County may get ninth deputy
After a budgetary tit-for-tat with Sheriff David Jonese, the Pocahontas County Commission placed a budget revision on the January 4 agenda that could mean a ninth deputy on the county force.
Jonese gave up a position in another budget to hire another deputy; the commission approved hiring an animal control officer in the sheriff's department, but had not made the necessary budget revisions. The sheriff was able to maintain his budget because two deputies he hired left the force rather quickly after they were hired.
The sheriff said he still has the same number of positions he had when he took office in 2009, but would have more deputies and fewer home confinement officers and transport officers, thanks, in part, to the Sheriff's Auxiliary, the group of volunteers Jonese has recruited to handle prisoner transports, traffic control and other duties.
County commissioner David Fleming said he believed the commission has a "previous agreement that needs to be honored."
But commission president Martin Saffer said the request would have to be honored with "more than just honor."
Saffer did not seem inclined to approve hiring another deputy in light of other budget concerns, particularly when commissioner Reta Griffith said that the position would have to be funded beyond the 2010-11 budget.
Jonese did not have an amount for the required budget revision.
Budget became a theme for the day.
The Community Corrections budget also got a thorough inspection when Randolph County Community Corrections officer Travis Carter and the county's director Elissa Taylor asked to spend more than $3,000 before the end of the year.
Carter said he'd received a letter from the State Division of Criminal Justice that said Pocahontas and other West Virginia counties had not spent their required match in order to keep the grant that funds community corrections.
When commissioners examined the community corrections budget, they discovered that Pocahontas County had not met its match because an employee had been fired and had not been replaced for several months.
Carter said the matching funds were meant for an extra employee and not for rent, utilities and other expenses that commissioners believed were eligible to be used for matching funds.
Griffith pointed out that the commission deals with several grants and has always used a formula that uses the grant percentage and the county match percentage on all allowable expenditures.
Commissioners will allow a budget revision from the community corrections' salary line item to its supplies and materials line item. A drug test purchase will make up the difference.
Carter and Taylor also told the commissioners that Judge Joseph Pomponio has implemented Drug Court for adults. Commissioners voted to create line items for the Drug Courts' revenue and expenditures, but said they wanted to talk to Pomponio and an auditor before the program proceeds much further.
Commissioners approved spending nearly $1,000 at Pocahontas County Free Libraries to maintain a subscription with the Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online.The service can be used by non-profits and individuals to investigate grants and funding sources that are compatible with the seeker's needs, as well as funding trends and what types of organizations gain funding from those sources.
PCFL director Allen Johnson said McClintic Library is one of only six licensed centers in the state. In addition to the online services, the foundation supplies a large stack of printed reference materials and guides for non-profits seeking grants.
Opera House manager Drew Tanner said when he was employed at Future Generations in Pendleton County he mined the foundation's online resource weekly for grants.
"Billions of dollars are being given out each year," Tanner said. "It's huge. I'm looking at it now for the Opera House."
Even one of the program's original skeptics had good things to say about it.
County coordinator Jay Miller said he was not in favor of the expenditure initially, but had seen it work for the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation and for his endeavors with the Pocahontas County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"Unless you're in the place where the license is installed, you're out of luck," Miller noted. "There's no remote access. [It's a] value to the county and well worth it."
Johnson also reported to the commission on the new library at Linwood.
"Funding is coming in real well," he said. "And we have some prospects for funding down the road."
Commissioners also got an update from Parks and Recreation about the proposed wellness center to be built near Marlinton Elementary School.
Saffer said the commission had to determine how it would play a financial role, considering its dwindling budget.
"We have other bills to pay," Saffer said.
Parks and Rec president Roger Trusler said it was his organization's plan to stay in budget.
Cost overruns will be the commission's responsibility.
Commissioners did get some good news.
Greenbrier Valley Economic Development director Steve Weir and food systems coordinator Jim Cooper told the commission they are developing plans to create agriculture based jobs.
Cooper said the state spends $7 billion on food annually. He and Weir are working on that data and what it means in the Greenbrier Valley in terms of developing local foods systems. Cooper said they are searching for some specific information, such as what foods could be produced and at what capacity.
"We can do pretty good regional analysis," Cooper said. "We're looking at ways to bring wealth to the area."
And not only about food systems, but the energy it takes to produce food.
Cooper said they are working with West Virginia University to develop a bio-mass industry that would reduce energy costs for farmers by turning wood product leftovers into ethanol.
"[We're working on] creating business opportunities based on naturally generated assets, [instead of] recruiting businesses that may leave," Weir said.
Weir and Cooper are also taking a look at water issues, not only for agriculture purposes, but "as a potential player in the market" because of the number of springs in the Greenbrier Valley.
Education will play a role, as well, using the educational resources already available and the proposed One Room University in Pocahontas County.
Green Bank's Jacob Meck, who is already leasing three acres at the Green Bank Industrial Park for his businesses asked the commission to lease more property there to the GVEDC so that he could, in turn, lease it from that entity. County commissions are prohibited by state code from buying and leasing property.
Meck said it had taken him more than two years to get three acres, so he hoped the commission could move quickly and he would consider leasing the entire 33 acres.
"This county gets clogged down," he said. "Let's look at the whole thing."
Saffer was not so keen on that idea, reminding Meck that at least one other group had been interested in property there.
"I'm 35-years-old and I don't want to be selfish on that property, [but] it's been a vacant field my entire life," Meck said. "We plan to be good stewards. I'd welcome something else to come in there, but if it's going to be worthless property, I'd like the opportunity to use it. I'm the only one who's taken that risk; no one else has moved through and provided a possibility."
Meck and his wife, Malinda, have a crew of 10 between their businesses Allegheny Disposal and The Outhouse.
Commissioners unanimously voted to make the transfer to GVEDC.
Meck also wants to lease the 100,000 gallon storage tank now sitting at East Fork Industrial Park. While he'd like to lease it where it is, Meck said West Virginia DEP staffers aren't too enthusiastic about using anything on what they call a "hazardous waste site." The industrial park has been cleaned up and now only lacks a cover for the pond where the sludge from Howes Leather Company is now entombed.
Meck said he would like to purchase the tank and move it to Green Bank. The tank will hold the waste from The Outhouse rentals.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕaccepted the bid of Woodford Oil for gasoline.
ﾕvoted to reinstate the energy grant that will assess the courthouse's lighting needs because no matching funds are required.
ﾕapproved a resolution in support of continued construction on Corridor H.
ﾕrenewed a lease with Interstate Hardwoods at East Fork Industrial Park.
ﾕapproved in-house budget requests for Pocahontas County Community Corrections and for the Pocahontas County Coordinator.
ﾕwrote a letter for Pocahontas Memorial Hospital in support of a grant application for the Rural Health Systems program.
The commission will meet again in regular session January 4 when Jamie Walker will take his seat on the county commission to represent the Central District. Griffith represented that district for 12 years.