County Commission awards $43,000 to community groups
Community groups were awarded a total of $43,000 from the Pocahontas County Commission's discretionary funds on Thursday.
The commission started the current fiscal year with approximately $200,000 in discretionary funding, which it has customarily disbursed to community nonprofit organizations, including youth and family services programs. Thursdays meeting was the second of four quarterly meetings the commission has scheduled for awarding these funds.
The groups that sought and will receive funding are:
•Pocahontas County Free Libraries – $5,000: funding request for Linwood Library;
•Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum – $8,000: contribution request for VISTA Worker $5,500 and insect eradication $2,500;
•High Rocks Educational Corporation – $12,000: funding request for match for AmeriCorps program;
•Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) – $8,000: contribution request
•Warming Hands and Hearts (Heat Assistance Program) – $10,000: contribution request.
In addition to the discretionary funds, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital CEO Barbara Lay requested an advance of $75,000 for the facility.
The advance falls within the county's budget for PMH. County Commission Clerk Sue Helton said the advance should not present a cash-flow concern for the county, however, the money will not likely be in the bank until February, she noted.
Lay said the hospital is trying to prepare for ski season by having supplies readily available. Lay explained that the hospital has experienced some delays from some pharmaceutical manufacturers, so the hospital is trying to stockpile what supplies and equipment it can ahead of the season, which is typically the hospital's busiest time of the year.
Walker said he was concerned that the advance could run county coffers too low, and proposed advancing half the amount requested by PMH.
Fleming said he was encouraged that PMH is finally operating in the black, most recently to the tune of $38,000.
The commission approved the advance 2-1, with Walker casting the dissenting vote.
The commission's attention turned from finances to trails with a request from Doug Cooper, of the West Virginia Open Trails Association, for a letter in support of all-terrain vehicle use on roadways withing the Monongahela National Forest.
Currently, ATVs are not allowed upon roads open to licensed motor vehicles on the national forest, or any other roads or trails.
Cooper said he and other ATV riders would like the opportunity to ride on the existing roads that motorists enjoy traveling in their cars and jeeps.
Cooper said his effort has been met with resistance from U.S. Forest Service officials in Elkins, who have told him they would like to see WVOTA gain broader support from other sporting, recreation and conservation groups that use and have an interest in the Monongahela.
In the meantime, Cooper said he is approaching commissioners in Webster, Randolph, Tucker and Pendleton counties to gain county-level support for his effort.
Cooper, and supporter John Simmons, were adamant that they were not interested in "riding in the woods" on forest trails.
Commissioners took no action on the request, with Fleming noting that the resolution makes no mention of other stakeholders on the national forest.
The county commission received updates on two ongoing county projects: 911 mapping and addressing and the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force.
Doug McKenzie, of Geoweb, LLC, provided an explanation of how the 911 address system will benefit the county's emergency responders and those who call for them. Under the system, computers at the 911 dispatch center can automatically look up caller's name and physical location.
McKenzie explained that one of the more laborious parts of the process has been converting rural route addresses throughout the county to physical addresses, based on the county's 911 mapping and addressing ordinance, and correlating that information to phone company and tax records.
The sheer number of condos and seasonal residences and hunting camps in Pocahontas County has presented a particular challenge in this matching game, McKenzie said.
One of the side effects of the mapping and addressing project is that GPS directions in the county will eventually become more accurate and reliable.
The commission asked McKenzie to give another report on his progress during its January 15 meeting.
That January meeting should be followed shortly thereafter by the submission of the county's comprehensive water resources management plan in February to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, according to task force coordinator Lynmarie Knight.
"We will continue, after February, to develop more of the plan," said Knight, "more of the extras that our local stakeholders have asked us for."
The full plan should be finalized by summer 2013, said Knight, along with a website that will incorporate Google mapping information with local water quality data.
Knight also hopes to have a section of the website set up a as a "one-stop shop" for those who need permit and other information relating to water use.
"One of the things that we heard from the farmers when we had our ag stakeholder meeting was that it's so ridiculous to try to figure out where you have to go for permits for certain things," said Knight, "and it just takes a lot of time and is inefficient."
"These are good people who are trying to do the right thing and get the permits they need, and it's frustrating," Knight continued. "So we're hoping that we can link to all of that from our site... and make it easier for folks to do what they need to do."
Some of the data that has been collected is also helping the county health department address failing septic systems and could potentially lead to funding to assist those with failing systems, added Knight.
Knight said working the DEP on the plan has been going well, but it has also had its challenges.
"They're not zooming in as far as we can here," said Knight. "That's a big part of why Pocahontas County citizens came to you all back in 2008 to say we want to do a regional management plan—because we want a better product than the state's going to be able to provide for everyone—because we think that our water is unique and important."
Knight said she will continue to update the commission and that the task force is planning some further outreach in Pocahontas County through radio and print.
In light of Dolan Irvine's October 31 resignation from his long-held post as the county's Assessor, the County Commission appointed Tom Lane to fill the remainder of Irvine's term. Lane, who was voted to the position in this month's general election, will then begin his full term in January. At that time, Irvine will step into his new role as a county commissioner.
Commissioners consulted briefly by phone with the West Virginia Secretary of State's office to ensure they were handling the appointment appropriately.
In other matters the commission:
•received an update and annual report from John Simmons, Director of Pocahontas County Senior Programs;
•sold at auction a 2004 Chevrolet Blazer for a winning bid of $100;
•approved budget revisions totaling more than $1.5 million, relating to the Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation Wellness Center construction project, the reconstruction of the Marlinton Depot and emergency response to the June 29 derecho wind storm;
•approved, at the request of Circuit Clerk Connie Carr, the hiring of Nancy Burks as a part-time employee and Diane Arbogast as a full-time employee with the Pocahontas County Circuit Clerk's office;
•appointed Sheila Rose to the Local Emergency Planning Committee as a Community Representative to serve the unexpired term of David Peacock until June 31, 2015;
•approved a Memorandum of Understanding with he Region 1 Workforce Investment Board;
•approved a letter of support for the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation's grant application to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for needed maintenance on the birthplace museum.
The Pocahontas County Commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 20, at 5:30 p.m. in the commission chamber at the Pocahontas County Courthouse.