Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

Lynn Marie Knight and Beth Little, from the Pocahontas County Water Resource Task Force Board, and Heidi Hickson, of the Pocahontas County Public Service District Board, appeared before the Pocahontas County Commission at its meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the PCWTF coordinator position which has been vacant for some time.

The previous salary for the part-time position was $26,000 year.

“This position is really important because the county needs to get a baseline determination regarding the health of our streams,” Hickson said.

The consensus of the three spokespersons was that the county needs, at least, a part-time water resource task force coordinator, and asked that the commission fund that part-time position at $26,000 per year.

Commissioners agreed that, although there is the need for a coordinator, the funds are not available in the county budget at this time.

The request was made during the Public Input/ Hear Callers portion of the meeting.

Pocahontas County Sheriff Jeff Barlow was first on the agenda and addressed the commission, seeking approval to hire two full-time deputies, Zachary Chestnut and Adam Wright. Their salaries will be $27,500 and they will have “limited duties” until they have successfully completed the West Virginia State Police Academy course in August, after which they will be considered to be on “full duty” and their salaries will be raised to $30,000. If their seat at the State Police Academy course cannot be secured for this August, they will remain on “limited duty” until they have successfully passed the course in August 2018.  

Sheriff Barlow also asked for approval to hire James Lester as a full-time process server, at a salary of $27,000 per year, effective June 21, 2017. 

The commissioners approved contracts for all three employees.

Pocahontas County Clerk Missy Bennett reported to the commission that there has been a request to make a change in election Precinct 2 in Bartow, which will involve moving the voting locale for Precinct 2 to the Nazarene Church in Frank. The reason for the change is that the new location offers better public facilities and handicapped access. The change was approved by the commission. 

An invoice from Fire, Life, Safety of America, Inc. was received and approved. This will allow electrical work to be done at the ARC building, before the new sprinkler system can be installed. 

Time had been set aside for a public hearing for questions and discussion on the amended county dog ordinance, but no one appeared to speak. 

The meeting proceeded with the third and final reading of the amended county dog ordinance, which was unanimously adopted by the commissioners. 

Emergency Management Director Mike O’Brien asked commissioners to approve changing Dale Kennison’s status from part-time 911 dispatcher to full-time in that position, effective July 1. The change was approved unanimously.

O’Brien also requested that full and final contracted payment of $120,919.36 for radio equipment be made by July 6 to avoid paying interest. 

“Although there are four scheduled payments remaining on this debt, if we pay it outright before July 6, we will save significant money on interest,” O’Brien said.

Commissioners agreed and voted unanimously to make the payment. 

A lease agreement between the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation and the Pocahontas County Commission, allowing Emergency 911 Center storage at the Edray Industrial Park, at no cost to the county, was unanimously approved and signed by the commissioners. The term of the agreement is June 6, 2017 through June 5, 2018.

Another contract was presented to the commissioners for approval. The one-year contract between the Pocahontas County Commission and Dr. Jennifer Rose stipulates that Dr. Rose will be the 911 Pocahontas County Medical Director. 

O’Brien explained that the Office of Emergency Management requires a medical director to have oversight of its programs.

The contract includes no compensation for the position, except for “reimbursement of reasonable expenses” and some minor secretarial help, as required. Commissioners unanimously agreed to the contract and signed it immediately.

If Dr. Rose accepts the position, the one-year contract will retroactive to June 6. 

There was discussion of Senate Joint Resolution 8, a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Karnes, which seeks to dramatically restructure county taxes. Although it failed to pass during the last legislative session, it may be brought before the legislature again.

Pocahontas County Assessor, Tom Lane, had harsh words for the proposed legislation. 

“I have studied the bill and run the numbers according to their figures and I can categorically state that if it were to be enacted, it would basically disassemble our county government,” Lane said. “It would cause a loss of 38 percent of our county budget.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to send a strongly worded letter to the governor, two senators and representatives in the House of Delegates registering opposition to the bill. 

The commission made two appointments to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals board – Cheryl Cassell as Central District Representative; and Franklin Murphy, representing the Northern District, for three year terms expiring June 30, 2020.

A budget adjustment was approved in the amount of $670,455, as there has been an increase in expected revenue from the hotel/motel tax.  
 
The report from county counsel Bob Martin included mention of an upcoming meeting between the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA and the Department of Highways and the county counsel regarding wrecked/abandoned vehicles in the county. 

As we do not have zoning here in Pocahontas County which would address this issue, Martin suggested that the county’s position should be to hand this issue back to these agencies who may then be in a position to enforce any pertinent state regulations. 

Martin also reported on his progress in assisting local fire departments in drafting organizational documents in order for them to organize a legally constituted Fire Board. He also reported on his assistance with Board of Education agreements between the commission and the BOE.

The commissioners then withdrew into executive session to discuss a personnel matter. 

Due to June 20 being a holiday, West Virginia Day, the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission will be held Wednesday, June 21, at 5:30 p.m. 

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