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MTC continues to struggle with ordinance enforcement

Jaynell Graham

Marlinton Town Council had a fairly lengthy agenda, but not much action was taken at its meeting Monday night.

Mayor Sam Felton advised council that West Virginia Paving had one of its men on Fourth Avenue last week with regard to the paving project for that area. The company had planned to move the paver into place Monday, but that did not happen.

The 4th Avenue Gallery is anxious to have its parking area paved, but that work needs to be done in tandem with the paving of Fourth Avenue. This project has taken months of correspondence with the Department of Highways, but, as yet, the paving has not begun.

Marlinton Town Police Officer Travis Cook reported that he had had a busy month with 24 calls, 26 traffic stops, three assists with warrants, two arrests, responded to three incidences of breaking and entering, three reports of larceny, two animal control issues, one incident of intoxication as well as assisting with EMS calls.

Marlinton citizen John Neely commended Cook for helping to keep the gazebo area in order.

Council approved payment of $125,970.49 for the ongoing Water Improvement Project, with the funds coming from IDJC and Small City Block grants as well as from a loan.

Two issues on the agenda were tabled – “Changes in the West Virginia Conservation Agency Operation and Maintenance;” and “T-Mobile Network’s proposal for placement of a communications facility” at the municipal building – as the two spokespersons did not appear at the meeting.

Council addressed requests for variance permits with regard to the RV ordinance, wherein it denied one application due to inadequate space, and took no action on two other requests until the application fees are reviewed and FEMA reports for those properties are received.

Council tabled an agenda item titled “Changing to a more simplified Rules of Order.”

The proposed changes were compiled by former town attorney Bob Martin.

Council member Norris Long said the change from Robert’s Rules of Order to this simpler form was not something council should jump into.

“We have Bob’s rules, but we don’t have Bob,” Felton said.

Martin resigned as town attorney at last week’s Special Town Council Meeting which dealt with a request for a Special Permit to allow more than three pets at one residence within the town limits.

Martin gave what could be called his closing argument at that meeting because of council’s action on the special permit issue in his absence at the regular MTC meeting October 1.

Some council members were concerned about Martin drafting a special permit form.

Recorder BJ Gudmundsson said she was concerned that “the tail was wagging the dog” and that Martin was doing things that the council was not aware of, and she found it unsettling.

Martin questioned council’s attempt to change its Animal Ordinance at that meeting, based on a recommendation, rather than on an amendment to the ordinance. He reminded council that the Animal Ordinance was passed in 2012 and in the six years since, no permits had been requested nor issued.

“You were on notice since May that a Special Permit had been applied for,” Martin said. “Part of the problem is that the town had no permit [application].

Martin created a form in response to the request made to the town.

“I have written a lot of permit applications,” Martin said at the Special Meeting, “and they have never been questioned.”

At the October 1 meeting, a recommendation was presented to change the Animal Ordinance to reflect that no special permits would be granted, and that the change was effective as of that night.

“Where the idea came from that one reading is sufficient [to change an ordinance], I have no idea,” Martin said. “That is contrary to what I have preached. My duty is to make sure that you don’t mess up.

“When I took this job, I told you I would not tell you what to do, but when you decide, let me help you to do it right.

“You have no amendment. Nothing was presented. You had a recommendation, but you had no written amendment.

“I was very distressed at what was said at the meeting about ‘the tail wagging the dog.’”

Martin gave an overview of his work for the town, but said he didn’t want to be shot at in his own foxhole, and that he had no alternative but to resign.

His resignation was effective November 1.

The tangled Special Permit issue drug on for months, and at the end of that time, the town resident received his special permit, but it cost the town its legal counsel.

The Animal and Fowl Ordinance was on council’s agenda again at Monday night’s meeting.

A committee will meet to review it, and council noted that the ordinance has never been enforced.

In other business, council approved

• a $500 donation to Alleghany Mountain Radio

• a $500 to Pocahontas County Free Libraries and Information Centers

• the Christmas Parade to be held Friday, December 7, at 7 p.m. in downtown Marlinton.

Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, at 7 p.m.

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