9-1-1 Director stays in place for now
After more than an hour in executive session with the 9-1-1 Director and some of his staff, the county commission took no action, but did announce that Bill McLaughlin is staying on the job until his replacement can be hired and trained.
McLaughlin had announced his retirement effective Tuesday, but he said after the executive session that he would remain at the 9-1-1 Center until October 1.
The 9-1-1 Director said he was committed to serving people in the county. McLaughlin has been 9-1-1 Director since 2004 and has worked for the county since 1986.
In addition to his duties in overseeing 9-1-1 dispatchers, McLaughlin is also responsible for the radio network and directing 9-1-1 Mapping and Addressing.
Several 9-1-1 dispatchers also attended the executive session.
Farmland Protection Board updatesﾠcommission
Farmland Protection Board members gave the commission an update on their activities, including hiring a new employee.
FPB chair Mickey Deike said that the board has created program and finance committees and, in a written report noted that the FPB has obtained conservation easements for nearly 1,500 acres of farmland in Pocahontas County.
County commissioner Martin Saffer called that a "tremendous accomplishment."
Deike said her board's job was going to get more difficult since federal funding used for matches is dwindling.
"People appreciate this program," Deike said, while noting that the $2,000 an acre ceiling the FPB now pays may have to be adjusted.
Donations to the FPB, she said, are welcome, but really only benefit farmers who can use the tax break.
The major thrust of the meeting was to tell commissioners that the FPB will not accept land without the mineral rights attached, meaning that farmland leased to gas companies is not eligible for farmland protection regardless of its other attributes.
Saffer said he would like the FPB to initiate dialogue with other farming interest groups such as the Farm Bureau, FFA, 4-H, WVU Extension Service, the Farm Service Agency and the Water Resource Task Force.
George Deike, who is working with the FPB on the gas drilling in Marcellus Shale issue, said the USGS is standing behind its estimate that the amount of gas in the Marcellus Shale has been "blown way out of proportion," as in 10-to-20 times greater than the gas that actually exists.
George Deike also said that in some cases, mineral rights ownership is nearly impossible to determine.
Education about the issue is key, Mickey Deike said.
A discussion about the FPB's new employee was tabled until the next commission meeting.
East Fork ﾠnearing completion
After nearly 20 years of weather-related woes, sludge containment, fires and wrangling with state and federal regulations, East Fork Industrial Park is nearly ready for completion.
Engineer William Swecker told commissioners Tuesday that he has a set of engineering plans, prepared construction documents and an advertisement for bids ready to go as soon as the USDA and the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection give the go-ahead.
Saffer said he thinks the property is in "good enough" condition and the containment of the tannery sludge is complete without any further cap.
That cap will be a geo-synthetic clay liner which will roll out much like carpet. The clay will absorb water and expand to protect the sludge from surface water, Swecker said. The clay liner will be topped with 18 inches of dirt, as well.
The estimated cost is $500,000, most of which is still on the county's books as grant money for the cleanup. The West Virginia Development Office has committed $180,000 to the cleanup project.
Saffer voted against installing the liner, which passed 2-1.
No meals forﾠcounty contractors on wheels
Commissioner Jamie Walker held firm to the stance that county contractors, particularly the Sheriff's Auxiliary, should not be allowed to charge meals to the county unless they are working an eight-hour shift.
"If they eat lunch, they'd better work eight hours," he said.
Walker first wanted contractors to have prior approval, but that notion was jettisoned by commission president David Fleming who said he didn't want 2 a.m. phone calls asking for meal approval.
Saffer also had some concerns.
"I'm concerned that you make a statement like that, then you're going to wind up with a second meal and more hours," he said.
Walker summed that up by likening it to a dairy farm.
"You milk the cow dry and then you milk her some more," he said.
In the end, commissioners decided to reimburse contractors for meals when a receipt is submitted.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕreceived a letter from the deputy attorney general in response to the commission's support of Grandpa's Pantry signs along US Rt. 219.
ﾕauthorized the purchase of 20 laptop computers for the One Room University.
ﾕappointed Barbara Shaw and Franklin Murphy to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals Board.
ﾕdiscussed at length the content of the legal advertisement for the animal welfare contract with former Humane Officer Sandy Mallow and Alleghany Recreation Center owners John Fitzgerald and J. P. Duncan.
The commission meets again in regular session June 14 at 5 p.m.