Marlinton Town Council met Monday via conference call with all councilmembers present on the line.
Recorder BJ Gudmundson commended the town employees, staff and councilmembers for “being there and being patient” during this uncertain time.
With regards to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was determined that the town office may open sometime during the Week 3 through 6 of Governor Jim Justice’s “Comeback” plan.
A thorough cleaning of the town office will take place before the office is opened to the public.
Councilmember Gail Hyer reported that the town’s website might be delayed to the end of July due to some of the committee’s resource partners being unable to work at this time.
Councilmember Joe Smith is in the process of booking a local band for the July 4th celebration. He was concerned that if a band was booked now and the event was canceled due to a continuation of restrictions, the town might be required to pay if a band was under contract.
Council determined that there was still time to deal with this matter, and Smith should proceed and include a provision with regard to cancellation.
If a band performs, it would be at Discovery Junction where, Smith said, social distancing would be easier.
The matter was tabled until June in hopes more information on the lifting of restrictions would be available.
Mayor Sam Felton reported that the town’s new Police Chief, Ian Galloway, had been busy in April.
Town Attorney Tom White had prepared a draft ordinance addressing dangerous and unsafe structures for council’s consideration.
“My recommendation would be to replace the existing Chapter 7 in the town’s ordinance to give the town a way to have authority to address structures that are falling down,” White said. “This would allow the town to seek monetary fines.”
Felton said he had gone over the ordinance and a lot of it mirrors the previous ordinance, but it does clean it up and bring in the registration component and explained it more clearly.
Councilmember Scott Gibb moved to approve the change, and the motion was seconded by Gudmundsson.
But the motion failed on a roll call vote, with councilmembers Hyer, Smith, Chris Curry and Bill McMann voting in the negative.
“My voting no has nothing to do with the ordinance,” Hyer said. “But there is no plan to educate the public as to who will be doing this.
“There are so many more things that we need to look at in conjunction with the ordinance.”
Felton said, “Council has had this conversation so many times, but we can’t do anything until we get this ordinance passed.”
With that motion failing, council did not take a vote on the next agenda item, which was to act on a draft ordinance, prepared by White, addressing the registration of vacant structures.
The personnel committee, made up of Gudmundsson and Smith, will work with White to oversee completion of a VAD Properties Register and to draft a Vacant, Abandoned and Dilapidated Buildings Ordinance.
Continuing the conversation about vacant buildings, Felton advised council of some activity regarding the Martin or H Building on Main Street.
Bob Martin gifted that property to the town when he resigned as town attorney.
Felton said he had shown the property several times.
“We have three options,” Felton said. “We need to have a plan so we can be more specific about what we are going to require and what potential buyers should expect. Of the people I have talked with about the building, there are two scenarios. One potential business would want to tear down the diner and use that lot for outdoor dining, and the other person is interested in the diner property and needed a few more feet for his design. They would tear down the Martin building to make space for that business.”
Felton advised council that the upstairs apartment has been broken into and occupied by vagrants.
“We need to make a decision going forward, as the town has an unsafe building,” Felton continued. “The third option is that we allow a tenant to make the repairs that need to be done to bring the property up to code, and we reimburse them a reasonable amount of rent per year.”
Gudmundsson questioned whether, under West Virginia Code, the town could own and or rent the property.
“I was under the impression that properties need to be put in the name of the Building Authority,” she said.
White advised that he was not aware of any code that would prohibit the town from owning property. He said he would look into it further, and would respond in the next day or two.
“If we had an answer, then we would be ready for the naysayers,” Gudmundsson said.
Gibb said he couldn’t see putting money into the building and would just as soon see it torn down.
Felton said the building was in good shape until the recent break-ins.
The matter will be added to next month’s agenda.
In other business, council
• approved payment of $189,503.44 for work on the Water Improvement Project
• took no action on options for a funding opportunity for inflow and infiltration study for the Sewer System Improvement Project
• received a report Wayne Hypes of Dunn Engineering on issues at the water plant.
• was advised that a supplier has been found for radio-read meters for the town which comply with restrictions in the Quiet Zone.
• tabled action until June on a proposed graveled parking lot on the town’s property on Third Avenue across from Lucy’s Grocery and Moore.
• approved a new town logo for stationary and town vehicles.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, at 7 p.m.