The atrocious snowstorm of February 21 was more than just an inconvenience – it cost the Town of Marlinton a lot of money. During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Joe Smith said the storm forced him to take action.
“We removed between 2,000 and 2,500 tons of snow last week,” said Smith. “The cost of moving that snow, not counting the town’s overtime and expenses, was $25,280. I thought that we had to do it. I was opposed to that type of money but we had to do it. We had two contractors and employed three young men, plus we had Day Report people. It was pretty hectic here Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Smith said contractors Alderman Excavating and Ryder Contracting had been hired to do the heavy work of removing the snow. The Mayor said 179 dump truck loads of snow were removed from town streets during the three days the contractors were employed.
“I set priorities on what we were going to do when,” Smith added. “We started with the business district and branched out. We took care of the government offices, the courthouse, the post office and what-not. We had to get the Board of Education opened up because they had classes on Wednesday. We branched out and got some of the churches that were within town and needed parking places for this weekend, and the Opera House and other places that had activities scheduled this week.”
“I thought the men did quite well,” said Smith. “They put in a lot of overtime beginning with the storm on Saturday night and continuing all day through Sunday. They had about 32 hours continuously when it was snowing just keeping the roads open.”
Region IV Executive Director John Tuggle and Administrative Assistant Cassandra Hughart requested council action on four items related to a recent award of a Small Cities Block Grant (SCBG) up to $1.5 million for upgrades to the town’s aging water system.
Council approved a resolution accepting the first SCBG installment of $500,000 and a letter of understanding with Region IV for the water project. Council also approved a required project displacement and relocation plan (which does not apply) and designated Pendleton Community Bank as the depository for project funds.
Marlinton Fire Association President Tom Barnisky, Marlinton Fire Department Chief Herb Barlow and Firefighter Adam Irvine updated Council on plans for a new fire fee.
Barnisky told Council that a county-wide fire fee is no longer being pursued.
“From what we discussed in the meeting the other night, due to the other departments, it just seemed that they could not come together on an agreement,” he said.
Residents inside town limits currently pay an annual fire fee of $30 per year, but the Marlinton Fire Department serves a much larger area.
Irvine said the department wants to expand the municipal fire fee to include all of it’s first-due area, and increase the fee to $60 per year.
“We don’t want to take action with the county-wide, because they don’t think it’s going to get pushed through or because of issues logistics-wise,” said Irvine. “So we’re wanting to go with our first-due area, because we feel it’s not right for the citizens of Marlinton to support the fire department, as a whole, when we go 344 miles in our area. So, we’re wanting to push it for our first-due area.”
A first-due area is a geographical area in proximity to a fire department, normally served by the personnel and apparatus from that department in the event of a fire or other emergency. Marlinton Fire Department’s first-due area includes an area from Cooktown to Beckwith Lumber along Route 219, and from Minnehaha Springs to Pocahontas County High School in the east.
Councilmember Norris Long said he needed more information to decide on supporting the increased fee.
“I would like further information as to the potential additional numbers, including revenue from the current rate and the proposed rate,” he said.
Barlow said he was working with the County Assessor’s Office to determine the number of households in the first-due area and estimate the revenue to be generated by the proposed first-due area fire fee. The Fire Chief said the current fee, levied only on town residents, raises approximately $30,000 per year for the department.
“In this day and age, the money that the Town Council has given us for years, everybody in our first-due area is benefitting from that,” said Barlow. “I gave you some examples of what it could increase for us. It could increase our professional staff, our paid staff. We’ve got two trucks out there that we need to replace.”
Marlinton Building Commission Secretary Mark Strauss updated council on the Commission’s first meeting on February 6.
“During the meeting, Ernie Shaw was elected president and Mark Strauss was elected Secretary,” said Strauss. “The Commission discussed options for the [Commission-owned vacant lot adjacent to the Pocahontas County Opera House] and who was using it. The Commission will continue discussions on Tuesday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at the Wellness Center.”
In other business, Council scheduled a special meeting on March 16 at 7 p.m. to consider and act on the town’s fiscal year 2016 budget.
The next regular meeting of Marlinton Town Council is scheduled for April 6 at 7 p.m.