Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton begins each town council meeting in the same way – an opening prayer and a report from 100 years ago.
And that is how it played out at Monday night’s meeting.
“It’s interesting to me that, one-hundred years after the fact, we are still talking about the same problems,” Felton said. “A proposition was presented to council on September 4, 1916, recognizing the Public Service Commission’s authorization for the Marlinton Service Company to begin a process that led to our current water distribution system. I could not help but think that whatever we get done here tonight, we need to keep in mind that someone might have to redo it in one-hundred years.”
Other than the time frame, that last statement proved to be true as council spent a good bit of time Monday night trying to untangle decisions made by and address issues neglected by previous administrations.
Attorney Bob Martin appeared before council on behalf of Beard Heights resident Lisa Howard. Howard purchased a home on Beard Heights in 2004, which turned out to be the only home in that neighborhood that was annexed by the town. Although she pays the same town taxes and fees, she receives none of the services provided to other residents.
“This is a case of spot zoning,” Martin said. “The town doesn’t provide any services. She inquired about trash pick-up and was told by the town that they can’t pick up her trash.”
Martin went on to say that Howard’s was one piece of property, annexed for one particular purpose.
Several years ago a previous town council annexed the roads on Beard Heights in anticipation of extending water and sewage to the area, Felton said.
That didn’t happen, but what did happen was that a councilmember moved out of town, buying the property which Howard now owns. In order to make him eligible to remain on council, the town annexed his home.
Martin called the actions of the previous council “inappropriate,” saying the annexation was “done for arguably improper purposes, and Howard is the one who is suffering.”
Martin called on this council to take responsibility to make things right.
“You can’t provide water,” he said. “You can’t provide sewer. You may clear her road, but you don’t pick up her trash, and she pays the same taxes and fees as residents who get all the services. Take her out of the town, and put her back in the county.”
In the discussion, Howard informed council that the town did not clear her road. That work is done by the Department of Highways.
Council agreed that the matter needed to be corrected, and town attorney Laura Finch said it would not be a problem to undo the annexation.
Martin was on the agenda a second time, representing the Pocahontas County Commission with regard to town water charges for the sprinkler system at the ARC/Hanover building.
Martin told council that several things had been overlooked in the past, one of them being the county’s responsibility to pay required fire fees. Those fees – for the court house, jail, etc. – have been brought up-to-date.
While the county is willing to pay fees that it owes, Martin said the town should not assess fees for something the county hasn’t gotten.
That “not gotten” service is water to the sprinkler system at ARC.
Councilmember Sue Helton is also the administrative secretary for the county commission. She said the commission began getting bills in 2011, and the current amount due is $3,264, with some recent deductions.
Helton said the bill had been an issue in the past, and she had taken it up with the former mayor. Although the mayor said he would bring it to the council table, “that didn’t happen,” she said.
The county has received a directive from its insurance company and from the State Fire Marshal’s office to get the sprinkler system in operation.
Council agreed to forgive the debt, with the stipulation that Martin return in two months to give an update on efforts to get the system working.
“When we are hooked up,” Martin told council, “we will notify you, and we will pay.”
Felton addressed the delay in completing the seeding, mulching and pavement replacement on 13th Avenue.
“Part of the hold-up has been the concreting into driveways,” Felton said. “There is not enough on 13th Avenue for a load of concrete. But now we have a cut on Second Avenue and a cut on Ninth Street.”
Those additional areas will constitute enough volume so the town can order a full load of cement, and the work can be finished.
In other business, council
· Approved the installation and maintenance fees for a Civil War interpretive sign to be placed near the bridge over the Greenbrier River, contingent upon approval of the Rt. 39 Byway and the Department of Highways. The sign would complement the mural painted on the Motor Parts building. Margaret Poage Price would be the topic. She led the effort to put out the fire in the covered bridge during the war.
· Approved GoMarlinton’s request to sponsor a Beautification Best Store Front Contest during the Autumn Harvest Festival. Council was asked to provide judges. They are Recorder B.J. Gudmundsson, Councilmember Sue Helton and Town Office Manager Starr Barlow.
· Will begin work this month on establishing a registry for rental properties within the town, and will revisit the registry for vacant properties.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building.