Suzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nAt the Marlinton Town Council meeting Monday night, Pocahontas County Schools transportation director Ruth Bland shocked members of council with her report concerning motorists who disobey signs when Marlinton Elementary School is loading and unloading school buses.\r\n\r\nBland said it has been an issue for quite some time, and she, the board and faculty are concerned for the safety of the students.\r\n\u201cIt has become quite serious,\u201d she said. \u201cThere are buses lined up on both sides of Ninth Street and we do have motorists actually driving through the middle of those buses, even when the lights are on.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd I\u2019m in the middle of those buses,\u201d classroom aide Tabbi McCoy interjected.\r\n\r\nThe teachers who are on bus duty, including McCoy, have fluorescent safety vests and flags to direct traffic, but the issue continues.\r\n\r\nMayor Sam Felton contacted the West Virginia State Police and Pocahontas County Sheriff\u2019s Department to have at least one officer on duty during loading and unloading times, but it is difficult to guarantee an officer is available every day.\r\n\r\nBland said having an officer does help, but she said there are other measures she would like to take.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe are now equipping our school buses with Angel Track Systems where there are cameras on the outside of the buses that are right below the stop arms that go to the front of the bus and behind the bus, and we are able to pick up license plate numbers,\u201d Bland said.\r\n\r\nShe added that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently signed Senate Bill 13 which has slightly changed the law concerning motorists passing school buses.\r\n\r\nThe law now allows for the use of license plate numbers to charge individuals in the crime. For a first offense, the minimum fine is $250 for passing a stopped school bus that has flashing lights. The maximum fine for first offense is $500 and no more than six months in jail.\r\n\r\nA third offense charge includes an automatic 24 hours in jail.\r\n\r\nWith those solutions in place, Bland asked council to consider her proposal to place signs on Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue to ensure motorists know they cannot pass the buses when they are loading and unloading.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne of the proposals that we would ask is that we place bigger, brighter, bolder signage in that area so they know that those buses are loading from 3:30 to 4 p.m. every afternoon and from 7:30 to 8 a.m. every morning,\u201d Bland said.\r\n\r\nCouncilmember Norris Long suggested having the streets officially closed during those times \u2013\u00a0an action the state Department of Highways would have to approve. Long also said the state will need to approve any signs.\r\n\r\nWhatever the cost or action needed, Bland said she is willing and ready to do anything to ensure the safety of students.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere has to be something done that the motorists understand that we don\u2019t want you in between there,\u201d she said. \u201cPerhaps the citizenry does not understand that we do transport three-year-olds on our buses. We have three-year-olds all the way up to nineteen and twenty-year-olds on our buses. They are the most precious things we have in our community, and we must protect them. We just need a little bit more help on being able to manage Ninth [Street] and Fifth Avenue as we\u2019re loading and unloading.\u201d\r\n\r\nCouncil agreed to help the school in any way it can. While council did not vote on the issue, it did give verbal agreement to the signs, as well as offered to loan sawhorses to MES to block the streets while the buses are there.\r\n\r\nFelton also suggested the buses park diagonally in order to completely block the street and intersection while loading and unloading.\r\n\r\nBland thanked council for its assistance and said she would return with updates if the issue continues.\r\n\r\nCouncil was agreeable with regard to signs for the school, but less so when it came to a 12 foot by 24 foot sign proposal from Ric White, who owns and installs outdoor advertising for businesses in towns and cities.\r\n\r\nWhite gave a presentation to council in which he proposed installing a sign at the intersection of Routes 219 and 39, near the bridge in Marlinton. White said the sign is a way for town businesses to attract attention of motorists who may bypass downtown Marlinton as they travel through the county.\r\n\r\nOn his signs, White rents space to businesses for a monthly fee.\r\n\r\nCouncil shared several concerns with the proposed sign.\r\n\r\nCouncilmember Mark Strauss said because Route 39 is a scenic byway, there are strict rules concerning advertising. He also said the land where the proposed sign would be erected is owned by the Marlinton Housing Authority and White would have to discuss the sign with its board.\r\n\r\nStrauss added that he was opposed to having a \u201cdouble stack\u201d sign for the town.\r\n\r\nRecorder B.J. Gudmundsson said she was more concerned about the image a 12 x 24 foot sign would give the town.\r\n\r\n\u201cFirst off, I am seriously opposed to a sign of this kind at the intersection in Marlinton,\u201d she said. \u201cAny kind of a sign immediately gives a perception of what your town is all about. It tells people what the landscape is about. I am opposed to this.\u201d\r\n\r\nGudmundsson added that the planning commission is just now forming and approving a sign of this nature may be premature before a comprehensive plan can be drafted.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe planning commission is just starting to meet and working on a comprehensive plan to try to have done in the next year or so, and there\u2019s going to be a lot of public input where the community is going to come forth and tell the planning commission what their vision for the town is and what they want to see the town look like for the next ten years,\u201d she said. \u201cI think to do something like this before the community and citizens have an opportunity to say what they want the landscape to look like is premature, regardless of promoting business.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhite said he understood council\u2019s concerns and stated that if a double stack was out of the question, then he would look for alternative sites for the sign outside of town limits.\r\n\r\nIn other news\/updates:\r\n\r\n\u2022\u00a0Pocahontas County Farmers Market co-president Jo Debra Gandee reported that the markets in Marlinton and Linwood will continue this year, while the Green Bank market has closed. In its place, Gandee said they will have a small market in The Village at Snowshoe and one at Cass.\r\n\r\n\u2022 13th Avenue resident Kenneth Faulkiner addressed council as a representative for himself and his neighbors. Faulkiner said 13th Avenue is having drainage issues and asked council to replace the four inch sewer line with a six or eight inch line.\r\nMayor Felton said council will try to get the issue fixed by the end of the month.\r\n\r\n\u2022 Council will hold a special meeting April 19 to lay the levy.\r\n\r\n\u2022\u00a0Council declared April as Fair Housing Month.\r\n\r\nCouncil approved the following action:\r\n\r\n\u2022 Appointment of Jake Krack and Shawn Irvine to the Marlinton Housing Authority. Krack will serve a three year term and Irvine, a four year term.\r\n\r\n\u2022 Region IV requests for Water System Improvements Project \u2013\u00a0Resolution 4 and the Small Cities Block Grant Award and Resolution.\r\n\r\n\u2022 A $200 donation to the Pocahontas County High School carpentry class. The class assisted the town with renovations to Main Street benches.\r\n\r\n\u2022 A $500 donation to the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau trout stocking fund. The donation will come from the hotel\/motel tax section of the budget and will be used to stock streams within town limits.\r\n\r\n\u2022 A budget revision and resolution to transfer $1,000 from the city hall fund to the planning and zoning commission fund.\r\n\r\n\u2022 To participate annually in Wreath Across America \u2013 a ceremony in which wreaths are placed at the cemetery, in this case, Mountain View Cemetery, in honor of servicemen and women. The ceremony will take place in December and be conducted by the Vietnam Veterans of America and Boy Scout Troop #33.\r\n\r\n\u2022 The second reading of the Marlinton Tree Ordinance.\r\n\r\nMarlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Marlinton Municipal Building.