Water concerns and mock census on commission agenda

Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

Due to West Virginia Day falling on the regular meeting date, the Pocahontas County Commission met to conduct business Wednesday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m.

First on the agenda was Jimmy Vandevender, who reported the Day Report numbers for May.

There were a total of 21 participants in the program, five of whom were new to the program. Of the 13 males and eight females in the program, one participant was unemployed, one found employment during the month, two participants successfully completed the program and three were terminated from the program. One participant was on home confinement.

Participants in the Day Report program completed 94 hours of community service and 207 hours of classroom and/or therapy hours.

Sixty-three drug screens were administered with 10 positive results (five of which were on intake to the program). Forty-six alcohol screens were administered with one positive result.

Counsel Bob Martin emphasized that the drug court judges have been adamant about the need for more frequent drug screens.

Commissioner Jesse Groseclose stated that he would attend the next Community Corrections board meeting to reinforce the need for more testing.

The commissioners next moved to designate the three banks in Marlinton as official county depositories for the fiscal year 2017-2018.

They approved the contract between Pocahontas County and Global Science and Technology, Inc.- giving the company the ok to continue supplying IT support for six offices in the courthouse. The renewal contract will be for July 1, 2017 through July 30, 2018.

Janet Spry, with the United States Census program, came to speak to the commissioners about the mock census, which will prepare citizens for the actual census.

The United States Census is taken every 10 years, the next official census year being 2020.

Spry explained that an accurate census count is essential for every county in the country, especially rural counties, as apportionment of federal monies is determined in Congress according to census figures.

There followed much discussion about the census process.

The census list of addresses is confidential and is made available by the Homeland Security Department to the U.S. Census Bureau for census purposes only. The address list contains addresses only and no other information. It is not made available to the county assessor for any update to the tax rolls.

The Census Bureau is currently accepting applications for employment in several temporary government jobs which will be needed to make the 2018 mock census a success. There will be clerk positions paying $12/hour, census taker positions at $13.25/hour, field supervisors at $16.25/ hour and office operations supervisor positions at $14.75/hour.

Applicants will be expected to pass an eight minute reading test and a 45 minute field data assessment test. These jobs will be for the 2018 mock census but positions may be rolled over to the official 2020 census. Training sessions will be held from October 2017 through January 2018.

The first tests and applications will be given at several local meetings beginning this week:

Wednesday, June 28, at the Hillsboro Library, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, June 29, at the McClintic Library in Marlinton, 11a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, July 5, at the Durbin Library at 3 p.m.

Thursday, July 6, at the Green Bank Library at 2:30 p.m.

Friday, July 7, at the Linwood Library at 1 p.m.

Applicants may walk-in, but appointments are encouraged. Call 1-888-480-1639 with questions and/or to make an appointment.

Approved applicants will need an email address where they can receive the application.

Spry added that she really wants to encourage Pocahontas County residents to take this census, and every census, seriously.

“I’m a lifelong resident of West Virginia and I have worked with census data all my life,” she said. “These census numbers are critically important to the wellbeing of each county.”

Next, Margaret Worth and Hallie Herold gave a report of their meetings with U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. regarding the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) findings regarding the proposed ACP (Atlantic Coast Pipeline) which is in the planning stages to be built through Pocahontas County.

“We met with and asked questions of the senators on the Energy and Natural Resources committees,” Worth explained.

“We wanted our senators, especially Senators Manchin and Capito to understand how much the ACP could affect the quality of life here in Pocahontas County and the harmful effect it could have on both our ground and surface water.”

Worth and Herold learned that Manchin and Capito are co-sponsoring a bill which would establish a large energy hub in our region, similar to the area on the Gulf coast of Louisiana where so much the country’s oil and gas industry is processed. The senators said the project called the $62 billion dollar proposed project the Appalachian Petroleum Hub.

“Apparently, West Virginia is slated to play a significant role in American energy,” Worth said.

“Pocahontas County residents need to become educated about exactly what is being planned for West Virginia and surrounding states.”
They also learned that some senators are interested in investigating possible abuses by FERC and that there may be some inconsistencies in FERC’s reports about the ACP.

Herold told commissioners that her family home is two miles from the proposed ACP route and the route will not only cross the Greenbrier River and the headwaters of Knapps Creek, but, she fears, could affect the water in the three hand-dug wells on her property.

“I, and a lot of people around here, are very worried about what the ACP and future extractive industry development will really do to our county,” Herold said. “I am concerned for the future of our community.”

No action was taken in response to these concerns.

Next on the agenda, 911 and Emergency Management Director Mike O’Brien asked commissioners to approve the hiring of Joe Emmerth to fill a full-time dispatcher position effective July 1. This hire would take care of all full-time 911 dispatcher slots. Commissioners agreed to offer the contract to Emmerth.

Beth Little of the Pocahontas County Water Task Force was joined by two other task force members, Dennis Egan and Josh Hardy, who came before the commission to discuss the need for a trained and certified Water Task Force Coordinator.

The task force members introduced Shenda Smith, their suggested candidate for the $26,200/year position, and gave the commissioners her résumé.

Little said that “Pocahontas County needs to establish certified quality and quantity statistics of this precious resource as we go forward.”

Dennis Egan added, “We are really in need of a coordinator, a local person, on the county payroll, with the education and certifications necessary to provide monitoring and statistics which can support county residents, especially as Dominion moves forward with ACP construction.”

Josh Hardy told commissioners that “right now we have nobody in the county doing any water monitoring at all. We really need a baseline to compare with any future changes or problems.”

Commissioner David McLaughlin agreed to attend the next water task force meeting to learn more about training and certifications required for professional water monitoring.

Commissioners thanked the task force members and for bringing the issue before them and agreed that a task force coordinator is an important position. They hope to find money in the budget for hiring, training and certification for such a position.

They agreed to revisit the issue and, hopefully, offer an employment contract for the position at the next commission meeting on July 5.

Commissioners next approved the appointment of David Irvine as Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department representative to the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Committee for a two year term expiring September 30, 2019.

Last on the agenda was counsel attorney Bob Martin, who reported to the commissioners that:

• many ballots and questions are coming in regarding the upcoming Snowshoe RAD election

• non-Snowshoe residents are asking how county taxes will be affected by the RSD vote – the answer to which is that county taxes will not be affected by the RAD at all

• on June 15th, Martin helped convene the Pocahontas County Fire Association and that the official creation of the P. C. Fire Association will be on the agenda for the next commission meeting

The next regularly scheduled public meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission will be held Wednesday, July 5, at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m. The change is due to Tuesday, July 4, being a holiday.

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