Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting began on a positive note.
Mayor Sam Felton announced that Pioneer Days is going forward this summer. He said it will be a few days before the committee knows what the safety protocols will be with regards to COVID.
He said more paving will be going on in town, which will include repairing the “after-effects of repairing the Third Avenue sewer problem.”
The mayor has also been in communication with Verizon, discussing proposals similar to those offered by T-Mobile. A T-Mobile cell tower was installed on the roof of the municipal building a few years ago.
“Economic development has my attention all of my time,” Felton said. “I have called everywhere from Slovenia to the west coast, Florida and Missouri. I try to answer all calls. But because it is so closely related, broadband is more important now than ever. We are working hard at that.
“Dilapidated buildings are always being worked on. You clean up one place, and another crops up. We are making progress. But there are things that tie our hands.
“The beautiful part of living in this area is also a challenge, and that is getting people to serve on committees. It’s pretty much the same people who step up.
“If it does not hurt or conflict with other things that are going on, I’m for it.”
Code enforcement officer and flood plain coordinator Zach Graham advised council that there are still three vacancies on the Building Maintenance Board.
Graham said he has had a couple of people to consider the positions, but after thinking about it, they declined.
Building Maintenance Board members sit as an appeal board for decisions made by Code Enforcement and to ensure that proper protocols were followed dealing with property and rental issues.
“This lack of a maintenance board is holding up a lot of things that we need to be doing,” Felton said.
On the agenda Monday night was the Public Hearing, which needed to be held prior to the third reading of Title IV, Chapter 12 of the Municipal Building Commission Ordinance.
After allowing time for comments, there were none, council voted to approve the third reading.
In other business, council approved a motion to submit a Letter of Intent to apply for a DOH Grant for sidewalk design.
Cassie Lawson, with Region IV Planning and Development, said the Letter of Intent was the first step. The minimum ask for grant is $50,000 with the town putting up 20 percent, or $10,000.
Lawson was not sure what the cost per foot would be for sidewalks, and suggested council use the $50,000 to hire a consulting firm or to advertise for three quotes from local contractors, and use the initial $50,000 for designing the project.
As the Letter of Intent is due next week, and the full application due in June, council will have a special meeting to cement its plans.
Approved a recommendation from Region IV executive director John Tuggle to set aside $100,000 of CARES money to be put toward improving broadband service.
Tuggle is working with other towns and county commissions in Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette and Webster counties.
“We are going to present to all the towns and county commissions that broadband is front and center,” Tuggle said. “You know the deficiencies. With this American Rescue Plan act, we anticipate guidance by May 10 to give a better explanation, and by May 18 or 20, we should know if we can use that money for broadband, since other funds are coming to the state for broadband. Counties will have more flexibility. We recommend you don’t spend all your dollars on broadband. You can set aside twenty-five percent for broadband. We feel it will be easier to bring down dollars from the state if local investments are made. Senator Manchin is plugging broadband really hard.
“The town is to get $400,000 and it is up to the town to decide where to spend it – within the parameters of what is allowed. Without connectivity it is hard to get anything moving.”
Recorder BJ Gudmundsson agreed and asked if the other counties would be involved, as well.
“We are asking some towns for thirty or forty percent,” Tuggle said. “Twenty-five percent is the bottom.
“The key is it is on the east coast where you get more bang for your buck. Ashburn, Virginia, is a major center for connectivity. Another is in Columbus, Ohio, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and we are nestled in between them all.
“Control of the network is best if it is public. Private companies can be used for local connections, but we don’t want another Internet provider like we’ve had in the past. Lack of maintenance, etc. This will give some control over dependence on private providers. We want to have control over the backbone. We want to control the big pipe.
“Greenbrier and Fayette are interested. Nicholas is considering. Webster is trying hard to be invested in this.”
Council approved a motion to put $100,000 in an escrow account to be put toward broadband.
Council tabled renewal of its Shentel Franchise Agreement. This issue will be addressed at the special meeting.
The final item on the agenda was to renew the agreement with the Greenbrier Valley Conservation District for flood control maintenance on Marlin Run and the dam on the former Smith property. The annual cost is $1,750.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, at 7 p.m. in the municipal auditorium, via Zoom and by conference call.