Commission pledges support for PSD
County commissioners were unabashed by a West Virginia Public Service Commission scathing review of the Pocahontas Public Service District's performance on the embattled Slaty Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant project that is headed into its second decade of discussion.
The DEP issued its review on December 21, saying the "District does not fully appreciate the requirements of the facility planning process." The PSC staff memorandum called for the resignation of PSD board member David Litsey for "allegedly steering the project toward his own economic gain and pursuing a plan that would violate the PSC's May 2010 order."
Litsey has consistently denied allegations of maneuvering the project so that a public sewage system would be available on his undeveloped property.
Commissioner not only gave the PSD their verbal support, but hired an attorney in a brief emergency session to deal with the matter. Commission president David Fleming paused the regular meeting to go into emergency session.
"The PSD is going to be working on a point-by-point response," Fleming said, who went on to say that the PSD has been working "diligently. A little bit of fair play is in order."
Fleming said the DEP itself was responsible for some delays in the project.
Tuesday was the deadline for responses and commissioners voted to re-activate their attorney in the matter. Commissioner Jamie Walker voted against involving the attorney because Saffer wanted the commission's response to be based on an email from George Phillips, of 8 Rivers Safe Development.
Phillips email, which can be read in full on Saffer's website, martinsaffer.com, said the PSC's and DEP's threats were "strong handed," and "nothing more than bullying tactics."
"In my view the PSD has done an admirable job-on their own-to find a better/less expensive solution. Just because their proposal missed some deliverables is no reason to make threats or rebuke the PSD in public documents," Phillips said.
"The proper response would have been to point out the deficiencies and request the PSD provide the information or submit a reasonable plan to obtain the information in a timely manner."
Saffer said the "huge danger" is that the PSC and DEP will wrest the project from local control and begin construction in an unsuitable location on a plant that is too large.
"That is the shot across the bow," he said. "ﾑWe're going to give you one last chance to do it our way, or we're going to do it our way.'"
"It is the right of our PSD to go forward and solve this problem," Saffer continued. "The county commission appointed this board and is the superintendent of this lengthy, lengthy problem."
Fleming said one problem is that the DEP could move the plant's location to the Sharp Farm, which was the original location for the regional plant. That location elicited a backlash toward the PSD and county commissioners because of the eminent domain issue, and resulted in resignations of PSD members and lost elections for county commissioners.
Current PSD president Tom Shipley, owner of Sharp's Country Store and Bed and Breakfast, led the charge against the plant being constructed on his farm.
Walker dissented in the 2-1 vote, saying he didn't think "a letter of support is going to do much."
The response was due by close of business Tuesday.
BOE members want PRO in schools
Pocahontas County Superintendent of Schools C. C. Lester told commissioners that he believes a Prevention Resources Officer would benefit students by giving another resource to meet their needs. The officer would be hired by the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department.
But before Lester could even begin his presentation, Saffer strafed the idea with questions about the competency of school personnel.
"What is the problem the school itself can't handle?" he asked. "I'm disheartened to hear the school can't address the problem."
That remark ruffled Lester's feathers.
"Things have changed tremendously whether people like it or whether they don't," Lester said, saying Facebook, cell phones, the Internet and more lax rules and regulations are now the norm and have changed the way students behave. "Look at the drug problem. The whole society is changing."
Lester did acknowledge that the school system needs all the help it can get.
Board of education members said they also believe a PRO will benefit the school system.
Board member Janet McNeel said today's families are in crisis, and cyberbullying is an issue that didn't exist a decade ago. A PRO would mentor students, McNeel said.
Walker, a bus driver, said students on his bus become more attentive when a law enforcement vehicle is on the campus at Pocahontas County High School.
"Kids are talking about it," Walker noted. "Whatever they've got on their mind, it puts fear in them."
McNeel said she wanted to replace "fear" with "respect."
Commissioners voted 2-1 to write a letter of support for the grant that would pay the PRO.
Saffer dissented because the grant is for a limited time and a deputy would be a county employee long past the time of grant funding.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕelected David Fleming president by margin of 2-1 with Saffer dissenting. Saffer said he thought the commission should go in a different direction and address problems it faces currently.
ﾕreceived a report from Pocahontas County Community Corrections director Elissa Taylor.
ﾕwas advised by East Fork Industrial Park supervisor John Simmons that buildings there should be sold for scrap.
ﾕdiscussed the closing of the Durbin Magistrate Office with Magistrate Janet Kershner-Vanover. Kershner-Vanover said she would like to trade spaces with Family Court across the street from the courthouse; however, Saffer said his solution was to move the assistant prosecuting attorney from the basement to the prosecutor's office. The Durbin office is slated to close June 30.
ﾕset the dates for the Board of Equalization and Review.
ﾕappointed Shannon Boehmer and Helen Clark to the Pocahontas County 911 Board.
ﾕset a purchase limit for county credit cards to be $5,000 for elected officials and $1,000 for employees annually. Commissioners also discussed possible per diem charge limits and will meet with other elected officials.
ﾕheard from County Clerk Melissa Bennett about changes to magisterial districts because of the 2010 Census. Bennett said those changes only affected about 30 households.
ﾕwrote a letter of support for Pocahontas County Senior Citizens to United Way.
The commission meets again in regular session January 17 at 5 p.m.