Snowshoe residents want PSD member removed
Two Snowshoe residents came to the Pocahontas County Commission Tuesday to request the commission take action to remove a member of the Pocahontas Public Service District Board.
David Litsey and Donelle Oxley asked commissioners to consider removing PSD member Amon Tracey for ﾓwillful misconductﾔ because, they said, Tracey votes in agreement with the advice of Thrasher Engineering and the PSDﾒs attorney Tom Michael, in spite of listening to area residentsﾒ concerns.
Oxley referred to an article by Pocahontas Times reporter Geoff Hamill that revealed the PSD has defied the Open Meetings Act on two occasions because meetings were closed to the public and described as ﾓwork meetings.ﾔ
ﾓPart of the issue is just getting the truth,ﾔ Litsey said. ﾓThey are slippery. They hold theseﾠ [secret] meetings.ﾔ
Besides administrative inadequacies, Litsey said the PSD board is failing in its duty to keep the watershed safe. He described effluent pollution ﾓbubblingﾔ around the Hawthorne Loop system when it becomes ﾓoverwhelmedﾔ by sudden rainstorms. Further, Litsey claimed that the PSD had the resources to maintain the existing system to better standards, but had chosen not to do so.
ﾓIt could have been done with local labor as a maintenance project,ﾔ Litsey said. ﾓThat is something that should be done. Itﾒs been sitting there bubbling away for 25 years.ﾔ
PSD members have said it will be two years before any system is complete and has leaned toward Site 7 near the base of Snowshoe Mountain Resort that will serve the mountain, a few miles of US Rt. 219 north of Rt. 66 and Rt. 66 to the Linwood area.
ﾓWeﾒre polluting the Elk River with overflows and the whole thing could have been fixed already,ﾔ Litsey said.
Litsey estimated that fines could total $18 millionﾗor $10,000 per ratepayerﾗ by then, if the Department of Environmental Protection chooses to enforce those fines for the PSDﾒs violations.
He said the DEPﾒs chief engineer, Mike Zeto, told him the fines would be ﾓmitigated by the communityﾒs ability to pay.ﾔ
According to West Virginia State Code,ﾠ the county commission, the public service commission or any group of five percent of the customers of the PSD can petition the circuit court to remove a PSD member. The member in question must be proven to be neglectful by a ﾓcontinued failure to attend meetings of the board, failure to diligently pursue the objectives for which the district was created, or failure to perform any other duty either prescribed by law or required by a final order of the public service commission or for malfeasance in public office.ﾔ
However, if the PSD member mounts a successful defense to any charges brought to circuit court, or the judge finds the charges to be frivolous, court costs and attorneyﾒs fees may be exacted from the petitioners.
Litsey and Oxley said they favored the plan of David Rigby, who has proposed two treatment plants on top of the mountain to serve the resort areas and discharge into the Shavers Fork of Cheat and a third plant at the foot of the mountain to serve the Rt. 219-Rt. 66 areas. The plan would eliminate 1500 feet of pipe that would transfer the sewage to Site 7 under the current plan. Rigby has estimated cost of his project to be in the neighborhood of $20 million, while the current plan for Site 7 is more than $26 million.
Commissioner Reta Griffith said she was not inclined to remove a PSD member at this juncture.
ﾓ[Willful misconduct] is incredibly hard to prove,ﾔ she said, noting other counties have been unsuccessful in removing PSD members.
While commission president Martin Saffer and commissioner David Fleming said they were concerned about the possibility the Open Meetings Act law had been broken, they did not take action to indicate any interest in seeking Traceyﾒs removal.
Tracey was appointed to the PSD last July on a 2-1 vote, with Griffith dissenting.
Wellness Center gets two thumbs up
A proposed wellness center funded by an appropriation from U. S. Senator Robert C. Byrd got two thumbs up from the county commission, but not a third.
Griffith and Fleming voted to approve a resolution that would make the countyﾒs governing body the fiscal agent for the $3 million project. Saffer voted no and said he is concerned about operation costs and the lack of a staff plan for the center, which could enter the design phase as early as September.
Members of the Parks and Recreation board and P&R director Lauren Bennett assured commissioners Safferﾒs concerns would be addressed. For instance, she said, some staffing will be done by volunteers, while 10 months of annual operation costs will be picked up by the Pocahontas County Board of Education.
The wellness center will be built adjacent to Marlinton Elementary School and will serve as its gymnasium during school hours.
Bennett said time is of the essence because the grant application is due Friday.
Griffith reminded Saffer that the commission has already written letters of support for the project.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕheard from Fleming about a group of Highland County residents who are set to file an injunction to halt the building of wind turbines near the Virginia-West Virginia border because they believe those turbines would endanger two rare bat species. Fleming was set to attend a meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors to address the issue Tuesday night. He said he intended to go to Virginia in his capacity as a commissioner, to which Griffith objected. Saffer did not ask for a motion or a vote.
ﾕapproved budget revisions for the prosecuting attorneyﾒs office and community corrections, as well as various end of year adjustments for other courthouse offices.
ﾕdelayed the appointment of Connie Carr to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals board until an ad can be run in this newspaper seeking other people interested in the appointment. Commissioners will make the appointment at their July 6 meeting.
ﾕalso delayed the appointment of David Henderson to the county Solid Waste Authority because the advertisement seeking other interested parties had only been out for two business days because of the Memorial Day holiday. Both Griffith and Fleming were in favor of the delay, while Saffer said he was ready to vote.
ﾕdiscussed a bill passed during the recent special session of the legislature that would require people who want to pay their delinquent taxes to deal with the State Auditorﾒs Office instead of the county clerkﾒs office in each county. Griffith said the implications of the bill mean that the county would lose the redemption, as well as the publication fees from delinquent taxes. The county clerk must inform the auditorﾒs office of her intent before August 1.
ﾕdiscussed another bill that requires labor for county projects of more than $500,000 come from within 50 miles of the county seat.
ﾕagreed to contract WYK Associates for certain courthouse renovations including a roof, elevator and IT room. Commissioners could not agree upon how to finance the HVAC system, which itself is predicted to cost nearly $1 million. Griffith favored financing the entire project and using existing funds to make payments, while Saffer seemed to favor paying the costs with money already in the commissionﾒs coffers. Griffith maintained it didnﾒt make sense to spend the countyﾒs reserves. The commission has applied for grants to help take care of other improvements such as lighting. Assessor Dolan Irvine said he would chip in $150,000 from his valuation fund for the elevator.
The commission will meet in special session June 28 for end of year budgetary adjustments.
Its next regular meeting is June 15.