Council discusses fire fees
Marlinton town council members voted unanimously to approve a $10,000 transfer to the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department.
Town recorder Robin Mutscheller asked fire chief Herby Barlow whether the request would be funding the purchase of a new piece of equipment.
Barlow said the department already purchased a new system designed for vehicle extrication. Barlow said on a separate topic, previous administrations at the department did not allow fundraisers or boot drives after the implementation of the $25 town fire fee. He said he couldn't find that restriction anywhere in writing.
“When the fire fee was adopted, it was agreed — it may not be in writing — that the fire department would do no more outside fundraising other than the fireman's carnival,” said mayor Joe Smith. “That fell by the wayside many years ago. The first five years we found ourselves in court a couple of times over the legality of the fire fee, which eventually was proven in favor of the town — that it was a legitimate service that you could charge for.”
Barlow said the department always applies for any available grants, but they need to start thinking about replacing some major equipment.
“We've got two trucks leftover from the '85 flood that need to be replaced,” Barlow said. “We've got to start looking. It's hard to get a set of brakes for a 1985 Mack.”
The subject of raising the town fire fees came up during the course of the discussion. Barlow said the town of Durbin charges $35.
“I personally think it needs to be raised,” Barlow told council members. “But I've got to go with what the membership decides. We do have a committee that's discussing the fire fees. Before we decide to raise the fire fee, we're going to do a mass-mailing to everybody in our response area. In that, we'll describe what the fire fee does, the importance of it to the department, and also provide a copy of the 911 map where you can look at your house and see which department is responsible for you.”
“We have some information on what other municipalities are charging for fire fees that we'll share with you,” Mutscheller said. “I think most of the state charges more for a fire fee — class 4 municipalities.”
Smith talked about the importance of the fire and rescue department's role in the community.
“The fire department does a lot of behind-the-scenes type of things for the town, that people don't realize they do,” he said. “They go to the water plant when the intake is backed up and they flush it — things like that would be difficult for the town to do if it weren't for the fire department.”
In other business, Smith said he was recently contacted by someone wanting to erect a family memorial.
“I've been in correspondence with a Mr. Larry Ewing about placing a marker in memory of his ancestor, James Ewing. James Ewing is believed to be the first permanent settler in Marlinton — he built a house here.”
Smith said originally the Ewing family wanted to put the monument at Mountain View Cemetery.
“Kenneth Faulkner and I talked about it and kicked it around,” Smith said. “It's just not a good place to put it. So, driving around town and looking around, I recommend an area on Ninth Street — next to Mrs. Kramer's house. There's a piece of land there that's owned by the town.”
Council member Norris Long asked Smith whether there was any way to verify that Ewing was in fact the first settler in the area.
“The Pocahontas History book — that was printed in '85 — does have him listed as one of the first settlers in Pocahontas County,” Smith said. “There is research that the family has done. They know he owned the land where Marlinton sets now — that's a fact from records in Bath County, I think it was.”
Smith said the family has an organization set up and they were planning to pay for the entire cost of the project.
Smith updated council members on the town's bi-monthly water-loss report.
“In a sixty day cycle, we lost eleven-and-a-half million gallons of water — roughly,” Smith said. “I called the Rural Water Associations and they sent a gentleman out, he was here last week for a day. He started at the water plant and worked his way out. He found no problems with anything at the water plant. Because of the quantity of water that's unaccounted for, he felt confident it was in one of the river crossings. We've got five. By elimination, he found a leak at the fish hatchery crossing. He's pretty confident it's a major leak.”
Smith said there was some good news for council members though.
“A positive thing I have to report is the low water volume at the nursing home has been corrected,” said Smith. “We found a valve that was under about twelve or fourteen inches of asphalt that was cut off.”
Council member Louise Barniski asked Smith whether there was any progress in fixing a leak beneath First Citizens Bank on Eighth Avenue.
“Whenever the bank wants to work on it,” Smith said. “They're very much aware of it. Most of the work has to be done on the inside of the bank. The guy from rural water went down there last week and he feels that's a very minor leak.”
“The people of the town of Marlinton are paying for it, and it should be fixed,” Mutscheller said.
“That's 1,500 gallons a month,” agreed council member Loretta Malcomb. “Fifty a day doesn't sound like much but then when you hear 1,500 — over time, that's a lot of water.”
Council members heard an update from Mark Sankoff and Dave Sharp from Potesta & Associates. Sharp said they've recently been working on an assessment of the water plant in town.
“We have completed a draft of our assessment,” Sharp said. “Basically we've looked at the plant and the condition of the components of the plant — the electrical system through the clarifiers and filters and pumps. We have recommendations on numerous upgrades that are probably necessary in the near future.”
Sharp said they also looked at the south water tank at the cemetery, which is out of service at this point.
“It's the newer tank that was installed,” explained Sharp. “It's a large tank that's under-utilized. It doesn't have a lot of people using water off of that tank. I know there's been some concern with the water pressure on Hamilton Hill.”
Sharp said they're looking into installing a line between two tanks at the cemetery, and that could correct a few problems.
“That option is being considered as opposed to replacing the cemetery tank that is out of service,” Sharp said. “Looking at the cost of putting in that short section of line, it could solve the Hamilton Hill pressure issue, it could solve your cemetery tank issue, and could solve your mausoleum tank issue. You could probably do that cheaper than replacing the existing tank.”
The council will meet Monday, March 18, at 7 p.m. for a budget workshop.