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MTC moves Marlinton forward

Jaynell Graham

Many positive steps were taken at Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting, which led USFS Marlinton/White Sulphur Springs District Ranger Cynthia Sandeno to exclaim, “Yea. This is a great meeting.

In attendance were many energetic young people, who have volunteered their time and effort to move the town forward in a positive way.

Getting down to business, Rental Compliance and Permit Committee member Gail Hyer reported that the committee had identified 10 items of concern, two of which have been taken care of since the work began.

The first phase of the committee’s work was to look a customer service to make sure people understand the code, what it requires of them and to ensure that information is available to them at all points in the process.

They also want to make sure the Code Enforcement Officer has the tools needed to do his job better and easier.

Councilmember Joe Smith commended the committee saying, “The report is detailed, well put together report. A lot of time and thought was put into it, and the committee did a good job.”

Since a new council was seated last month, it was necessary to appoint members to the Rental Compliance and Ordinance Committee. Councilmembers Hyer and Chris Curry and at-large member Nelson Hernandez were recommended to serve.

Curry withdrew his name, saying “he was not the man for the job.”

Council voted to let Hyer and Hernandez continue to work and to advertise for another member of the committee.

Council also approved a motion to allow that committee to reach out for further assistance to other agencies and to work with the town to improve enforcement and recordkeeping with regard to the Rental Ordinance.

Recorder B.J. Gudmundson reported that she had provided hard copies and digital copies of the Wet Virginia Code regarding the Open Meetings Act so all councilmembers will know the guidelines under which they must conduct business. She advised that email correspondence about matters that might be put forth for a vote are prohibited by those rules.

Curry had a question about an item that had not appeared on the agenda.

“There is an agenda item that’s been discussed a couple of time, but has been lost,” Curry said. “We need to go back and get that Marlinton Municipal Code back on the agenda. That’s something that’s worth looking into. It predates this council, but was supposed to be discussed.”

Mayor Sam Felton clarified the matter.

“Is that the Traffic Code you’re referring to?” Felton asked. “Everything is in place except the sanctions for some of the violations, and anything that we have to address – dollars and fines – must go through revisions and amendments before we do the next reading. I’m glad you brought that up, Chris, but that’s one of the reasons that it hasn’t come back to the table. We will have that on the September agenda. We will be ready by then.”

Sandeno provided insight into the next phase of the Mon Forest Town Partnership, which includes branding for the communities around the forest.

“Developing a brand is a way to market all the communities together as a region and helps to drive tourism to the area. Branding captures the symbiotic relationship of the communities with the Forest to unite them under a unified identity, but still allows for each town to promote its own individual, unique aspects.

“The purpose of the Mon Forest Town Partnership is to connect communities to each other, to the Forest and to the resources available to enhance the economy, as well as the quality of life for residents and visitors.”

A large portion of this work is centered around strengthening outdoor recreation opportunities to build strong recreation economies.

The 10 gateway communities include Cowen, Davis, Elkins, Franklin, Marlinton, Parsons, Petersburg, Richwood, Thomas and White Sulphur Springs.

Sandeno said $4.1 billion is generated in timber related income, while $5.1 billion comes from outdoor recreation within the forest.

Council approved a motion, 5 – 0, to enter into a partnership with the forest service as a Mon Forest Town, which improves the town with no required outlay of funds on its part.

At a Special Meeting, council approved a bid from Seven Rivers Design Build LLC, of Hillsboro, to construct Discovery Junction.

A motion was approved, 5 – 1, Monday night to allow the Mayor to sign the contract with Seven Rivers Design Build LLC. The contract calls for a 60-day completion, with rain days to be considered.

Councilmember Curry voted against the motion.

Funding for the project fell short for the installation of the splash pad.

After much discussion, a motion was approved, 5 – 1, for the town to advance the Discovery Junction committee $40,000 for the splash pad, and the committee is to continue its fundraising efforts with any monies received to go toward reimbursement to the town.

Councilmember Curry voted against the motion.

Council commended Luci Mosesso for her success in acquiring grant funding for the Discovery Junction project.

Carol Cain Bush, with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, appeared before council to outline the work and timeline of the census. She encouraged outreach to ensure that every household was included in the census, as the number of residents and the median household income affects the number of representatives for a given area as well as the amount of federal dollars that would be allocated for this area for infrastructure, housing, healthcare and more.

“Everyone needs to be counted once, and only once,” Bush said.

Residents will be able to file their census form online, by phone or on paper. If the household information is not received by April 1, 2020, census workers will begin knocking on doors.

The final census numbers will be released in April 2021.

The Census Bureau will be hiring workers in the area at an hourly rate of $13.50.

Council approved the Census Proclamation, which will be published in the August 15 edition of The Pocahontas Times.

Wayne Hypes of Dunn Engineering reported that work on the water plant is 60 percent complete.

No comments were received by the town with regard to the draft Comprehensive Plan.

Council voted, 5 – 0, to adopt a resolution accepting the plan, which will now be filed with the Pocahontas County Clerk’s office.

This plan is the culmination of three years of work, which included 16 public meetings and an open house.

“I thought it would take six months,” Felton said, “and it has taken three years.”

Council and those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting commended Planning Commission Chair Katie Workman for keeping the committee on track to produce the plan.

“It is a fluid document,” Felton said. “We will be revising this as we go forward. It is not only a road map for this council, but for councils that come in the future. We will add to it and grow from it and our community will be better for it in the long run.”

Only two members of council can be members of the Planning Commission. Councilmember Smith had been a “citizen member” prior to his election to council, so he submitted his resignation.

Although council has the authority to appoint a new member, there has been some rumbling on the street, so in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, council tabled the appointment and will advertise for interested persons who might want to serve.

An appointment will be made at the September meeting.

Councilmember Hyer has been tasked with creating a website for the town. She asked that council appoint Sarah Irvine to serve on the committee, which will gather information from businesses and residents to make the website “useful to the town and to families.”

Another member was needed for the committee and Anne Mitchell, of Knapps Creek Lodge, who was at the meeting, volunteered to be the third member.

In other business, council

Approved payments of $230,232.91 to Orders Construction for work at the water plant; $17,680.87 for Dunn Engineering; and $2,272.35 for Administrative costs to Region IV.

Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, in council chambers on the second  floor of the municipal building.

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