Marlinton starts off 2010 with flood
In January, Marlinton Mayor Dennis Driscoll and town council praised town employees for their hard work removing snow from town streets during and after the severe snow storm of December 2009. Council requested $23,000 in reimbursement for emergency expenditures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Driscoll told council the cold weather had hampered but not halted work by contractor Kanawha Stone to upgrade the town's sewage and stormwater drainage systems.
On January 25, a combination of rain and melting snow caused the Greenbrier River and Knapps Creek to breach their banks and flood the town. Hardest hit were areas along Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street. The Greenbrier River crested at 13 and a half feet about 11 a.m.
In February, council withheld payment of an invoice for the stormwater/sewage upgrade project until more information was received on three change orders that Driscoll, but not council, had approved. Council learned that newly hired town police officer Joshua Vaughan had quit to accept a position with the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Office.
During its March meeting, council unanimously voted to eliminate the town officer position and continue contracting with the West Virginia State Police for the town's law enforcement. Artist Molly Must showed council examples of her urban murals and informed council of her plans to paint a mural on the side of the Malcomb Building.
In April, council voted 5-0 against participating in a FEMA program to buy properties in flood-prone areas. The council was concerned with the loss of tax revenues from the properties and severe restrictions placed on the use of the properties if they were purchased by the federal agency.
Driscoll informed council that town attorney Martin Saffer had warned him that burned out and dilapidated structures were a serious liability danger for the town. Driscoll said he was working with building inspector Dick Groseclose to obtain grant money to pay for demolitions. The mayor estimated it would cost approximately $50,000 to remove 12 structures targeted for demolition.
In May, council selected Potesta and Associates, Inc., to design sewage plant upgrades to meet new phosphorus limits imposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Council approved a variance request from Rayetta Barnisky to place signs at her new Second Avenue restaurant - Rayetta's Lunchbox.
In June, councilmembers pleaded with Driscoll to make progress on the demolition of dilapidated structures. Driscoll revised the cost estimate to remove the structures to $80,000 and told council he and Groseclose were pursuing state loans for projects of this type.
During its July meeting, council voted 4-2 to approve a water rate increase, which raised the minimum charge from $45.08 to $51.72. Driscoll told council the increase was necessary to balance the water account budget, as required by state law. Councilmembers Joe Smith and Louise Barnisky voted against the increase. Smith said council had been "hoodwinked" prior to construction of the Brush Country water extension, when the town did not get binding contracts for water hookups.
During a special meeting in August, council voted to hire a law firm to appeal the DEP's new phosphorus limits. Potesta and Associate's preliminary estimate placed the cost of sewage plant upgrades at $1-3 million.
In September, Driscoll told council that the Corps of Engineers would conduct a site visit to Marlinton to inspect the proposed flood protection project. The visit was part of the peer review process, required for all Corps projects after the failure of New Orleans' levees during Hurricane Katrina.
During the October meeting, council selected Potesta and Associates, Inc., to design the second phase of the stormwater/sewage upgrade project. Driscoll told council the only item remaining in the first phase was replacement of faulty new aerators in the sewage lagoon. Council withheld payment on the first phase until the aerator problem was solved.
In November, town residents filled the council chamber to protest water rate increases. Since the second reading of the rate increase ordinance had been approved in October, council informed the group they still had recourse through the Public Service Commission, which has the final say on all rate increases. Smith informed council that the garbage committee had met and was working on a proposal to revise garbage collection rates in town. During a special meeting, council approved a request from Pocahontas Memorial Hospital to provide an ambulance crew standby room in the municipal building. The measure allowed PMH to boost its struggling finances by $25,000 every month.
During the December meeting, council heard a request from community improvement group GoMarlinton to build a shelter for the farmers market in the mini-park by the Greenbrier River. The group also proposed construction of a "people's park" with an information kiosk on town property across from the Little General store on Route 219. Recorder Robin Mutscheller said there were restrictions on spending public money on a for-profit enterprise. Council did not rule out GoMarlinton's request and agreed to investigate legal and property issues.