George Carico of West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center and Derrick Hancock of the West Virginia DEP Environmental Remediation briefed the Pocahontas County Commission at its August 17 meeting. The men were there to discuss their preliminary environmental assessment of the East Fork Industrial Park property in Frank. That assessment showed that the site has some residual environmental contamination in the soil and groundwater, however the contamination is at a low level.
Carico said getting the site cleaned up to the point that it could be safely used for industrial purposes would require a lot of work and expense. He said the least expensive option appears to be to leave the contaminated soil in place by capping it with two feet or more of clean soil, and enrolling the site in the WVDEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program. If that is done, and the asbestos materials are removed from the old building at the site, they can obtain a certificate from the DEP stating that the site is safe for industrial use. Even then, there would have to be restrictions placed in the deed that no potable water wells can be drilled there and no residential development would be allowed.
To pay for all the sampling wells that will have to be drilled, as well as for the services of environmental experts, the county can apply for a Federal EPA Clean-up Grant for up to $500,000, but these are very competitive grants. Despite that, Carico feels the county would have a 50% chance of receiving the grant. He would provide some advice in preparing the grant application, and Ruthana Beezley, of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, also offered to assist with the application.
The commission voted to move forward with this application, which would be due in November; grant awards will be announced in May 2022; but the funds would not be available for use until October 1, 2022.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cara Rose told the commission that the past fiscal year’s Hotel-Motel Tax revenue was $2.2 million dollars, the highest ever collected during a fiscal year. She said that tax collections increased in each of the four seasons.
Frontier Communications representatives Melvin Hun-ter and Anthony Rome once again appeared before the commission seeking to sell them a maintenance and service program for the courthouse phone system. They offered one year, three year and five-year contracts, with deep discounts for the longer multi-year contracts. The commission, and several people in attendance, pointed out how unresponsive Frontier has been in fixing outages among residents and businesses and questioned whether Frontier would be just as unresponsive to the county under any maintenance and service contract. Commissioner John Rebinski suggested that Frontier offer the county a one-year trial contract at the same yearly rate as a five-year contract to see just how responsive Frontier would be. If the response times during the trial year are four hours or less as promised, the commission would consider a longer contract. Hunter and Rome said they would need to get that approved from higher up in the company, so the decision was tabled to the next meeting.
There was a discussion of the proposed courthouse annex project. Commission President Walt Helmick said they need to bring West Virginia Historic Preservation deputy director Susan Pierce to a meeting to discuss ways to remove the Historic Landmark status of the jailer’s house so that the jail can be demolished to make way for the annex. Helmick also said some people question the need for an annex since the county population is not growing, but it is needed because “maybe the population doesn’t grow, but the government does,” Helmick said.
Finally, the commissioners voted to accept option number 2 of the Greenbrier Conservation District’s plan to stabilize the East Fork Stream Bank, which involves installing riprap stone and tow wood, at a cost of about $30,000.
The Pocahontas County Commission meets the first Tuesday of the month at 8:30 a.m. and the third Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m.