Commission funds local projects
All those who asked received Tuesday as the Pocahontas County Commission distributed some of its discretionary funds.
The Pocahontas County Artisans Cooperative ($2,000) the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation ($5,000) and the Pocahontas County Preservation Project (up to $6,720) were all funded, leaving the commission roughly $13,000 to distribute in May.
Artisans Cooperative representative Marcia Laska told commissioners the co-op began with a small core of artisans, and has grown to 30 artisans stocking two locations-the former Sheets Garage Building in Green Bank and the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.
"We're positioned to become a destination, as well as [a place] for our neighbors to shop locally," Laska said.
Yet, she continued, customers continue to drive by. The plan is for new signage at Green Bank and to create a presence at Durbin, Cass and Snowshoe. Laska said the co-op has "a solid plan based on what we've seen work." The plan includes local advertising, as well as artisan information to be placed at libraries and senior centers, she said.
"We feel like these dollars will turn more dollars into the county," Laska said. In addition to attracting visitors, local residents will see that shopping locally is "easy, convenient and unique."
Commissioner Martin Saffer said the quality of the artisans' work is "remarkably good."
Commissioners approved the funding request unanimously.
Sue Groves attended Tuesday's meeting, but had made her proposal to the commission at a previous meeting. In part, Groves said, the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation wants to make the historic grounds a wedding destination.
The commissioners voted unanimously to fund the foundation's request.
Gail Hyer represented the Pocahontas Preservation Project since director B. J. Gudmundsson was under the weather.
Hyer said the preservation project members are willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to the funding misunderstanding between them and the Pocahontas Free Libraries Board; however, she said, the preservation project has not received more than $16,800 in funding they were expecting.
"We think that is forthcoming," Hyer said, through an agreement with the library board. She indicated that her group does not expect to receive all the money at one time.
Commission president David Fleming said he believed that "in spirit" commission wanted that money to go the preservation project. The motion, which was made in 2009, only reflected a two percent increase to the PCFL, and did not include mention of funding the preservation project, although discussion prior to the motion did include that stipulation.
Fleming said he wanted to make sure the project is funded through the next year.
Essentially, Hyer said, the preservation project needs the next three months covered. The PCFL board meets later this month, she said. One of the agenda items is to give the preservation project $5,000, according to PCFL director Vicky Terry.
Gudmundsson, who was at the meeting, said the preservation project has placed a computer in the heritage room at McClintic Library in Marlinton. As documents and pictures are scanned and processed, they are placed on hard drives that library patrons can access. Other locations will be available later, she said.
Saffer said he didn't think this request was "as important as the other two," and that, while he thinks historic preservation is important, "we should be looking forward."
Fleming disagreed. The commission president said he thinks the request is fair.
The commission voted 2-1, with Saffer dissenting, to fund the Pocahontas Preservation Project at a minimum of $1,720 up to $6,720, depending on the library board's vote.
Sheriff needs more overtime budget
Sheriff David Jonese's request for further funding was approved Tuesday, as he informed commissioners his overtime budget is essentially at zero.
"It wouldn't have been quite so hard if I hadn't been short two deputies since October," Jonese said. "I've already eliminated as much fat from the budget as we could."
Long-time deputy Brad Totten resigned late last fall. Deputy Daniel Simmons resigned in October. Both deputies were due comp time, vacation, holiday and sick leave pay, Jonese said.
The sheriff said his overtime budget had been reduce by half-from $30,000 to $15,000-but the county's budget reflected a $20,000 overtime line item for this fiscal year.
Fleming said he was afraid this situation would come to pass when the sheriff's budget was cut.
"I didn't think it was realistic to think that just cutting the overtime budget would mean there wouldn't be a need for overtime," he said.
The commission voted unanimously to bolster the sheriff's budget, but not without some concern, and some grumbling.
Commissioner Jamie Walker said he is concerned that the overtime is always authorized.
"We're trying really hard to schedule," Jonese said. "I think we can make that work."
"I'm not overly happy about it," Saffer said.
"If I had my original request, I wouldn't be asking," Jonese said.
The sheriff said he is ready to hire two replacement deputies, both of whom have already been through the West Virginia State Police Academy.
Jonese also proposed an agreement that would employ two deputies at Snowshoe Mountain Resort on behalf of the resort. The sheriff said the resort had agreed to pay for wages, overtime and benefits for 10 years.
"I'm in favor of doing it if it's at no extra cost to the county," Jonese said.
No one from the resort attended the meeting, and the commission took no action.
But the proposal did elicit comment from the public.
Todd Wright said a county agreement could equal job losses at the resort, as employees there have been told the public safety unit would be reduced from 11 to three.
"You're going to cost some jobs up there; they're going to run it with one public service officer on each shift," Wright said. "If you're killing jobs, you shouldn't do it."
Jonese said he understood the resort would not eliminate any jobs.
A similar proposal several years ago drifted off the radar, but did cause quite a bit of discussion from commissioners.
911 Mapping and Addressing could be finished in a year
911 Director Shawn Dunbrack introduced Doug McKenzie, who has been hired as the new mapping coordinator.
Dunbrack said McKenzie has had experience with the project in other counties and comes highly recommended.
McKenzie projected that the mapping portion could be finished in six months, and in three phases-naming all roads ($8,900), converting rural addresses to 911 standard addresses ($69,660) and merging Pocahontas County addresses with Frontier Communications, then conflating the data with the state ($8,700) for a total of $87,260.
He said the Postal Service should be ready to issue addresses by next February, which will mark the ninth anniversary of the county commission's first 911 Mapping and Addressing hearing.
Dunbrack was also involved in a discussion concerning signs that warn visitors their GPS units may not be accurate when traveling in Pocahontas County.
Gibbs Kinderman, who was instrumental in bringing the 911 system to the county, said the signs should be placed at each county entrance and on roads such as the Highland Scenic Highway, where GPS units might route visitors when the road is not maintained during the winter.
"This is a real problem and there's a real chance we're going to lose someone," Kinderman said.
Fleming said he'd like to have ideas from the public about the signs and where they should be placed.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕawarded Elkins Metal Recycling the bid for removing scrap metal at East Fork Industrial Park.
ﾕauthorized County Clerk Melissa Bennett to fill a position of deputy clerk at $2,000 a month after a brief executive session.
ﾕheard from One Room University director Elaine Diller about ORU students and their progress.
ﾕchanged the agent of record from Neal Kellison, who is deceased, to Jim Bialek, who took over Kellison's insurance company.
The commission meets again in regular session February 21 at 5 p.m.