Same sewage treatment plant, different day
Faced with an appointment to the Pocahontas Public Service District Board, commissioners got a visit Tuesday from the man who began it allﾗRussell Holt, who asked for two commissioners to be removed from office.
Holt, a Slaty Fork-area resident, first became an intervenor when Snowshoe Mountain Resort planned to build its own sewage treatment facility. Holtﾒs opinion that the resort could not use all the available wasteload allocation was upheld by the West Virginia Public Service Commission and resort management agreed to build a regional plant that would be used by the valley residents, as well.
When engineers planned to use a part of the Sharp Family Farm in Slaty Fork, Sharp descendant Tom Shipley waged a public relations war against the PSD and the Pocahontas County Commission and was, after several years, finally successful in having the plantﾒs location moved to where the resort planned to build it in the first place.
Lately, that site has come under fire from Snowshoe Mountain homeowners who say the plant design is too large and too expensive, as well as an environmental danger, according to some experts. Snowshoe resident David Litsey engaged his friend David Rigby, to design an alternative plan that would use some of the existing facility at Snowshoe Mountain, discharge effluent into the Shavers Fork of Cheat and eliminate the gravity fed pipe that would stream effluent downhill to the plant at the bottom of the mountain, also known as Site 7.
Holt read Tuesday from a prepared statement that excoriated county commission president Martin Saffer and commissioner David Fleming, alleging that they are breaking the law by allowing other proposals to be heard and calling for them to be removed from their elected posts for ﾓviolating their oath of office by aiding and abetting a group who has for [seven-plus] years obstructed the Regional plant solution, including the appointment of PSD board member Tom Shipley.ﾔ
Holt called Snowshoe Mountain homeowners ﾓperma opponentsﾔ and Shipley chief among them. He said delaying the project has added $7.5 million in costs, ousted PSD attorney Tom Michael, and is in the process of dismissing Thrasher Engineering at a cost of $1.4 million.
He dismissed homeownersﾒ complaints about ratesﾠ as ﾓfighting over 50 cents a day.ﾔ
While some Snowshoe Mountain homeowners have been publicly upset with PSD board member Amon Tracey for what they call an about-face on the issue, Holt said Tracey is complying with a 2008 court order that states the PSD is supposed to obtain funding resources necessary for the realization of a regional sewage facility in the Snowshoe Mountain area. Fleming said Traceyﾒs ﾓthinking on this is disappointing.ﾔ
ﾓThere is a larger community consensus at work that would like to see better thinking on this and to date the PSD has not fully realized the potential,ﾔ Fleming continued.
Holt said everyone who opposes the regional facility is ﾓobstructing justice.ﾔ
In addition to supporting Tracey, Holt said he supported the reappointment of long-time PSD member and president Mark Smith, who sent a letter to the commission saying he is still willing to serve.
ﾓThe votes I have cast while not always popular were cast in the best interest of the ratepayers in my opinion,ﾔ Smith wrote.
In spite of Holtﾒs speech, or perhaps because of it, commissioners voted 2-1 to appoint David Litsey to the PSD board, meaning no ratepayer from Durbin, whose water system is controlled by the PSD, sits on the board.
Commissioner Reta Griffith opposed the motion.
She had previously made a motion to reappoint Smith based on his experience at the PSD. Although Fleming seconded the motion for purposes of discussion, he, along with Saffer, voted against Smithﾒs reappointment.
Shipley was present for the vote, and although he shook his head in disagreement with several statements made by Holt and Griffith, said nothing.
Holt is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding the PSD build the regional wastewater treatment as proposed.
ﾓThe PSC is not going to approve a gerrymandered system,ﾔ Holt said. ﾓIt will all come out in the courtroom.ﾔ
Former Durbin mayor Mike Vance also presented a letter to the commission stating his interest in the PSD board seat.
The commission made other board appointments Tuesday, including Mark Agee, Helen Clark and Jason Hall to the EMS Board and Cathy Mosesso and Donald McNeel to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board.
Chris Weber and Sheila Saffer expressed their interest in the EMS Board, while Dan Lewis wrote to the commission stating his interest in the PMH board.
Dog ordinance opponents have their say
Eugene Walker, of Hillsboro, first went hunting when he was five-years-old. That trip must have cultivated a great love for the great outdoors and the sport.
Walker now owns the largest kennel of Plott Hounds in the United States and invites hunters from about seven states to night hunts on Droop Mountain.
What does he think about a county dog ordinance?
ﾓYouﾒre creating a monster,ﾔ he told Fleming.
Walker said he can control his dogs, but they will bark at other dogs and animals that wander by his kennel.
He said he was instrumental in getting West Virginia laws changed so that landowners could not remove collars or tracking devices from dogs that have strayed onto their property, nor can those landowners shoot a dog unless it is attacking farm animals.
Walker said he has owned dogs for 55 years.
He was supported by Marlinton resident Ernie Cobb, who said heﾒd moved to this rural area because of the lack of ordinances.
Cobb said the ideal solution is for landowners to allow hunters to retrieve their dogs.
ﾓYou can no longer arrest a man because his dog, who canﾒt read, is on someone elseﾒs property,ﾔ Cobb said.
And Dewayne Harrah said he feared a new neighbor could cause trouble for him and his dogs if a noise ordinance became a reality.
ﾓI like to hear my dogs bark,ﾔ he said.
Fleming stood his ground, complimenting his opponents on doing the right thing with their dogs; however, he said, itﾒs dog owners who allow their dogs to roam freely, bark incessantly and disregard their neighborsﾒ rights who are the problem.
His draft ordinance would allow for dogs engaged in legal hunting and training activities, law enforcement activities and farm-related activities.
The penalty portion of the draft did pick up some criticism and the suggestion of warnings and citations as opposed to mounting fines with each offense. Fleming will head back to the drawing board with the ordinance and present it again.
He asked for Walkerﾒs input, as well as recommendations from county hunters.
In addition, Sheriff David Jonese asked Walker to help educate dog owners and help them live up to his standards of dog ownership.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕclarified the board appointment policy, which now includes each board appointment to have a time on the commission agenda.
ﾕapproved a request from Convention and Visitors Bureau president Cully McCurdy to have CVB employees placed on PEIA insurance. The CVB will pay the county for that expense.
ﾕapproved transferring the K-9 officer, Dutch, to another county.
ﾕfound themselves at odds with the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals over the contract it has with that organization and euthanizing animals. Fleming said the commission could ﾓnurse alongﾔ the contract until its September 7 meeting, when he said he would oppose its renewal.
ﾕresolved that September 17 would be designated ﾓConstitution Dayﾔ in memory of the late U. S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.
ﾕapproved the settlement with Manno Construction for engineering services at East Fork Industrial Park.
The commission will meet again in regular session September 7.