Expansion or eyesore?
Commission votes to transfer property to GVEDC
Green Bank area-residents are at odds over a proposed business expansion at the Green Bank Industrial Park where Jacob Meck Enterprises currently leases three acres. Meck wants to expand his portable outhouse, scrap metal and construction businesses onto another nine acres of the county-owned tract.
Meck said he has doubled the number of employees since moving to the Green Bank site in 2008. He pays "average or above" wages to those employees, one week's vacation after five years and 100 percent of their health insurance, he said. The initial expansion will be for additional sewage storage, he said.
But that's not all.
"We have some other ideas for expansion that we are working toward, as well," Meck said. He did not disclose what those other ideas are.
He has his supporters.
Meck presented three letters from the industrial park's nearest neighbors. All of them supported Meck's ideas and said his business is a good neighbor.
In addition, a few residents came to the county commission meeting Tuesday to encourage commissioners to transfer the land.
One of them, former county commissioner James Carpenter, said Meck's proposal is exactly what the property is zoned for-commercial and industrial development.
"This should be one of the easiest decisions you ever had to make in your life," Carpenter said. "We've got jobs up there we've never had. His employees are tickled to death to have a job."
Carpenter said 22 people in the Green Bank area had just lost their jobs as another business venture failed.
"Do the right thing," he said.
"One man's junk is another man's treasure," said Meck Enterprises employee Mike O'Brien. O'Brien said he traveled over Rt. 66 to US Rt. 219 to Marlinton Tuesday.
"I counted (several) places that look worse than Mr. Meck's," he said. And, O'Brien said, he was happy to have a job close to his home where he was making more money that he did with the State of West Virginia.
"It's been good economic development for Green Bank," he said. "He's got a lot of ideas. I'd like to think we can create more jobs for Pocahontas County. If we can create one more, it's one we don't have."
Steve McCarty said he's been to Meck's location several times.
"No smoke. No paper. No mess," McCarty said. "I'd like to see it continue. I'd like to see him expand."
And Meck has his detractors.
Among those, Green Bank resident Max Gum said he would support anything but "sewage and junk" on the site.
"I admire his ambition, but he's got it in the wrong location. Put it somewhere that's not visible. This eyesore he's got is only going to get bigger," Gum said.
Tony Byrd, who fought against a similar proposal last year, said he agreed the decision should be easy.
Byrd presented a petition with about 100 signatures against Meck's expansion.
"The people I called are still against doing this," Byrd said. Byrd said sewage could be smelled at the Green Bank Senior Center last Halloween. "I'm not against him doing business; I'm against open sewage."
"If he gets this, it will not create one more job," Byrd predicted."It should be easy if you're thinking right."
After more than an hour and a half discussion, commissioners voted 2-1 to transfer nine acres to Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation. The GVEDC, Pocahontas County's desginated development agency, will negotiate a price with Meck.
County commission president David Fleming said he did not want to let the property go for less than fair market value. Fleming, who also sits on the GVEDC board, said he believed the commission needed to move.
"Mr. Meck needs to know if he can grow a business or not," Fleming said. The commission president said that because Meck moves sewage and vehicles to this location, other pieces of property were improved.
Commissioner Martin Saffer said he is concerned that the commission would be better off auctioning the property, and criticized GVEDC for its lack of success at its industrial park at Edray where he said there was "lots of pavement with no parked cars." Saffer also said lack of consensus in the Green Bank area concerned him.
Saffer said he is impressed with what Meck has done on the three acres he now leases. Saffer cast the dissenting vote.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕhired Allen Tracy, Jordan Clendenen and Deborah Miller to work as part-time 9-1-1 dispatchers.
ﾕheard a report from Elissa Taylor, Pocahontas County Day Report
ﾕdelayed a request for funding from the Child Youth and Advocacy Center
ﾕlistened to a proposal concerning insurance from the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool
ﾕapproved on a 2-1 vote the expenditure of $8,500 to ZMM Architects and Engineers to assess the Pocahontas County Circuit Courtroom for renovation. Commissioner Jamie Walker cast the negative vote.
The commission meets again in regular session Tuesday, March 20, at 5 p.m.