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Marlinton Council deals with its inheritance

Jaynell Graham

Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting started out with public input from Clean Cow co-owner Jamie Strauss expressing her concern about proposed increased water rates with regard to the upgrade to the town’s water system.

Strauss said there were residents who could not afford to pay today’s rates, and an increase would add to their hardship.

Recorder BJ Gudmundsson shared with council and Strauss that she had lived in other towns and that the water/sewer/trash rates in Marlinton were much less than what she had paid in other areas.

“You get more bang for your buck,” Gudmundsson said.

Marlinton resident Chris Curry said that he had lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, prior to moving here, and that rates were cheaper in that city.

Mayor Sam Felton pointed out that additional tax structures in each area would have to be considered when comparing costs for water and sewer services.

Gudmundson also reminded those in attendance that the sitting council had not only inherited the poorly maintained and troublesome water system from previous councils, but had inherited the planned improvement project, as well.

The proposed water improvement project is estimated to cost about $6.5 million, some of which will be covered by grants, and the payback by water customers will be made over a period of 40 years.

Water and sewage seemed to be the topic of the night, as Second Avenue resident Carol Moore-Beck appeared before council, handing out photos of her property where raw sewage is spewing out of the man hole, into her yard and the street in front of her home. She said this has been an ongoing issue and that she and her husband, Pat, have upgraded lines on their property, but still find that they have to clean up overflow from the town’s sewer lines.

Mayor Sam Felton told Moore-Beck that the recent heavy rains were causing the problem, but the town needed to make it a priority to repair the problem as soon as possible.

Felton said that some of the past “fixes” that he has seen in the town’s sewer system are “pathetic.”

“They’re just sitting there waiting for something to happen,” he said.

The town is working with Region 4 to have the town’s sewer system drawn out using GPS, but Felton said, more importantly, the town needs to get the storm water out of the sewer lines.

“It’s rainwater that is causing the problems,” he said. “In a perfect world, storm water and sewage lines are separated.”

In the realm of water and sewer fees, the council agreed to forgive a $149 fee at the Marlinton Depot, even though the billed amount was in line with the town’s proposed fee for vacant properties.

The depot had been under construction and remodel and no water nor sewer system had been used in that time frame. The depot is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which is now renting to another 501(c)(3) non-profit – the Artisans Co-op. Now that the building is occupied, the water/sewer/trash bill will be paid.

Joe Sharp, who lives on Third Avenue in Marlinton, asked council to consider more traffic controls for that area. While there are stop signs on the lower end of Second Avenue, there are none on Third Avenue from 12th Street to Ninth Street. Traffic moves in excess of 25 mph through that neighborhood.

There are children playing in that area, and Sharp is concerned for their safety.

Felton will contact the Department of Highways and ask that stop signs be installed to better protect the children and residents.

Council was asked to make a determination with regard to third-party mules grazing on property within town limits.

When the town’s animal ordinance was implemented, two properties were grandfathered in – Billy Myer’s farm near Mountain View Cemetery and Charles “Googie” Richardson’s property along Rt. 219 just south of the Rt. 219/39 intersection.

Mules were recently moved to the Richardson property and have reportedly become a nuisance to Richardson’s granddaughter, Grace White, who lives in the house on the adjoining property.

Grandfather clauses do not transfer from generation to generation.

Since the grandfather clause for this property “died” with Richardson, council took no action other than to hold fast to the animal ordinance. The mules need to be removed from the property.

In other matters, council

• Approved to enter into a contract with Mark Mitchell to make repairs to the municipal building roof

• Took no action with regard to allowing public access to restrooms beside the depot

• Approved adjustments to the town budget

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