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Marlinton water loan application denied

Marlinton Council got some good news and bad news Monday night regarding funding for a water plant project. John Tuggle, Region IV Planning and Development Council executive director, and Cassandra Hughart, Region IV assistant, gave an update on project funding.

In August, Council voted to apply for a $415,000 loan through the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC) to pay for design of an upgraded water plant. The town also applied for a $1.5 million Small Cities Block Grant and $2.8 million in low interest loans to fund construction of water plant upgrades. Fred Hypes, with Dunn Engineers, advised Council that having a completed engineering design would improve the town’s chances of obtaining the Small Cities Block Grant.

Monday evening, Hughart informed Council that the IJDC had denied the town’s $415,000 design loan application, and that the town would need to pursue commercial financing to fund the design phase of the project. Commercial loans are available at three to 3.5 percent interest, just slightly higher than the state loan would have been, according to Hughart.

Council will have to raise water rates before the design loan can be approved. Tuggle said Region IV will prepare a water rate ordinance and a note ordinance for Council to consider during its December meeting. Council will have to raise rates again when it obtains financing for project construction.

Now, the good news. Council learned that it would only need to borrow $340,000 to pay for the water plant design. As a result, the rate increase for town water customers will be slightly lower for the design phase of the project. The rate increase is expected to be about seven percent. Marlinton water customers currently pay a base rate of $58.19 every two months – among the highest municipal rates in the state.

In related business, Council selected attorney Steve Hunter, of Lewisburg, as the water plant project attorney. The contract with Hunter will have a cap of $25,000. Charleston law firm Jackson-Kelly also applied for the position at the same price.

Council considered giving the town building inspector the additional duty of code enforcement officer. A code enforcement officer could issue citations but not make arrests.

Councilmember Norris Long opposed the resolution.

“I don’t have a problem with ordinance enforcement, but we are paying the State Police,” said Long. “They are supposed to cover our ordinances. That is where I stand. Let’s get what we’re paying for.”

Councilmembers David Zorn and Loretta Malcomb spoke in favor of the resolution.

“This person needs more to do,” said Zorn. “I’m talking about the animal ordinances and enforcing those codes, et cetera. Why complicate it? Just have one person take care of all of it and get our dollar’s worth.”

“One person could do both things, because there isn’t that much to do in either job,” said Malcomb. “It’s not like you’re going to have a full-time job doing building inspections or a dog running loose or whatever. So, it seems to me one person could handle both things.”

Council voted 5-1 to add code enforcement to the building inspector’s duties for a trial period of six months. Long voted in opposition.

Mayor Joe Smith proposed modifying the town animal ordinance to include a ban on dogs, including dogs on leashes, at events such as Pioneer Days and Autumn Harvest Festival. Smith said he saw a dog urinate on a picnic table during this year’s Autumn Harvest Festival.

Marlinton resident Mark Strauss commented on the proposal.

“So, you’re going to tell the Pioneer Days and the Roadkill and the River Race that they must put in their event requirements that no dogs are allowed at their event?” Strauss asked.

“That’s right,” replied Smith.

Recorder Robin Mutscheller moved to adopt Smith’s proposal. The motion died for lack of a second.

During the mayor’s report, Smith reported:
– Dave Watkins had been hired as an acting building inspector;
– The town Christmas Parade is scheduled for December 5 at 7 p.m.;
– Marlinton Methodist Church will conduct a veteran’s memorial service on November 30 at 11 a.m.;
– There had been no problems reported during the town’s Halloween trick or treating.

In other business, Council approved the purchase of 20 cases of bottled water to keep on hand for emergency workers, and made a $500 contribution to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s capital campaign. Council tabled action on the town Building Commission until Smith receives legal advice on requirements for commission members.

The next regular Marlinton Town Council meeting is scheduled for December 1 at 7 p.m.

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