MTC approves design for vacant lot

Jaynell Graham

Vacant Lot Committee Chairman Joe Smith, and members, Brynn Kusic, Roger Trusler, Lauren Bennett and Norris Long, presented the committee’s final design for Marlinton Town Council’s approval at its meeting Monday night.

The project, which will repurpose the vacant lot adjacent to the opera house, has been two years in the planning stage, and it is estimated that it will take two years to complete – section by section.

“It’s been a long two years to come up with a design we all agreed on,” Smith said. “It has come a long way from the original plan of two years ago. We feel we have a very good design now, and it will be an asset to the town.

Recorder B. J. Gudmundsson asked that the committee provide maintenance and upkeep figures to council. Any modifications must have council approval, as well.

Having received council’s support and approval, the committee will now seek funding through fundraisers and grants for the estimated $255,000 cost.

Smith commended the committee for its work.

“This has been a very faithful committee,” he said. “They have all been there through the whole process.”

As funds become available, the work will begin with installing underground electric and water pipes for a proposed splash pool, the construction of an outdoor stage and a covered walkway to accommodate the farmers market.

The final design and the committee’s plans going forward will be published in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.

While there was great rapport between the Vacant Lot Committee and council, but that rapport was not evident at the beginning of the exchange between Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department president Doug Lantz and council with regard to the disbursement of $10,000 from the town’s budget to the department.

This issue has quite a history, and it took some time to wade through it Monday night.

Due to the expense incurred by the fire department during the Main Street fire in 2013, council added a $10,000 line item to its budget to be used if the department needed it – and asked for it.

That line item remained in the budget, but with the increase in income to the department as a result of increasing fire fees for town residents, a gentleman’s agreement was reached between the parties noting that the town could hold back the $10,000 for hydrant repair.

The town has been diligent in those repairs and in maintaining hydrants in town and the outlying areas.

Lantz admitted that those repairs have helped the department gain its Insurance Service Office (ISO) Class 4 rating. ISO ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being superior service.

Lantz also said the department is trying to get an ISO rating of 3, which would be of benefit to residents in its service area.

Continued proper maintenance of hydrants would help the department achieve that rating.

“It is a common goal,” Mayor Sam Felton said. “We want to do all we can to maintain that rating.”

Lantz’s presentation indicated that there was contention between the fire department and the town, which council members said had been made worse by “talk on the street” about the department  saying it would charge the town for services in retaliation for not receiving the $10,000.

The fire department was called on four times to “blow out” the intake at the water plant recently because of bad weather. The work was necessary to keep the town’s water system up and running.

“We blew out the intake four times,” Lantz said. “If we lost a truck doing that, it would cost us $100,000 to fix it. We checked with a pumper company and it would cost the town $3,000 each time the intake is blown out.”

Gudmundsson reminded Lantz that the fire department’s contract states that it will help the town in times of emergency.

“That was an emergency,” she said.

Although the water was murky, the council voted to give $10,000 to the fire department since it had been left in the budget under “Fire Department.”

The council begins work on a new budget this month.

In other business, council

• Hired Luci Mosesso as town judge, one-half day per week at a rate of $500 per month

• Had the second reading, by title, for the Water Improvement Project, noting items that need to be amended

• Tabled raising fees at Mountain View Cemetery

• Extended the effective date of the Residential Rental Ordinance

Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of the month, excluding holidays, at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the Marlinton Municipal Building.

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