Watoga State Park Foundation member Mary Dawson met with Marlinton Town Council Monday night to ask for its support in the foundation’s efforts to have Watoga designated as a Dark Sky Park. There are estimated to be just 50 such parks in the U. S. and if Watoga receives that designation, it would be the first Dark Sky Park in West Virginia. Above, this photo is titled A Place Under the Stars. The cabins of Watoga State Park offer a glimpse at some of the darkest skies in the state and the Milky Way can be seen in this photo streaming above the forest canopy and a cabin tucked away into the heart of the forest. Courtesy of Reflection in a Pool Photography by Jesse Thornton

Jaynell Graham
Editor
 
Watoga State Park Foundation member Mary Dawson was on Marlinton Town Council’s Monday night agenda to ask for an endorsement of the foundation’s efforts to have Watoga State Park designated as a Dark Sky Park.

Dawson said, at this point in time, Pocahontas County is not considered to be in a light pollution section of the state.

A large majority of Americans cannot see the night sky because of light pollution, and it is important to save areas where a clear view of the night sky can be viewed, enjoyed and used as a learning center.

Dawson presented several photos by Jesse Thornton, which showed the clarity of which the Milky Way and other star formations can be seen from the Seebert and Watoga areas.

The foundation hopes to attract families and astronomy students to the park, which, if designated, would be one of an estimated 50 parks in the entire country. If the foundation’s request is approved, Watoga would be the first Dark Sky Park in West Virginia.

She also asked that the town do an inventory of its lighting, and, over the next 10 years, consider replacing existing lights with more acceptable light sources.

She added that First Energy is helping Watoga State Park change all of the outside lighting there, and encouraged the town to contact the company to see how it might help to make changes to lighting here.

The council voted unanimously to write a letter of endorsement for this proposal.

Town Policeman Travis Cook was called out of the meeting to cover an incident, but he had provided a written report to council about the calls he had responded to in the past month. The nature of those calls included destruction of property, domestic situation, domestic in progress with weapons, suspicious activity, abandoned vehicle and 10 traffic stops.
Councilmember Gail Hyer updated council on progress with the town’s new website as well as the work being done on the Rental Compliance Ordinance.

According to the state Fire Marshal, the town’s code official, David Watkins, can inspect all residential properties, including new construction.

Dunn Engineers, Inc. president Wayne Hypes reported that the town’s water plant is up and operating. They are now putting in the “water salesman,” for the convenience of residents who need to purchase water in bulk.

He encouraged everyone to drive by the water plant to see the changes that have been made.

The project has funding left over, which will be used, in part, to install new water meters in the downtown area that can be read by radio. This process will give a more accurate read to identify leaks and water loss. It will also reduce the time involved in reading meters as well as making it possible to read meters when snow is on the ground.

Some of the excess funds will also be used to modify the intake.

Council approved a lease agreement with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and the West Virginia State Rail Authority for a wetlands project on Fourth Avenue next to the Greenbrier River Trail.

That project calls for a trail with interpretive signs as well as educational programs for students and the community.

Parks and Recreation Director Lauren Bennett submitted a grant proposal for $5,000, no match required, to be used for an environmental assessment. That grant was approved.

The completed project is expected to cost $35,000 to $40,000.

Councilmember Joe Smith voiced concerns about the town investing money in property that it does not own.

Mayor Sam Felton said he thought improvements to “the slough” would be a first step in trying to bring new life to properties on Fourth Avenue.

Council approved a resolution to enter into the lease agreement.

Smith and councilmember Bill McMann voted against the resolution.

Along with new ideas, the town returned to an old issue, that being the long contested ownership of Courtney Avenue, a strip of land at Lakeview Estates.

Council went into executive session to discuss the matter with its legal counsel, Thomas White, with Dinsmore and Associates.

Returning to the meeting, council approved a motion to proceed with litigation to resolve the issue.

Council approved a motion to hire Lowe and Associates as its accounting firm for the proposed Sewer System Improvement Project.

Proposals from a short list of five engineering firms were shared with councilmembers. Interviews for consultants for the Sewer System Project will be held in December.

In other business, council

• approved an estimate of $5,978.29 to Southern Elevator for needed repairs to the elevator at the municipal building.

• approved payments in the amount of $277,318.82 for the nearly completed Water Improvement Project

• tasked the personnel committee to develop procedures for donation requests

• tasked the personnel committee to develop monthly report forms for maintenance, water and sewer, police, police judge and building inspector.

Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building. Elevator access is at the back of the building.

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