Commission selects Dunbrack as 9-1-1 Director
The Pocahontas County Commission selected Shawn Dunbrack as the county's next 9-1-1 Director.
Dunbrack was one of nine applicants and one of four the commission interviewed.
"It was a tough choice and it took longer than we thought it would take," said county commission president David Fleming.
Dunbrack is a long-time member of Marlinton Volunteer Fire and Rescue Departments, having joined when he was 14. A Pocahontas County native, Dunbrack will begin his duties at the 9-1-1 Center on September 6.
Current 9-1-1 Director Bill McLaughlin announced his October 1 retirement this spring.
Commission writesﾠletters concerningﾠMarcellus Shale drilling
In advance of their special meeting with Constitutional law expert Bob Bastress, Fleming wrote letters to all other county commissioners in West Virginia and to the director of the Bureau of Land Management concerning gas drilling in Marcellus Shale.
"Many of us commissioners readily see the economic benefits that accompany the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus formation," the letter says. "Increased tax revenues and job creation among others. At the same time, many of us are learning of the negative aspects of the enterprise."
Fleming listed high water usage requirements, horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and ground water contamination, forest fragmentation, methane infiltration and radioactivity of resurgent or recycled fracking fluids, in addition to increased industrial traffic, constant drilling noise and lights.
The commission president pointed out Pocahontas County's nickname "The Birthplace of Rivers" and that the majority of the residents here get their drinking water from water wells.
"For reasons such as these, our people are looking to us, the Pocahontas County Commission, to assert our local right to decide on the presence of Marcellus Shale drilling activity in our county," Fleming's letter continues.
The letter urges other county commissioners to use their contacts with the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia in order to make their voices heard with the West Virginia Legislature regarding "the need and right of your county commission to make local decisions on the matter of Marcellus Shale drilling."
Above all else, Fleming said each decision needs to be made at the local level.
"The economic benefits might be something your people decide they need. The environmental impacts and community-altering realities might be something your people decide they cannot afford," the letter concludes. "Either way, we want Pocahontas County to have the right to decide for itself. We want your county to have the same right."
The other letter went to Bob Abbey, Director of the Bureau of Land Management and concerned possible drilling in the Monongahela National Forest.
Commissioners were dissatisfied with the answer given them by Forest Supervisor Clyde Thompson.
"Our entire county economy depends on the pristine qualities of the Monongahela National Forest and the tourists and tourism dollars the Forest brings to our county," the letter to Abbey says.
Thompson said in is letter that the BLM has authority regarding "downhole drilling operations" and that the Forest Service does not have the authority to deny the use of horizontal drilling practices in the Mon.
Fleming's letter poses these questions to Abbey:
ﾕDoes the Bureau have total authority in this regard?
ﾕDoes the Forest Service have no authority to make decisions concerning drilling and similar activities upon its surface?
ﾕHow is it that George Washington National Forest can advance policy prohibiting horizontal drilling yet the Monongahela cannot?
Commissioners announced a special meeting on Tuesday to hear from Bastress, also a West Virginia University law professor, who will discuss a local government's ability-or lack thereof-to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
New lease for ARC
Alleghany Recreation Center was awarded a new lease on the former Hanover Shoe Building; however, the company did not get the 15-year lease it was seeking.
ARC co-owner John Fitzgerald said the Family Resource Network occupies one room, while a beauty salon is in another. The facility houses a meeting room for parties and social gatherings and still has flea market spaces for rent, he said.
Fitzgerald also said that a stage area and cakewalk area are available and he and partner J.P. Duncan have cleaned up the adjacent riverbank so that outside recreation equipment for children can be placed there. ARC also operates a restaurant and dining area and concession stand, and the pair has planted four acres of corn and a pumpkin patch.
Because of an earlier discussion about lack of storage space in the courthouse, Fitzgerald said ARC could accommodate some of those needs.
His big announcement was that ARC is planning an above-ground swimming pool for one end of the building. Fitzgerald said the company needed the 15-year lease in order to fund such an investment.
The pool could be used by the schools and other youth groups, Fitzgerald said.
And for the first year since it's been in operation, ARC had a rent check for the commission. The lease agreement stated that in any year the company had a profit, the county was to receive eight percent of that as rent.
The Pocahontas County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals apparently had plans to use the shelter there because its treasurer, Jay Miller, asked that the kennel section of the building not be included in the lease.
Miller said the kennel area had been renovated by the county and with county money.
"The facility, for a variety of reasons, is now vacant," he said, reminding commissioners that the ARC bid was well above the budgeted $50,000 for animal welfare. "ARC demonstrated last year that they did not understand the economics the county commission had laid out," Miller said. "They didn't respect the fact that $50,000 was a known target number.
"We'd just like to know if it's possible that space could be made available to an organization that might be able to provide some competition next spring."
The commission accepted the bid of Last Chance Animal Shelter in June, leaving the kennel area at ARC empty. Former humane officer Sandy Mallow bid $45,500 to win the bid.
Commissioner Martin Saffer said the point of having ARC in the building was to spur economic growth and let the public use it in any way possible.
Commissioners took no action on Miller's request.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕapproved Pocahontas County Clerk Melissa Bennett's list of poll workers for the October 4 special election.
ﾕaddressed storage concerns of Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price.
ﾕapproved the sale of Milestone Communications to Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks Telephone Company.
ﾕdiscussed improvements to the second floor rooms in the courthouse, including the courtroom, where Saffer said window treatments were a must.
ﾕapproved an electronic voting machine maintenance agreement.
ﾕapproved a Region 4 Planning and Development Council Letter of Active Involvement.
ﾕapproved the Resource Advisory committee to receive the county's Safe and Secure Rural Schools Funds.
ﾕauthorized placing a legal advertisement to sell the remainder of the storage tanks at East Fork Industrial Park.
The commission meets again in regular session September 6 at 8:30 a.m.