Suzanne Stewart’s excellent article on the new Durbin Library has one error. She states “It began as a dream in 2007…”
When I joined the Library board in 1995 people in Durbin had already been asking for a permanent library for several years. Several plans were floated in the 10 years I served on the board, but none came to fruition. So, this happy event has actually been a dream for closer to 25 years, at least.
Congratulations are due to the Durbin Library Friends for their dogged pursuit of this goal. There are too many to mention all who made it happen, but I’d like to give special recognition to Library Board Chair Sue Ann Heatherly, who never gave up on the dream, even when her fellow board members were ready to throw in the towel.
The other side of the story.
The purpose of this letter is not to discredit Louise Barnisky, bless her heart, but to set things straight in an objective way.
In Louise’s four-year term, issues about the Town of Marlinton sidewalks were never brought up. If Louise had a problem with the sidewalks, it would be her obligation to have it put on the itinerary for the council meeting.
Louise stated it took a long time and at a high cost to pass the sanitation ordinance. Louise voted against said ordinance twice – on August 11, 2014 and October 6, 2014.
In reference to getting nothing done at the water plant, sewer lines and water tanks.
The mayor and council have been working on these issues for four years. Last year $1.5 million was awarded via a grant. Just this past Thursday the Town of Marlinton was awarded the remainder of the money to complete the projects. The money, in the form of a loan, will be received next year, August 1, 2016; the projects being completed October 31, 2018.
When working with government agencies, things take time – way too much time, in my opinion – regulations, over-blotted government, bureaucracy and inefficiency.
Furthermore, Louise has been a member of council for the same period she is implying “the do nothing council.”
Would Louise be just as guilty?
I believe in and support fire protection. I put my own life on the line for it 1983 to 1989, as member of Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Company #2 in Somerset County, New Jersey. Washed, fixed and drove trucks, rolled hose, cooked at fundraisers, cut bloody people out of crushed cars (Certified Hurst Jaws of Life operator), crawled into their burning houses with water hose.
I also believe in Rule of Law, which protects us as Americans from “possible” overreach by public servants who value power or expediency over justice.
Money collected under threat of force by Government, to fund services we voted for, is properly called, “taxes.” A “fee” is owed by contract, a voluntary agreement about an exchange of goods or services.
West Virginia’s Constitution wisely requires that all taxation here be by assessment which means, proportionally to ownership of property. Property is not a perfect indication of wealth, ability to pay or consumption of services, but it is a usable indication, which does not require gross invasions of privacy to ascertain.
The proposed “Fire Fee,” obviously to anyone except perhaps a lawyer, is not a fee but a tax. Since it is not to be based on any assessment of the value of property, it is unlawful.
There is a statute in the West Virginia Code about County fire “fees,” which J.L. Clifton mentioned, to his great credit, at the County Commission meeting that first discussed the subject §7-17-12. County fire service fees…
“Every county commission which provides fire protection services has plenary power and authority to…impose… fees and charges…”
What JL correctly pointed out is that Pocahontas County’s fire companies are independent, volunteer companies, not agencies or employees of the county.
The Code section about municipal fire fees, has nearly identical language, §8-13-13. Special charges for municipal services.
“…a municipality which furnishes… fire protection… has plenary power and authority to impose by ordinance upon the users of the service reasonable… fees…”
It matters not how much of the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Company’s buildings or equipment the Town owns, the Town does not hire members, choose officers, devise procedures, or hold the hoses. The Town does not “furnish fire protection,” the MVFD does.
Further, note that fees are to be on users of the service, not on everyone in a geographic area, which the Code could have said but did not.
Lastly, there is the little business of our precious legacy from a certain world-changing political upheaval 237 years ago which some of us will commemorate next month: the American revolution, the founding of our country, one of the vital issues of which was Taxation without Representation. We outside Marlinton cannot vote for Council, so they cannot tax us.
Code does provide for municipalities to provide fire protection outside their boundaries in §8-15-3. “Municipalities empowered…to contract for … extinguishment of fires beyond the corporate limits.
(a) Any municipality may contract to render services in … extinguishment of fires… A municipality may contract beyond its… boundary limit… A municipality providing fire services… may offer… service under contract to any property within the county if the… owner requests the protection.
Any contract… under… this section…shall require the property owner to pay… for said services…”
Marlinton cannot lawfully tax outside its corporate, and voting, limits, without voluntary contractual agreement with the property owner.
Do we all want fire protection? Of course. Do we want a society in which any Government body can stick a hand in our pockets without our free contractual, or at least democratic lawful consent?