A Special Meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission was held May 15 to consider the appointment of a committee which would create guidelines and best practices for the safe opening of lodging businesses in the county.
Two commissioners were present for this meeting, Jesse Groseclose and Walt Helmick. Also present were State Delegate Bill Hartman; County Prosecutor Eugene Simmons; CVB Director Cara Rose; 911 Director Mike O’Brien; Cindy Wilfong from the County Health Department; and a number of representatives from county lodging establishments who participated either in person or via conference call.
Helmick began by explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to address the need for the county to set local rules, guidelines or best practices about how businesses can safely provide lodging to guests from outside of the county. He said the discussion should also include whether such local rules should or could go beyond state or even CDC guidelines.
Helmick then opened the meeting up to comments.
Cindy Wilfong said the CDC website provides guidelines for housekeepers – such as how long to leave a room vacant between rentals and detailed cleaning instructions for different surfaces in hotel/motel rooms. She said that those are also consistent with state guidelines. However, Dave Christopher from Silver Creek said those CDC guidelines do not go into enough detail nor do they address multi-owner condominium units such as they have at Silver Creek or Snowshoe, where each condominium owner individually contracts with a third party housekeeping company.
There was a general consensus that there will be problems getting those third party housekeeping companies and the many Air B&B owners on the same page to follow consistent rules, guidelines and best practices.
Cara Rose said she has been doing surveys about how county residents feel about opening up to out-of-area guests and tourists, and so far, the response has been positive especially regarding guests coming from other places in West Virginia. She said people need to be educated on just how important tourism is to the county economically.
Preston Cline, from Snowshoe, said that housekeeping is not the highest risk for staff, those whose jobs involve direct contact with guests – such as front desk personnel, rental staff and gift shop staff – are at greater risk. Cline also said that ensuring safety will be expensive for Snowshoe, but they are committed to safety for guests, staff and the community.
Following the discussion, the commissioners appointed a committee to make recommendations for rules, guidelines or best practices. The committee will present its recommendations to the commission at the June 2 meeting.
The committee members are: Preston Cline, Snowshoe; Stephanie Dilley, Snowshoe; Cindy Wilfong, Health Department; Jetta Wilfong, Mountain Lodge; Cara Rose, Convention and Visitors Bureau; Sam Collins, Silver Creek; Dave Christopher, Silver Creek; Laura Santmeyer, Snowshoe Property Management/ Re-max Reality; a representative from the State Parks; and Mike O’Brien from Emergency Management.
The committee will elect its own chairperson.