The Pocahontas County Commission discussed crime and law enforcement issues with County Prosecutor Terri Helmick and Sheriff Jeff Barlow at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
This discussion was predicated by a number of citizens complaining at the last commission meeting about issues affecting quality-of-life in Buckeye because of late night drug activity, and the perceived lack of law enforcement response to their complaints about it.
Commission President Walt Helmick began the discussion by stating that while the Sheriff’s Office leads the county’s response to crime, the commission is also concerned about this situation. He said he will schedule a special session to address the issue in the near future, however at this meeting he wanted to bring the problem to the attention of the prosecutor and the sheriff.
Terri Helmick said that one problem is the amount of time it takes a deputy to book, present the arrestee before a Magistrate and deliver prisoners to the Regional Jail, which is 75 miles away. She said it usually involves a minimum of five hours for each arrest, and sometimes a lot more. Terri said that since January 1, there have been 40 felony arrests and 300 misdemeanor arrests in the county, and those numbers do not include numerous juvenile arrests.
Walt Helmick remarked that maybe consideration should be given to establishing a temporary or overnight holding facility in the county, since Pocahontas County is the most remote county in the state from its Regional Jail.
The situation was also explained to Sheriff Barlow, who said he will attend any special session set up to discuss these issues.
There was another matter discussed which was not on the agenda. Commissioner John Rebinski wanted to clarify his past remarks about what would occur if the voters authorize the West Virginia Legislature to abolish the state Personal Property Tax. Rebinski said he had understood that personal property tax would be eliminated on people’s vehicles as well as on commercial machinery and inventory, but he has now learned it would not affect the tax on personal vehicles, only on machinery and inventory.
The commission approved signing a contract with Farm the Sun authorizing them to act as a real estate broker to determine if any solar energy companies might be interested in leasing a county owned site at the East Fork Industrial Park. It was acknowledged that it might not be permissible for the commission to lease their land to a private company, but this contract is permissible to determine if there is interest. If so, Rebinski said the county might establish such a solar farm there on their own, or use the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC) as a cutout to lease the property, similar to other projects the GVEDC has run for the county. Rebinski said if the GVEDC is involved, he would like to find a way that the citizens could profit from such a lease. Terri Helmick said she would do some research on the matter.
The commission, led by Rebinski, asked David Cain to stop maintenance on the 11 county-owned former FEMA lots in East Cass, because they felt he was taking too many actions, especially tree felling, without consulting with the commission, which is a liability. The commission said it would like to be rid of those properties, and would consider leasing them for a nominal fee to adjoining neighbors, if that is legally permissible.
In other actions, the commission:
• approved a $26,596.54 funding request from Donna Ward to pay invoices from Becker-Morgan for the PMH HVAC and Roof Replacement Project.
• approved an agreement with the Records Management and Preservation Board regarding the County Clerk and Circuit Clerk grants.
• granted a $5,000 contribution request to the PCHS Football and Booster programs to replace the public address system at the football field. They did this despite concerns that the Board of Education does not financially support its athletic programs.
• authorized a resubmission of their Asset Mapping Grant application.
• authorized the Pocahontas County Vietnam Veterans of America to erect a Veterans Memorial on the old hospital lot in Marlinton. Norris Long said this is in honor of all veterans.
• authorized Mike O’Brien to grant the residents of Boyd Thompson Road a road name- change to Sunken Springs Road because of confusion with nearby Thompson Road.
• authorized Sheriff Barlow to fill a vacant Law Enforcement Office Assistant position by hiring Alexa Rogers, who will begin work June 21.
• approved year-end budget Revisions and Resolutions to account for unexpected increases in revenue.
• agreed to take possession of an unwanted vehicle from the EMS Board for the purpose of selling it for that board.
In addition, the following list of appointments were made:
Pocahontas County EMS:
Helen Clark, WV EMS representative three-year term expiring 06/30/25;
Damon Brock, Law Enforcement representative three-year term expiring 06/30/25;
Ryan Sparks PMH representative three-year term expiring 06/30/25;
Seth Morgan, Shavers Fork representative three-year term expiring 06/30/25;
Pocahontas County Building Commission:
Kevin Shaw, three-year term expiring 06/30/2024;
Russell Felton, three-year term expiring 06/30/2025;
Pocahontas County 911 Advisory Board:
Helen Clark – Emergency Medical Provider remainder three-year term
Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC): Jason Scotchie, PMH – Unexpired three-year term expiring 09/30/22;
Randy Wilfong II, Shavers Fork Fire-Rescue two-year term expiring 09/30/23;
Mike O’Brien, Office of Emergency Services – three-year term expiring 09/30/23;
Jaynell Graham, The Pocahontas Times – two-year term 09/30/23;
Christine Plumley, GBO – two-year unexpired term expiring 09/30/23;
Shereen Bailey, Town of Durbin – unexpired three-year term expiring 09/30/23;
Wanda Wyatt, Seneca Health Services – three-year term expiring 09/30/24;
Public Service District:
Robert Minghini, six-year term expiring 06/30/2028;
Board of Health:
Delores Cutlip, five-year term expiring 06/30/2027;
Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees:
Donald McNeel, six-year term expiring 06/30/2028;
Pocahontas County Historical Landmarks Commission:
Robert Sheets, five-year term expiring 06/30/2025
Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation:
Kendall Beverage, three-year term expiring 06/30/2025;
Pocahontas County Farmland Protection Board:
Jennifer Rose, unaffiliated farmer, four-year term expiring 06/30/2026