At its September 19 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission appointed Mike Holstine, of the county’s Broadband Council, to serve as the commission’s liaison to obtain a pole agreement with First Energy. The agreement is needed in order to move forward with the construction of the ARC Broadband Project. The Pocahontas County Broadband Council has asked for this appointment since First Energy has complained that they have difficulty contacting a representative from the commission in order to reach the agreement.
The commission recently sent a letter to Frontier asking that it provide an update on the progress in building broadband in the parts of Pocahontas County. Frontier was awarded areas under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.)
William Wilheim, Frontier Director of Federal Regulatory and Legal, sent a reply and a county map showing the parts of Pocahontas County it was awarded, but the letter did not address the question about their progress.
Wilheim did say that Frontier has until December 30, 2023 to meet their RDOF 40 percent completion milestone. The Broadband Council has expressed concerns that that RDOF milestone applies to Frontier’s entire state RDOF project, and they are likely spending much of their time in the more profitable populated areas of the state rather than in rural areas such as Pocahontas County.
The commission also addressed a communication from Geoff Hamill. Hamill said his understanding is that the Federal STELAR Act requires the FCC to force satellite TV companies to provide local in-state TV channels to their customers if a county commission requests it by submitting a petition to the FCC. County Prosecutor Terri Helmick said she is looking into this and has found that the county must first obtain information and cooperation from a West Virginia TV station before they can submit their petition to the FCC. She said she is still looking for a West Virginia TV station that is willing to do that.
Dave Dragan also pointed out that any Virginia TV station that would be displaced by this can challenge the petition, since a large part of Pocahontas County is located in an FCC Virginia broadcast district, and the Virginia channel would lose advertising revenue if it is replaced here by a West Virginia station.
Mark Smith, of the county’s Public Service District (PSD), asked the commission for some financial support to replace the incorrect filters on their sewer plant which serves the Snowshoe area. He said incorrect filters were installed when the plant was built years ago and, as a result, the capacity of the plant is less then 25 percent of what it should be. He said the matter has been under litigation for about four years, with no end in sight. In the meantime, the filters need to be replaced, which is a much more complicated and expensive job than simply replacing some filters, as it involves some reconstruction at the plant, as well. He said the bids to fix this came in $475,000 over bid estimates. The commission said they will consider some sort of contribution at their next meeting.
The commission also discussed the Beard Heights Sewer Project and voted to purchase a one-acre lot near the existing sewer plant – already five years beyond its projected life – and build a new plant on that lot to serve the hospital and other structures on Beard Heights. The commission voted 2-1 to purchase the lot, with Commissioner Jamie Walker voting no, since he wanted to lease the lot first until they know they can get permits to build a treatment plant there.
The commission also:
• Agreed to accept a revised agreement from STI Networks to provide a courthouse telephone upgrade. The revised contract will save the county $3,700.
• Issued a resolution for, and approved signing the $41,000 Courthouse Security Grant.
• Administratively closed nine estates which are more than three years old and there has been no response to a notification letter.
• Agreed to talk with Susan Pierce and their architect at their October 3 meeting about the Courthouse Annex project and about the Historic Registry status of the jail building.
• Received a Compliance Report from Chelsea Faulknier of the CVB.
• Agreed to advertise the clearing of, and possible sale of the timber on the site of the new 911 Center.
• Hired Nathan Tawney as a part-time ambulance driver for the county Ambulance Service at $13 per hour; and approved for Commissioner John Rebinski to price the cost of purchasing either a new or reliable used ambulance for that service.
• Agreed to allow Dave White to use the county’s railroad right-of-way at the East Fork Tannery in exchange for White allowing to county to have an easement they need to complete their East Fork sewer hook-up.