coverage issue

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

At its September 15 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission took action to ensure there will be adequate coverage to care for the animals housed in the county Animal Shelter when full-time shelter employees use their earned annual leave.

During the August commission meetings, Deputy Josh Vaughan explained to the commission that their part-time employee at the shelter also held another job which often prevented her from being available to work when staff coverage at the shelter was needed. Vaughan had originally asked for the part-time employee’s hours to be increased so that she could afford to work only for the shelter. The commissioners, however, concluded that increasing a part-time employee’s hours beyond twenty-fours (24) per week would set a precedent and trigger some benefits that are now reserved for full-time employees.

As an alternative, the commission authorized the shelter to advertise for one or more substitute employees to work on a “call-in” and “as-needed” basis.

At this meeting, the commission approved hiring three substitute employees that the shelter interviewed and recommended. They are Shalyn Mackenzie Rose-Arbogast, of Durbin; Gregory Keatley and Rhonda Marie Day, both of Marlinton.

The commission also addressed an emergency maintenance issue at the court- house. Due to a probable roof leak, part of the ceiling above the main staircase had collapsed, creating a safety issue which required closing the stairway, which leads to the Circuit Courtroom. The commission approved a temporary patch so the stairway could be reopened. As a more permanent solution, they also approved hiring a roofing contractor to inspect and repair the roof problem that caused the collapse.

During the mail items and concerns:

• The State Auditor’s Office has asked the commission to combine the audit of the Fire Board, which is a commission organization, with the audit of the commission. The commission approved this.

• Mike Cozad of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline contacted the commission to request an appearance at a future meeting to update the commissioners on the progress of the close-out of the project. This will be scheduled.

• Direct TV has denied the commission’s request to provide local West Virginia TV stations to their customers here.

Cara Rose, Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, delivered the bureau’s 2020 annual report to the commission, stressing the unusual tourism year due to the pandemic. Rose said that, nationally, tourism demographics have “shifted to a heavy focus on outdoor recreation” which has benefited Pocahontas County. She said that most tourism businesses and attractions have re-opened with a heavy emphasis on protocols to protect staff, visitors and the community. She added that following record Hotel Occupancy Tax receipts in fiscal year 2018-2019, those revenues dropped by 15.8% in the 2019-2020 fiscal year that ended July 1, 2020. This was due to the virus shutdown that began in March. But even those lower receipts were nearly the same as the tax receipts in fiscal year 2017-2018. Rose added that increasing summer tourism activity in the future will hopefully rival that of the winter skiing seasons.

In other actions, the commission:

• approved a petition to change the road name of Caribou Lane to McCarty Lane at no charge to the petitioner since the residents of that road were never given an opportunity to offer their input about the current name. They also approved a petition to change the name of Grandma’s Holler Road to Stoney Creek Road-provided that the new name be correctly spelled as “Stony Creek Road.”

• approved election workers for the November election and approved the 2019-2020 Pocahontas County Financial Statement.

• will invite the mayors of the three incorporated towns in the county to the next commission meeting to discuss distribution of the county’s COVID-19 Block Grant funds.

• took no action on a proposed letter regarding the sale of wine in the county, as the County Prosecutor said a letter was no longer necessary because the county went from being an alcohol beverage “dry” county to a “wet” county due to action by the State Legislature. The county would have to hold a special election to approve returning to the “dry” status.

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