County commissioners differ about courthouse annex
Faced with the possibility of obtainingﾗor losing federal stimulus moneyﾗcounty commissioners argued both sides of the coin Tuesday while discussing the construction of a courthouse annex.
In this corner: longtime commissioner Reta Griffith, who has budgeted and planned for the annex for several years. Griffith said the commission has never been in a better position than now to proceed with construction plans because of the perfect storm of budget and stimulus money. The application for $574,000 in stimulus funding must be into the governorﾒs office by January 31. On February 1, unclaimed money for all 55 counties reverts to the state.
And even though the process is much slower going than she would like, she acknowledged that Pocahontas County has an edge over the other 54 West Virginia counties.
ﾓWe are still six months ahead,ﾔ she said, because of the prerequisites like creating a Recovery Zone that this and other commissions have done.
In the other corner: commission president Martin Saffer, who said he isnﾒt sure what the courthouse annexﾗor remodelingﾗcould look like. Saffer said that he didnﾒt want to rush into planning the project on short notice because of a deadline.
And in the middle: commissioner David Fleming, who wants to hold a public meeting to get input from Pocahontas County residents and the projectﾒs architects before making a decision.
In the end commissioners had trouble deciding on even that.
According to the commissionﾒs bond counsel, Robert Steptoe, the $574,000 available to Pocahontas County isnﾒt even enough to request. But other counties, as many as 90 percent arenﾒt ready to ask for their allocation. Steptoe said the commission could ask for Pocahontas Countyﾒs allocation with the condition that it will also pursue waived allocations from other counties. Steptoe said the state has $90 million available statewide.
The money is from bond sales and will have to be paid back; however, stimulus money, he said, could mean the interest rate on those bonds would be as low as four percent. Even saving one percent could mean saving as much as $1.5 million. The least amount the commission would save over the life of the 25-30 year financing package would be $800,000.
Commissioners did agree to pursue recovery zone financing, while asking for waived allocations from other counties, while directing a reluctant Griffith to do more research with the governorﾒs office about possibilities of garnering other countiesﾒ unused funds.
ﾓI donﾒt want to waste a lot of time and energy if we arenﾒt going to [build an annex],ﾔ she said. ﾓIﾒve invested five years very directly into this and Iﾒm watching it fly away in front of me.ﾔ
Griffith said that even if the other two commissioners werenﾒt sure what they want, she knows what sheﾒs been working for: a courthouse annex that will alleviate storage and organizational problems, particulary with magistrate court that operates in a virtual closet with only one exit.
She noted that five years ago, other elected officials had complained about their lack ofﾠ and ever-dwindling storage space, prompting commissioners to begin plans for an annex.
Animal shelter update
Commissioners got an update from humane society representative J. L. Clifton.
Clifton brought an agreement between the humane society, sheriffﾒs department and Allegheny Recreational Center. The agreement, which defined each entityﾒs role and responsibility, was for the commissionersﾒ information only and required no action.
But it did require some contention, apparently, as Saffer appeared to backpeddle on the agreement to give the humane society more than $20,000 left in the animal control budget.
Saffer said he wanted the humane society to produce a budget before the commission hands over the money.
ﾓThe county commission ought to have a document indicating what specific services, purchases and allocations of those funds [occur],ﾔ he said. ﾓI donﾒt see this as a contribution, I see it as a contract.ﾔ
ﾓThen I expect you to do the same thing with Dilleyﾒs Mill,ﾔ Griffith said. Saffer and Fleming voted in December to give an unencumbered $11,000 to the Buckskin Boy Scout Council to bolster the Dilleyﾒs Mill Boy Scout Campﾒs budget, to prove county support for the camp and to stave off the councilﾒs proposal to sell the property.
Clifton said the humane society had expected a check up front, but that the new budget to be developed in March and to go into effect in July, would establish the line items Saffer required. ARC will keep track of all its expenses and a representative will attend humane society meetings, Clifton continued.
Griffith, who keeps an sharp eye on the budget, said for auditing purposes, she would like to make the contribution quarterly.
ﾓFor audit purposes, weﾒre going to need to keep track; weﾒre going to need to have some kind of breakdown,ﾔ she said.
The Town of Marlinton dealt the project one blow. According to a letter from Mayor Dennis Driscoll, sewage hookup will cost more than $800.
ﾓWe are making progress,ﾔ Fleming said. ﾓWe are getting closer to resolving the animal control problems in the county.ﾔ
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕ received no bids for the 12-passenger van formerly used by community corrections.
ﾕ did not award a bid for a sheriffﾒs department vehicle.
ﾕﾠ approved a $995 allocation to Pocahontas County Free Libraries for the Foundation Center to provide information resources for grant writing and grant funding.
ﾕ met in executive session with Jack Merinar, the commissionﾒs attorney, Sheriff David Jonese, Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price, Office of Emergency Services Director Melvin Martin and former county commissioner James Carpenter concerning pending litigation against the county.
ﾕ heard from Alice Arbuckle about her ideas for rehabilitating the tennis courts in Hillsboro and Marlinton to provide children and adults with more opportunities for outdoor activity. Arbuckle, herself a tennis player, was referred to Parks and Recreation. Arbuckle said she hoped some of the money allocated for the wellness center in Marlinton could be used for the courts. She said she is willing to provide instruction in the sport.
ﾕ voted to sponsor a $2,000 community participation grant application for the Pocahontas County Honor Corps for uniforms.
ﾕ discussed temporary roof repairs at the courthouse.
ﾕ elected Saffer president for the second year on a 2-1 vote, with Griffith dissenting. Commissioners will remain on the same boards on which they served last year.