Jaynell Graham

Marlinton Town Council began the New Year with a vacant seat at the table.

Councilman Mark Strauss, the top vote getter in the most recent council election, tendered his resignation, effective December 31, 2017.

After considering the options of leaving the seat vacant and continuing with a five-member council including Recorder; appointing former council candidate Scott Gibb, who barely lost in the election; or advertising the seat, thereby allowing members of the community an opportunity to express their interest in serving, the council voted to open it up to the community.

The details of the position will be advertised in the January 18 edition of The Pocahontas Times, announced on Allegheny Mountain Radio and posted on the bulletin board at the town office.

Letters of interest will be accepted through Thursday, February 1, and appointment of the new council member will be on the council’s agenda for its February 5 meeting.

Several improvement plans were on Monday night’s agenda, including a report from Vacant Lot Committee member Lauren Bennett, an appeal from 4th Avenue Gallery/Artisans Co-op member Laurie Cameron with regard to paving behind the depot, plans for pursuing a design and funding for a Wetlands Project along Fourth Avenue, and approval for Mayor Sam Felton to submit Notice of Intent to Bid on the Water System Improvement Project.

Bennett presented a visual of the Vacant Lot Committee’s plans for the property beside the opera house. WVU Landscape students have submitted several designs, which need to be tweaked a bit to be workable. After receiving council’s approval, Bennett will now  travel to WVU to narrow down a workable design so the committee can put numbers to the plan.

The proposal at this point envisions a covered walkway on the property along the alley between Eighth and Ninth streets, which would lend itself to a farmers market. An outdoor stage with lawn seating as well as picnic tables and a patio area are included in the nature-themed design. A splash pad will  add a water element to the project.

Cameron discussed with council the need for improved drainage and paving on the Fourth Avenue side of the Marlinton Depot, now home to the 4th Avenue Gallery.

“The co-op moved into the depot this year,” Cameron said. “It has been a great success. Our best year yet.

“Approaching from the west, the depot looks like the million dollars it took to restore it. When you go to the back to park, it looks like a slum.”

Cameron was referring to the broken pavement which turns into 10 foot wide mud holes, nearly pond size, which are now frozen, creating a hazard.

Co-op officers have addressed their concerns to the DOH in Elkins, to no avail. Cameron would like for all players to meet and assess the situation.

Felton advised that he began a conversation with the DOH in 2015 and gained a promise that paving work would be done on Third and Fourth avenues in 2016. But severe flooding that year put all other projects on the back burner.

Resuming that conversation later, some work was done on Third Avenue, but it is incomplete.

The Co-op is not asking the state to pave its parking area, but would like paving of Fourth Avenue to happen in tandem with the Depot Committee’s plans to pave its 4,000 square foot space.

Felton agreed that improved drainage and paving needs to be done and is willing to continue to press for it.

“The McGlaughlin house is ready to see more traffic,” he said. “The Mason Jar is a successful business as is the [4th Avenue Gallery]. We need to get this project started. We will use the leverage of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the artisans to see what can be done.”

Felton reported that he is working with Fish and Wildlife, the Greenbrier River Trail superintendent and others to come up with a design plan with regard to the slough between the trail and Fourth Avenue, north of the town garage to the water tank.

In other business, council

• will revisit the Municipal Judge process

• will consider increases to fees at Mountain View Cemetery at its next meeting

• will offer health insurance to town employees

• authorized the mayor to submit the Notice of Intent to Bid on the Water System Improvement Project when it is ready to roll, which is estimated to be March 1.

Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building.

Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@pocahontastimes.com