Commission to begin evening meetings
The Pocahontas County Commission has had the same schedule for several years: first and third Tuesdays during courthouse business hours.
But that will change January 18 when new commissioner Jamie Walker's proposal to have evening meetings will begin.
Walker voiced his opinion and that of a long list of individuals and business owners with whom he said he'd spoken:
The county commission should be more accessible to people who work.
Walker held his ground throughout the discussion and dissent of commissioner Martin Saffer.
Saffer said he thinks the move is "totally unnecessary."
"I don't want to be coming here in the middle of the night," Saffer said. "I'm not going to be doing that."
Saffer maintained the move would be an unnecessary burden to people who normally come to meetings, particularly in the winter.
"It's going to cause more difficulty," he said.
But Walker countered that 10 other counties hold all their meetings in the evening, while 13 West Virginia counties have at least one of their regular meetings at 5 p.m. or later.
He said an Ohio County commissioner told him meetings there begin at 6 p.m. and it's "by far the best thing they've ever done."
"I highly think it's the best thing," Walker said. "I've talked to 200 people. I've not talked to the first person who didn't think it was a good idea.
"The later we start, the more people [will] come out."
Saffer suggested having an evening meeting as an experiment to gauge public interest in attending meetings.
Newly elected commission president David Fleming made the compromise motion to begin meetings at 4 p.m. while the courthouse is still open to the public.
The motion died for lack of a second, as did Saffer's subsequent motion to have the schedule remain the same.
Walker's motion to have the meetings begin at 5 p.m. passed on a 2-1 vote, with Saffer dissenting.
"We are all here to serve the public," Fleming noted. "This is going to be a learning curve for us."
Fleming said the commission would have to consider courthouse security, maintenance and the commission's administrative assistant's hours in making the change.
The idea is not a new one. Commissioners attempted evening meetings in the 1990s so that the public could better avail themselves of commission business. The commission determined at the time that they had no more public input in the evening than they did otherwise and returned to daytime meetings.
Commissioners took care of other housekeeping matters, including election of a president and appointments to other boards.
Saffer said he did not want to be president again after two years in the position. He nominated Fleming, who was elected unanimously.
As for board appointments, commissioners were appointed:
Fleming-purchasing agent, Greenbrier Valley Economic Develoment Corporation, Region IV, 911 Advisory Board, Emergency Medical Services Authority, Elk Headwaters Watershed Association, Water Resources Task Force, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board
Saffer-Farmland Protection Board, East Cass Mitigation board, Pocahontas County Fire Association, Community Corrections Board
Walker-West Virginia University Extension Board, Pocahontas County Senior Citizens Board
The commission did not appoint a member to the Pocahontas Woods Board, State Highway Safety Board, the Pocahontas County Board of Health, Region I Elected Officials Board, the Local Emergency Planning Committee or the Convention and Visitors Bureau. None of those boards are required to have commission representation by state statute.
Historic Preservation report includes website, scanning
Historic Preservation officer B. J. Gudmundsson briefed the commission on her progress in preserving records.
Gudmundsson said she'd purchased handheld scanners for each Pocahontas County Library which will enable residents to bring their documents and photographs to the nearest library to scan them. The digital archives will be kept by the original owner, as well as Pocahontas County Historic Records Preservation.
She also gave commissioners a view of the website pocahontaspreservation.org, which already has several pages of archived photographs, including the fire which destroyed the Alpine Hotel and Theatre in 1968. Gudmundsson said another project, digitizing The Pocahontas Times, will be complete by mid-year and will make the newspaper searchable by keyword. The newspaper will be available at McClintic Library's Heritage Room.
Along with documents and photographs, Gudmundsson is interviewing people of interest around the county and the website will have those videos soon, she said.
She also reported on the software and equipment she uses in archiving, the scanning of Pocahontas County Historical Society photographs and various other projects in the works for preservation.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕscheduled dates for Board of Equalization and Review to begin February 1.
ﾕapproved budget resolutions for law enforcement and community corrections.
ﾕappointed Stella Callison to the Farmland Protection Board.
The commission will meet again in regular session January 18 at 5 p.m.