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Commission to seek more info on PMH expansion and needs

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) appeared before the Pocahontas County Commission at its June 18 meeting. This was a follow up to the June 4 meeting when the hospital asked for commission’s approval for PMH to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan of up to $5 million dollars for a badly needed expansion of outpatient services facilities, roof replacement and other needed repairs to the facility.

At the June 4 meeting, Commissioner Walt Helmick convinced the other two commissioners that more information about these proposed expansions and repairs was needed. Since that meeting, the commissioners met with the architects and hospital management at the hospital and received infor- mation about the hospital’s needs.

At the June 18 meeting, Helmick again expressed reservations about allowing the hospital to apply for the loan. He questioned whether PMH might be taking on an unmanageable debt, although PMH management assured him that the size of the loan they would actually apply for would be limited to the amount an independent auditing firm determines they can afford. That feasibility study would prevent them from asking for too big of a loan and taking on too much debt.

Helmick said he still has too many unanswered questions about the loan and the proposed renovations. He said that he has learned that the current water and sewerage system at PMH won’t accommodate any expansion, so it would require another debt to replace those systems in addition to the loan debt. He pointed out that the Town of Marlinton might possibly be interested in extending their water and sewer system to the hospital.

Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton, who was at the meeting, added that such an expansion of the Town’s water and sewer to PMH, while a distinct possibility, is by no means a certainty. In any event, it would not happen quickly. He said it would involve a large expense to the Town and would need approval of the council and town residents.

Helmick said he would also like to explore other possibilities, such as applying for a grant through the Region 4 Planning and Development Council which could alleviate the need for the loan altogether. Once again, the commissioners decided they were not prepared to act on PMH’s request for approval to apply for the loan without getting more answers and information.
The commissioners took no action on two other items that were on the agenda for this meeting.

In the first of these, Commission Administrative Assistant Sue Helton reported that Erwin Berry and Rachel Taylor withdrew their request to receive their Hotel Occupancy Tax payments on a quarterly rather than a monthly basis, after they learned that state law requires monthly payments of the tax.

The other non-action agenda item was the result of James Pennington not appearing at the meeting where he was scheduled to contest the 911 Mapping and Addressing decision to change his physical address because an earlier mistake on their part had resulted in his being assigned an incorrect address, which he wants to keep as his address.

In other business, the commission:

• approved changing dispatcher Holly Boaudoin’s part-time position at the 911 Center to full-time effective July 1.

• approved hiring Madora Smith as a full-time Administrative Assistant at the Day Report Center, effective July 1.

• approved having Barnett Builders remove the old heating oil tank at the jail and install a new one at a cost of $14,720. According to the commission. Barnett is the only company licensed in the county to remove and install oil tanks.

• designated each of the banks located in Pocahontas County as official depositories for the county for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

• renewed Global Science and Technology’s agreement to provide computer services to the commission for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

• awarded an anonymous $5,000 grant to the Opera House. This grant was given to the commission to award to “any entity affiliated with education or the arts.”

Prior to signing invoices and closing the meeting, the commission met in Executive Session with it legal counsel Bob Martin on an “Attorney-Client matter.”

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