Marlinton Town Council approved the outlay of a considerable amount of money at its Monday night meeting.
Mayor Sam Felton and the sitting council have worked together these past several months to improve the appearance of the town, prepare ordinances for the safety and health of its residents, as well as making hard, financial decisions with regard to infrastructure and maintenance.
Cassie Hughart, Community Project Specialist with Region 4 Planning and Development Council, presented for council’s approval an invoice in the amount of $11,106.75, for Tech Services completed by Dunn Engineering for the final design of the town’s Water System Improvement Project. The amount will be paid from funds the town received from a Small Cities Block Grant.
The council also approved a $300 payment to the Department of Health and Human Resources. DHHR charges this fee to review the town’s application and final design for the water project.
Council had the first reading of the ordinance which sets forth the rates and charges for service to customers of the town’s water system.
The 31 percent increase will go into effect in two increments: 15 percent in December 2017 and 16 percent in July 2018.
Councilmember Mark Strauss noted at least one math error in the ordinance, which will be adjusted prior to the second reading.
The town’s sewer services was again a topic of discussion as commercial property owner Ellen Galford and Hamilton Hill resident Zed Weatherholt were on the agenda seeking rulings from council with regard to issues they presented at the August meeting.
Galford owns an apartment building on Sixth Avenue in Marlinton and advised council at last month’s meeting that one apartment would no longer be rented. The water has been disconnected and she asked that she not be billed for the minimum monthly sewer fee.
Council determined that if Galford removed the commode in the apartment and capped off the line, the sewer fee would be waived.
Weatherholt’s situation led to a lengthy discussion.
Weatherholt and his wife spend several months of the year away from their Marlinton residence. Although they have the water cut-off and trash pick-up discontinued, there is no way to cut off sewer service, so the town charges a minimum monthly fee of $17 for the lines being assessable for use.
Weatherholt offered support for his request, advising council that he knew of two non-profits whose sewer fee had been waived and said he had talked with individuals who said they had never been billed for sewer service.
Strauss addressed those claims, reading from the minutes that two non-profits had approached council for waivers.
Council waived the minimum sewer fee for the Marlinton Depot while it was under construction, but once construction was complete, the sewer fee was reinstated.
Bill McNeel, on behalf of the Historical Society Museum, had approached council and asked that the sewer fee be waived during the winter months when the museum was not open.
As to individuals who are not paying a sewer bill, Strauss noted that the water and sewer ordinance has been in effect for about a year, and, in that time, the town’s office staff has, on three different occasions, added customers who had not previously been identified as sewer customers.
“It’s a work in progress,” Felton said.
The water and sewer service issue is one that Felton has grappled with for several months, stating at the August meeting that the town wants to treat its customers equally and fairly.
“Water can be cut off for individual customers, and there is no cost,” Felton said. “It is not pumped, not treated; there is no manpower used. But there is an item in the utility rules and regulation that talks about availability of sewer service. Even though it is not used, it has to be made available.”
Town attorney Bob Martin stated that, “in his humble opinion,” Weatherholt was not outside the rule, which, at first seemed that he agreed that Weatherholt should be charged the monthly fee, but at the end of the discussion, it was determined that Martin’s opinion was that Weatherholt should not be billed.
Continuing in water and sewer mode, council approved the payoff from the town’s reserve fund of its 1982 Water/Sewer Bond in the amount of $26,922.84.
Council received two bids for paving all roads at Mountain View Cemetery, and accepted the bid from Southern West Virginia Paving, Inc. in the amount of $52,000.
Joe Smith, Chair of the Opera House Lot Committee presented that group’s design for a stage, dance/sitting area, splash pool, green space and parking lot to be built on the 120’ by 120’ lot.
Council accepted and approved the preliminary proposal, noting that the space would tie in to other attractions and festivals in the town.
An architectural team from WVU, led by Professor Peter Butler, will be at that site Friday, September 15, to receive public input and to offer its services in formulating the design.
In other business, council
• had the first reading of its Health and Sanitation ordinance
• set Trick or Treat for Tuesday, October 31, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building.
Meeting day and time is adjusted for months when holidays fall on the first Monday.