Commission votes to move Day Report office
Pocahontas County commissioner Jamie Walker and commission president David Fleming met in an emergency commission meeting Thursday to discuss moving the Pocahontas County Day Report Center from its existing site in Marlinton at the Old Bank Building, to the Allegheny Recreation Center.
“The reason I called the emergency meeting today is because of the date,” explained Fleming. “The timing of things is critical. We could get ourselves in a bind if we're not careful. Our current lease with Mr. [Zach] Chittum runs out December 31. We talked about this at our December 18 commission meeting when Mr. Chittum's lease was presented to us for reconsideration of renewal beginning January 1.”
Fleming said in that December 18 commission meeting, commissioners discussed the possibility of having the Day Report Center moved to the Allegheny Recreation Center. He said that because the ARC is a county owned building, the commission figured that could be a way to save some money.
Fleming said he wanted to address two different issues in the emergency meeting. One was to consider an agreement for a new lease with John Fitzgerald and J.P. Duncan, current lessors of the ARC, and secondly, to discuss the details of the soon-to-expire lease with Bank Building owner Chittum.
Fleming said the commission gave no indication that they would not be renewing their lease with Chittum.
“We've given Mr. Chittum no “heads up” that we were considering moving out,” said Fleming. “If we do move out, we'll need to do it before Tuesday, January 1. For Mr. Chittum, that means we would not be renewing the lease and we've effectively given him about a 12 days notice, which I think is not fair. I think we need to do better than that.”
Chittum, joining the meeting via telephone conference call, reminded commissioners that technically, he didn't even receive 12 days notice.
“This has all been kind of new to me,” Chittum said. “The current lease we have automatically renews. After your board meeting, our impression, at Chittum Land, was that we were still going to be renewing the lease but what we had changed was we wanted $20 extra for trash. Yesterday I had a chance to meet with our corporate attorney and there's one thing you have to keep in mind, according to West Virginia law, it states you have to give 30 days notice at least for a month-to-month lease.
Chittum said that in addition to the lack of proper notice, there was an addendum to the lease to allow a new wall to be built in the office.
“Prior to you guys moving out at the end of your lease, that is supposed to be remodeled or fixed back to its original condition,” said Chittum. “If that is not done by January 1, we're going to be in a financial hardship because we can't lease our space. That's another thing that needs to be addressed.”
Fleming said he wasn't aware of the wall and that he'd like to work with Chittum and satisfy his concerns. Fleming asked if there was any way Chittum would be willing to lease the office for one month in January.
“I'd be willing to talk with you all about that,” said Chittum. “Most people give someone at least a 60 day notice. The reason is, a landlord has to try and advertise to rent the space. Going into January, odds are I'm not gonna have this thing rented until March. If it's sitting there, un-rented, we lose revenue. If someone would've given us proper notice, say back in the fall, we wouldn't be talking about this now.”
Walker said he harbored concerns about the monthly $20 increase in rent at the McK Building [Bank Building].
“I've read through this lease, and nowhere in here do I see where it says it's automatically renewed or where it requires notice to leave,” said Walker. “It's a one-year lease, the best I can tell from it. What bothers me is that he [Chittum] assumed the lease was going to be renewed and he added additional costs onto the lease at his convenience. We were confronting him about it, he went back and decided to remove it. That bothers me. That's what I call gouging. I think he was trying to take advantage of the county.”
Chittum said there hasn't been an increase in rent since the Day Report Center moved into the building in November 2008, even though fuel, energy costs and taxes have increased.
“I'm not in favor of renting two buildings for the same problem,” said Walker. “To me, we discussed this two weeks ago. We considered it, I thought we had it worked out. I think we should move myself.”
Fleming made a motion to enter into an agreement with Chittum for renting the office solely for the month of January. The motion died on the floor from the lack of a second.
“Mr. Chittum I'm afraid we weren't able to take action to continue with you,” Fleming said. “We'll be writing a letter today to you indicating that we'll be leaving the building December 31.”
Fleming said he was disappointed with the outcome of the vote.
“It's just bad business,” offered Fleming. “I feel like this is a terrible decision on the commission's part. He has invested in Pocahontas County. The idea that we're going to somehow save $570 is ridiculous — we're going to lose money in litigation. We had an opportunity to enter into an agreement with Mr. Chittum and end things amicably, and we failed to do that today.”