It was disclosed at the November 16 Pocahontas County Commission meeting, that two of the commission’s highest priority project proposals have suffered setbacks because grant funding applications have been denied.
The first project was the proposed Courthouse Annex Building, and the commission learned that its grant application had been denied by the West Virginia Courthouse Facility Improvement Authority.
The second project is the new 911 Center, which was to be built near Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. The grant for that, a Small Cities Community Block Grant for Hazardous Mitigation, was also denied, although Commissioner John Rebinski pointed out they can reapply for that grant in January.
The commission also received a request from the Family Resource Network (FRN) for a contribution to help needy families during the holidays. Rebinski dismissed this request, saying the commission doesn’t have a budget line item for donations, so the FRN will have to make its request at the next regular contributions meeting in the spring.
(Editor’s note: The Pocahontas County Commission has set aside December 7, 2021 for discussion and/or action of contribution requests from individuals, groups and organizations.)
The commission received a letter regarding the settlement of a Federal District Court civil lawsuit against the county, the sheriff and a deputy sheriff. The letter stated the matter is now over because the county’s Insurance Provider – the West Virginia Risk Pool – has reached a settlement with the plaintiff and agreed to pay the plaintiff $525,000. The case involved a shooting of the plaintiff by a deputy sheriff. The insurance company will pay the settlement, but Commission President Walt Hel-mick pointed out that this will ultimately raise the insurance policy rates for the county.
Vivian Parsons of the WV Risk Pool explained some of the free training the Pool offers to county employees which is designed to help keep the county out of liability problems.
The commission also received a card from a citizen thanking them for establishing a Green Box site at the Frank Tannery and paving the roads to the Green Boxes. Helmick said this is good because “it’s all about picking up the vote.”
The commission held a public hearing regarding their EPA Brownfields clean-up grant application. George Carico, Director of the WV Brownfields Assistance Center, explained this grant is submitted to the EPA to have a section of the former Howes Tannery site at the East Fork Industrial Park cleaned up. He said that if the grant is approved, the first phase is to remove the asbestos from the buildings and the second phase is to do the work necessary to place the property into the WV Voluntary Remediation Program which will include ongoing groundwater monitoring. The ultimate goal is to have the site declared safe for industrial use, but not residential use.
The commission also approved a letter of understanding between the county and PMH regarding the hospital’s HVAC and Roof Replacement project.
Rebinski talked about adopting a Demolition Ordinance. This sparked John Leyzorek to express concerns that such an ordinance would threaten citizens’ property rights. Rebinski explained this ordinance would just help property owners afford to remove hazardous structures from their property.
Finally, Rebinski talked about spending the county’s $1.6-billion American Rescue Plan’s COVID relief money. He said the priority should be using it for water and sewer projects, such as the one on Beard Heights or the one at the 4-H camp at Thornwood.
Commissioner Jesse Groseclose suggested that some of the money be used to provide local matching funds for Broadband Grants.
At a Special Commission meeting held November 18, the commissioners spoke with Susan Pierce and Ben Riggle of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History about getting the County Jail decertified from the National Registry of Historic Places. Pierce asked Helmick what it would cost to demolish the jail and build the new Courthouse Annex and would federal funds be used in any way, or just local money. Helmick said he guessed it would cost $3.5 to $4 million and it would not use Federal funds, but would be paid for by local tax money. Pierce said if that is the case, there is no need to decertify the jail to demolish it – but no federal funds can be used for the demolition or to even add additional items in the future to the new building such as metal detectors, which are funded by Homeland Security.
That information gave the commissioners some pause, and they asked what would be involved in decertifying the jail. Pierce said they would have to follow a lengthy process and submit documents, but it would be doable.
Helmick said the commission would consider following that process.
The Pocahontas County Commission meets the first Tuesday of the month at 8:30 a.m.. and the third Tuesady of the month, at 5:30 p.m.